Willem’s Weekly Bird Photography Blog: Week #14

Week #14: Greater Painted-snipe

I’ve just returned from a photography safari to Mashatu game reserve in the Northern Tule Block in Botswana with Albie Venter and C4 Images & Safaris. And another lifer for me – a Greater Painted-snipe (Goudsnip) (Rostratula benghalensis). Not sure how common the bird in South Africa is, but I did enjoy the sighting tremendously.


Greater Pianted-snipe

Greater Painted-snipe

Nikon D4 camera, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, f4, ISO 640, 1/5000 sec, exposure = -0.67, 11.9 meters from subject

Possibly male bird with sub-adult chick as chicks tend to stay with male for almost 12 months



Interesting facts:

Medium-sized, plump wading bird. Long reddish-brown bill, slightly decurved at tip, and distinct white or pinkish eye patch. Rounded, buff-spotted wings and short tail. White of breast extends up around top of folded wing. The painted-snipe is not related to the true snipes and differs from them in habits, flight and appearance, being far more colorful and having longer legs than the snipes.

Usually found close to the fringes of reed beds along shorelines of marshes, swamps, ponds and streams. Solitary or in pairs, sometimes in groups of up to 12. Rather shy and retiring, skulking close to the vegetation so that it can retreat to cover if disturbed. When flushed, flies like a rail with legs dangling. Bobs hindquarters on landing and sometimes when walking. Probes for food in the mud.

The female initiates courtship and may mate with more than one male. The nest is usually a shallow scrape in soft ground, lined with plant material and situated among grass or reeds at the water’s edge; sometimes a pad of vegetation or a nest of grass and weeds. The breeding season is between April and July. The male incubates the eggs. Immature birds resemble the male but lack the broken dark band across the breast. Males are also known to carry the chicks to safety under the wings. (Wikipedia)

The chicks leave the nest about 12 hours after they hatch, sticking close to the male, who provides them with food for at least the first 10 days (at which point they start to forage for themselves). The male may also perform distraction displays if a predator approaches. They fledge at about 30-35 days old, remaining with the male for another 1-2 months. (http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/birds/rostratulidae/rostratula_benghalensis.htm)


Map – distribution:

Greater Painted-snipe



Until next time – keep on shooting

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Bloemfontein Camera Club meeting: Outcome of my images submitted – August 2014

The beginning of a new month and the winter is almost over. Well, the scores of my images submitted for our monthly camera club reflected the current cold weather we do experience in this part of the world. Cold, windy, unpleasant and not appreciated! But do you see the worry in eyes? Never – because the outcome of camera club judging is not the alpha and omega of photography.

For the month of Aug 2014 I’ve decided to enter all three my images in the Nature division. Our set subject for the month was Blur and I’ve submitted two of the long exposure landscape photos to be judged in this category.

“Luckily” I was not able to attend the evening because we were in Mashatu nature reserve for a week. Here is the outcome of my five images submitted and just a reminder again – I do not take the scores and critique on my images personally. Enjoy the images and comments with me.


A.  Nature division


Elephant trunck with water 1920 300k 72d sRGB W

Elephant trunk in water – scored 12/15 (gold award).

A great start to evening with his image taken during our last trip earlier this year from Lou Coetzer’s specially designed photography boat. Elephants are one of the most difficult subjects in Nature for me to photograph. Why? I am not sure myself but sometimes I do find it rather difficult to get a “wow” image of an elephant. Luckily this one worked for me – I’ve really tried to do something different.




Giraffe kiss 1400 300k 72d sRGB R W

Giraffe kiss – scored 10/15 (silver award)

Image taken late last year at Graig Lockhart water hole in the Kgalagadi. I was very lucky that the two giraffes were standing so close to each other – both giraffes were in focus. The image already received one international salon acceptance in its only entry – too bad the judges of the camera club did not like. I would love to hear from them what was wrong in the image – wrong time of the day (light), amputation of the giraffes at their necks, busy background or what?




