This blog will be added to when I can and its not so much a travel blog but rather the experience of doing Africa with myself and Rosepetal. It will be completed when I’m back home in Oz. When you are running a photo tour to Africa there are so many moments that live with you forever. There are moments that will change you if you are open to that. There are moments when you can see the amazing beauty of the animal kingdom and you see how the circle of life works.
There are magic moments that happen to you that are simply awe inspiring with no explanation and then there is the magic that takes place in Africa. There was one such moment that will be made know a little later.
I never take it for granted when I’m able to take people to Africa. I see it as an honor and a privilege and it is so humbling that these people have confidence in you as a person.
Running a photo tour is no easy matter as you have all different personalities an they all come for the common cause, to see and photograph Africa.As time goes, you are learning all the time and with each trip you make the fine adjustments to improve things. There are times when you do get it wrong and I wouldn’t be a lone in that.
Before I start as this trip covers Botswana and Namibia, the most common question that I get asked is what power plugs do you use in each of the countries. Below is a pic of both plugs. Having said that, there are some places where they will have multiple fittings for both countries including the USA and Oz. To be safe, if you has one each of these as I carry you will have no issue in charging your batteries.
On this tour we have Doug,Roger, Pam,Helen, Phil, Kylie and my Rosepetal and myself. It was so nice to have Rosepetal there( Vicki ) as she like others was saving for a long time to go to Africa and when we met, and she knew what I did, it was logical that she would come along one day to Africa to experience it for herself.
The other two guys in this picture are legends and more about Rod and President Clinton later whom I use each time I go to Botswana as they both are not only the nicest guys,but legends in tracking and knowledge. More about these chaps later.
Africa is a moving time and in my Tours to Africa, you don’t have to be a photographer to join. On this present tour there are two non photographers that joined the tour and the big advantage of doing a photo tour when you are not into taking pictures on the same level as a photographer, is that you get to see the animals in the right light and this will be so much more rewarding and enriching to you as opposed to doing a non photo tour to Africa.
Photography is all about the light and my role on any of my tours is not only show the importance of the light but where ever possible to have the guest in the best position when it comes to the light. It is not always possible but wherever I can, we achieve that for 95% of the time. In this picture the light plays an important part of the picture.Waiting the the sun to light up the leopards face was the key in making this a wonderful shot. What the picture doesn’t show is the tracking and hard work by our guide to get us there for this outstanding moment and in this case, it was President Clinton who we rolled with and whose skills got us where we needed to be.
This particular tour started off at Victoria Falls and I used this as a good training ground to see where the guests are at and to start guiding them in the right direction with there picture taking and to get them a little up to date when it comes to leaving the falls and going on the the animals.
The falls is a wonderful place and an awesome act of Creation and immense beauty and it is a place where depending on what direction that the wind is blowing from, will determine how wet you get. You will get wet at times and this can be from a light drizzle to a tropical downpour and anything in between.My Rosepetal here loves the water, doesn’t mind getting wet as you will see later, she is like a big kid playing in the water.
With the rain or falls spray it can make it a real challenge to photograph it at times but the troops did so well .
The Falls are 1,708 metres wide and 108 metres high. Victoria Falls has been linked as being the largest falls which is not the case and highest which is not the case (Angel Falls) nor is it the widest set of falls which some have stated in the past(Khone Falls). It does have the largest curtain of falling water on the planet, one and a half times wider than Niagra Falls and twice as high. The roar of the water pounding to the bottom of the river is deafening and stunning.
The falls are one is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world and the local people who live around the falls call it Mosi-oa-Tunya which means “smoke that thunders”.The name of the falls came from David Livingstone who named the falls in honour of Queen Victoria.He discovered the falls in 1855.
Every minute a staggering 5 million cubic metres of water pours over the edge of the falls.
Vic falls is such an imposing waterfall and there are 16 viewing areas but not all are possible to photograph effectively as when the spray is blowing towards you, as i mentioned before it is a challenge but it was a perfect introduction to the world of photography and it shows that it not always easy to get that shot that you are hoping for.
