Friday, January 30, 2009

Supporting Your Photography

C4 Images and Safaris have just returned from a very successful photo safari to the Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru. Again, excellent sightings were had and time was spent at sightings carefully making sure we got the best angles as well as watching the animals’ behaviour to make sure that we captured the best images when the animals were doing things. As per normal, the Mara was in fine form. Large cats greeted us every day and we managed to see 5 different leopard, a species that the area is not that well known for. Nevertheless, we made sure we got our value of these special cats.

One sighting remains very special. We were watching a leopard eating a wildebeest in a sausage tree, which, typically was standing alone over an open plain. Well hidden, this large male did not offer a clear view for photos, but we sat and enjoyed the sighting. Then, just as the sun was dipping towards the horizon, the leopard stretched, got up and walked to an outer branch. Plonked himself down and started grooming himself. We rolled the vehicle down the slope and were right at eye level to the cat. Some patience had really paid off and we were now facing this cat at eye level, watching him lick and groom himself. Wildlife photography at its best!

What this blog is about though, are the supports and brackets that C4 Images and Safaris provide our clients to mount their lenses onto- making your wildlife photography that much more easier and better.
Good wildlife photo technique dictates that support is essential. Beanbags are great as support, but panning and rotating a large lens is difficult on a beanbag. For pure panning smoothness and quick horizontal-portrait changes a proper tripod mount is needed, preferably fixed to a solid platform so that you have stability, which is critical for image sharpness. Thus we provide a variety of clamps and vertical and horizontal mounted brackets to cater for all events when on safari. Of course the ever-useful beanbags always come in handy, especially when photographing from low down on the ground or from tricky positions in the game drive vehicle.
See the photos attached for examples of how our brackets work.

This is just another aspect of coming on a photo safari with C4 Images and Safaris. We provide you with the support so that you can relax, enjoy and concentrate on taking excellent wildlife photographs.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kalahari Excitement

My last entry on the Kgalagadi was about Splendour. Well if that was a splendid trip, then this was all about excitement and exciting times. November is the beginning of the rainy season in the Kalahari. Not much rain really falls- or at least the main rain season is in January and February- but there is a lot of barking. Each day is a build up of thunder clouds which reach their peak around15h30- where they either start dissipating or build up to a large crescendo lightning and thunder- and what a show they can produce!

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Pockets of isolated rainfall also occur, leaving swathes of green and flowers in their wake. Experiencing rain in the Kalahari must be one of nature’s most instant turnarounds. A desert like landscape, after a rainfall, will in just one night change into a scene of new life, with flowers and animals appearing everywhere.

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So you can imagine my excitement in heading to this wonderland in the heart of November! Arriving in the park everything was drab and brown- the last remnants of the dry season. However, each day the clouds built up and over the last few nights, we witnessed some great storms thundering over us with their life bearing rain. This brought immediate change and we witnessed some amazing sightings- faunal and floral.

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Perhaps the sighting that represented the coming of rain the most, was seeing a springbuck giving birth. Not 6m from the road, we watched the whole scene of new life coming into this world- an amazing experience. Other sightings were: watching cheetah hunt, jackal pups playing with a dead bat eared fox pup, 11 lions feeding on a fresh kill with interaction between another pride of 11, springbuck running through water in the Aoub riverbed and then playing in the early morning “spring” freshness (excuse the pun…) and lastly noticing how fast the tribulus flowers appear after the first rain. Some were up at first light the morning after a rainfall- an amazing feat of growth!

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With all this activity, the photography was naturally very good. Having photographic clients also make such an experience even better, as good Nature Photographers are willing to sit patiently to see if a potentially great photograph will present itself. In doing so we always get to see small and interesting interactions that many others just don’t see. So as you can see, being a Nature Photographer has some added benefits- you go to great places to photograph and often see excellent behaviour- just due to the attribute of patience! Who thought waiting for something to happen could bring so much reward?!

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The Kalahari at this time of year is just a must. I am so convinced of this, that I Have booked a whole camp there for a Photo Workshop next year- during the exact same season. The camp is called Urikaruus- right in the middle of the reserve and far from other vehicles and disturbances.

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Have a look on the C4 Images and Safaris website for more details. I definitely know I will be there!

Oh and did I mention the lightshows we witnessed?

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Photo Workshops

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As you might have gathered over the last few posts, C4 Images and Safaris advocate Photography Workshops as the best way to Improve your photography. Well, those and Photo Courses, and this was in no fuller illustrated over the last three weeks.

C4 Images and Safaris was contracted to present wildlife photography workshops at a “large” event. 18 days, 10 workshops, hundreds of photographs later and we were done- literally! Working with delegates every day, showing them how to take better images and what makes a good photograph can be taxing.
However, getting out into Pilanesberg National Park for four hours every day to take photographs (on the practical sessions) makes it all worthwhile.