Spider web 1

Spider web – scored 10/15 (silver award)

Image taken during our predator photography safari in Mala Mala nature reserve. I’ve really struggled to get an image of the spider and the water droplets formed by the dew on the spider web in focus because there was a light breeze blowing. But at the end I do like the image – the image has already received 2 national and 3 international salon acceptances Surely the judges in five salons cannot be wrong. Well, remember – it is all about personal opinions.



  1. Set subject (“Blur”)


Hole in the wall 2

Slow wave 1 – score 10/15 (silver award)

Image taken during a landscape photography safari with Hougaard Malan at Hole in the Wall. Well, maybe the judges did not like the lines but this is not really a wow image. Satisfied with the result/score.




Waves at night 3 1050 300k 72d sRGB BW W

Wave at night 3 – score 11/15 (gold award)

Image also taken during a landscape photography safari with Hougaard Malan at Hole in the Wall. Image was taken with a Big Stopper filter and it just made it into the gold award category. Not too bad – satisfied with the score as it is not really a favourite of mine.



Message to take home

What about the critique and scores received from judges during such a camera evening? I do believe that having the technical aspects of one’s images critiqued by the right person (please note – the right person) can be to the benefit of the photographer. However, it is important that the person gives constructive critique in order for you as photographer to go out and improve. I also like people to comment secondly on the story telling elements of my images. If the comments of people are that they do not get the story or that they do feel confuse about the image – then I know I must go out and practice more.


How do you take the score and critique of the judges/people on your images? Definitely something to think about but do not get upset about it. It is not worth it.


Until next month – keep on shooting

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Outcome of my photography salon (competition) entries – Month of June 2014

We are coming close to the end of the 2013-2014 salon cycle in South African which started in July 2013 and will end in July 2014. Last year I was fortunate to finish 5th in the PSSA’s Impala trophy. Currently I am in 4th place. The Impala trophy is the rankings of all the photographers (members of PSSA) in South Africa according to the number of salon acceptances in most the national salons. The points accumulated by members throughout the year determine the ranking. These points will be gained on National and International salons recognised by PSSA and which is held within the borders of South Africa only.

The point system – points are awarded as follows:

Award  National Salon   International Salon
Acceptance 1 2
C. O. M. & other medals 2 3
Winner in the Category 3 4


To summarise – one needs to be an all-rounder to be high up in the rankings because photos accepted all the different categories e.g. open, nature, portraits, scapes, sport, ext. are used to determine the rankings


Back to the results of the month of June. Once again – no zero acceptance salons for me for this month. Now for the actual details on the results for the month of June 2014:


Total number of salons entered:

8 (3 national salon and 5 international salons).


Overall outcome:

International: 14 acceptances from 32 photos entered = 44% acceptance rate (decreased from the 56% last month)

National: 24 acceptances from 68 photos entered = 35% acceptance rate (decreased from the 5565% last month)

Medals: 1

COMs: 6


Now for the individual salons:


A.   International salons


  1. Hoylake International Photographic Exhibition 2014 (UK)


Photos entered: 4 photos in Nature section

Acceptance: 3 acceptances (75% acceptance rate)


Comments: This is the third year I’ve entered this salon and my best ever result. I received 2 COMs – Wild dog puppy kill 1 was one of those two images.


