C4 Images and Safaris is just back from its first photo workshop at Mashatu Game Reserve, and what an excellent weekend it was. The reserve was as green as I have every seen it. Rivers were flowing and pools of water la everywhere. Perhaps the best way to document the workshop is to give a breakdown of the 6 game drives we did and what the highlight on each drive was.
The game Drives on this photo workshop,
1. Breeding herd of elephant feeding and then drinking in the Matabole River. Excellent late afternoon light and the whole family not 8 m from the vehicle. Parked in the riverbed itself, we enjoyed the sighting from a prime spot.
2. Morning drive in overcast light. Found hungry lioness watching wildebeest. Elephants drinking in the Mojale River and large herds browsing along the riverine area were the other highlight of the morning.
3. This afternoon was the first real highlight. We spent the last 30 minutes of the day, in excellent afternoon light with a pack of 16 wild dogs. Upon finding them, they were quite relaxed, but as the light got better, they woke up and started their evening hunting ritual. The dogs were walking and playing right around our vehicle. Cameras were pointed in every direction possible and we were all shaking with excitement when the sun eventually dipped below the horizon. It was pure photography bliss. Perhaps an even better highlight though, was our sun downer drink. We left the wild dogs and drove about 3 km away to an open area. Relaxing in the dusk light, we were suddenly aware of some noise. In the dim dusk grey light, we watched in absolute silence as 16 dogs trotted past our vehicle; on their nightly endeavours. Perhaps it was the silence, or perhaps it was that we had just been photographing these beautiful animals, but we were all awestruck at the scene. This was a time when no camera was needed to capture the scene- it was firmly ingrained in our minds.
4. We had planned a long morning out and so booked out picnic boxes for our drive to the vlei (marsh) down south. This is another advantage of Mashatu- they can accommodate your needs very helpfully- and you know how often us photographers have special needs! We tracked a dead elephant, by smell, but found no activity when there, although there were a lot of signs around. We spent time with little and carmine bee-eaters, capturing their beautiful colours and iridescence. Breakfast was spent on a small hill overlooking the vlei- a wonderland of activity filled with water and waterbirds. You could say it was a morning of bird photography, as by the time we reached camp, we had photographed, bee eaters, reed cormorant, woodland kingfisher and Lilac breasted rollers. Of course, we also bumped into a herd of breeding elephant on the away home.
5. We knew the area in which the wild dogs were staying, so tracked them for about an hour. Once in amongst the pack, we settled in for the afternoon. Again, Mashatu delivered. The sun came out from below the clouds and again, we enjoyed these special predators in excellent photographic conditions. Excellent photography is what photo workshops are all about- and this was just proving the point!
6. The last morning is always a bitter sweet one- you want something special, but know that time is against you. I was determined to spend the first light with a good subject. So we drove quickly out of camp and 5 min before sunrise found a herd of elephant in some mopane bush. I positioned the vehicle in an open area and waited. Almost at the exact moment the sun painted the landscape a pink hue, the elephants emerged from the bush and sauntered into the open grassland. Another perfect photographic moment. The herd walked right past us and along towards the river.
It was to be an elephant morning, as more herds joined the one we were with. It resulted in a single sighting of about 100 elephant drinking, playing, feeding and just enjoying life all around us. We read the path they were headed on and drove ahead of them to position ourselves in an open river bed. After a wait of about 15 minutes- a whole herd, strung out in one long line crosses the Matebole River. It was scene reminiscent of the classic scenes of Africa and believe me, the cameras were clicking. The backdrop of large riverine trees and a rocky hill provided the perfect scene for the elephants. It will long go down as one of the best parting scenes for a photo workshop. Driving back to camp a male lion gave us our last farewell- a fitting end to another very productive photo workshop at Mashatu.
Of course there were discussions and chats regarding wildlife photography and I delivered presentations on camera technique, light and composition etc. But the success of a workshop revolves around the quality of the sightings that you see and photograph. In this regard, with the wildlife sightings and the photo opportunities we had, this photo workshop passed with flying colours.
View a video taken while on a photo workshop here.