Kruger National Park 2014

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An exceptionally memorable trip in the Southern part of the  Kruger National park which  has been one of  my favorite trips i recent years.  It had everything except cheetah  and included wild dogs returning from a  kill to fee their youngsters, with fantastic predator sightings including a leopard taking out an impala, lion stalking a  kudu  and a spotted hyena  almost taking out  a human! A large  veld  fire creating some interdsting  photo opoprtunities  as it  swept in from  Mozambique with  various animals  in a state of panic.  At times we were engulfed in smoke  and  had poor  visibility, with a  fire line stretching over 60km across the horizon.

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12,August,2015 · 10:59 am

Pilanesberg National Park – Wildlife photography Weekend of the 23 September 2013

Over the long weekend of the 23rd September 2013, my kids, Tom and Anna and I joined  some good friends for an unplanned  trip to the Pilanesberg National Park. Despite my land rover’s alternator glowing bright red and catching  fire on route  (necessitating an AA  truck to rescue us) we eventually made it to  Pilanesberg in our alternate car the following day.

Much of the long weekend was cold and overcast but it did not rain.  It however did make photography challenging but we were rewarded with some wonderful moments of diffused light as the sun shone through the clouds. The  park was dry as  would befit the end of winter  and the dams were low in volume.

On the wildlife front it was a really good trip, though I spent less time in the park and more time at camp.

My highlight photograph was a   young zebra frolicking through the veld in subdued light on iso 400.  I am very surprised to have gotten the shot since I was seated in the passenger seat and shot through the open window of the driver’s side across my friend Mike.

Another highlight was the stalking of four giraffe by a male lion.  The giraffe saw the lion approaching them from about 200m away and they bolted at great speed.  I managed to get a  shot of the  giraffe at full gallop. I believe the lion to have been stalking the youngest member of the herd.

My son, to whom I had  given  my  old Canon 20D,  had  a field day using the camera in combination with the  70-200mm  f4 and his photography  is developing nicely.  This  combination of lens is both light and manageable for an 8 year old and will nto break the bank if dropped. I also used the trip to  use my 1.4 Mk II converter on my 300mm f4 IS lens.  Though autofocus was slower, it was accurate and I was happy with the results.

Another great moment was the arrival of two herds arriving at the small Pilanesberg centre waterhole. There was a lot of pushing and  shoving by the adult members of the opposing herds,  with their  babies  screaming in disgust and  rushing away from the action, staying close to their mothers.  One particular shot I really like is the contrast of an elephant in the foreground spraying water, with an elephant in the  background with the dust on the left.  The elephants took every opportunity to chase away the giraffe and warthog which were also trying to use the water hole.

I am looking  forward  to getting  back to Pilanesberg in springtime and hopefully seeing more birds as they migrate back to South Africa for the summer.

 

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Kruger National Park – April 2013

 




IMG_5138We decided to take our annual family trip to Kruger in April, rather than the winter months.  This is  a very different  time of year to when we normally  visit.  The  viewing of  birds and animals was challenging due to the late rains.  The  bush was green and dense  and many of the migratory birds had already left for warmer climes and many of the  animals had dispersed into the bush with the  late rains and  abundance of  groundwater.  Spotting game was  challenging and  viewings were relatively sparse to what we are normally used to.

We  were  fortunate to camp next to  some professional wildlife photographers  who  regularly  publish their pictures in National Geographic and sell stock photography. They gave me  some great tips and one  realizes there is always something new to learn to get great shots.  My camera  malfunctioned a day before the trip  but I was able to  work around it  though it  impacted   the auto focus and ability to change   iso on the fly.  So my  %  of keepers was far less successful.

Particularly noteworthy  was a   wild  dog hunt with  24  wild dogs  pursuing an impala down the Timbavati river   until they   headed bang smack into  4 black maned lions in their prime.  The  dogs  barked at the lions  and were then  pursued by the lion  which passed right in front of the car.  I realised the limitations of  my old canon 20D as  the light was dim and it was raining and overcast. I  really needed a high iso camera free of  noise to make up for the poor light.  There was so much happening  and  my photos  were mostly  disappointing  but  driving  down the  road  with the  dogs hunting on either side of the vehicle  calling to each other was an amazing  experience  and one of  my most memorable in 30 years of  visits to the Kruger.  

The following day there  was a great leopard  sighting within a   few hundred meters of of the previous afternoons  viewing.  This time the leopard which sat  calmly for  20  minutes in a clearing was suddenly chased up a   log  by 2  wild  dog who made  a brief  5  second appearance  before disappearing.  Alas it was too far to get a    shot with dogs and leopard in the same frame.  