Wild dog puppy kill 1 crop 1 1920 300k 72d sRGB flip W

Wild dog puppy kill 2

Laikipia nature reserve, Kenya



  1. 1st Pathshala International Salon 2014 (India)


Photos entered: 4 photos in Nature section

Acceptance: 2 acceptances (50% acceptance rate)


Comments: Very interesting – Wild dog puppy kill 1 received a COM in the previous salon but did not get an acceptance in this salon. Also Leopard in the dark did not receive an acceptance. I’ve entered this image now in 6 salons without success – maybe because the judges cannot see what the image is all about. So, the image is going to the “dustbin”. Like my wife said – this image is a portfolio image and not a salon image


Leopard in the dark 1

Leopard in the dark

Mala Mala nature reserve, Greater Kruger national Park, South Africa



  1. 3rd Danube Exhibition 2014 (Serbia)


Photos entered: 4 photos entered in Water & Nature sections = 8 entries

Acceptance: 4 acceptances (50% acceptance rate)


Comments: A very unexpected acceptance in Elephant 3. I just love this unique image taken from the underground elephant hide in Mashatu. So looking forward to go back to Mashatu early next month.


Elephants 3 in a row 1024 500k 72p W

Elephant 3

Mashatu Nature Reserve, Botswana



  1. 3rd Le Catalan International Photographic Salon 2014 (France)


Photos entered: 4 photos entered in Open, Monochrome & Nature sections = 12 entries

Acceptance: 3 acceptances (25% acceptance rate)


Comments: A very low acceptance rate but still within the normal range. Judges in salons are looking to acceptance the top 10-30% on images submitted in a salon. 2 acceptances in the Nature division and 1 acceptance in the Open division. The acceptance in the Open division was Grass in mouth. I did chance the colour of the image slightly to give it more punch. Looks like it is working


Grass in mouth 1024 300k 72d sRGB W

Grass in mouth

Just outside Bloemfontein, South Africa




  1. 42nd PSNY International Salon of Photography 2014 (USA)


Photos entered: 4 photos entered in Nature section

Acceptance: 2 acceptances (50% acceptance rate)


Comments: Received 1 COM for Grey headed gull dropping fish. I’ve decided to visit/use a few of my older images ever so now and again. This time with good effect.


4 Grey headed gull dropping fish W

Grey headed gull dropping fish

Chobe Nature Reserve, Botswana



B.   National Salons


  1. Rustenburg National Digital Salon 2014 (South Africa)


Photos entered: 4 photos entered in Nature wildlife, Nature Birds, Nature Bird monochrome, Open, Sport & Macro sections = 24 entries

Acceptance: 2 COMs & 10 acceptances (50% acceptance rate)


Comments: It seems like the judges did not like my nature images – only 3 out of a possible 8 acceptances. Tawny eagle in flight is also one of “older” images taken in 2011 in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Just love the low angle shot and the full craw of the eagle.


Tawny eagle in fligth 1

Tawny eagle in flight

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa




  1. CCC Digital Salon of Photography Monochrome 2014 (South Africa)


Photos entered: 4 photos entered in Still life, Scapes, Human portraits, Archtecture, Transport & Theatre/Stagec sections = 20 entries

Acceptance: 2 acceptances (10% acceptance rate)


Comments: This was a monochrome salon with very interesting and unusual sections in this salon. The announcement of the results of this salon was delayed for a few weeks – could the unusual sections have something to do with it? I’ve talk to a few fellow photographers and they were equally unimpressed with the section. I just wonder how many photographers in South Africa have images taken in theatres/stages. I would love to see the totoal number of entries in this salon compare to the normal number of salon entires in a National salon. Nevertheless, my results was very disappointing – 10% acceptance rate and well below par for me. Almost a disaster with the lowest acceptance rate in a national salon ever for me. I do not really like Archtecture but luckily one ofthe two accpetances was 1902.


1902 BW 1080 300k 72d sRGB W


War memorial & Museum, South Africa




  1. Magalies Foto Fun Club 3rd Salon of Digital Monochrome Photography 2014 (South Africa)


Photos entered: 4 photos entered in Animal portrait, Scapes, Children, Archtecture, Nature & Open sections = 24 entries

Acceptance: 1 Judges Medal, 1 COM & 8 acceptances (42% acceptance rate)


Comments: Yet another monochrome salon with the more conventional (usual) sections. This time 1902 did not receive an acceptance – just to show you how opinions might differ. Aggressive 800m start was the successful image with he Judges’ choice medal.