What I love about Rosepetal is that she is a woman who loves having a ball, loves adventure and this picture sums that up well. When there are puddles at the waterfalls, then she is in there splashing with her boots on. It’s smalls things like this that take you back to your own childhood.
Once we had completed our time at Vic Falls , it was onto to exploring the Chobe River which has to be one of the most favourite places that I love going to in Africa. The reason for this is that in a short time you see such an arrangement of animals and on the first day, my group had seen 4 out of the big 5 . That’s unheard of and this is how wildlife is. It’s so unpredictable and so inviting.
This is where you get the see the animals up close from a special boat that is designed for photographers and not only is the boat designed for photographers, it is run by photographers as well.
When I run my tours , I always use where possible people who have a passion for photography as this adds to the photographic experience and it means where possible, the guest is going to gain so more from the trip.
This shot of the Pied Kingfisher was taken from the boat. We quickly made our way into the little inlet, and this bird with her catch was smashing it against the branch to make sure it can get it down its throat.My guides are so good with their eyes and they spot things like this all the time.
The Pied Kingfisher hovers more than any bird in the kingfisher species. They hold their trunk nearly vertical and beat their wings rapidly with their head and bill angled sharply down.They look like a poison dart about to hits its target. It is the only entirely black and white kingfisher on the planet. I just love this little bird, I love the striking colours and love the band that they have around their chest.
I love this bird for so many different reasons. It’s a striking bird against the African Landscape and it is always makes well for pictures. When you study the behavior of this bird, you will learn how to photography it quickly and what to look out for.It’s the only kingfisher that is black and white. The Pied Kingfisher is 17cm long and is white with a black mask, a white supercilium and black breast bands. It can’t help itself to stand out in the crowd with other birds. No matter what the background the bird is shot against, it is always striking and stands out.The male has black crest and crown, white stripe above the eye, black larger stripe across the eye extending on nape, and white throat and collar.
The Bill is black and long which looks like a dagger and when you compared the size of the bill to the rest of the body, it dominates. Eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are blackish.
The Pied Kingfisher has complex behaviour. As like many tropical birds, the breeding pair has several non breeding birds as helpers and this can be up to four. It also can nests alone or in colonies, usually less of 20 nests at any given time.
Female has only one breast band, narrower than male and also broken in the middle.
The Chobe River is a place that will inspire you if you do it properly. I love this place and if I could work here and spend the rest of my days here on the River I would. If you love animals, if you love the peace and quietness on the water, then the Chobe River is it.
When we cruise along on our special boat that is designed for photographers, it is like you are sitting in the cinema and you have a 360 degree screen in front of you that is never static. There is always something breath taking happening and what we see in 4 days on this river will leave you in awe.
All of the images that are featured in the Chobe River section are taken from the boat.
There are moments that you see on the Chobe River that you can’t put into words. There are things that you see that you could never have imagined that it was possible. I have been to this awesome river many times and I had never see the spotted Otter there. It’s a rare site and did I pick it up on the water line, no! That’s the advantage of having awesome guides who know where to look and what to look out for. Seeing the otter was awesome and it just goes to show you, that no matter how may times you go to a place , there are always new sightings, new adventures and new photographic rewards.
What I love about the Chobe River is that for me it is the home of the Elephant, my favorite African animal. I can’t post all the elephants shots that I took here but there was a lot.I will be posting more much about the elephant later but don’t be deceived about their size. You can’t out run an elephant in a straight line and they can run up to speeds of 15km per hour and with an elephant the size it is , you wouldn’t want that to hit you at that speed.
When you are in the boat you get to observe so much. Time become timeless as it is frozen in time, there is the quietness of the air and all around you. This little fella was struggling to get up the bank, he kept slipping backwards and in the end, mum, dad and the others came around it and gently pushed him up the bank and all was good. It’s little things like that which are priceless and to be able to photography and observe this from the boat is gold.
With the elephant being the largest land animals on the planet, they are the most expressive of creatures. They display powerful examples joy, anger, grief, compassion and love. Scientists through studying the elephant have discovered that this wonder land based creature is capable of complex thought and deep feeling of any other animal on the planet.
