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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Newly developed Nossob premium camping site – an inside look

Our first camping experience in the newly developed Nossob Premium Camping sites a week or two ago. I saw a lost of questions on social media regarding these newly developed camp site. I visited SANPARK and Nossob rest camp accommodation website before we left but I could not found satisfying images and information. So, I’ve decided to do a post with cell phone images and short descriptions on the sites.  I hope it would be helpful to address some of your questions.

There are 10 sites – some are more private than other (up to 50 meters away from other sites) while some are next to each other (10-20 meters from each other). Each site has it own ablution facilities consisting of:

  1. A open kitchen area with a sink – hot and cold water and more than enough packing space (be aware of the BB jackals and crows – they will steal your food, even from your ammo boxes. We lost two meals before we’ve realised how clever the BB jackals became – rather keep it in your trailer). One florescence light for this kitchen are. Please note that there are not extra power plugs anywhere on site. Also no other utensils or equipment.
  2. Lockable ablution area consisting of 3 rooms – 1 separate toilet, shower and wash basin room. Please take note that there are no tables, shelves or storage facilities in these three rooms – please take along a mobile/folding table or cupboard to put stuff on.
  3. Moveable braai cleaned every day by the staff – very nice but I’ve used my own small braai
  4. Huge dustbin – emptied every day with a black bag placed in the bin by staff members
  5. Solar geyser – very nice hot water and powerful shower (I can only speak about site #7)
  6. Take note that there are not artificial shaded areas like in the old Nossob camping areas where there are no trees

The new camp sites are located on the southern side of the Nossob rest camp area. The entrance to the premium sites is an opening in the fence almost halfway between the eastern (river side end of rest camp area where camp sites without power are situated) and western point (previous exit to Bitterpan and hanger next to the swimming pool). Please take note that the premium camp sites are part of the bigger fenced Nossob rest camp area with small acacia tree amongst the sites. No big trees like in the old Nossob camp site – be prepared for some harsh sunshine/light in summer.

Lets look at the site itself:

  1. The entrance to the site: There is a road running from north to south with the 10 sites situated on both side of the road. Site #1 & 2 near the entrance to the camping area (north and the sites with best trees for shadow) and  #10 being the site in the most southern part of the area (most private site). This image was taken from the eastern side of site #7 from my trailer’s kitchen with the ablution rooms for this in the left hand corner of the image. Not much room to manoeuvre and I can see why only two vehicles per site are allowed.

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2.  The ablution facilities’ building: Each site has this type of building

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3. The open but covered kitchen area: We had a rain storm one night and wind blow the rain all over the place – luckily it only lasted a few minutes but everything in the kitchen area was wet. Therefore, be careful what and where you store things in this kitchen area. Like I’ve mentioned before – also be aware of the BB jackals at night. You can see where my ammo boxes were placed – the jackals pulled it down and tried to “escape” with it during the night. And then there are the crows during the days!

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4. The entrance to the ablution facilities: As you can see, the entrance to the rooms is lockable (with the key in the main door). The toilet is the first door to the right and the shower is the second door to the right. The short corridor ends in the washbasin room. Note our small folding table – no other shelves or storage facilities available. So bring your own.

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5. The shower: We really enjoyed the shower – very powerful!

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6. The washbasin room: At the end of the short corridor with hot and cold water

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7. Wide angle of camp site itself: This is the area in front of the ablution building – just to give you an idea or the area available for parking.

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8. Shade area: This is the shade area of camp site #7 – not much to talk about. As you can see – not big trees like in the old Nossob sites. You need to carefully manoeuvre your trailer into the site to utilise the shady areas available. For most of the sites, one trailer will have a bit of shade while the second trailer will have to be parked in the sun.

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9. Temperature inside my trailer: Evidence of the temperature inside my trailer with everything opened that can be opened and isolation in the roof (thanks for that because I am sure the temperature would have been in the 40s). Be prepared with a fan or two and use the home-made Kgalagadi air-con system(the wet towel system – it works when everything else fails)

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Until next time – keep on shooting!!!

 

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Klaserie Sand River Camp: a 2-day trip report

I received two nights accommodation, in the above-mentioned lodge in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, as prize for winning one of the categories in the annual Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year competition for 2017.

When I was notified by the competition organisers that my prize was 2 nights at Klaserie Sand River Camp I visited the camp’s website which was easy to navigate and gives ample information about what to expect. My wife and I decided to use the prize during our first available free time, which was at the end of September 2017. We contacted the lodge and Lee-Ann was very helpful and responded promptly to our request for a booking for the end of September 2017. Lee-Ann also send us a detailed description of how to reach the lodge.

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We arrived the afternoon a bit later than expected at Klaserie but we were received and greeted in a very warm fashion along with very nice welcome drinks. The lodge has room for 10 guests and the rooms and public areas are nicely laid out. There is Wifi available in the public areas. There is also a water hole in front of the lodge, which was very active in the time we were there due to the fact that it was at the end of dry season.