Aggressive 800m start 768 500k 300d sRGB BW

Aggressive 800m start

Bloemfontein, South Africa


Message to take home:


Looking back at the outcome of my salon entries for June 2014, I do think it was not what I expected. Normally one tends to start analising ones images. Just be careful what people call ‘framing paralysis’. Framing paralysis is a phenomenon where photographers do take their camera with them and they will even slow down enough to see the photographic opportunities around them. However, before picking up their cameras, they already start to think what the judges at the club/during a salon will say. Just the mere thought of the comments/critique/salon standards will stop them lifting their camera up to frame the shot.


So, stop thinking about stuff like: “Will these kind of images look stupid?” or “What will people think about the images? Stop think about other people’s opinion but rather start thinking about the technical aspects so that you can get that wow image.


Until next month – keep on shooting those technical correct images without worrying about salons and judges



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Bloemfontein Camera Club: Outcome – July 2014

Almost forgot to post the outcome of my camera club entry for the month of July 2014. And it is almost time to enter photos for the month of August. Maybe the late posting is because of the information I am sharing with you in the third and fourth paragraph of this post.


For the month of July submissions, I’ve decided to enter 2 of the three allowed photos in the Nature division and the other image in the Pictorial division. Our set subject section for the month was Altered reality. I had one photo ready for this section because I’ve tried to follow and use a tutorial I’ve received via my email. The second photo I’ve developed myself after thinking about it for a while.


And what a night of judging, scores and critique it was! Just remember – it is my opinion and I am sure it might differ from everybody else who attended the meeting. I do feel sorry for the newbies in the 1 and 2 star groups. But please do not be discouraged by the scores or comments from the judges. The scores and comments is just a reflection of their opinions. And the club is not the alpha and omega of photography (even though some people tend to think so). I would rather challenge each and every newbie in photography to come and attend the meetings AND LEARN from it. Not to take the scores and critique personally – you are not going to survive if you take it personal. Take the outcome of my three images this month for example – very disappointing to say the least. But I know it is the opinion of the specific judges of that evening. If it was three other judges, I am sure my scores would be different – maybe even worse. How do I cope with the critique and scores of the judges after an evening like this? By positive thinking e.g. I know I am better than the 2 silver and 1 gold awards I received this month – evidence thereof is the fact that I was #20 on the Photographic Society of America (PSA) worldwide list for the Nature division in 2013 and I have already 2 images published in the Getaway magazine for 2014. So let me try again next month and not letting the scores of the judges “get under my skin” . I’ll keep on doing what I like best – taking interesting photos that are technical correct and that people can enjoy looking at no matter what the scores of the judges are.


So, I dare you – come and experiment with your images at the camera club. Just remember – the camera club is not a place to receive complements but rather expect realistic (but sometime harsh) critique so that next time you can improve. If you want compliments on your photos – post in on the social media like Facebook and feel good about yourself. If you want real critique on your photos, submit it to your camera club and LEARN to improve in order to get the WOW factor in your images


Right, let see what happen during the month of July at our club with my photos.


A.   Nature category:


Leopard reflection 1 1050 300k 72d sRGB W

Leopard reflection – scored the perfect 11/15 (just made into the gold award category (11-13/15))

Mala Mala Nature reserve, Greater kruger national Park, South Africa

Not very often that one gets the opportunity to capture such an image of a leopard reflection in water – not even taking into consideration the degree of difficulty to get a decent image in very low light conditions (but judges usually do not take such emotional aspects into consideration – so it is no use getting upset about it. Just learn to move on). No matter what the judges think – I like the story element of the image. Thanks to Greg du Toit and Roan Ravenhill from Mala Mala who anticipated the situation, put us in such a position to get the shot and waited for the leopard to come down to drink. Well done, guys and thanks again. .