Mum is never too far away from the little one.
Feeling safe with mum near by the “Little One,” is content and the series of pics is this little one touching mum’s tail for reassurance and just having fun as the conquest of the small bank is over.
When you are on the water, you also pick up the little things that help make the bigger picture in life on the river. The elephants don’t mind the birds who want to hitch a ride to or simply to just chill out on the back of the elephant.The elephant is the largest animal on earth as it stands today.They are also extremely smart and intelligent. they also have the largest brain of any land based animal and over time they have proved time and time again have demonstrated their impressive mental capabilities.
As you are so close you get to do those detail shots which is awesome as there would be no other way that you could do the detail shots. Everyone session there s something unique and special that you come across to photography.
The African Jacana which is a popular bird in Botswana, is so quick in the water as it skims across the water lilies. Here is Australia at the Top End we call it the Jesus bird as it appears to be walking on water. Being in the boat, we were able to get some awesome shots of the babies looking for food.
When fully grown they are about 30 centimetres in length. They skim across the lily pads in search of food and they mainly eat worms, insects along with Spiders. This bird has many nick names from such as the”lily trotter,” “lotus bird,” and “water walker and Jesus bird.”They eat some plant food as well as the little water animals and insect larva . When you see these birds they are always on the run, they rarely stand still, always on the search of food.The birds can fly but it is not often they do, they tend to walk quickly or run in some cases in search of their food.
Being on the boat you are able to get up close and personal with the animals as i mentioned before and you are able to see Africa’s number one killer of humans in Africa’s history. Many think of the lion or leopard but in is the Hippo. The Hippo is extremely aggressive and when it attacks it takes no prisoners. They have a beauty of their own and yet are just so dangerous.
What amazes me with the hippo is that they are so large and yet all they graze on land; they do not eat while in the water and aren’t known to graze on aquatic plants. Creeping grass and small green shoots and reeds is what they prefer to eat.
Unlike other animals the eyes and nostrils are on top of their head. This allows them to breath and look around while the rest of their body is submerged.They are fast for their size and run as fast as 14 mph (23 km/h) in short burst.
The really clever thing about the hippo is that they produce their own sunscreen, in the form of a sticky reddish sweat. It is amazing how nature works as these creatures are out in the sun for much of their lives so it makes sense that they produce their own protection from the sun.
From our boat it is not just the big and obvious creatures all great and large that we see, we see the smaller creatures that all play its part in the eco system . There are a number of different bee eaters here, all that are stunning and I’m always in awe how our guides spot the smallest of small creatures. This is not the smallest bird that was spotted and photographed. What do you think may be the smallest bird there that we did come across and we did photograph it but it was a challenge.
This particular Bee Eater is the Southern Carmine. This species of the bee-eaters, is a richly coloured, predominantly carmine in colour.They live on the flood plains and as there name suggest,bees is their diet along with insects.Nesting is at the end of a 1-2m long burrow in an earthen bank, where they lay from 2-5 eggs. I don’t know the speed that these birds fly at but they are incredible as they move at lightning speed to catch their prey. What astounds me the most is the pin sharp eye sight that these birds have as they sit on their perch looking for their catch and when they see them, they are off like lightning and speed to capture their breakfast, dinner and lunch.
As you explore the the river, it is not just the animals that make an impact on you, but also the water lilies hold their own sense of presence and have an elegance that inspires you in different ways.No one lily is ever the same, there form, texture, structure is always different and as they bend and twist, the light will always different on them.
The Baboons of the Chobe River are something else. What makes it such a memorial time is that while we are in the boat we can get such close access to them, they are not scared, they don’t go running as we stay in the boat and quietly make our way to the shore line and this gives up priceless moments.
There are so many wonderful pictures that I could share about the Baboons but I’ll leave you with these last pics.. The images that I am sharing with you are not necessarily the best that were taken, they are what I can put my hands on straight away.That’s the magic of Africa, no matter where you look, there is a picture to be taken.I’ve chose these last ones as the depict fun, play and friendship, all which the adult world doesn’t get enough of.
