The Story Behind "Swift"

The Story Behind "Swift"

Drew tells the story behind the making of this image from Exceptional Creatures

How did zebras get their stripes?

In the “Just So Stories,” Rudyard Kipling says that the zebras got their stripes from standing within the “shadows of the trees.” It was also recently discovered that zebra’s stripes prevent harmful flies from landing on them - because flies don’t land on striped surfaces, and no one knows why.

No matter what, their stripes are by far one of the most stunning natural patterns out there. On my recent travels through Amboseli and its neighboring conservancies, I couldn't stop thinking about mother nature’s designs.

I’ve had this image in mind for a long time but had never been able to execute it. Zebras are skittish and difficult to get close to, and the image I desired involved a low angle and a close proximity - both difficult to achieve. Plus, I wanted them to be running at full tilt AND for their stripes to create the perfect artful kaleidoscope of pattern in harmonious synchronicity. Minimalism is a huge part of my practice - so I wanted an environment where the zebras could be the sole focus of the viewer’s line of sight with no distractions.


Day in and day out we saw zebras - thousands of them - but they all seemed to scatter with any movement. Then, in the Kitirua Conservancy bordering Amboseli, I finally found my opportunity. At around 1:30 in the afternoon - a rare time for me to be out given the harsh sun at this hour - I finally got my image. With no shadows from the grass I was able to maximize the monotone foreground and pull the focus entirely to the wave of zebras crossing before me. These animals always seem to move as one, creating a visual rhythm that expands and contracts as they gallop together.

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