BB Jackal surrendered 1

BB Jackal surrendered – scored a silver award (10/15)

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Also not sure why this image scored a silver award – it has already received 3 international salon acceptances and 1 national salon acceptance with only 1 non-acceptance in a national salon. Just remember, the judges are very critical when it comes to the technical aspects of an image and I think I see a few technical problems in this image. But like I said – everybody is entitled to his/her own opinion. Please judge for yourself.



B.   Pictorial category:



Concerend lioness BW 1024 300d 72d sRGB W

Concerned lioness – just made it into the silver category with a score of 8/15 (8-10/15 = silver award)

Mashatu Nature Reserve, Botswana

 WOW, I was expecting a silver award – maybe because of the cropping that was not ideal. And I am not really a monochrome guru. But the image almost did not even make into the silver award category at all. Interesting score but unfortunately no critique from the judges as they do not usual give critique on the photos of members in the higher star rating groups. But I am going to give it another try next month – I am not letting the judges damping my enthusiasm.



C.   Set subject – altered reality



The Look Alt real  1080 300k 72d sRGB W

Looking through paint – received a gold award (11/15)

No comment from my side – very satisfied with the scores as I was not expecting anything more than a bronze award because I was just an exercise/practice run following some tutorial on the Internet. Not everybody’s cup of tea – I am sure.



Star trail Richters Alt real 1080 300k 72d sRGB W

Road into star trial – received a gold award (12/15)

My own creation – very satisfied with the score. Nothing specially – I was just playing around with different layers.



Message to take home:


I think I’ve said it all in the first few paragraphs of this post – please read it again and tell me what you think.


Until next month – do not let the judges get the better of you. Please go and support your camera/photo club and learn to become first a better person and secondly a better photographer.



Trip report: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, November 2013 (Animal edition)

To continue with the trip report to the Kgalagadi in November 2913. Now back to the animals of the Kgalagadi. This young lion entertained us at Kji Kji water hole by looking for the direction of his “take away café”.


Lion take away cafe

Lion take away café

(Nikon D800, 200-400mmf4 fixed lens @ 350mm, ISO3200, f8, 1/1000, exposure = 0, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 30 meters from lion)



Pet 1 768 500k 300d sRGB

Pet 1

(Nikon D800, 200-400mmf4 fixed lens @ 350mm, ISO3200, f8, 1/1000, exposure = 0, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 30 meters from lion)



While driving from Urikaruus to Kamqua water hole early one morning, we came across two adult lions walking in the river bed. So I decided to be a bit creative and capture this portrait image of one of the loins when he walked past my vehicle.


Lion stare  1050 300k 72d sRGB Y&R W

Lion portrait

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO640, f4, 1/5000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 8 meters from lion)



At Kwang water hole one lion was mating with a lioness of the Kwang pride of lions next to Kwang water hole. Another interesting behaviour – a second lioness approached the water to have a drink but the lion did not like it. So he charged toward her and immediately she showed this type of submission.


Lion domination 1

Lion domination

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1600, f8, 1/1600, exposure = -0.33, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 40 meters from lions)



And how about a Cheetah in the early morning light having drink after a feast during the night. Once again – Cubitje Quap water hole produced.


Cheetah drinking water 1

Cheetah drinking water

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO8000, f8, 1/1000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunny, Aperture mode)

Take that, ISO 8000 on a Nikon D3S camera!!! The sun was not yet up over the dunes, low light conditions. I was worried about the tail and the front paw, so I decided to stay with f8 but rather up my ISO. Just to make sure everything is in focus. But I know the background will be blurred with f8 on the 600mmf 4 lens at that distance. It worked well, wouldn’t you agree?



Just passed Kamqua water hole we came across a brown hyena and it decided to sit between the three thorn bushes for a minute or two.


It is always interesting to capture giraffes’ drinking water – with the last few drops when they do pick their heads up flying in every direction. I was lucky to get these two giraffes close to each other at Graig Lockhart water hole.