These were not taken in the afternoon light like the above ones were.
Deep down I think we all want to be able to have friendship, acceptance and to have people that we can depend on, people that we can share our life with and people who share the same interests as ourselves. Having people in your life also makes you aware that it is not always about you, that others exist.
One of the things that I don’t like about social media is that it is turning many people into selfish people and it promotes the whole industry of the self and sadly that is having a negative effect on people. We are control by likes, seeking self acceptance by others and at the same time, being sad when you don’t get those. Don’t you think that life was a little easier without the full on social media.
Regardless of what your thoughts are on this, what I love about Africa being with the animals, you gain a sense of wonder and delight and at the end of the day, the animals lookout for each other, they care for each other and they are there for each other. As I have mentioned so often int he past, the Elephant is an outstanding example of this.
Everyday on the Chobe River brings you so many delights. I hope you are not tired of the images that are from the Chobe and I will in time post from other areas but on this river so much has taken place.Everyone the whole crew were left in awe of what they saw, what they observed and what they photographed.
I can’t stress this enough. What I love about the Chobe River is how close that you can get to the wildlife and you get to see so many of there different skin textures.
As you glide across this amazing river, you never know what lurks below you and this river has a very high concentration of salt water crocodiles. There are so many and all waiting for the right feed to come along.They don’t really have many predators although the odd leopard has taken on the smaller crocodiles and have won but this is not common. So what does the salt water crocodile eat? That’s an easy one to answer. they are not fussy and will eat anything that comes along and crosses it path.
It doesn’t matter time that you are on the river there is always something that is taking place and sometimes it is quiet moments that can give you rewards through your photography. I have said this before and I’ll say it again-as we drift down the river in our boat, it is like you are watching the best nature doco taking place before your eyes and you have the best panoramic experience before you. All you have to do is look and observe. the rewards are endless.
The Fish Eagle had landed on the bank and we were able to take some stunning portraits of the bird but what took place was a little more entertaining with this smaller bird swooping the Fish Eagle. It wouldn’t stop and the Fish Eagle wasn’t too impressed. These are the quiet moments that when you sit back and reflect and observe with what you see. I don’t have space to post the series of pics taken here but if you ever hear people say that birds don’t have facial expressions, don’t believe them.
It is an honor to see cats like this go about their business and in this case, we actually stumbled across this female leopard while we went inland at Chobe National Park. It was good having the different mix as it exposed us to another level of animals and different activities with the animals which you will see later on.
The Lilac Breasted Roller is a stunning bird and this has 13 different colors.Up until recently this was the National Bird of Botswana. Recently this was changed. Why this was done I don’t know as this is a a stunning bird and when it flies, the colours underneath the bird are simply stunning.
They are a small bird and feed of grasshoppers , beetles, crabs and every now again small lizards. Like a lot of the birds in Africa, there eyes are supper sharp and it is not hard for them to pick up their prey.This little but stunning bird will feature again later on in the blog I’m sure.
One of the things that I like to stress to my guest when shooting animals and birds is to wait until you have the catch light in the eyes of the bird or the animal that you are photographing. For those don’t know what the catch light is , it is when you have the sunlight in the eye of the animal. That sunlight in the eye makes a massive difference to your picture and it is always worth waiting for the bird to turn, or the animal to turn to face the sunlight. This is a moment that all photographers wait for. If the face is in the shade, then your shot is dead. Be patient and wait for the creature to turn and face the light. The rewards are worth the patience that it takes to capture this moment.
It doesn’t matter where the bird is, the right light will always play a major roll in adding to the image.
Everyday on the boat we do see the Pied Kingfisher and although I have mentioned them before, I can’t get enough of this quaint little bird. Will this be the last posting of this bird, ummm I don’t think so. opps, sorry about that but I just love the textures, the shape and the character of this bird.
often I’m asked, do I ever get tired of Africa. That’s a strange question as Africa is alive, it is full of life and no matter where you are in Africa there is a learning experience to take in.
