Thursday, May 28, 2009
1. First game drive everyone in the vehicles with anticipation. Isak Pretorius is hosting a workshop with us for the first time, along with Shem Compion, the owner of C4 Images and Safaris. Two vehicles, 7 clients and we find a leopard with a fresh impala kill in a dry riverbed. It is dusk, so the lights are on, but that does not stop the photography. The leopard climbs a high tree with a nice blue sky behind him. Lovely. Just then a hyaena arrives. The leopard decided to go walk about and we anticipate that he will head towards some water. We motor ahead and he walks right up towards us, within 2m of the vehicle, silently padding away into the night. Some excellent images are had of him drinking in a pool. By now it is getting late and we head off to camp, heady with the first evenings excitement.
2. Mornings are for anticipation, and this one is no different. Everyone is up and fresh faced ready to photograph. The first animals we see are two bull elephants feeding on mopane trees. The leaves are starting to turn a nice golden brown, and the first light of day does them a lot of justice. We practice working out the various compositions with elephants and also emphasise using different lenses- as these large animals have so much to photograph! The rest of the morning is filled with elephant. About 300 to be exact! Elephants crossing riverbeds, elephants drinking in riverbeds and elephants drinking milk from mothers. By the time we head back to camp everyone is famished and memory cards are full.
3. This drive will go down as one of the legendary drives of all time. It starts with great fun as a pearl spotted owlet peers down at us from a dead Leadwood tree. Its inquisitive face making wonderful portraits. Then off to the bee-eater colony where we watch these beautiful birds flutter and sand bath spectacularly in the setting sunlight. THEN, comes the big call for the leopard on the log. It was what any photographer has ever wished for- the perfect set up. Leopard lying on log, in the open, head high and with the evening light creating a beautiful glow on its face. Stunning. For a full explanation see this entry on the shemimages.com blog as well as the video here. It has to be one of the best leopard sightings ever, but then the porcupine had to come along and really add some spice to the evening…. What drama and action. I have never see so many excited photographers at or after the event!
4. After the evenings sighting, I don’t believe any of us were expecting much for the morning! We headed out south and found some lions that had killed an eland. They were lying in a gully and difficult to photograph, although we did get some images of the cubs and one lioness as they went for a short walk. Probably the highlight of the morning was some elephant’s backlit against a hill in some dust. The warm morning colours and the characteristic shapes of the elephant made for some nice compositions.
5. During the day, the wind started to pick up and by the time we headed out on the afternoon drive it was very blustery. We managed to do some motion blur with some running impala (they are always skittish in the wind) and we did find a leopard with her cubs at an impala kill, but the conditions were not good and the leopard was lying in some thick bush. So we headed back to camp for a quick session on post processing and dinner.
6. The wind had brought in some bad weather. It wasn’t so cold, as more overcast. As the sun rose, a gap opened in the clouds and some beautiful light shone through allowing a few very nice landscapes. The clouds lifted throughout the morning creating a very dramatic effect over the landscape, allowing us to play with some landscapes. Probably the highlight of the morning was photographing a running eland that all of a sudden jumped high into the air. We’ve all hear about the jumping prowess of an eland, but this was a sight to behold- and we all got it on camera! It was a fitting end to all the panning practise we had been doing on running impala.
7. Unfortunately the afternoon clouded down deep with shadow and some rain, making photography very difficult. We did find a leopardess with her cubs again, but they were so deep in the fever berry bushes that photography was impossible. So we did as all the other animals hiding from the cold and wind and headed back to camp.
8. The last game drive, as I have mentioned before, is always a bittersweet one. This time though, it was sweet, very sweet. We found a leopard kill in a mashatu tree. The leopard was not there, but two hyaenas were skulking around. We photographed a hyaena humorously trying to climb up into the tree. It only got into the ole of the tree, but getting down was quite a sight. Then, out of nowhere, 20m away from us, the leopard popped up its head! It had been lying in the long grass… It had seen the hyaena and returned to the tree, at one stage they were within 3m of each other, with the trunk of the tree between them. The hyaena didn’t know a thing and the leopard nonchalantly chose to ignore it, alighting into the tree with graceful ease. We then watched as the leopard sat down to move the carcass and begin eating. The hyaena was directly below the branch, drooling away at the feast above it! Fantastic viewing and photography! Eventually it lost interest and moved off. The leopard lay down to sleep and we moved off to the white fronted bee-eater colony for a last goodbye- as we had been so rudely interrupted on game drive no.3! The birds were out in force and provided some great shots. On the road home we encountered a herd of 60 elephant crossing the Matebole River. A beautiful way to end the photo workshop.
Of course, whilst at camp Isak and I presented talks and slideshows on our photography and many discussions were had on the technical aspects of photography, post processing and workflow. A full 4 days indeed, and one that will go down as one of the best photo workshops ever!
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
This proved the case over the last workshop held on the 30 April – 4 May.
A dead Leadwood tree lying in the Mojale River was the focus off attention in the late afternoon sunlight. For on top of it, perched in the most regal of poses, sat a young 2-year old leopard. This young male is as good looking as leopards come and as relaxed as you will find anywhere.
We were busy photographing this perfect set up, when behind us I noticed a porcupine walking in the riverbed. It too, caught the leopard’s attention…
I won’t say much more, because the video below, taken by one of our clients, Guy Larin, shows some incredible interaction between the leopard and the Porcupine. This video was taken with a Canon 5DmarkII attached to a 100-400mm lens and shows the excellent quality of theses new video features that are on the more recent cameras. So do have a look!
How did it end? Both went happily on their own way, just as we did, although I believe we were more excited than the animals.
It again proves the value of the photo workshops- using a dedicated photographic safari company like C4 Images and Safaris’; you get to the best venues with the best photographers to make the best images.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Little did we all know how much the animals would perform for us... That is another story (see the Shemimages Blog for more) though. Being a large party, and staying with our policy of having one photo guide per three client photographers, it was an opportunity for Isak Pretorius to work as a host photographer on this workshop.
Isak has travelled with C4 Images and Safaris before and on a more casual basis, but instantly made an impression with his knowledge of photography, its conundrums and how to solve many technical issues. Of course we listened to him once we had seen more of his images on his website, where he shows some remarkable anticipation and appreciation of light in his bird images.
Isak is also an award wining photographer, having one second place and two highly commended images in the Fuji film/Getaway wildlife photography competition in 2008.
Thus it was with ease that Isak fitted into co hosting the photo workshop with Shem Compion.
And the wildlife sightings? Well, Ill leave it till later to describe the actual workshop sightings, but will say that two of the interactions we witnessed were something you don’t see every 10 years or so out in nature areas. We were very privileged to see these in such a wonderful wilderness area.
Here are a few of Isak’s images from the weekend. It was a pleasure working with him and hope the images reflect some of the beauty and specific interaction that you can see on a photo workshop with C4 Images and Safaris.