Giraffe kiss 1400 300k 72d sRGB R W

Giraffe kiss

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO2000, f8, 1/6400, exposure = -0.33, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 31 meters from giraffes)



And the month of November is also great to see some of the puppies of the Cape fox. This image was taken at the fox den close to Auchterlonie water hole. One needs to be early at the den because just after sunrise, the puppies will disappear into the burrows only to re-appear after dawn. Usually you won’t see them during the day.


Dad and son 1

Dad and son

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO800, f5.6, 1/6400, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 19 meters from the foxes)



A few hundred meters on the upper dune road just past Kamqua water hole a brown hyena was on the move between the many three thorn bushes – probably towards the water hole. However, it stopped and decided to lay down for a while. We waited and luckily it sat up again (only for a minute of two so that I can get this landscape shot) before moving back into the dunes.


Brown hyena landscape crop 1 1400 1MB 300d sRGB

Brown hyena landscape

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO2000, f4, 1/800, exposure = -0.33, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 50 meters from hyena)



At Polentswa water hole another brown hyena was walking towards the waterhole but after smelling the lions (they had a kill next to the waterhole the previous day), it turned away and moved back towards the dunes.


Brown hyena on the move 1400 300k 72d sRGB W

Brown hyena on the move

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1250, f8, 1/1600, exposure = -0.33, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 28 meters from hyena)



A first for me in Kgalagadi – very small BB jackal cubs just next to the road between Cubitje Quap and Kwang water hole. Unfortunately the Three thorn bushes were just too thick but I managed to capture one cub through the bushes. Not a great image but nevertheless, they cannot all be perfect.


Pet eyes 768 300k 72d sRGB W

Pet eyes

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO5000, f4, 1/500, exposure = -0.33, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 5 meters from jackal)



And then the other current favourite action next to Cubitje Quap water hole – BB jackals hunting doves and sandgrouse. I visited the waterhole for four days and eventually I got a decent shot of the jackal. It is so difficult to capture the jackal without six to ten sand grouses around it. Usually there a few sand grouses flying around the jackal because the jackal likes to wait for a big flock to arrive before making its move. More chaos and easier to catch a sandgrouse in the chaos.


Missed 1 1400 300k 72d sRGB W

Missed 1

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO2000, f11, 1/4000, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 25 meters from jackal)



Also, the background around the water hole is not very photographer friendly – as illustrated in the image below:


Jackal catching sandgrouse 1920 300k 72d sRGB light RY W

Jackal catching sand grouse

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO 2500, f11, 1/5000, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 31 meters from jackal)



But with the necessary patience and watching the behaviour of the BB jackal, one might just get lucky. Like these series of images below – the BB jackal caught the sand grouse around its tail feathers. However, the sand grouse managed to get away – this time without any tail feathers.


Almost 1 1024 300k 72d sRGB W

Almost 1

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1250, f5.6, 1/200, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 28 meters from jackal)



Almost 2 crop 1 1920 300k 72d sRGB Y W

Almost 3

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1250, f5.6, 1/200, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 28 meters from jackal)



Almost 3 crop 1 1024 300k 72d sRGB W


Almost 2

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1250, f5.6, 1/200, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 28 meters from jackal)



I sincerely hope we have enjoyed the trip reports for 2013 with me – the next trip report will be on my 2014 trips and there are already a few in the pipe-line.


Message to take home:

As I’ve mentioned in my previous trip report – I’ve tried not to post the usual images of the Kgalagadi and I hoped I’ve achieved just that. That brings me to the message for this final 2014 trip report post: The more you get out and use your camera, the more proficient you become as a photographer. I’ve been to Kgalagadi many a times by now but every time I do learn something new. Not just about me as a photographer but especially about my equipment – what it can do and what it cannot do. If you do not know your equipment, it is difficult to let your creativity takes over. In the process of learning and using your camera, you will develop a better eye from a creative perspective. It is important that you practise your “creative eye” on a regular basis. Remember, it is not only to maintain it, but also to improve that creative perspective. So, take out your camera and go shooting – even if it is just in your back garden but look at things differently.