I love the elephant as many of you know who read my blogs and being on the boat enables me to take detail shots. Photography is about telling the story not just capturing the obvious. Hopefully over time , I will be able to reveal more of the detail shots that I take as it’s important to be able to capture images that give you more information.
One of the animals that doesn’t appeal to me in a big way is the buffalo. I’m not sure as to why, maybe it stems back to when they were in the top end of Australia and then they were culled out totally as they were regarded as a pest in Australia as they were not native to Oz. Having said all of that, while we were on the Chobe River we had a heard of 200 plus make its way down to the waters edge. We stayed there for a while and being so close to them,gave me some wonderful shots that were not possible otherwise.
All of us were clicking away. This is what I love about the tours that I run and Africa is no exception. You are never rushed, we have time and when you have time to look, reflect, compose, you can wait for the picture to happen.With the images that I post with the buffalo, that’s what took place, it was just waiting to see what compositions would take place. Clear the camera is not going to take the picture for you, you still need to be in the driving seat to snap away at the right moment, to be able to visualise what may happen next. When the animals were all down at the waters edge drinking, the compositions were endless and so rewarding.
One of the most rewarding moments for me with these creatures is how the Buffalo allows the the Oxpecker to get in and do its thing.The Oxpecker has the most amazing relationship not just with the buffalo but with most of the animal kingdom in Africa.
Oxpeckers role is mutually beneficial to the animals that it decides to hop onto and these can range from the elephants, giraffes, Rhinos, hippos and the list is almost endless. They peck at the open surface of the animal which is caused by skin parasites. By doing this they may keep wounds open and susceptible to secondary infections.
Oxpeckers have short legs and very sharp claws which help the birds cling to the fur of an animal as they search for parasites. Their tail feathers that are stiffened and act in the manner of a tripod to help prop the bird up against the bodies of their hosts as they feed. Their pointed bill acts like a comb, as they move through the fur to locate their food source and in this case, the parasites.
Oxpeckers nest in cavities of dead trees and these birds just have free access to what ever animal they wish to. It is not uncommon to have 5-10 birds on one animal doing its thing on them.
I love the facial expression here. The eye is closed to give access to the Oxpecker and once in the Oxpecker takes on the ear, the expression changes and that’s what I love about taking people to Africa as nothing is scripted as this is wildlife at its rawest.
This is why I love this river so much as you can see how close we do get. This pic shows Roger in action with the camera and this ele had just walked right past us as we were just resting on the bank.
There are just so many shots from Chobe that I could include in this section but there is another part of Botswana that we blazed the trail to. From here it was time for our quaint bush camp which was awesome and this came with its own en suite as well.
We had to fly in to our campsite in a Caravan as they call the plane, smooth , safe and and waiting for us was my good friends Rod and President Clinton. Why do I call him President Clinton-it’s an affectionate term to a wonderful guy. Both guys are wonderful people and what I love about Rod and President Clinton is that when I do touch base with them , it is like we take off from where we left each other. You can’t beat that type of friendship.
Below are our modes of transport for the next 4 days. Four people per car and I do this as at any one point you always have a good view for the shot that you want to take, you don’t have to squeeze past another to take the shot. All you simple have to do is slide across and the shot is there for you to take.
How can you not like these boys. Around the campfire they have amazing stories that they share, some funny, others you scratch your head and wonder” how can people be so stupid” It doesn’t take you long to warm up to the boys and they both have awesome personalities. there tracking skills are outstanding and they do appreciate photography and know what ” the light ” is all about.
On our way to camp as an introduction to Africa we came across a tower of giraffe. This was a gentle reminder that we were in Africa. As you land on the dirt airstrip you could be anywhere and there is no hint that you are in the middle of the worlds largest wildlife park called Africa. It doesn’t matter how many times that I have been here, I’m always in awe with what I see, when I see it and I never take it for granted.
As we were making our way to camp to get our gear organised, to settle in and have lunch before we head out to the afternoon photography session, we came across a small herd of zebra and it was here that I was able to take my most favourite zebra shot of all time . When I photograph the zebra, there are many images that I have in my mind as they are such graphic animals to photography due to their outstanding strips. It was here right alongside the dirt track that I was able to take what I see as my classic image of the zebra that I have been wanting to get for a while. It may not be the best image that I have taken but it is the best image in my view that I have taken with the zebra with its strips.
