My wife and I as well as two friends have just returned from a photography safari in the Limpopo province. Albie Venter from Africa Unlocked organised the safari and was our guide. We stayed the first two nights at the Indlovu River Lodge in the Karongwe Private Game Reserve about 40km outside Hoedspruit on the R36 road to Tzaneen. A very interesting game reserve offering various photography opportunities such as game drives on “vulture vehicles” and two hides (an animal and bird hide).
Albie decided to concentrate on the hide for the two days and not making use of the game drives because our next 4 days (yes, Albie – 4 days!!!) were reserved for Timbavati Nature Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park with plenty of game drives on our schedule. Our daily routine was something like this – wake up was around 05H00, coffee (tea for me) around 05H45 and leaving for the hide around 06H00. The hides are about a 10min drive from the lodge. Leaving the hides around 10:00 depending on the activities around the waterhole to drive back to the lodge. Brunch at 11H00 and then it was time to download and to sort the images taken during the morning session – “skei die kaf van die koring”. An there were lots of “kaf” because nowadays I tend to play around and experience with different options when photographing wildlife. Tea was served again around 15:00 and we left for the hide around 15:15. We exited the hide just after sunset to drive directly back to the lodge, had some drinks and then supper was served in the boma around 19H30. Afterwards yet another quick session of photo downloading and sorting before a well-earned sleep.
Below are a few images taken during our time spent in the hides:
In the hide
Nikon D3S, Nikon 24-70mm lens, ISO2000, 1/25 sec, f4, exposure comp = +0.33, Aperture priority, WB = sun
And this what the hide looks like with four very serious photographers occupying the animal hide.
The first afternoon after we arrived at the lodge – some people took a major detour to arrive at the lodge following the advice of Rebecca and Albie’s advice – we went straight to the animal hide. Any surprises? Lost of baboons around – so I had plenty of time to play around.
Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO800, 1/2000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -1.00, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 11 meters from baboon
This first image is the typical camera club type of image – technical correct in good light
Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO800, 1/2000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -1.00, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 15 meters from baboon
Then it was time to start playing around with the setup and composition – this image above is definitely not your typical camera club image but I just love the effect that the 600mm lens is creating with its very shallow depth of field. Many people including camera club judges will think this image was manipulated (background and foreground blurred) in Photoshop during the post-processing but it is not the case. In the very last image of this post I will show what an image looks like that was manipulated in Photoshop – please note that for competition purposes, the manipulation of nature images using computer software are not allowed.
Baboon X drink
Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO800, 1/2000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -1.00, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 10 meters from baboon
The shallow depth of field of the 600mm lens can some times be problematic – not getting the back and tail of baboon in focus even with an aperture of f8. Nevertheless, it is the story telling elements that is important to me in this image.
Baboon side drink
Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO800, 1/2000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -1.00, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 8 meters from baboon
Yet another experiment with composition and camera setting – I tend to increase the aperture of my camera the close I get to my subject with the 600mm lens. It seems to have worked for this type of image.
Baboon ET phone
Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO4000, 1/3200 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 15 meters from baboon
Further experimenting with composition and camera setting – I had to increase my ISO to 4000 with the aperture set at f8 to get a decent shutter speed to freeze the scratching of the young baboon. Now he looks like ET phoning home.
Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO2000, 1/800 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 15 meters from baboon
This is my favourite shot of the afternoon – taken after sunset with my flash to create the dark background (not manipulated in Photoshop).
We were also privileged to experience the visit of a giraffe to the hide and waterhole during the same first afternoon.
Giraffe drinking eye
Nikon D3S, Nikon 70 – 200mm lens @ 200mm, ISO200, 1/1600 sec, f4, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 10 meters from the giraffe,
The next morning we decided to go early to the animal hide to get some backlight shot – surprise, surprise, it was an overcast day! Not the ideal day for wildlife photography but one needs to improvise, hence the following shot against the clouds and rising sun
Nikon D800, Nikon 70 – 200mm lens @ 70mm, ISO320, 1/1250 sec, f5.6, exposure comp = -0.1, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 20 meters from the giraffe
After a while we decided to go to the bird hide to photograph some birds. Not much going on except for a flock of guinea fowls foraging around the hide.
Guinea fowl hide
Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO2500, 1/5000 sec, f8, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 15 meters from the bird
During our afternoon session the sun was out providing us with some interesting shots from the animal hide again.
Kudu late afternoon
Nikon D3S, Nikon 24-70mm lens @ 38mm, ISO1250, 1/400 sec, f11, exposure comp = +0.33, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 7 meters from kudu
Njala and baboon
Nikon D3S, 70 – 200mm lens @ 70mm, ISO800, 1/8000 sec, f4, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 10 meters from Njala
Njala head hide
Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO5000, 1/4000 sec, f4, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 28 meters from the Njala
I conclude this trip report with and image I manipulated in Photoshop (as mentioned earlier in this trip report – the only image manipulated in Photoshop to get a nice, smooth background by adding haze (Dehaze function in Lightroom) to the background. I will not be able to us this image in a Nature photography competition.
To be continue with the trip report on our visit to Timbavati!!!
Message to take home:
If you look at the advertisement/promotion on the Internet of this little gem of a nature reserve with its animal and bird hide, you think: “Ag, it is easy to get those WOW image.” It may be your perception but believe me – your perception is wrong and it is not that easy. It is HARD WORK. Nowadays, to get those unique images, photographers require a lot of time with a lot of energy & effort to be put into a safari/trip. It is not just about arriving at a site and start shooting. You constantly need to plan the shots carefully while waiting for the right moment – a lot goes into photography. But at the end, it is worth the effort if you are satisfied with the outcome.
Until the next trip report – keep on shooting!!!