Trip report: Kgalagadi Aug 2013 (another long weekend edition)

I could not believe my last trip report was posted a few months ago. It feels like yesterday. So, it is time for another trip report. As the heading indicated, I decided to visit Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park yet again – this time during the long weekend in Aug 2013. I left Bloemfontein on the Thursday afternoon and after 2500km, I was back in Bloemfontein on the Monday morning. I stayed at Twee Rivieren for the four nights and Gemsbokplein and Melkvlei as well as the Lower dune road were the most northern areas I visited.

In this trip report, I’ll let the photos tell the stories. O, ja and I am not going to post the photos per day – lets rather do it in themes. So, let gets started and do it alphabetically.

First up is the Bateleur – I found a pair of them sitting in a dead tree next to the road about 1km north of the Melkvlei picnic spot. They were still very relaxed and not in a hurry to get into the air. However, they were facing me and the breeze was in the right direction. So I decided to park close by and wait. About 10 other cars stopped, watch for a while and left. After about 1h the action started to happen – and luckily – just as I anticipated it. Both took off directly towards me. The first one came directly towards me. It was so close I clipped the wings but decided to use/develop the image in another way. Not sure the “true” camera club members will approve but I love the look of the Bateleur. Unfortunately for the tree branches in the background.

Bataleur taking off 1Bateleur taking off 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO1250, 1/4000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Bataleur taking off 2Bateleur taking off 2

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/4000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Eye of the bataleur bEye of the Bateleur

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/3200 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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And with some Photoshop techniques – an even more acceptable result. However, this one I cannot use in wildlife competitions/salon because of the manipulation of the image. Remember, you are not allowed to manipulate wildlife photos and submit it for a competition/salon. You can only used manipulated photos for your own purpose.

Eye of the bataleurEye of the Bateleur

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/3200 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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The second Bateleur decided to take another runway and the sun was not in my favour. Well, you cannot get them all. At least I’ve tried.

General information (Wikipedia): The Bateleur is diurnal, and hunts over a territory of approximately 250 square miles (650 km2) a day. Bateleurs are hunters and scavengers; birds such as pigeons and sandgrouse are preferred prey items, although it may attack small mammals and also takes carrion.

 

Next up some other common birds of the park. The Giant eagle owl can be found throughout the park but one needs to look very carefully in the trees to see these giants. Ever wonder what the owl’s vocal cords look like – now you have a change to have a look.

Giant eagle owl yawn 1Giant eagle owl yawn

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO200, 1/1000 sec, f4, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun

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And what is the park without the every-present “Kalahari hoender” (Southern pale chanting goshawk) – image just taken from a different angle.

 

Gsohawk flying from aboveGoshawk flying from above

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/2000 sec, f4, exposure comp = -0.6, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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A not-so-common bird in the park -  a dusty sunbird. Between Rooiputs and Kji Kji I came across a few of them. They were chasing each other next to the road and in between there was time for a snack. Boy o boy – are they quick! I’ve tried to blur the wings with a slower shutter speed but still fast enough the get the head and the eye sharp – not sure if it works.

 

Duskhy sunbird feeding 1Dusky sunbird

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens with Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO200, 1/1600 sec, f5.6, exposure comp = -0.6, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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And what about an image of the ever present ostrich – this time these two entertained me with some mating rituals. First the male with its dance low on the ground and then the mating. It was near Monro water hole and it was in the middle of the day. Nevertheless, I’ve already received a salon acceptance for this image in an Australian salon.

 

Ostrich mating 1Ostrich mating 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO400, 1/1000 sec, f5.6, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Back to another very common animal of the park – the black backed jackal. First near Leeudril water hole foraging amongst the bushes – in low light conditions – disturbing an African Wild cat but amongst the longer grass. No decent shot possible but interesting to see the interaction between the two.