This is an awesome camp spot, right on the river and as you went to sleep you heard the sounds of the hippos, crickets, frogs and the elephants doing their thing in the dark. The stars shown brightly and you had to remind yourself that you were deepest Africa and as I lay on the bed I reflected to myself what an honor and privilege it was to be sleeping under the stars in Africa.
These beds were so comfortable and I have never slept so well. All cuddled up at night and not wanting to get up each morning as it was just so cozy at night. Before I talk about the trip, there is one picture that sets the peacefulness of this area and this is a picture of Doug chilling out before going out in the afternoon and he was just outside of his tent on his laptop looking at the days images with the peacefulness of the surrounds.Doug was a real character and the more the trip went on, his sense of humor shone in the most unexpected ways.
This was our main meeting place the dining room and I have to say that the food was simply amazing. All of the food was cooked over the campfire and my regret is that I should have taken some food shots. I don’t take food shots as I think in our western world people have gone over board on that but in this case, I should have to given you an example of how awesome the food is at this place. The food no matter what you had melted in your mouth.
Part of the adventure to cruising around and following the tracks of the animals, learning the identification of the animals. Others are easier than others to track and to identify. Life can be an adventure if you allow it to be and this is just one of those adventures in the cars. Notice that I only have 4 in each car and not 12 or 16. On my tours I don’t do rack em, pack em and stack em.
My Tours may be a little more expensive but you do benefit from that enormously in so many ways. You have your seat to yourself and you can side to the side of the car to where the animals are.
The best way to photograph wildlife is to sit still and wait. We live in a world where everything is on the go and when we are asked to sit still , we struggle with that. The best results that you’ll get from photographing wildlife is being prepared to sit quietly and see what comes your way. The next series of pics we were stationary and this wonderful creature came reasonably close to be able to take some detailed shots. Photography is about telling the story and its also about showing the detailed shots that often go neglected by people. What I love about Africa is that we do have time, we are there for one purpose and that is to photograph these awesome creatures.
If your mind set is right, then waiting won’t be an issue. We all have different interests and no matter what your passion is, if you have to wait for things to come about, you will. If something is not your passion then you will struggle with the concept of waiting. I get many people doing my workshops where their partner stays home as they don’t like it when there partner pulls over to wait for something to happen to take place. Often the comment is” are you done now, can we go” or” how much longer do we have to wait”? The list goes on and on. That’s why doing photo tours with myself and being on the right page, you never have to go through that.
Never forget the details shots no matter where you are as they will always add interest to your collection of images that tell the story.
When you come to Africa there is never any guarantee that you’ll see all that you want to. Why is that? Wildlife is just that, it’s wild and it can be anyway. My crew were very blessed as on our first day on the bush camp we saw leopard but not only did we see this magnificent creature, it was the setting that we saw it in and the quality of the image with the compositions that was gold. These images will tell the story.
This image of the leopard is not a striking image but this was our first sighting and like all sightings that are your first, it is always exciting and little did we know what laid ahead for us with this lovely creature. Never take what you see, what you photograph for granted as wildlife is never predicable.
Through this time which was a massive highlight and a highlight for myself as well. I was so glad that Rosepetal was able to see this. She is an animal lover and I have never met anyone else who has the same passion for animals and such a big heart for them. It was great to observe her excitement as she look at this wonderful female leopard. All she wanted to do was go and give it a hug but we know that’s not possible. For Rosepetal Africa was an eye opener on so many different levels and Africa to her was everything plus more. She fell in love with the elephant and just adored the animals overall. As the tip progressed there was something Rosepetal did all the time when she saw the animals. I was sitting in the back of the trucks and I observed this all of the time. So what was this? Well you’ll find out later if you keep reading.