We were given an orientation of the camp after which we were shown to our chalet to do bit of freshening up and then we went for our first afternoon game drive with our guide David. It was the end of the dry season.

After spending some time with precious game we were alerted that a group of wild dogs were about 20 minutes away and they were starting to get active. We reached the sighting just in time to find the puppies starting to play. Unfortunately it was a cloudy afternoon and sun as already setting – nevertheless we got some interesting photos.

It was a group of young wild dogs cups playing while waiting for the adults to return from their hunt:

Wild dog pups playing 1

Nikon D4 camera with Nikkor 600mm lens, 1/3200 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 6400, 21 meter from animal

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Some of the pups were very curious about our vehicle:

Wild dog pup approaching

Nikon D4 camera with Nikkor 600mm lens, 1/2500 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 6400, 15 meter from animal

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What about some close-up portrait photography while the pups are on the lookout for the adults to return?

Wild dog pup portrait

Nikon D500 camera with Nikkor 300mm lens = 450mm, 1/1250 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.3, ISO 3200, 7 meter from animal

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We spend the rest of the late afternoon with them until the adults arrived. The puppies were very playful but ever so watchful for any signs of danger.

Wild dog pup watchful

Nikon D4 camera with Nikkor 600mm lens, 1/800 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 2000, 25 meter from animal

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Unfortunately the adults were not successful during their afternoon hunt, so the puppies left with the adults to continue hunting. We tried to follow them but it was already dark and they went into a thick bushy area. We therefore stopped to have something to drink under the rising stars. Afterwards we drove slow back to camp listening to the night in the veld coming to life. Arriving back in camp we had an excellent dinner – thanks to Steven, the chef.

The next morning we were on the game drive vehicle before sunrise looking forward to some interesting sightings.

The start of a new day – a spur fowl greeting the rising sun:

Sunrise

Nikon D500 camera with Nikkor 300mm lens = 450mm, 1/8000 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.3, ISO 3200, 30 meter from bird

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Once again, the game drive delivered great excitement. A male leopard was found about 30 minutes away from where we were looking for interesting sightings. The message was what it was being “mobile”, so we had to rush to the sighting. When we arrived at the sighting, the leopard stalking a steenbok – a first for us. We stayed with the leopard and waited patiently but ever so weary not to get too close in order not to interfere with the hunt. One of the advantages of the Klaserie Sand River Camp is that it is located in one of the more remote areas of the Klaserie which is beneficial in the sense that we never experienced a congestion of cars at a sighting. We thus had the privilege to stay in this sighting without pressure of making way for other cars.

The steenbok being stalked:

Steenbok lucky

Nikon D500 camera with Nikkor 300mm lens = 450mm, 1/6400 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.3, ISO 640, 30 meter from animal

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The stalking leopard about 15 meters away from the steenbok:

Leopard stalking

Nikon D500 camera with Nikkor 300mm lens = 450mm, 1/5000 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.3, ISO 800, 30 meter from animal

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It took the leopard about 30 minutes to get close to the steenbok – about 15 meters – but not close enough. Eventually it charged (?more out of frustration) but the hunt was unsuccessful. The disappointed leopard standing in the same spot where the steenbok stood a few seconds ago. One can almost see the frustration in his body language and looks:

Leopard disappointed

Nikon D500 camera with Nikkor 300mm lens = 450mm, 1/6400 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.3, ISO 640, 30 meter from animal

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Afterwards the leopard “took to the streets” patrolling his territory allowing us to get some nice photos:

Leopard on termite mount

Nikon D4 camera with Nikkor 600mm lens, 1/8000 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 800, 32 meter from animal

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Leopard look back

Nikon D500 camera with Nikkor 300mm lens = 450mm, 1/6400 sec, F2.8, Exposure = -0.3, ISO 320, 20 meter from animal

When he crossed over to the forbidden land (which we were not allowed to drive on), it was time for us to enjoy a cup of tea and coffee with rusks on a nearby termite mount – nice refreshments after a morning’s “hard” work!

Klaserie tea

i-phone 6

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Afterwards we made our way slowly back to camp enjoying the bird life around us. At the camp we were treated to a hearty breakfast on the deck overlooking the waterhole in front of the camp.

Klaserie breakfast

i-phone 6

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 The rest of the day was spend in a relaxing manner downloading and photos, as well as catching-up on our sleep.

The afternoon drive started with some general game including spending some time with a herd of elephants:

Elephant baby feeding

Nikon D4 camera with Nikkor 600mm lens, 1/1000 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 2000, 32 meter from animal

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Elephant portrait

Nikon D4 camera with Nikkor 600mm lens, 1/1000 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 2000, 32 meter from animal

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Followed by a trip to one of the highest point in the vicinity – where I tried to take a panoramic photo without a tripod.