Many of the delegates had never been to Africa, most had never had a 300mm lens in their hands and most had definitely not had a bull elephant 3 meters in front of their vehicle whilst taking photographs! At times like these, the courses were a joy.
The number of workshops might have been taxing, but there are two things that we love more than anything else.
1. Being out in Nature
2. Seeing our clients witnessing an excellent sighting and the cameras clicking away.
Which is exactly what we had each day- and that is what gives you the energy to keep going, seeing the thrill and excitement on peoples faces when they return from a game drive, happy from being ‘out there’ and with memory cards full! And of course, the fact that the delegates have taken their photographs from ‘happy snaps’ to images that have considered composition, worked with light as well as having worked their angles. For C4 Images and Safaris, that is what it is all about!

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More Workshops

I was going to stop blogging about the C4 Images and SafarisPhoto Workshops, but then we just came back from another workshop at Mashatu Game reserve. And what a workshop it was! Once again, the rugged and scenic beauty of the Northern Tuli cast its charm over the attendants and the photographs proved it. Sightings were once again excellent: 40 minutes spent with cheetah, lion a couple of times, the quintessential leopard reclining in a Mashatu tree and of course the large breeding herds of elephant that walk right past your vehicle. These herds once again entranced all on the workshop as they slowly browse past within meters of the vehicle, allowing the youngsters to walk out in the open. I can’t think of another place in southern Africa where such close, relaxed and intimate elephant sightings can be seen.mashatu, nature photographer, photo workshops, c4 images and safaris

Another highlight of the workshop was the birding. The drying pools of water in the riverbed attracted saddle-billed storks, grey herons and African spoonbills to the slowly concentrated food supply. Add to this the cacophony of the hundreds of guineafowl coming to drink and you have a very busy morning of photography.
However, the stars of the weekend, from a bird perspective, were the white fronted bee-eaters. Roosting in a curve of the riverbank, they allowed a vehicle to drive close enough for some beautiful portraits and flight photos. A great time was had and lots of technique was discussed with relation to getting the flight shots right- emphasising the value of a Photo Workshop. Which really describes the whole workshop: Nature, photographers, passion and photographic stimulation. Every one was very discussing, learning and improving their images while having excellent subjects to practice their passion on. Just what the workshops are all about.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Okavango Birds

October, due to its very hot temperatures, is locally referred to as “Suicide month” in Africa. So why head up to the north of Botswana to photograph birds in this month? Well, a few factors combine in the Panhandle of the delta to make for some great bird watching and, of course, photography. (You can see the collection of images from the trip here)
So I headed up with a couple of Photography friends, set up a small camp and jumped onto a boat to se what we could find. I mentioned a couple of contributing factors making it a good time to photograph- well it was prime season. Almost all the birds were breeding, meaning breeding colonies, the rains had not come keeping the skies clear of clouds and lastly, the water levels had dropped sufficiently. Why Sufficiently? Well, when the water level drops, it exposes the sandbanks allowing the African skimmer to breed. This near threatened bird struggles to find suitable breeding spots, but here on the Okavango, they still breed in good numbers.

And with so many good bird species to photograph I was naturally very comfortable in the environment! Some of the highlights were working with the carmine bee-eaters. What lovely jewels of the air! I was quite happy to be amongst them again of the tried some new angles and approaches to photographing them. The results of the creative stuff will be out soon. Of course the pied kingfishers, white fronted bee-eaters, jacanas and other colourful birds were all in abundance and were photographed in their fullness.
But the star of the show for the week was working with the African skimmer. A relatively large bird, they are quite easy to photograph- so my real ambition was to get something new and different of these spectacular birds. We spent quite a few hours with these birds and I eventually ended up in the water trying out different angles. Of course back lighting came into play. I really enjoyed how these birds stood out against the sun- the way the light reflected off their wings and the colour of light on their beaks. Spectacular!
Speaking of water- if you hear rumours of me in my underpants stalking pratincoles through the shallows- it’s completely untrue…
Hope you enjoy the images. Be sure to look at the collection.


Monday, January 19, 2009

The Great White Shark

Until you see them, you wont know just how phenomenal these creatures are. The great white Shark is an animal that lives up to almost all its reputations, in the natural world that is. C4 Images and Safaris just did a shark tour in Cape Town, South Africa and what a tour it was.
Being out in the African bush photographing quite a lot, one hardly ever sees any kills- and we actually count ourselves lucky to see predatory action when in the reserves. Well, seeing Great whites in action put a whole new meaning to predatory action. In one morning we witnessed and counted 20 (yes, that is twenty) “events” as the researchers call them. Twenty attacks on juvenile cape fur seals as they return to the sanctity of the island.