What was great with this leopard was that the sun was setting. As the sun was making its way down to go to sleep to light up the other side of the world, the colors were changing all the time.The gold colors were emerging and where she sat, the shadows were moving which meant the light was slowly changing to different parts of her body and from a photographers point of view, this was priceless and a photographers dream. The is the key to any discipline of photography and wildlife photography is no different.
There are so many pictures of this session that I could post and will have to discipline myself what I do post but when you are in two locations of the same leopard and both locations are awesome with magic light it is very hard to choose. As I mentioned before, this wonderful creature made her way to where she wanted to be and just sat there. Also as I have mentioned many times before, we are never in a hurry and we just waited and waited as we had the passing light and as the light and shadows would pass, the photography was going into meltdown.
To have the passing light pass over the face of the leopard is a dream for photographers and I was so glad that this took place.As a teacher you can speak about this sort of things and to the guest it becomes more real when they are there to see it take place before their eyes.To have the eye highlighted as well was a treat and I love it when you can put photography into practice in real situations. I cannot stress that this series of images was only possible with outstanding guides in Rod and President Clinton and to have time. I can’t stress that enough, to have time in one place and to see everything fall into place.
For some time she was content and then she jumped up, and moved to another log.This log was totally out in the evening light and the golden cast over her and the back ground was gold.Literally gold.
Most leopards are light colored with have dark spots on their fur. The spots are known as “rosettes” because their shape is similar to that of a rose. What people may not know also is that there are , black leopards as well but often these can be confused with panthers as the spots on a black leopard are hard to see as the fur is so dark. have I ever seen a black leopard? No.
The leopard is not just found in Africa but also in Central Asia, India and China.
Leopards can run as fast as 58km/h and are can leap 6metrs forward through the air – that’s an amazing distance when you think about it. They are also loners and solitary creatures and spend much of their life on their own outside of raising their young. They have their own territory and mark their ground with urine and scratches on trees.The only time the male and female will cross from region to another is to mate with a another.
They have a varied menus and enjoy bugs, fish, antelope, monkeys, rodents, deer in fact, pretty much any prey that is available. They are not fussy eaters.
As we know they are awesome climbers and when they kill their prey , most of the time they will drag it up the tree to leave it there out of reach of most .But if they are too slow as we saw on one case, the bigger cats can move in and steal it. We did see this which you’ll see later in this blog and all the leopard could do was watch in frustration.
Leopards are active at night when they venture out in search for food. The days are mostly spent resting and using their camouflaged in the trees to their advantage.There is no substitute for low evening light on your subject.Female leopards give birth any time of the year and they usually give birth to two or three cubs. She will stay with her young cubs for the first 2 years and then its out on your own.Like most cats, they communicate through there growls, grunts that they make with their vocal cords.
What I love about wildlife photography you never know what lies behind the next bush, tree, corner, waterhole and so on. That is what makes it so exciting.
At the end of the day we head somewhere for sundowners to reflect on the day and to watch the sun go down.
Most people when they come to Africa have their favorite animal that they feel closer to or identify with. Those who know me , know it is the elephant.Rod and President Clinton are crazy over wild dog or otherwise known as Painted Dog. When they get wind of Painted Dog in the area, it’s batten down the hatches and off you go and if you think I’m pulling your leg, think again. It is an adventure that you don;t expect that you are going to take. They are such an unusual creature, very skinny, no fat whatsoever and can they hunt and run They are swift, precise and no fuss type of animal.African wild dogs are certainly some of the most misunderstood. They are critically endangered, with an estimated 5,000 left in the wild.Sightings are rare outside of specific areas. They are Africa’s most effective predators, boasting an 80% success rate with hunts which out strips the Lion which has a success rate of 30% roughly.
I have been fortunate to be in the chase with the African Wild Dog as it hunts its prey and they move so fast and their communication with each other is amazing and they all know their role, they know what is expected and they all have there role to play in the hunt.Lycaon pictus is there scientific name and means painted wolf.Like many of the animals in Africa, each painted dog has its own unique pattern on its fur. No pattern is ever duplicated on another wild dog. This is one way that you can identify the dogs over time.