Klaserie Horse shoe

Panoramic photo consisting of 5 portrait style photos which were taken handheld

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Afterwards we were lucky enough to come across the same wild dog pack we saw the previous evening next to a dam. It was interesting to see how cautious they are and they did not to just go straight to the water to drink – probably had previous encounters with crocodiles.

Wild dog water

Nikon D4 camera with Nikkor 600mm lens, 1/500 sec, F8, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 2500, 50 meter from animal

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Still weary of the danger beneath – watching the water with caution from the safety of the dam wall

Wild dog dam wall

Nikon D4 camera with Nikkor 600mm lens, 1/800 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 2500, 84 meter from animal

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This time the pups were not so playful as the pervious evening. The adults however were trying to encourage each other to start with the evening hunt. Shortly afterwards they took off as group to hunt before darkness caught up with them.

Wild dog licking

Nikon D4 camera with Nikkor 600mm lens, 1/500 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 2000, 32 meter from animal

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By this time it was overcast and already very late in the afternoon – so I tried to play around with a slow shutter speed to create a more interesting photo (one of the most difficult shots to capture in photography – a lot of luck involved and you cannot ask the dogs to run again and again until you get it right). Sometimes you only have one of two opportunities to capture the moment. This image were captured as they took off to hunt.

Wild dog panning

Nikon D4 camera with Nikkor 600mm lens, 1/2500 sec, F4, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 6400, 40 meter from animal

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We tried to follow them as they were hunting but it was just too difficult keeping up with them in some bushy territory. So we gave up and drive slowly back towards camp.

The evening was concluded with a special guest giving a lecture to staff and friends regarding a rhino protection project – shipping rhinos to Australia for conservation purposes. Again we were treated to an excellent dinner.

The last morning was cold, windy and rainy. Nor much to see except for a leopard kill up in tree and a red-crested Korhaan saying farewell to us from a termite mount.

Korhaan song

Nikon D4 camera with Nikkor 600mm lens, 1/2000 sec, F4, Exposure = 0, ISO 400, 15 meter from animal

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It was pity that the trip only lasted two nights but it was definitely a great success. Klaserie Sand River camp is a little germ in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve and it is definitely worth visiting if one is in the vicinity or if one is looking to spend some time relaxing in the Bosveld.

Once again, a special thanks to Klaserie Sand River Camp for offering this price as well as for Africa Geographic running the Photographer of the Year competition.

 

Message to take home:

This was our first trip to this area of the Greater Kruger National Park – the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. For wild life photographers – it is important to get away from your home, your well known environment and even your comfort zone (including the photography areas you are familiar with). Exploring new territories like we did during this trip (thanks to Africa Geographic and Klaserie Sand River Camp) is a great way to find inspiration and try to get some alternative images. The Greater Kruger National Park is not always seen as the ideal photography destination but then that is the purpose of visiting other destination  – a world away from your comfort zone. Remember, when visiting a new photography destination, think outside the box, break out of your rut and use alternative methods to capture those new innovative images.

Until next time, keep on shooting

 

 

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Trip report: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, April 2017 (Easter weekend)

Well, well, well a trip report at last after a long period of silence. My wife decided that we needed a break after a few stressful weeks at work. So, we decided to have a quick trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) over the Easter weekend (no additional leave days to be used!!!). Because of the heavy traffic on our roads usually experienced over the Eater weekend, the KTP was our only option. Since 2010 we’ve only been to the KTP once over the Easter weekend and it was so busy. And once again, the park was so busy that it was impossible to get accommodation anywhere on such short notice. Towards the end of 2016 we stayed at Polentswa Lodge and we were very impressed. So, this time around we decided to stay at Rooiputs Lodge (Ta Shebube) and what a pleasant stay. It was really relaxing.

In April the KTP gates close at 18H30 in the afternoons and open at 07H00 in the mornings. So, we arrived on the Thursday in the park just before gate closing time and we left the park on Monday after a quick drive to Gunong waterhole and back. KTP had a heavy thunderstorm on the Wednesday just before we arrived, so there were water puddles all over the place. Once you see the water puddles, you know this will be a slow visit when it comes to sightings. But we still enjoyed our stay – see my Message to take home below. Even though the temperatures dropped to about 7 degree C in the mornings. We were so glad that we were in our own vehicle and not in the open game drive vehicle in the mornings.

This was the second time that I’ve taken my Nikon D500 to the Kgalagadi. The camera is a great asset with its crop factor sensor – especially on the 600mm lens. It gives you a final reach of about 900mm. And with a 1.4 convertor, you get a reach of 1275mm and the quality of the image is till very acceptable. Just what you need in the Kgalagadi. And I did use it frequently on this trip as you’ll see from my images.

Just a few images from our trip below – just to show you what to expect if you do go to the park for a long weekend. Every day we only drove between Twee Rivieren en Gunong waterhole and we did not even drive over to the Auob river on the western side of the park.

