Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mashatu Workshop Trip Report - November 2010 by Villiers Steyn

We arrived at Mashatu Tent Camp on a cold, overcast day. Despite the chill in the air and a few raindrops along the way, our first game drive turned out to be the perfect start to yet another unforgettable weekend in the Land of Giants. Shortly before sunset we came across a mother leopard and her sub-adult cub resting on a branch. With the help of the spotlight we were able to get some stunning shots before the light disappeared completely.

mashatu, photo workshop, villiers steyn, wildlife photography,

The following morning rain forced us to stay in camp. We used the time to discuss various aspects of wildlife photography, including our equipment, processing techniques and the importance of understanding light. After brunch the clouds finally dried up and allowed us to spend the rest of the day on drive. As always, Mashatu produced some of the best elephant sightings imaginable. We were able to photograph drinking elephants and herds walking in single file, not to mention young bulls play-fighting! On our way back to Tent Camp we got a call over the radio that wild dog tracks were found in the Central Area. In an attempt to keep everyone’s expectations in check, I agreed to eat my cap if we found them the following day…

mashatu, photo workshop, villiers steyn, wildlife photography,

mashatu, photo workshop, villiers steyn, wildlife photography,

At 06:30 on Saturday morning we found four highly mobile wild dogs. They were on a mission of note, only stopping briefly every couple of hundred meters to smell, mark or have a drink in one of the many natural pools, which now covered the Mashatu landscape. We followed them for nearly an hour and a half until they settled in the shade of a mopane-thicket. By the way, my cap would have gone down better with some ketchup or chutney!

mashatu, photo workshop, villiers steyn, wildlife photography,

mashatu, photo workshop, villiers steyn, wildlife photography,

On the next few drives we focussed our attention on a lioness with three tiny cubs. We found them on numerous occasions, but since the weather had turned back to the more familiar hot, sunny days, we struggled to find the pride in places that weren’t covered in shade. Only after sunset did they become active.

It wasn’t only large cats and wild dogs that made the shutters click. We were able to photograph a great variety of smaller creatures that are less often seen than the large, charismatic predators. African wild cat, African rock python, rock monitor and banded mongoose all made the list of keepers! Some participants were also able to get stunning shots of more common species, such as tree squirrels and white-fronted bee-eaters. One of the most productive sessions was spent with a troop of baboons that allowed us to get some dramatic back-lit photographs, whilst they played in a tree just before sunset.

mashatu, photo workshop, villiers steyn, wildlife photography,

mashatu, photo workshop, villiers steyn, wildlife photography,

Personally, the highlight for me was seeing Mashatu transform from a relatively dull, dry reserve into a lush, green paradise in a matter of days! It was impossible not to stop every now and again to admire the changing landscape with all its unique habitats. This photograph of an apple-leaf forest is one of my favourite landscape shots of the weekend!

mashatu, photo workshop, villiers steyn, wildlife photography,

Thank you to Monty and Hilda and the rest of the Tent Camp staff for making it yet another unforgettable stay! And of course to Richard and Jakes, our guides, for their incredible patience and effort in the field. Last, but by no means least, thanks to all the participants for making this workshop a great success!

Happy snapping!

Villiers Steyn

PS: …when Scotland beat South Africa in the rugby, I had to eat my fleece!

mashatu, photo workshop, villiers steyn, wildlife photography,

Our Next Mashatu Workhop: March 2011
September Mashatu Workshop Feedback by Villiers Steyn
View our photo workshop video here.
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1 comment:

Ian Weatherburn said...

Thanks Villiers and Albie for a wonderful 5 days in your slice of paradise. Despite the gloomy start the sun shone on us both literally and figuratively the rest of the time with some great photos to share with the family on my return as a result. You were great hosts in a wonderful place that clearly you have a passion for.