The  middle and southern  part  of Kruger gave  up a lot more sightings  compared to the Letaba and Olifants  area  but the  strong  flowing  rivers  and  number of pans dams and  puddles in the bush generally meant that much of the  game had dispersed into the bush and were not reliant on the waterholes.  3 Cheetah were also seen which is also  special  but I have seldom seen  so little game in a  10 day trip.  We   focused a lot on insect life and  bought an excellent field  guide which opened up  a  whole new  exciting world.  

The trip  got me thinking that I must pursue  a Field Guiding Course which would enable me to  one day  achieve my dream of  being a safari  and photographic guide.

I hope you  enjoy the pictures.

Phil

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Ramblings on Photography

With the onset of a busy year both personally and in terms of work (new job), photography has had to take a back seat.  However the craving to be out in the field is still intense and the desire to create work of originality and aesthetic still lingers on.  It is surprisingly difficult to create something different and depends largely on patience and skill with a lot of luck thrown in.  I am not the kind to sit patiently at a waterhole waiting for the game to arrive (and this is particularly difficult with a car of kids). Only I can seem to sit watch a leopard plot its next move from the boughs of a tree for 2 hours!

So my general modus operandi is to be on the move and cover a lot of ground, in my landy.   This can result in chance encounters but results in a lot of misses.  There is no greater anguish than missing that shot of a lifetime (such as failing to catch the lion chasing the cheetah in the same frame). This is where rushing round as driver and photographer can be tricky.  I have mastered the art of being able to drive, follow an animal and take photos at the same time’ though it has its resultant limitations.

Some of this year’s trips   included 4 days in Kruger and a few days in Pilanesberg. Sadly my trip to Namaqualand, West Coast and Kgalagadi had to be cancelled due to work commitments.

I am continuously tortured by the desire to get new gear but it just seems to get more and more expensive each year, faster autofocus, faster burst rate and higher continuous shooting, more pixels and longer lenses but I need to learn to be content with what I have.  Some cameras are ideally suited to particular work others are just too slow and are great at catching stationary animals and landscapes but one needs to be able to work around these limitations.  I think we often think so much about the gear that we forget why we are really in the field. I   do however think I need a wide angle lens it he range of 12-24 mm…Maybe next year!

My next plan t is to pursue more film based panoramic photography, it is an age since I used my large  6×17 Fotoman with 90mm Caltar Lens  and though there has been desire to “sell everything and start again” this is just not viable when you are making little or no income from photography.  I am hoping to get to the Sabie and Graskop and Blyde River area for a few days.

Another thing I deem important is to meet other people in the field and gain their perspective and understanding.  Recently when I was at Pilanesberg I met a wonderful lady, passionate photographer and painter who shoot black and white.  Having seen her work I was bowled over and decided to shoot B&W for a day..What a revelation.  It will not be the last?  There is always something new to learn and this is another goal for the remainder of the year.

I attach some of  my favourite pics from October 2011 to November

2012..enjoy!

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South African Wildlife Photography – 2011

2011 proved to be a great year for my wildlife photography with some great memories and sightings despite fewer trips  to the bush. Two trips  to the Kruger were undertaken,  The first in July 2011 with Tom and  Doug and the second  in October with Joy, Tom and  Anna for 10 days, commencing in the middle of the Park commencing in Letaba, then Satara and  Skukuza… both  very  different seasons. The former trip in the south of the Park (Crocodile Bridge Skukuza and Berg En Dal) resulted in my closest sighting of a black rhino as it  was about to cross  the road in dense bush as I passed (to within 5m) .  Needless to say both of us back-pedalled to eye each other out. Most of my experiences of  black rhino is that they are  obscured by the bush  and in the  distance (50m+)but not in the current  scenario. Why I was  shooting ISO 1600  on one of my cameras is a mystery and a mistake.  I also had a great leopard  sighting that same day on the tar road from Skukuza to Malelane.  The Leopard was sitting on a koppie 30m  into the bush and decided to walk to within touching distance of my landy, totally ignorant of me and clearly on the hunt.  This year saw  me  experimenting with a new  suction cup mount   attached to the door of my landy and secured  by  tie  downs as well as a  roof top  hide allowing the kids and I to pop out at opportune moments.   Missed opportunities  included getting stuck in a traffic jam   during a leopard  sighting when I new  of a  little  known road along the river just a bit further …I got there too late only to see  the  tail of the leopard head into the bush  3m away.  I must say I was tempted  for the first time to get to out of my car  but common sense  prevailed .  I also phoptgraphed a recently  born young elepghant ( a few days at most). I was surprised as to how placid its mother was as I passed within  5m of  them both..sadly the light was poor and I was nervous .  As to the most amazing photographic  moment..it was a fish eagle at Nsemani dam, which dived  from flight and dragged and swam with its huge prey of a barbel catfish to the shore, a distance of  6m .  A series of  40 odd photos of this amazing sequence was taken. Talk about being in the right place at the right time..  If only I had a   longer lens..the perpetual  cry of a wildlife photographer.

Phil