Enjoy the trip with us

 

1.

Secretary bird

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/2000 sec, f5.6, Exposure = -0.33, ISO 640, 50m from bird

One of the regular birds to be found in the Kgalagadi and one of my first images taken during our trip

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2.

Swallowed tailed bee-eater

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/5000 sec, f8, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 1250, 9m from bird

Another of the regular birds to be found in the Kgalagadi. One needs to increase the f-stop if you are close to an object to try and get everything in focus especially the tail. ______________________________________

3.

Ostrich

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/3200 sec, f4, Exposure = -1.33, ISO 125, 63m from bird

Many otrishes to be found between Twee Rivierien en Kji Kji water hole. This image was taken at Leeudril waterhole with the setting sun from behind the bird

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4.

Meerkat child love

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens + 1.4 convertor = 1275mm, 1/500 sec, f9, Exposure = -1.33, ISO 250, 21m from meerkat

At the entrance of Rooiputs, a clan of meetkats had a temporay den. I found them one afternoon enjoying the last bit of sunrise before they disappearing into the burrows. The next two dayss they did not return to this speciifc den.

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5.

Meerkat help me

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/3200 sec, f4, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 125, 21m from meerkat

The next morning we did a quick drive to Kji Kji waterhole but we returned to wait for the meerkats to appear because we know they were there. And they apperared just after sunrise, warmed up a bit and then started to their foraging exercises for the day. However, they did not come back to this specific den for the next few days.

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6.

Porcupine side ways

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens + 1.4 convertor = 1275mm, 1/1000 sec, f8, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 320, 84m from porcupine

Another first for us after visiting the park for almost 7 years – a porcupine in daylight. Between Kji Kji and Melkvlei water holes. At first he was on the other side of the river bed and that was the reason why I’ve put the 1.4 convertor on my camera and lens. The old saying is so true: “Being at the right place at the right time”.

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7.

Porcupine close up

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens + 1.4 convertor = 1275mm, 1/1000 sec, f8, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 320, 84m from porcupine

All of a sudden the porcupine decided to cross over to our side. Luckily we were the only vehicle in the sighting and I was bale to manoeuvre our vehicle accordingly. It looks like the porcupine was in some sort of a fight because of the blood on its nose. It all happened so quickly – it was not possible for me to even remove my convertor from my camera and lens. The beauty of having a second body (D4 and 200-400mm lens on the passenger seat next to me). It took the porcupine about 4 minutes from our first sighting to cross the dune and disappear.

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8.

Young ground squirrels

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/800 sec, f7.1, Exposure = 0, ISO 320, 12m from squirrels

You will definitely see a lot of ground squirrels in the park but not very often will you see young one warming up early in the morning

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9.

Black backed Jackal

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/1600 sec, f6.3, Exposure = -0.33, ISO 320, 10m from jackal

Also the ever-present BB jackals and on this trip we saw a lot of them. Always nice to stop if they are close to the road – like this one and practise some portrait photograpghy

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10.

Lion

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/5000 sec, f8, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 800, 50m from lion

Over the long weekend we saw about 7 different lions – always a pleasure and an enjoyment to see what they are up to. This year the grass was a bit high, so photographgy was not easy and one had to wait for the opportnities.

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11.

Gemsbok

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/8000 sec, f11, Exposure = -1.0, ISO 640, 106m from gemsbok

Early in the morning the sun gives an opportunity to take some backlight photos – you just need to look for subjects on the edge of the dunes

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12.

Springbok

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/6400 sec, f11, Exposure = -1.0, ISO 640, 105m from springbok

And a springbok provided us with another opportunity for some backlight photography

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Message to take home

 

Well, looking at the reason why we decided on short notice to take on the long road (800km) to the Kgalagadi for only a stay of 4 nights, I’ve realized that this message I’ve read is so true:

“Nature photography is extremely therapeutic if you can reap enjoyment from it.”

Because of a few stressful weeks before our trip, we decided to put our camera equipment in our vehicle and took on the long road to our favourite park. Even if it was just for a few days. And believe me, it was worth it – within a day or two we were so relaxed and focused on nature and photography that we once again realised that being alone with a camera in the natural world is definitely a great way to wind down and forget about the work. But just remember:

“Take photos not to see the result, but to enjoy the process”

 Until my next trip report – keep on shooting

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Trip report: Indlovu River Lodge (Karongwe Private Game Reserve), Julie 2016

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 1200 W

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.

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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.

Baboon look 1080 W

Baboon look

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

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 Baboon half 1080 W

Baboon half

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.

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Baboon x drink 1200 W

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.

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Baboon side drink 1080 W

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.

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Baboon ET phone 1200 W

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.

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 Baboon dark 1080 W

Baboon dark

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).

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We were also privileged to experience the visit of a giraffe to the hide and waterhole during the same first afternoon.