Until my next trip report – keep on shooting with that creative eye constantly through the camera.


Trip report: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, November 2013 (Birds edition)

It has been a while since I’ve posted a trip report on my blog. Well, now that I’ve achieved one of my goals in photography (reaching 250 acceptances each in national and international photography salons (competitions), I do have some time to continue with a trip report or two. What a better way to pick up where I left my trip reports than a trip report to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. I still haven’t developed all the photos I want to but here are a few.

I stayed on both side of the park (Auob and Nossob River sides) but I am not going to write story after story. Also I am not going to give you a day to day dairy description – let the photos do the talking.

DO not be mistaken – I did not make a mistake with my camera setting. Sometimes it was necessary to increase the ISO level to 4000 to 8000 in order to the required shutter speed. Especially with an aperture of F8 & f16.

How about starting with my favourite topic – birds. I am not going to post the usual photos of birds in this trip report but I would rather try and post something different. I do hope you’ll enjoy the reading.

Snake eagle 1 1400 300k 72d sRGB W

Snake eagle 1

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens with 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO1250, f8, 1/40, exposure = -0.67 WB = sun, Aperture mode, 32 meters from bird)

Shooting through the window of my vehicle – handholding my D3S camera en 600mm lens just because of the angle – not too bad a result



Then we parked next to the Social Weaver nest between Leeudril and Rooiputs water holes and trying to get this nearly impossible shot. The weaver taking off towards the nest with a twig in its beak.


Sociable weaver building nest 1

Social weaver building nest

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4, ISO4000, f16, 1/3200, exposure = -0.3, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 8 meters from bird)

We sat there for about 2 hours and after about 1000 images, I had one of two images that I can use



Just passed Houmoed we came across this Red necked Falcon sitting in the middle of the road “eating” small pebbles. Interesting behaviour once again – apparently helping the birds with digestion (just like the ostriches are doing it).


Red necked falcon 1 crop 1 1400 300k 72d sRGB R W

Red necked falcon

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4, ISO6400, f8, 1/2500, exposure = -0.3, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 8 meter from the bird)

I was very lucky – the falcon allowed me to slowly drive up to it – a mere 8 meters from the bird. Once again – it is all about patience and let the bird feels comfortable with you as photographer around. Be quiet and move your vehicle very slowly



One of the reasons why I do love going to the Kgalagadi in the month of November – the breeding period for the many Bee-eaters in the park. Between Mata Mata and Sitsas waterhole I saw this Bee-eater going into its nest. So I parked my car in the middle of the road waiting for the Bee-eater to return to its nest to feed the chicks. The only problem with this approach is that one needs to move your car every time another vehicle wanted to pass.


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Lunch is coming

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO8000, f13, 1/4000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 8 meters from the bird)



Bee-eater with food 1400 300k 72d sRGB W

Bee eater with food

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO8000, f13, 1/4000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 8 meters from the bird)


Take a bow, Nikon D3S for handling an ISO of 8000 so well. Two images above shot during the late afternoon in the last light just before the sun disappeared behind the dunes.


Back to the Nossob side of the park – a lot of vultures around Kwang and Bedinkt water holes. These Lappet-faced Vultures had a drink at Bedinkt waterhole and took off.


Lapped faced vulture take off 1 crop 2 1024 300k 72d sRGB W

Lappet-faced vulture taking off 1

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO800, f8, 1/4000, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 50 meters from bird)



LF vulture take off 1024 300k 72d sRGB W

LF vulture taking off 1

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO800, f8, 1/4000, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 50 meters from bird)



Cubitje Quap water hole is (“was?”) famous for its hunting Lanner Falcon but I only saw the Lanner once. However, I’ve realised that almost every day you would be able to find a Bateleur drinking water. Especially when starting your afternoon drive around 15H30.