Photographing the action was quite a challenge and the light, or the lack of it, was against us this day. Dark overcast clouds did not help the quantity of light- however, there was lots to see: Sharks in the water, Sharks chasing seals, photographs of seals bobbing in the surf, Seal island and many gulls and petrels that were loitering around the boat. So we didn’t manage to get any huge shark breaches or action, but we did manage to photograph all manner of interesting subjects. A great Photo Tour- which is exactly what we are dong next year for our pelagic tours. Photograph sharks, seabirds and albatrosses, seals, dolphins and penguins on these very exciting photo tours. It should prove to be every bit as entertaining as that which we experienced this last week!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Cold Season is Upon Us

The first of the cold fronts have swept across southern Africa, prompting me to once again, write about light- and of course how it affects a Photographic Safari.

As the dry season approaches, all the vegetation loses its green colour and browns become a predominant part of the landscape. However, this does not affect the light- or the quality thereof. The quality of the light is caused by atmospheric dust.
As the landscape dries off, so more dust is kicked up into the atmosphere. This dust lies close to the earths surface and the important part: it filters out the green and blue wave lengths (shorter wavelengths) and only red comes through, leaving us with the classic soft and warm colours of the dry season.
Now we know why cities with serious pollution issues have the beautifully red sunsets: all the pollution filters out the light! So pollution is good for one thing…

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The dusty conditions of the dry season mean you can photograph into the sun.

And how does this affect Photography? Well, in the dry season, the sun sets as a red orb, allowing you to photograph into the sun, and use it as a part of the image. Also, the soft warm colours work very well against the backdrop of soft browns and yellows- all colours that compliment each other. Photographing here is beautiful mixture of pastel browns. It makes for very effective and striking photos.
The rainy season though, is another matter. Rain washes the atmosphere clean of the dust and thus all the light rays can reach us, the photographers. This means that the soft colours are gone, replaced by a stronger, more direct light. How does this affect photography? Well, due to the vegetation being nice and green, this season actually works quite well, as the greens reflect the direct light quite well. Clear skies, or skies with large thunderclouds also lend a dramatic air to images, so making this season an excellent time for Landscape Photography.

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The dry browns yellows of the dry season (combined with frost) make for a great background to subjects when photographing.

I hope this explains a bit more about our seasonal variations and how both of them are actually good seasons for Photography and a Photo Safari!

Have a look at our photo workshops to see where and in what season we are out and about photographing.

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Good wet season light, clouds and rainbows make elephants stand out that much more in amongst the green vegetation.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Moonscapes and Silhouettes

In the last blog entry, I mentioned that while I at our Photo workshop, we were always back late to camp. The camp, I’m sure, does not like this much, but when you are out photographing good subjects, not even the great cuisine that Mashatu offers can tempt you back.

And this is exactly what happened on our last night there. We had spent the late afternoon light photographing wildebeest walking over the crest of a hill. The light was perfect and the wildebeest were glowing, making them look a lot prettier than they really are!

The full moon rises over the dramatic Mashatu landscape, peppered with huge Mashatu trees along the riverbed.

Part two
As the sun set, we drove up to the top of Disappointment Kopjie (hill) for our evening sundowner. The hills name is a misnomer to me, as this is when the action really started.
One client had a GPS, which told us that the full moon was to rise at exactly 18h29. We set up tripods and waited, patiently sipping our Gin and Tonics.
On the exact minute, the moon peeped over the Mashatu Landscape, again the cameras were clicking! As always it rose too fast and we were soon finished with it, but turning around, the silhouette of the vehicle and photographers made for a striking image. So we got turned our cameras to it… after that the stars were out, so we did a few trails and constellations…
As you can see, we got really stuck in. The African night entranced us and the cameras were hard at work, making all us photographers very happy!
Perhaps not the camp management though, we pulled in at 21h00… 1.5 hours late!

Turning around from photographing the moon, this is what we were greeted with. Drinks were dropped in haste and tripods set up for a dramatic silhouette.


Friday, January 16, 2009

A Wet and Dry Season

In discussing climate, you might have noticed that we refer to our seasons as the wet /rainy season or the dry season. Well that’s is because it is really like that. I write this to eliminate confusion about the winter and summer syndrome we talk about here in Southern Africa. You will notice on the C4 Images and Safaris website, that we do talk of summer and winter, but this is to be in line with our northern hemisphere neighbours!

Simply, it is like this.

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Southern Africa for the most part (except for the Southern Cape of South Africa), experiences two seasons: A cool dry season and a hot, wet season.
From October –April, conditions are generally hot, humid- bringing the rain. From May- September, it is a cooler, drier season, showing the classic brown, dusty colours typical of Africa.
How does that affect your Photography? Well, the rainy season brings the migratory birds, courtship behaviour, young animals, thunderstorms and the beautiful green colours of the African bush.
Dry season? Well this is prime time for action at waterholes… Predators, dust, large herds congregating and drinking, open plains and the sun setting as a red orb in the sky.
Which season is best? That is open to debate- but wouldn’t you love to have the choice of both? Well you do of course- see our Photo Safaris – always in the right season for the best Photography.

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When would you like to go on safari here- Wet or dry season? I think the images answer the questions! Central Kalahari- Deception valley, wet season paradise.