Giraffe drinking eye 1080 W

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,

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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

Giraffe sill 1200 W

Giraffe sill

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

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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 1200 W

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

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During our afternoon session the sun was out providing us with some interesting shots from the animal hide again.

Kudu afternoon 1080 W

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

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Njala and baboon 1920 W

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

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Njala head hide 1200 W

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

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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!!!

 

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Trip report: Londolozi, South Africa – Apr 2016 (Part 1)

It is been a while since I’ve posted a trip report – so I decided to do this trip report “live” while on location. We are very fortunate to have internet access but luckily very limited cell phone reception. So, here we go.

My wife planned this trip and we decided to stay the first night in Berg en Dal camp in the Kruger National Park. We left home very early on Saturday morning (around 05H00) and we arrived at Malelane gate around 14H00 after 3 stop-and-go’s on the N4. An afternoon drive and a Sunday morning drive to Sukuza provided us with sightings of 4 of the Big 5 (no lions) as well as a glimpse on wild painted dogs. And who said there are no photo opportunities in the Kruger National Park!

Two interesting images from our drives:

Oxpecker on bufallo 1080 W A Oxpecker on the nose a buffalo.

Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, 1/4000 of second, f4, ISO1600, exposure = 0.

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Dwarf mongoose three 1200 W

We came across a den of about 11 dwarf mongoose in a termite mount next to the road (6-7 meters away) – so we spent almost 1 hour with them. After a while they got use to us and started to relax. They are so curious and are very interesting to watch.

Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, 1/4000 of second, f8, ISO1600, exposure = -2/3.

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After some quality time in the Kruger Park itself, it was time to leave the park just to re-enter the Greater Kruger park a few kilometres from the Kruger gate for a stay at Londolozi. This is our second visit to Londolozi with Byron Serrao and we were so looking forward to our stay. And we were not disappointed! The following images are just a few highlights from the first few days.

Leopard in night 1200 W

During our first afternoon/evening drive Byron took us to a young female leopard with a kill in a tree. There was not much left of the kill and the female was very relaxed. However, there were a few hyenas around, so she went up a Maroela tree kept a watchful eye on the hyena and she provided us with some excellent photo opportunities like the image above.

Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, 1/400 of second, f8, ISO4000, exposure = -1.0, manual mode.

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Leopard backlight yawn 1080 W

Also some backlight shots with a yawn or two!

Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, 1/160 of second, f8, ISO1600, exposure = -1.0.

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Fish eagle catch 1080 W

So Byron decided that this trip is not just about blood and claws – lucky for us there were two fish eagles hunting at Taylor’s dam. I was not so lucky with these birds but I got this shot of the only fish caught by the eagles that morning (after a few misses). Using a f8 aperture to ensure both wings tips are in focus – could have used f11 as well but it was overcast and the light was not good.

Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, 1/1600 of second, f8, ISO1600, exposure = -1/3.

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Where is the milk 1920 WBack to the claws of the trip – there are two lioness and two cubs around and we got a quick glimpse of them before the cubs disappeared into the thickness of the bushes.

Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, 1/4000 of second, f8, ISO1600, exposure = -2/3.

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Leopard protective mom 1080 W

We also visited the Mashaba female leopard and her (almost) 1 year old cub feeding on an impala kill on the ground. Interesting to see how the female tolerated the presence of the young cub (almost time for the cub to leave the mother). Not very often one gets two leopards feeding on one kill. And they came within a meter or two from our open vehicle!

Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, 1/640 of second, f8, ISO4000, exposure = -2/3.

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Sunset in the bush 1080 W

There is always time for a landscape photo or two (taken from the vehicle) while waiting to enter a sighting – especially with a sunset like this. The vultures waiting patiently for an opportunity above the Masaba female leopard and her kill.

Nikon D3S, Nikkor 70-200mmf4 lens @ 70mm, 1/800 of second, f8, ISO100, exposure = -1.3.

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Elephant small 1200 W

There are lots of elephants around and I could not resist taking an image of this young one doing a mock charge towards our vehicle.

Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, 1/4000 of second, f8, ISO1600, exposure = -2/3.

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Lion water watch 1080 W

And a sad story for a giraffe but an easy meal for the two dominate male lions of this area. On one of our drives, we came across a giraffe that was stuck in the mud of a waterhole. During the day it became too weak and it drowned. Later during the night & the next morning the two male lions arrived to enjoy this free meal left in the water.

Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, 1/250 of second, f4, ISO4000, exposure = -2/3, fill-in flash and spot light as light source

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Cheetah head 1200 W

Cheetahs are not often found in this area because of all the other predators around. However, there was one male found in one of the sections of the park.

Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, 1/640 of second, f8, ISO1000, exposure = -2/3.

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Eagle take off branch 1920 W

And there were also some opportunities to practise my favourite type of photography – birds in fight. Not very often one get a African hawk eagle siting in the open on top of a branch. So we parked the vehicle and waited patiently for the eagle to take off. And eventually it did. My first decent shot a this type of eagle in flight. Patience is the name of the game.

