As silently as the professional golfers putting on the 13th green at Leopard Creek a few hundred yards away, an elephant emerges from the Kruger National Park bush.
It grazes peacefully on the surrounding shrubbery, oblivious to the international golf tournament, the Alfred Dunhill Championship, taking place on the fairways of one of the world’s most iconic courses.
And at just the right moment, this young bull elephant walks across the lens of award-winning photographer Grant Leversha. The result is the perfect expression of the balance between golf and nature that makes the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek one of the most unique tournaments in world golf.
For Leversha, there is a sense of poetry in the fact that last year, in almost the same spot, he captured another such iconic image of a lioness stalking a herd of impala with the 13th green as the backdrop to this ageless interplay between the animals of the African wild.
“This year I decided to travel into the Kruger National Park earlier in the week on the Wednesday before the tournament started,” says Leversha.
“I thought I would revisit the same spot as last year. The elephant was right there, and just quietly walked across my line. For its size, an elephant moves extremely quietly through the bush. It is very well camouflaged and there are times you might not even know it’s there.”
Much like a professional golfer who after a low round still rues the one birdie he missed, Leversha has his thoughts on how he would have wanted to perfect a shot like this.
“From a photographic perspective, the size of the animal determines whether it could be in focus or not. A lioness such as the one I photographed last year is too small at that distance from the 13th green to be out of focus. If I could photograph this elephant again, I would do it with the green in focus and the outline of the elephant wouldn’t matter if it was out of focus because of its size. It’s all these little nuances and subtleties you look for.”
But nature won’t be dictated to, and Leversha admits to the one element no photographer can control.
“Luck. Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck, especially when photographing wild animals and then trying to capture them in the context of this incredible golf course.”
As the professional golfers seek to make their own bit of history on the fairways, Leversha is on a photographic journey to create Alfred Dunhill Championship history of his own.
“I’ve now photographed two of the Big 5 in the context of this tournament. We just need three more to complete this Leopard Creek flush.”