Bateleur drinking water 1 1024 300k 72d sRGB YR W

Bateleur drinking water

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1250, f8, 1/3200, exposure = -0.33, WB = sun, Aperture mode, 25 meters from the bird)



So these are just a few images of the birds of the Kgalagadi. The animals to follow in the next part of this trip report.


Message to take home:

I’ve mentioned the high ISO levels used for bird photography during this trip. Just one very short message today: Do not waste your time as well the bird’s time buy trying to capture sharp images of bird in flight (BIF) using shutter speed of less than 1/4000 of a second. Especially smaller birds. I’ve read so many articles telling you to use a high shutter speed when doing BIF photography. But then the authors are mentioning 1/1000 of a second. I made the same mistake in the beginning – trying to keep my shutter speed around 1/1000. It might work for larges slower birds but…. So, do not be fooled by advice like that. Rather try and keep your shutter speed above 1/4000 of a second or even close to 1/8000 of a second. You will not be disappointed with the result.


Until next time – keep the shutter VERY fast while keep on shooting


Willem’s Weekly Bird Photography blog (#13)

Week 13: White-crowned Lapwing (Witkop kiewiet)(Vanellus albiceps)

This week a very interesting and sometimes a confusing bird – the white-crowned lapwing. Not very common in South Africa but a beautiful bird.


11 Lapwing with butterfly W

Lapwing with butterfly 1

Nikon D3S, Nikkor 600mmf4 fixed lens & Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO 800, f8, 1/3200, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 10 meters from bird

Chobe Nature Reserve, Botswana, March 2013



Lapwing with butterfly 3 1400 300k 72d sRGB noise K W

Lapwing with butterfly 3

Nikon D3S, Nikkor 600mmf4 fixed lens & Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO 800, f9, 1/3200, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 12 meters from bird

Chobe Nature Reserve, Botswana, March 2013



Lapwing with butterfly 2

Lapwing with butterfly 2

Nikon D3S, Nikkor 600mmf4 fixed lens & Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO 800, f9, 1/3200, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 12 meters from bird

Chobe Nature Reserve, Botswana, March 2013



These images above are showing some interesting behaviour from the lapwings. They are busy catching butterflies on the bank of the Chobe River. When a lapwing did catch a butterfly, the bird took the butterfly to the water, dipped it in water before swallowing it.


Other interesting facts:

This lapwing is unmistakable. Its wings and tail are strikingly patterned in black and white, the back is brown and the underparts white. The head is particularly striking, being mainly grey, but with a white crown and foreneck. The eyering, facial wattles and legs are yellow. Females, males and young birds are similar in plumage. It is a wader which breeds on exposed sand or shingle near rivers. 2–3 eggs are laid in a ground scrape. The nest and young are defended noisily and aggressively against all intruders, up to and including the hippo. (Wikipedia)

It can easily be mistaken by the African Wattle Lapwing (Lelkiewiet) but its white and not brown breast separate it from the African Wattle Lapwing. The white crowned lapwing also does not a red spot above its beak.

Monogamous, defending a linear territory along the river bed. The nest is a shallow scrape in a damp sandbank, occasionally lined with small sticks and pebbles. It is typically placed in the open, occasionally adjacent to a driftwood or vegetation. Egg-laying season is from July-November, peaking from August-October. It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for at least 26 days, although they are often left unattended (sometimes in the hottest part of the day). The chicks can feed themselves within 24 hours of hatching and are cared for by both parents, who become increasingly aggressive towards intruders. Near-threatened in South Africa, largely due to decreased river flow, which is probably caused by afforestation, invasive plants and obstruction by man-made structures (such as dams).



The distribution map http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/birds/charadriidae/vanellus_albiceps.htm

White-crowned lapwing map


Until next week – keep an eye on the birds and keep on shooting.




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