Nikon D4, Nikkor 600mmf4 lens, 1/4000 of second, f8, ISO800, exposure = -2/3.

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What a first few days in the bush – full of action and opportunities. To be continued.

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Trip report: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, September 2015 (Part III: Day 4 – 6) – Great shots and missed opportunities

Right, I’ve just returned from yet another week in the Kgalagadi but first I need to complete this trip report – spending a long weekend in September 2015 in Kgalagadi. The purpose of this three-part trip report is to show what can be seen in the Kgalagadi when you are willing to drive all the way up to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to spend a long weekend in Twee Rivieren camp.

Right, lets continue to see what the Kgalagadi has to offer in the month of September. This report is called Great shots because I had some great shots taken during these two days as well as Missed opportunities because I’ve missed the shot of the trip because of wrong choices. Just a side comment: the mid- day and late afternoon temperature was between 40 and 46 degree Celsius while the morning temp was between 9 and 12 degree Celsius. For those who are interested and planning their first ever trip to the Kgalagadi.

 

Day 4 – Morning drive

Once again, leaving the camp at gate opening time (06H30) I decided to drive along the Nossob River. And again, a quiet drive with nothing really happening at Samevloei, Leeudril and Kji Kji waterholes. Between Kji Kji and Melkvlei I came across this nice Tawny eagle sitting in one of the dead tree just next to the road. From it feathers, one can see how cold it was – even in September.

21 Eagle early morning W

Eagle early morning

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO640, 1/2000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 25 meters from eagle

Way too early for the eagle to take – so I just took a record portrait shot of the eagle while enjoying the good light.

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Between Melkvlei and Gunong water hole, the whistling rat colony again – I’ve tried my luck once again. Lets try this one in colour because it was not that late in the morning.

22 Rat hole W

Rat hole

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO640, 1/8000 sec, f4, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 6 meters from rate

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Nothing at Gunong waterhole but on my way back between Melkvlei and Kji Kji – the best opportunity of the trip. But a missed opportunity because of bad decision-making from my side. The same Tawny eagle shown above caught a snake and was busy eating it while a juvenile Bateleur was hoping for a piece of it. As you can see from my camera settings, I was ready for action.

23 Eagle and Bataleur W

Eagle and Bateleur

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1600, 1/5000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 25 meters from the raptors

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At one stage the eagle walked away and the Bateleur moved in to look if there was anything left. And this is where I missed the shot. I’ve parked way too close to the sighting as the tawny eagle retuned to the feeding spot to chase away the Bateleur – evidence of my mistake below. In hindsight – I should have used my 200-400mm lens.

24 Eagle and Bataleur fighting

Eagle and Bateleur fighting

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1600, 1/5000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 25 meters from the raptors

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I decided to reverse a bit and wait for the take off of both birds as a “consolation price”. First the tawny eagle took off

25 Eagle take off W

Eagle take off

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1600, 1/6400 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 31 meters from the raptors

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Followed a few minutes later by the Bateleur

26 Balateur take off W

Bateleur take off

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1600, 1/3200 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 31 meters from the raptors

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Day 4 – Afternoon drive

I followed my usual routine leaving camp around 15H15-15H30. It was very hot – 45 degrees so I did not expect much action. I drove along the Nossob River – the same route as the morning. Nothing happening up the Gunong water hole. On my way back, between Kji Kji and Melkvlei waterhole, I came across the same juvenile Bateleur as display above in a dead tree. After a while it decided to join the parents in a bigger tree – the image below taken while the juvenile was flying from the dead tree to the roasting tree. Just look at the difference between this image taken from the same bird in late afternoon sunlight below and the previous image (hard late morning sunlight) above. Interesting!

 27 Bataleur juvenile flying W

Bateleur take off

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1600, 1/8000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 28 meters from the raptor

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And just before Rooiputs water hole, a slender mongoose lying in the road in the shade of a tree. Not very often that one of these shy little animals providing a photographer with such nice opportunities. They usually run away but not this one. I’ve used a fill-in flash a la Albie Venter because of the shadow of the tree.

28 Slender mongoose W

Slender mongoose

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1600, 1/640 sec, f8, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 11 meters from mongoose

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And as usual, be on the lookout for the ostriches between Rooiputs and Samevloei waterholes. They do provide you with nice backlight shots while taking a dust bath like this ostrich did.

29 Ostrich late W

Ostrich late

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO800, 1/3200 sec, f4, exposure comp = -1.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 63 meters from ostrich

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What a surprise after Leeudril waterhole – my third ever sighting of a leopard in the Kgalagadi (in four years)! A bit far but just a record shot with a 2x convertor on the 600mm lens in very low light conditions.

30 Leopard W

Leopard

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens with 2 x convertor = 1200mm, ISO800, 1/200 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.673, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 85 meters from leopard

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So, a very eventful afternoon drive came to an end.

