For this collection of fine art prints in the theme « shades of blacks and whites », I wanted to explore the elegance and rarity of an endangered animal species.
I chose the Walia Ibex to be the focus of this collection.
This endemic species from northern Ethiopia now lives in the Simien Mountains at an altitude between 2,500 and 4,500 meters (8,200 to 14,700 feet). The total population does not exceed 500 individuals.
Even though the Walia Ibex lives at a high elevation, its natural territory is shrinking due to the herds of goats and local cultures extending into this area. Despite the difficult living conditions, other life besides the Walia Ibex seems to thrive and multiply, making it difficult for this endangered species to live normal lives unhindered by others.
Photographing Walia Ibex has been a dream of mine for some time now.
On a trip to photograph geladas in the Simien Mountains, I took a few days to find the ibex at 4,500 meters (14,700 feet) above sea level. The first two days were not successful. I had not spotted any creatures. Walking on the steep slopes of the Simien Mountains is difficult and tiring. Progress can be slow. I was exploring a very little space, which is difficult to physically ascend to.
The strip of territory where the ibex live is no more than 25 kilometers long (15 miles). Even if it is a small enough space for a wild animal species to live, they are still very difficult to find because they blend in perfectly with their environment.
My persistence rewarded me well. On the third day of searching, in the middle of the morning, luck finally smiled on me. I stayed with a small group of Walia Ibex for several hours. One young ibex did not leave me for hours. He remained a good distance away from me, but his curiosity was strongly apparent. He was approaching, while wondering what I could possibly do to him with my camera and my tripod.
I chose to create this collection of artistic photographs in black and white and in high key (where strong lights are very accentuated) in order to pay homage to the grace and the elegance of this magnificent animal. The Walia Ibex performs with such agility when climbing the steep walls of the Simien mountains.
I was so fascinated with their insistent and evocative gaze, that I walked for miles to trail behind them. At one point, I paused to catch my breath. Each time, the group ahead was waiting for me. I had the impression that they were looking at me with tenderness. I am merely practicing primary anthropomorphism, but I can assure you that when you are alone in these mountains and at such an altitude, your imagination will wander.
Spending hours in observing, photographing, and talking with Walia Ibex was one of the greatest moments of my life as a wildlife photographer. This emblematic species represents the essence of freedom. Each is free to wander into more isolated regions away from noise, even if the climate and the environment are more challenging than the beaten path.
I hope you will feel the scent of exhilarating freedom in the great spaces of the Ethiopian highlands, and that you will desire to widen your understanding of the moors by exploring them more closely.
Even if it is a wild animal, it is possible to walk in search for them. It is a privilege that was given to me during the trip. I appreciate how fortunate I have been to live such moments with these animals, who are full of welcoming and grace.
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