Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mashatu Photo Workshop July

Words and images by Andrew and Lucy Stephens.

My wife and I were looking for somewhere special to spend our first anniversary. We share photography and the natural world as our passion. We also belong to the Edenvale Photographic club where we participate in sharing our hobby. Its through the club that we were introduced to C4 Images and Safaris where Shem came to give a talk on wildlife photography. There were also club members who had been to Mashatu and highly recommended it for a trip. So, we booked and our trip began on the 18th of July 2013.

Entry to Botswana is through the Pontdrift border post, where we were then escorted by the Mashatu Rangers and C4 Workshop lead to the luxury tented camp in Mashatu.

There are two buckets of activity daily centered around the best morning and evening light for photography. In the morning you leave before sunset to get closer to the game by the time the sun rises, only coming back for brunch at about 10:30 AM. For the evening you leave mid afternoon, after a delicious tea. Staying out until all light has faded before making the way back to the camp. We really appreciated this, as we could stay at a sighting if required with the assistance of spot lights. The rangers and C4 team really make sure that the clients desires, in terms of time spent at sightings, are met.

The rangers also do their utmost to get the best possible photographic opportunities, by going off-road whenever it is needed. We probably spent 50-60% of the game drives off road at sightings or tracking animals! I found this extraordinary as it allowed us some of the rarest and most precious sightings we have ever had. The drivers also made sure that the vehicle stopped at the best spot for photographic opportunities.

In terms of game viewing, Mashatu really delivers, below are a few highlights:
Sighting # Quality in terms of photography
Lions 2 ****
Leopard 3 *****
Hyena 5+ *****
Elephant 6 *****
Jackal 5+ *****
Baboon 3 **** (Baboon eating a Guinea fowl)
Steenbok 2 ****
Bee Eaters 3+ ***** (White Fronted)
Meyers Parrot 1 *****
Namaqua Doves 3 ****
Namaqua Sandgrouse 3 ***
Francolin 4 ****

One of the main reasons we chose to go to Mashatu was to visit the sunken Elephant hide to get close to these giants. We spent one and a half days in the hide. The first day was really quiet, however the second day did not disappoint at all. The bird life visiting the water hole in between mammals gives you lots to focus on. I did some time lapse movies using my iPad to show the main sightings. See the links below:

Impala, Kudu and Baboon come to drink: http://youtu.be/9IhwuKz9q50
The Elephants arrive: http://youtu.be/BO5Ac77SS2E

The other really special sighting (besides leopards in tree’s, Bee Eater Colonies, and 2 lioness with 9 cubs) was being able to spend about 5 hours with 4 hyena cubs and their parents. It was pure joy watching these curios naughty pups evade their babysitters. It also provided many great photo’s. I also decided to try my hand at SLR video to share these special moments. Below is one of my favorite images plus the links to the 2 videos I put together of the sighting.

Night time playing: http://youtu.be/6b1DDjTIS0M (Skip to 2:45 to hear the caretakers moaning at the pups!)
Day time adventure: http://youtu.be/l8fVWH96aaA

The game viewing and sightings were really great. From a photographic workshop side the C4 team were always on hand to lend advice, answer questions or share stories. We spent the time on the workshops (between game drives) looking at the use of flash photography as a supplemental light source in nature photography, as at times there were shadows or even low light photography challenges to contend with. Then also by request we looked at the technicalities of star and star trail photography as this was an interest that some of the photographers shared. Some valuable lessons learned.

As they say all good things come to an end, and after a magical 5 days at Mashatu with C4 it was time to head back to reality.
What a magical trip! We look forward to coming back!!!


Friday, July 26, 2013

Mashatu July Feedback

Words and Images by Johan Kloppers.

In 2012 the PSSA National Congress was hosted at Club Mykonos, Langebaan. Cameron Ewart-Smith from Getaway very kindly presented a sponsored C4 Images and Safaris, four-day Photographic Workshop Safari to Mashatu as one of the prizes at the congress. I just could not believe my luck when my panel of 5 images won the top prize. I must say that I was overwhelmed with joy. My biggest frustration was the time that I had to wait before taking up the prize.

I was asked to get in touch with C4 Images and Safaris to confirm my booking. From the very first minute I was so impressed with the absolute professional and friendly way in which things were conducted. Minette van den Berg was outstanding in sending all relevant information through and her follow up to make sure that there was nothing missing. It immediately gave one such confidence that one is dealing with a company that knows exactly what they are doing.

The day eventually arrived for us to be met by the very friendly people from Mashatu at the border at Pont Drift. After about a 45 minute drive we arrived at the Mashatu Tented camp and welcomed again by the friendly staff from Mashatu. After a short briefing we were shown to our various tents. The accommodation was absolutely magnificent and made one immediately felt at home. The hospitality experienced was overwhelming and warm. After a short rest and high tea we went on our first game drive and what an experience it was. To have outstanding sightings of lions and leopard on your first game drive was really mind blowing and so it also proved to be on all the game drives that followed. The drivers and game trackers were really amazing, their knowledge of the environment and wildlife was really outstanding. We were taken very close to the subjects we were about to photograph and it was done with such care as not to upset any of the animals. Very important was the positioning of the vehicles for the correct angles of the light.

One of the biggest attractions at Mashatu was the Elephant hide where it is possible to photograph elephants standing just a few meters away. This was maybe one of the most spectacular and exiting experiences in my more than 40 years of photography. Then most important was Isak Pretorius and Mike Dexter. These two gentlemen were absolutely outstanding and also their knowledge and insight were very impressive. As mentioned I have been involved in photography for many years and can regard myself as experienced, and listening to Isak and Mike as they teach and helped the other less experienced photographers getting their exposures and camera settings right showed that they were in good hands.

I have in the past been to many game parks and one could always regard yourself as very lucky if you could after a trip bring back home 4 or maybe 5 real winners, but on this outing I have more than 50 great shots and that due to the fact that we have been with C4 images and Safaris, people who know their trade to the fullest.

It was indeed a sad moment when after 4 very inspiring days we had to say goodbye to all those wonderful people who helped to make this dream of going to Mashatu come true. There was the old saying: “See Venice and die” then came Laurence Green and said: “Not before you have seen Port St Johns” and I will even go further and say: “as a wildlife photographer not before you have experienced the magic of the Elephant Hide at Mashatu”

Again I would like to thank C4 Images and Safaris for hosting such a wonderful and inspiring experience. You have certainly changed my life forever.
Thank You, Johan Kloppers. FPSSA, APSSA(Vers) PSSA Regional Director, Western Cape.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Perfect setting for a leopard photoshoot.....

This image from C4 client, Prakash Bhika, was taken on our Mashatu Photo Workshop in June. Golden light, a open scene, dark background and perfect positioning for our clients of a leopard cub grooming resulted in some beautiful images.