 

Day 5 – Morning drive

The same routine as always – a drive along the Nossob River. The first interesting sighting was between Rooiputs and Kji Kji waterhole. The Cape fox lying in front of its burrow in the early morning sunlight. Unfortunately no puppies around – so I don’t think it was a den.

31 Cape fox W

Cape fox

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO800, 1/3200 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 12 meters from fox

Just to let you know – the above-mentioned camera setting is my default settings for my D4 and 600mm lens combination and I just love it.

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Just pass the rat colonies between Melkvlei and Gunong water hole – the great opportunity of the trip. Around a bend just before Gunong waterhole sat a Tawny eagle and an African wild cat next to each other on the ground. However, both were not interested in each other. The eagle was collecting nesting material. Luckily I’ve got a few shots of the eagle taking of with a twin in its beak – example below.

32 Eagle nesting twig W

Eagle nesting twig

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1600, 1/6400, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 32 meters from eagle

Be careful with birds with white feathers under their wings – as you can see, the exposure compensation of -0.67 used for this image was not enough in this case – should have used an additional two stops (-1.3). I had to work hard in Photoshop to get the detail back in those feathers.

This image already received 2 acceptances in international salons

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So what happened to the cat? It disappeared over the dunes but I decided to wait a bit to see what will happen. The cat returned after about 15 minutes with another cat on its tail.

 32a Cat running W

Cat running

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1600, 1/64000, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 28 meters from cat

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I was waiting for some action (this time prepared with my 200-400mm lens – lesson learned the previous day with raptors) but another car arrived and the cat at the back left in a hurry

32b Cat together W

Cat together

Nikon D3S, Nikon 200-400mm lens @ 260mm, ISO1600, 1/64000, f6.3, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 15 meters from cats

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The other cat stayed behind lying in the shade of the tree and was very relaxed allowing me to capture once again some nice close-up shots.

33 Wild cat relaxed W

Wild cat relaxed

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO500, 1/1600, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 9 meters from cat

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I even had time to put on my 1.4 convertor for some even more close-up shots.

34 Cat and fly W

Cat and fly

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO500, 1/1250, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 9 meters from cat

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Day 5 – Afternoon drive

 

The same routine – a drive along the Nossob River. The afternoon drive was very relaxing with not much happening except for the lions at Leeudril water hole on our way back to camp. First a nice type of backlight shot with a yawning lioness.

35 Lioness late yawn W

Lioness late yawn

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1000, 1/1250, f8, exposure comp = -1.30, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 28 meters from lioness

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And the lioness decided to taste a bit of the Nissan Xtrail in front of us. She moved around my Fortuner as well but I quickly started it and she moved on. Just to show you – you should not feel “jammer” for your vehicle when coming to the Kgalagadi – the Nissan sustained a few holes in its bumper after the bite!

 36 Lioness biting car W

Lioness biting car

Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200mm lens @ 200mm, ISO100, 1/200 sec, f4, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 4 meters from lioness

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Day 6 – Morning drive

 

It was time to leave the Kgalagadi to drive the 7+hours back home to Bloemfontein. But not before a quick drive to Gunong water hole and back. At Kji Kji the “gemsbokke” were playing around the waterhole while sharping their fighting skills when it comes to determine who is dominant.

37 Gemsbok fighting W

Gemsbok fighting

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1600, 1/4000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 63 meters from gemsbok

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And at last found I found the four cheetahs near Gunong waterhole – I was looking for them every day. They were lying next to the road – how lucky can one get? A quick photo or two and I was on my back to Twee Rivieren to check out and drive back home.

38 Cheetah yawning W

Cheetah yawning

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1600, 1/3200 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 10 meters from cheetah

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39 Cheetah under bush W

Cheetah under bush

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1000, 1/2000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 15 meters from cheetah

Definitely a male cheetah!

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Until the next trip report from the Kgalagadi (Nov/Dec 2015)!!!

 

Message to take home:

 

Thinking of my major mistake during this trip – one should never stop learning when going out on a shoot. Each photography trip should be learning experience – no matter how familiar the environment / park / sighting is. I’ve learned a valuable lesson during this trip and I will surely never forget it.

 

Until the next trip report – keep on shooting!!!

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Trip report: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, September 2015 (Part II – Day 3) – The Cats

Lets continue with the report on my last visit to the Kgalagadi. I am calling this Part II “The Cats” because I was very fortunate to have a few sightings of African wild cats and lions on this public holiday.