Jackal in grassJackal in grass 

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens with Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO2000, 1/2000 sec, f5.6, exposure comp = -0.6, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Speaking of low light – excellent conditions to practise a bit of panning. Here are two examples of BB jackals running towards the waterholes in the late afternoon:

 

BB Jackal panning 1BB jackal panning 1 

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO200, 1/20 sec, f16, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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BB Jackal panning 2BB jackal panning 2

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO200, 1/60 sec, f16, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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And then there were some interesting interaction at Kji Kji waterhole. There is still an “old” carcass of an Eland (since the Nov 2012 migration) and two BB jackals were trying to get the last bit of tendons of the already bare bones. Yes, it is every dry in the Kgalagadi at this monment – food is hard to find.  Another jackal was just passing by in order to get to the water hole. The resident jackal chased the intruder and a short fight (not lasting more than 10 sec) broke out. I was still shooting the two jackals on the carcass with my 1.4 convertor when all the action happened. I also did not expect the action because of the submission shown by the intruder (tail between the legs). So, during some of the action, I was only able to capture “one half of one of the jackals”. I don’t think I’ll submit the following images to our camera club (surely they will “kill” me because I amputated some parts of the jackal) but I’ve already entered some of these images in salons.  Lets see what is the outcome:

BB Jackal surrendered 1BB jackal surrendered 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens with Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850, ISO1250, 1/4000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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BB Jackal surrendered 2BB jackal surrendered 2

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens with Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850, ISO1250, 1/4000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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BB Jackal surrendered 3BB jackal surrendered 3

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens with Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850, ISO1250, 1/3200 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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BB jackal the biteBB jackal The bite

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens with Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850, ISO1250, 1/4000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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And near Houmoed – obviously these two BB jackals did not know each other and were very nervous. I anticipated a bit of actions between the two because of the nervousness – the reason for the high shutter speed but nothing happened. Just love the look of the jackal on the left hand side hence the title of the image.

 

Where are you going 1Where are you going

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO1250, 1/5000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.6, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Back to the birds – and the following sighting is Nature at its best. During our third visit to the Kgalagadi in 2011, we saw a Pygmy falcon taking out a sociable weaver chick from its nest between Kamfersboom and Monro waterhole. As I was passing the very same weavers’ nest, this falcon was again raiding the nest. He/she entered the nest about 4-5 time and I sat for almost 30 minutes watching this falcon. Eventually it came out with a chick. It happens so fast, no time to re-position the vehicle to get a clear shot. And the chick was holding on to the twig for all its life. I hope the story of the image is stronger than the “busy” foreground. Just an explanation: I was very close to the falcon – the reason for the f11 aperture because I’ve tried to get the entire bird in focus (tail feathers included). With a 600mm lens it is really difficult to get everything is focus because if the swallow depth of field with close-up shots (even at f11). During my visit to the park in Sept 2013 I visited the nest again – and can you believe it – another kill! More to come in the Sept 2013 trip report.

 

Pygmy falcon with kill croppedPygmy falcon with kill

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/1600 sec, f11, exposure comp = -1.0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Pygmy falcon with kill 3Pygmy falcon with kill 3

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/1250 sec, f11, exposure comp = -1.0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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And then one of the highlights of the trip – lion mating very close the road (with a very clean foreground as well as background) a few km south of Kji Kji. The action took place so close to use I could not use my 600mm lens – had to use my 200-400mm lens with D800 camera. During our trip in February we also saw two lions mating near Houmoed waterhole. So, I was very fortunate to come across two lion mating sightings in one year. Here are a few images:

 

Lions mating 5Lion mating 5

Nikon D800 camera with 200mm-400mmf4 lens @ 300mm, ISO400, 1/1250 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.6, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Lion mating 4Lion mating 4

Nikon D800 camera with 200mm-400mmf4 lens @ 340mm, ISO400, 1/1000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.6, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Mating lions 01Lion mating 1

Nikon D800 camera with 200mm-400mmf4 lens @ 340mm, ISO400, 1/1000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.6, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Lions after mating 1Lions after mating 1

Nikon D800 camera with 200mm-400mmf4 lens @ 340mm, ISO400, 1/1000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.6, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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And to conclude this very successful trip – an image or two of the blue wildebeest from the park. First one was taken very late on afternoon (in the last light of the day) back to camp a km or two north of Samevloei water hole:

 

Lonely wildebeestLonely wildebeest 1

Nikon D800 camera with 200mm-400mmf4 lens @ 400mm, ISO800, 1/3200 sec, f4, exposure comp = -0.6, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Wildebeest backlight 1And this was one was taken a few minutes earlier between Leeudril and Samevloei water hole – trying some back-light exposure. Not sure if it is working but one needs to experiment.

