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Some 30 hours in a Tanzanian park encapsulated in a single image

American photographer Stephen Wilkes spent over 27 hours in the Serengeti national park to create the perfect composite image.

Patience is a virtue, and the following provides evidence of this. In “Day to Night” Wilkes captures special moments in time, then rearranges them into a final piece of layered images.

Day To Night, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa Last Spring, I traveled to Africa in search of a new location for my next Day To Night. I wanted to capture the passage of time as it related to the animal kingdom, and Africa’s incredible landscape. I scoured the park with my assistants and our guides, hoping for a vantage point rare to the human eye. As we drove along a long dirt path, I noticed an abundance of greenery in the distance. It was a watering hole— and as Tanzania was in week five of an unprecedented drought, this proved to be rather incredible. As I would learn in the coming days, animals of all kinds would flock to the spot, eager to share this one precious resource peacefully. In order to capture as much as I was able, my assistants and I had to hide behind a crocodile blind for 27 hours, taking in the incredible beauty of the Serengeti. It was the most grueling and rewarding experience of my life. #Africa #Serengeti #StephenWilkes #DayToNight #Tanzania

A photo posted by Stephen Wilkes (@stephenwilkes) on

The above picture is the result of close to 30 consecutive hours of photography, taken in the Seronera area in Tanzania. On average, Stephen spends between 16 and 30 hours in the field, and a single image of his series requires at least 1500 frames captured by manual shutter clicks. For this particular scene he produced 2200 frames, out of which only 50 were puzzled together to create an incredible spectacle!

“There’s such a beautiful message in this photograph,” he explains to National Geographic. “The animals essentially were starved for water, and they all shared. I watched them for 26 hours [as they] literally all [took] turns drinking, bathing in this single resource. And they never so much as even grunted at each other. You realize the animals really get it. And we have really yet to understand the idea of water [as] a shared resource.”

To get results of this quality is not easy. It demands a great dose of patience and precision. “I look at a single place in a grid,” he adds. “And then I decide where day begins and night ends.” “My eye moves through the scene based on time. My focus changes based on where time is.”

Here’s a couple more pics he took at the waterhole. Perched on an 18 feet platform, Stephen and his two assistants were hidden behind a crocodile blind.

The sacred resource attracted large gatherings of thirsty animals. Whether it be elephants, zebra, wildebeest…

A detailed view of one very small portion of my Day To Night of Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa. When I decided to go to Africa last spring for my next Day To Night, I knew I had an incredible challenge ahead of me. How would I capture the changing of time with wild animals instead of my usual focus on a more human element? Photographing people is predictable, we’re likeminded, creatures of habit. In capturing the varied species of the Serengeti, I knew I’d be relying more heavily than I’d like to on luck. This became even more true when I arrived to learn Tanzania was in the midst of a five-week drought, meaning the migration patterns were even more unpredictable than usual. After weeks of scouting, I discovered a massive watering hole which I decided on for the final location of the image. I would remain with my assistants @ctjanjic & @brybit hidden in a crocodile blind for 26 consecutive hours, capturing these incredible species coming together to share this one sacred resource. Follow along as I share more detailed images from one of the most involved Day To Night images yet, and find the National Geographic article on this image and the process behind shooting a Day To Night in the link in my bio. #Serengeti #NatGeo #Zebra #Africa #DayToNight #StephenWilkes

A photo posted by Stephen Wilkes (@stephenwilkes) on

… and even a family of banded mongoose! 🙂

You can find other awe-inspiring photographic compositions on Stephen Wilkes’ website. Also feel free to follow his latest work on Instagram.

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