As you would recall, I’ve decided to stay in Twee Rivieren for the entire 5 days in the park. I did not want to drive all over the park during such a short stay in the park. I would rather stay in one camp, locate some of the animals and go back every day to try and find them again. And I had some reasonable success with this approach – especially the african wild cats (vaalboskat). Now for Day 3 and let me show you what Kgalagadi has to offer if you decide to stay in one camp for the duration of one’s visit:

Day 3 – morning drive

Leaving the camp at gate opening time (06H30) I decided to once again try my luck driving up the Nossob River. Nothing was happening at Samevloei and Leeudril waterhole. So I decided to carry on Rooiputs waterhole and Kji Kji. However, just past the famous tree with the big Sociable weaver nests next to the road, I came across this magnificent male lion (around 07H30 just to give you an idea of travel time in the Kgalagadi looking for photo opportunities). The lion was walking towards Leeudril waterhole but he was smelling the bushes every now and then. I decided to following him slowly and not to drive back to the waterhole to wait for his arrival. And I was not disappointed – as you can see from the next three images below. Once again – photography in the Kgalagadi is all about anticipation and quick decision-making.

11 Lion scape W

Lion scape

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO400, 1/3200, f4, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 110 meters from lion

I was a bit far from the lion – even for a 600mm lens. But one must always consider capturing the animal in its natural environment and not always trying to get a very close-up shot. That is the reason I call this image “Lion scape”

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At one stage the lion did walk closer to the road – a more close-up shot of his action. Still a nice landscape shot.

11a Lion morning walk W d

Lion morning walk

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1250, 1/4000, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 63 meters from lion

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And the suddenly he decided to turn towards the road and walked right up to me. I was very fortunate because by now there were already about six or seven cars following the lion (initially we were only three cars following the lion but the rest caught up with us). By now it was not easy to manoeuvre one’s car to get the best possible position for a shot. So, I was very satisfied to have captured this type of shot – always trying something different.

12 Lion one eye W

Lion one eye

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1250, 1/4000, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 21 meters from lion

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The rest of the morning was just a very relaxing drive with just general game and birds – nothing really worth posting. Turned around at Gunong waterhole and went back to the chalet for a nice brunch, image downloading, bit of image processing and a lekker afternoon snooze.

 

Day 3 – Afternoon drive

My usual routine in the Kgalagadi for the afternoon is to leave camp around 15H15-15H30. I just love driving along the Nossob River from Twee Rivieren, so it was the same route as the morning drive. Between Kji Kji and Melkvlei waterhole I was looking for the African Wild cat I saw earlier the morning in a tree. The cat was still there but while I was watching it and getting my camera gear in place (including my flash because the cat was in the shadows), the cat decided it was time to leave the tree. I quickly had to adjust my camera in order to capture the cat coming down the tree – hopefully where I can get some decent shots. And I was lucky!

13 Cat in tree W

Cat in tree

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO400, 1/2000, f4, exposure comp = -0, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash19 meters from cat

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14 Cat coming down W

Cat coming down

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO400, 1/2500, f4, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 19 meters from cat

I even got a quick look from the cat before continuing down the tree – how lucky can one get!

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15 Cat down branches W

Cat down branches

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO400, 1/3200, f4, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 19 meters from cat

And the rest of the downward movements was very quick and fast – very difficulty to keep the small cat in the frame but I’ve managed to capture a few of these images with the cat full in the frame. As you can see – I just managed to keep the cat’s tail in the frame.

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Turned around at Melkvlei and when I reached Kji Kji waterhole on my way back to Twee Rivieren, I saw three of four cars parked about 800 meters south of the waterhole. Then I saw two lions walking in the riverbed towards the waterhole. So, parked my car so that the lions have to walk past me. And they did.

16 Lioness walking W

Lioness walking

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1250, 1/1600, f11, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 21 meters from lions

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The two lionesses had a drink of water with one lioness smelling the air. Not very often that I do see a lioness smelling the air like this. It is usually the male lion smelling the air like this around a female lioness.

17 Lioness smelling W

Lioness smelling

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1250, 1/4000, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, 40 meters from lioness

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After the drinks they continue to walk north while looking for something to catch. As you can see – always alert even when they were walking

19 Lioness watchful walk W

Lioness watchful walking

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO640, 1/1600, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 32 meters from lioness

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One lioness was lying next to the road ever so watchful what was going on around her.

18 Lioness watching W

Lioness watching

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1250, 1/4000, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 11 meters from lioness

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And as you can see, both of them were definitely in a hunting mode – this female amongst the three thorn bushes looking at some springboks down the riverbed.

20 Lioness hunting W

Lioness hunting

Nikon D4, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1250, 1/8000, f4.5, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun, fill in flash, 63 meters from lioness

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Unfortunately it was getting late – about 40 minutes (still 45km from Twee Rivieren) left to catch the camp gates still open. So, I couldn’t stay to see if there were a few wildebeests around. Therefore, I left them to do their thing on their own

To be continued

Message to take home:

The eyes! The eyes of your subject are the windows to the soul, and it should be the focal point of your wildlife shots. You should try to keep the focus of your camera on the eyes of your subjects. I know it is not always possible when the action is fast. But in shots of the lions as shown above, it is possible to keep the focus on the eyes.

Until the next edition of this trip report – keep on shooting!!!

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