 

 

Wildebeest backlight 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO400, 1/1600 sec, f4, exposure comp = -1.33, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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I am sure you’ve realised by now that Kgalagadi is one of my favourite place to do wildlife photography. This trip report shows the reader what the Kgalagadi can offer just over a long weekend – be prepared for lots of surprises or no interesting sighting whatsoever (our trip during December 2012).

 

Message to take home:

I hope some of you have experienced the “WOW” feeling while reading this trip report. I did experience the WOW feeling while capturing the images in the park for this trip report. Why the WOW feeling? The difference between an acceptable photograph and an amazing (WOW) image is often made not in camera or post-production but in the photographer’s ability to connect with his/her subject. It is all about the story telling ability of the image.  You – as the photographer – should keep in mind how people interact with each other as well as how the elements of Mother Nature interacts every day. Then you need to concentrate on the small details of these interactions and in  most instances that make the images unique – the image and smaller detail will connect with your reader. Focus on trying to capture these smaller details in your image and not just producing yet another image of a lion. I am sure that will create the WOW factor in your images.

 

Until my next trip report – keep on capturing the smaller details of Nature and keep on shooting.

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  1. #1 by bessie on October 13, 2013 - 7:25 pm

    the images are all beautiful. the kgalagadi seems to be your friend. the images of the falcon with the prey are unbelievably stunning.

    • #2 by whk139 on December 4, 2013 - 1:18 pm

      Hi Bessie – thanks but unfortunately the images are not doing great in salons. I think the images are more emotional photos (ala Dr J Kotze) than salon photos.

  2. #3 by de Wets Wild on October 14, 2013 - 2:02 am

    Amazing photographs all of them Willem, the lonely wildebeest is my favourite – it “speaks” the Kalahari to me!

    • #4 by whk139 on December 4, 2013 - 1:19 pm

      Hi de Wets: thanks for the kind words – it is also one of my favourites.

  3. #5 by michaelsingeltonhaworth on October 21, 2013 - 7:54 am

    Willem, I thought your images of mating Ostriches and lions were fantastic. The Pygmy Falcon kill shots were excellent and unusual – great images!!

    • #6 by whk139 on December 4, 2013 - 1:21 pm

      Hi Micheal – thanks for the comment. I did enjoy the lions sighting – really special to have them in the open next to the vehicle.

  4. #7 by Joey Nel on October 23, 2013 - 6:38 pm

    Great writing and images here Willem. Makes me miss the Kalahari so much. Thanx for sharing.

    • #8 by whk139 on December 4, 2013 - 1:21 pm

      Only a pleasure Joey!

  5. #9 by morkelerasmus on November 1, 2013 - 6:06 am

    Willem – another lekker report. Can’t wait to head back there soon!
    Great sighting of lions mating – one day the Kalahari will spoil me with such an open setting for that action too. I personally LOVE your backlit wildebeest abstract, you nailed it, something different and refreshing composition.

    • #10 by whk139 on December 4, 2013 - 1:25 pm

      Thanks again Morkel – yes, I though the Wildebeest abstract was something different from the usual KTP photos. Lots of lion mating on the go in the KTP – just had another sighting next to Kwang waterhole during our visit in November 2013. May the sighting be with you during your next visit – like your images of the lion & eland next to Samevloei waterhole in 2011 (stunning!!!).

  6. #11 by Sheleph on January 30, 2014 - 10:28 am

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful blog with other mortals who has a keen/fond appreciation for KTP. Keep it up!

    • #12 by whk139 on February 4, 2014 - 12:49 pm

      Thanks Sheleph and enjoy the Kgalagadi!!!

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