In quick succession, we have another photo workshop at Mashatu Nature Reserve, and what an action packed one it proved to be. Again, I will list the highlights by the drives we did.
Due to the exceptional rains over the wet season, there was still a lot of water in the rivers. This has turned the reserve into a dry season paradise, with herons, storks, egrets and hamerkops all feasting on the drying pools filled with trapped fish. Fish eagles even bred along the river course and we saw the young juvenile also enjoying the buffet available in the Mojale River.
1. First drive is normally a look around to get a feel for the area- although we all had to get into action photography mode very quickly when a herd of Wildebeest stampeded through one of the rivers, creating beautiful backlit splashes in the afternoon sun. What a great start. Then it was off to a Lion kill, with an interested leopard not 60m from the lions. At one stage the leopard walked up to within 12m from the male lion! I thought it was going to get ugly, but the leopard thought better of his intentions and disappeared to fond his own dinner. The photography highlight was sitting with a lioness in the last golden rays of the sunset, upon which she decided to crouch at something in the bush. Perfect.
2. The morning was characterised by elephants. Once again this place never fails to disappoint with regards elephant sightings. The highlight was elephant herd walking on top of a ridge. We parked low down and got great and unusual images of these well-photographed animals. An elephant walking through grass with a blue sky is not your usual image!
3. The wild dogs are denning. C4 Images and Safaris organised that we were to be the one vehicle allowed to the den site. This is to minimise disturbance and the guides are under strict orders to follow certain protocol around the den site. This is very important because under the ground there are a few blind pups that need the packs help to survive. We found the dogs relaxing at the den. A half hour before sunset they decided to head out for the hunt. They moved out of the thick bush and into the open area. Brilliant light greeted us as they moved over the flat grasslands. What a sight! We lost them in some thick vlei thorn and heard their frantic calls 10 minutes later, some 3 km away. Following up we found that they had killed and eaten an impala in that short time. Not 5 minutes had passed and the impala was gone!
4. Elephant morning. Herds of mothers, sisters, cousins and babies passed within 3m of our vehicles. Lenses were strewn everywhere with people ditching the long lenses for the shorter wide angles! If any one had not photographed an elephant before, well this was the time to get all the images you could manage. I have never seen so much activity on a vehicle before- with clients swapping cameras and lenses at the elephants feeding at the vehicles tyres!
5. Mating warthogs were the highlight with backlit queleas adding to the afternoon’s activity. The other vehicle was having their time with the wild dogs, which they also out hunting. We had located a very well positioned baobab and set up a star trail while having our sundowners: It really is a great feeling to be working while having your evening drink!
6. Before finding our customary elephant herd, we spent some time at one of the drying pools in the Mojale River. It led to great images of hamerkops and pied kingfishers feeding on the fish trapped in the pool. We spent some time with another herd of elephant before finding this good-looking leopard relaxing on the cool sand of the riverbed. A great way to end the morning’s proceedings. Of course the cards were filled again and everyone went back to camp more out of necessity to download rather than brunch!
7. We checked up on the leopard in the afternoon and found him lazing in a tree not far from the mornings spot. We decided to stay with him, as we knew he would head down to drink soon enough. The other vehicle headed on towards the wild dogs. Their highlight was to come: witnessing the wild dogs hunt, catch and eat an impala. An extremely rare sighting and one that will stand out for many a month here at Mashatu! We enjoyed beautiful time with the leopard, watching him come out the tree and drink in a clear pool in the river. He then proceeded to groom himself right in front of us, sitting in the open riverbed. Lovely stuff and the cameras were working overtime again. The light faded fast and it was a good time to work on flash technique at night; making sure that everyone got the shots in very difficult lighting conditions. The drive home was notable for the sighting of a flap necked chameleon, which almost caused as much activity and excitement as the leopard!
8. The last morning was one to stock up on the landscapes and wide-angle images of Mashatu. We spent time photographing the river courses filled with water, the rocky cliffs and the huge Mashatu trees with kudu and impala feeding on the fruit below them.
All too soon it was time to go. The days had been their usual winter self- clear days with excellent light for photography. Each time we come here, the sightings seem to get better and better. I almost tend to think that the last one is always the “best” workshop I have ever been on!
That is not necessarily true, but it does emphasise how each time I am reminded of why C4 Images and Safaris uses Mashatu for its photo workshops.
View a video taken whilst on workshop in Mashatu here.