Trip report – Mashatu tented camp in the game reserve, Botswana, July 2012

Another trip and another trip report. In many instances it was a first for me, (a) never been in that area of South Africa, (b) never been on an open vehicle photographic safari, (c) never been in a hide in a national park, and (d) a lot of birds seen for the first time.

We travelled from Bloemfontein via the “back roads” to Rustenburg and on to Thabazimbi where we overnight on the Thursday night. Early Friday morning we were on the road again to join our other members at Alldays and then cross the border to be picked up at the border post by the staff of lodge. Just remember to bring your car registration papers as you go through the border post on the South African side but you leave your vehicle on the southern side of the river in “no-mans land”.

We were picked up around 12h30 and it took us 1 hour to drive to the tented camp (around 20km/h). It was very dry and during our drive to the tented camp we saw very little activity and I wondered…..? But what a surprise was awaiting us for the next few days.

Unfortunately my D3S was sent to Nikon House for repairs – so I had to use my Nikon D700 (slow shutterspeed) and my D7000. But luckily none of the two let me down.

After a quick check-in we went on our first afternoon drive – only about a hundred meters and then we saw a herd of elephants at the waterhole next to the camp. We spend almost the rest of the afternoon in the vehicle taking photos of the elephants. The young ones kept us entertained for quite a while.

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO640, f4, 1/2500, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, WB = sun, 15 meters from subject

_____________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO640, f5.6, 1/1250, exposure = -0.67, Aperture mode, 15 meters from subject

________________________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO640, f5.6, 1/2000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 15 meters from subject

_______________________________

Saturday morning was nice and warm and just after 06H00 we were on the vehicle once again on our way to the “specially designed” hide at the waterhole. I was a bit nervous not knowing what to expect (just saw some pictures of the hide on the Internet) but Izak’s re-assurance put me at ease very quickly. The water in the waterhole was a bit low – so Izak activated the solar pumps and over the next few days, the water level rose. Despite the low water elevel, I’ve got some nice shot though. We left the hide around 10H00 and just as we left the hide, the elephants appeared. Too bad but we had great breakfast at the camp (as compensation).

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1000, f4, 1/3200, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 12 meters from subject. This is one of my favourite photos of the trip. The sun was not yet out over the waterhole and I had to increase the ISO to get the necesary shutterspeed to freeze the birds.

___________________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO800, f4.5, 1/3200, exposure = -0.33, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 15 meters from subject.

____________________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO200, f8, 1/125, exposure = -1.33, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 5 meters from subject.

___________________________

The Saturday afternoon was a little gem of a ride – not going to the hide but we tried to get some opportunities on some of game on the plains and hills. We’ve got a few opportunities to get photos of two leopards – stunning. At one stage I even forgot to take photos and I was just enjoying the moment. And to conclude the afternoon drive, we came across the cheetah family (mother and her 5 (not some small anymore) cubs) feasting on an impala.

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1000, f4, 1/800, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 21 meters from subject.

________________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1600, f4, 1/200, exposure = -1.33, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 21 meters from subject. This was taken very late with almost no light availlable anymore – I’ve tried everything to get the shutterspeed up as I do not have a flash.

________________________________

Sunday morning we decided not to go to the hide as the wind was blowing strongly (with the dust as well) and such windy conditions makes photography very tricky and unpleasant. And what a good decision it was!! But more about that in next post – specially dedicated to the cheetah family of Mashatu.

_______________________

Sunday afternoon we went to the hyena den and used the backlighting to get some shots. It was not easy with all the dust around and I made a few critical mistakes with my camera settings. O well. steep learning curve for me but I am enjoying it. On our way back to camp, we came across an African wild cat and I had the opportunity to practice my night photography (with the assistance of a spot light).

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1000, f5, 1/200, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 17 meters from subject.

________________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO400, f4, 1/400, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 15 meters from subject.

_____________________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO3200, f4, 1/125, exposure = -1.33, WB = sunlight, Manual mode, 12 meters from subject.

_____________________________

Monday morning was back to hide again and a lot of different birds gave me many opportunities to practise my birds in flight (BIF) skills. And then all of sudden we were surrounded by elephants. Not once but twice they visited the waterhole. It is amazing how quiet they are – you do not hear them approaching, just all of sudden they are around you. What an amazing experience to be 1 meter away from their massive feet and in the middle of a herd of elephants drinking water. Unfortunately they did not visit the waterhole again while we were there.

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO800, f4, 1/4000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 28 meters from subject.

_______________________________________

Nikon D7000, Nikon 17 x 35mmf2.8 lens, ISO200, f7.1, 1/640, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode.

_____________________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO640, f4, 1/2500, exposure = -1.00, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 15 meters from subject.

_______________________________

Monday afternoon three of the group decided to visit the hide again while the other three members decided to go on a game drive. I stayed in the hide and we had some excellent lights and the kudus provided some actions (along with the many birds of course). The members on the game drive saw a lioness and some interesting leopard actions.

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO800, f5, 1/4000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 15 meters from subject. My second favourite photo of the trip just because of the difficulty to catch these parrots in flight – not even talking about getting two parrots – both in focus – together in one photo. Boy, are they quick!!!

____________________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1000, f7.1, 1/2500, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 15 meters from subject.

______________________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO400, f5, 1/2000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 15 meters from subject.

____________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1600, f4, 1/800, exposure = -1.00, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 10 meters from subject.

______________________________

Tuesday morning it was off to the hide again and just we arrived, the lioness was departing. What a miss!!! The vehicle usually parks about 100 meters away from the hide and it is not a nice feeling carrying all your stuff to the hide knowing that the lioness is (probably) just behind the ridge. Nevertheless – once again, some nice bird opportunities and the ground squirrel kept us focused.

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO500, f5, 1/2000, exposure = -0.33, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 15 meters from subject.

____________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1000, f4, 1/2000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 12 meters from subject.

___________________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO800, f6.3, 1/4000, exposure = -0.33, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 15 meters from subject.

_________________________________

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO800, f5, 1/1000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Aperture mode, 8 meters from subject.

________________________________

Unfortunately Izak and two other members had to leave us after breakfast and the afternoon it was back to the hide to meet Mike (who is looking after the waterhole). On our way back to camp we saw for the first time an owl and a leopard.

Nikon D700, Nikon 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO3200, f4, 1/60, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunlight, Manual mode, 12 meters from subject.

Wednesday morning we went to the Bee-eater hide but stayed in the vehicle taking photos of the bee-eaters as they emerged from their nests. Then it was off to the border post to say good-bye to Dan en Ephraim (our ranger and spotter) and we left the border post around 10H15. Just to arrive back in Bloemfontein around 18H45. But I will surely go back despite the long travel – it is worth it.

Once again, a very big thank you to Izak, Dan, Ephraim and the rest of the staff going the extra mile to make our stay a memorable one. Surely I’ll be back in the near future.

Message to take home:

Two key aspects that are closely related to get great wildlife photos: (a) Anticipation and be prepared to get that shot. If you see it happening and it is not through the camera, you are too late. and (b) know your subject (its behaviour).

And another message:

Think outside the box when it comes to wildlife photography. Do not just think what the judges want to see. Do not try to get a close-up shot every time. Consider taking photos to show the reader the animal in its nature environment (environmental shots) AND ENJOY IT. It takes a bit (a lot of it for me) of creativity.

The cheetah family and the surprise (surely of a lifetime) to follow.

Advertisements

  1. #1 by hogsbackphotos on July 25, 2012 - 3:01 pm

    ‘n Klomp pragtige fotos Willem. My gunsteling is die jagluiperd wat sy voet lek!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: