You may have seen the picture of zebras being used to demonstrate the incredible quality of Apple‘s new MacBook Pro Retina display. Here is the story behind the making of the picture, as told by the photographer that captured it. 

Steve shot this photograph on film, using a Canon EOS 1N and a Canon 70-200mm F2.8 lens

The raw smell of the earth and a lingering sense of primeval energy draw me back to the Africa of my birth. There remain some wildernesses on our planet that are especially captivating. A jewel in the desert, Botswana’s Okavango Delta is perhaps the finest of them all.

I was in the small town of Maun in Botswana, gathering photographs for my books UntamedSpirit of the Wild and  Living AfricaLight is delicate and fickle when photographing from the air, so the helicopter was booked for an early morning shoot to maximise the chances of good visibility.

I arrived at the offices of pilot Peter Perlstein for a briefing and a cup of coffee, but I already knew when I walked in that we couldn’t fly that day. Local farmers had been burning grass to prepare the soil for the planting of new crops and smoke had spread into the wilder areas of the Okavango Delta, hampering visibility. There were dark and heavy clouds in the air.

Only three days remained before I was committed to fly back home to England, so I knew we would just have to wait it out. Peter is among the most experienced of helicopter pilots, a specialist in working with photographers and film makers such as the BBC Natural History Unit.

The next two mornings came and went while visibility continued to deteriorate. There was no point in attempting to fly then because, even if I’d had the most spectacular sightings, the photographs would have looked flat and indistinct.

I had almost given up when the day of my long-haul flight home came. I knew it was my last chance to get aerial wildlife images. Miraculously, the light improved slightly and we decided to take a chance and fly. But the air traffic control centre was not due to open for another couple for hours, by which time the light may have become too harsh. So we prepared everything, went to the helicopter and waited for permission to take off.

We removed the door from the helicopter, as it was essential to get sharp pictures. The thick glass on aircraft adds a layer which has the effect of softening the image. Peter was in the front of the helicopter and I took up the entire back seat, but leaned out from the opposite side of him to give the helicopter as much balance as possible.

We took off as soon as air traffic control allowed us to and headed for the Delta. The clouds momentarily parted to let the morning light in and we found the zebras moving in the swamp. The encounter was brief. The diaphanous light faded quickly; the weather closed in behind us. The picture shows how the strong herd instinct protects each individual against predators.  After we landed, I rushed over the the public terminal at the airport and managed to catch my flight home in the nick of time.

About Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom is an internationally renowned photographer and author. He has published many titles for both adults and children. His adult books include Untamed, Living Africa and Elephant! His children's titles include his latest book My Big Cats Journal, as well as Elephants - a Book for Children and My Favourite Animal Families.

To find out more about Steve's work and to view more of his award winning photography visit Steve's site at