IN 2015, I spent two months in Liuwa Plain National Park in Western Zambia. Spotted hyenas dominate this ecosystem and I spent much of my time focusing on them. To show hyenas in their true element, I wanted to photograph these nocturnal creatures at night. The stars in the African night sky are spectacular so I also set out to include them in my image. I used BeetleCam – a remotecontrol buggy that I devised – to get the close-up, ground-level perspective necessary to line up the hyena with the sky behind. This is a single exposure. I lit the hyena with two wireless off-camera flashes and used a relatively long shutter speed to expose the stars. Because there was no moon to cause ghosting, it didn’t matter if the hyena moved after the initial flash.
This image is part of my wider project to photograph African wildlife at night. By making use of modern digital cameras specifically their low light ability – I have aimed to capture images of nocturnal creatures that simply wouldn’t have been possible in the past. This image, for example, was shot at ISO 5000. This project has also required the use of a number of innovative tools such as my remote-control BeetleCam and high quality DSLR camera traps.
I have experimented with a range of different light sources, from moonlight and starlight to lightning and wireless off-camera flashes. Working at night provides a blank canvas on which to experiment with light in interesting ways. I am looking forward to many more sleepless nights as I continue to explore new ways to expose the natural world after dark.