The social structure of a wild dog pack is a fascinating, almost altruistic system. Like other pack animals there is a strict hierarchy, with an alpha breeding pair in charge of the group and the rest of the pack members are all subordinates. When a litter of pups is born, they take priority over even the alphas. At first pups are fed by the dogs regurgitating fresh meat after returning from a hunt, but once old enough, they are taken to the kill and given first choice over the spoils. The other dogs patiently wait on the side lines, standing guard until their turn to feed. They almost never fight amongst themselves over food due to this ranking system.
When a dog becomes ill, injured or elderly restricting or even incapacitating their effectiveness as a hunter, the rest of the pack cares for and feeds them. Recently the alpha female of a pack in Botswana lost one of her forelegs during a hunt. For any other predator, this would be a death sentence. However, she remained the alpha female for a few years afterwards continuing to breed and raise pups while being looked after by the pack.
The dogs are nomadic to a point and can travel up to 50kms in a day and when they are denning , it is then that they will remain in that area.
The key is the communication and that is non stop between the wild dogs who constantly let one another know both their location and that of the prey. Their high intelligence and teamwork allows them to adapt to changing scenarios during a hunt.They are simply stunning in the way they hunt together and it is not uncommon for 12-14 days to be in one pack which means the hunted is not going to have a lot of success is surviving the massive onslaught.
The way the wild dog greet each other is a sight to see as the affection that they show to each other is amazing.When they hunt their prey they do it in way that they wear their prey down. Like the Olympic cycling they take it in turns leading in the front and over time, the pray becomes totally exhausted as each time the dogs change the leader giving chase, it is like a fresh pair of legs in the front. Is that not stunning?
The last shot of the day with the Painted Dogs came when the sun had set, the light was poor and out of nowhere one of the dogs was chasing a Kudu. There was no time to do anything but hang the camera over at the back of the car. I had cranked the ISO up to 5000 as the action was fast. I couldn’t see the action to focus, so all I could do is hang the camera over the back and click away and that’s what I did and this was the result. All I had to do was straighten the horizon a little as I had non idea where I was shooting but given the situation, I’m over the moon with this shot. Did the Kudu get taken down? No, this one got away and the river saved it. So it lives to see another day and the dogs failed in their attempt to bring it down. If there was no river, this Kudu would not have see the next day.
If there is an animal that is stunning to photograph it is the zebra. Every time we saw Zebra that was reasonable close I would either ask Rod or President Clinton to stop so we could try and get some detail shots.
Keep in mind that the patterns on the zebra are their finger print as every pattern is unique to that individual zebra. I just love it when you can get close enough to take shots like the one above. As I have mentioned before, the power of the photographer is to show what he or she sees through their own eyes. That is a honor to have to bring things to people that they may not have been aware of and yet they could be standing at the same place at the same time and not see the above.
A feature that really makes an impact on me every time I see the zebra is the mane, its like its been to the barber and its just had its mane cut as they are all the same size, all even unlike the horse.
From a photographic point of view the zebra will give you action shots if you are patient enough. I always tell my guests to be on the look out when you are with these creatures as they are so aggressive towards each other. They are either kicking each other or they are on there hind legs having a go at each other. You will see this when we hit the Namibian section of the trip. So if you are ever in Africa with me, watch these creatures as in my opinion they are the most aggressive animal to their own kind and you will get some amazing action shots. All you have to do is watch and beware .These will feature in greater detail later on in Namibia.That is the wonderful thing about the Africa animals, is that each gives you something unique to photograph. No animal is boring to observe nor photograph.
The zebra portrait is always imposing and stunning and you can’t go wrong as the colors, the stripes demand your attention.
Its just not on the ground but above you as well. Rod pointed out the hawk in the tree, I don’t recall what type of hawk it is. If you are reading this, feel free to contact me to let me know and I will replace it with the correct name. Rod was excellent as he knows animal behavior so well, he alerted us that it was about to fly and to be ready for that moment.I was si glad that we all were able to capture this wonderful bird in flight.
To give you another example how good Rod and Clinton are, Rod spotted this Giant Owl. It’s not a good shot that I have taken but the reason that I’m posting it is that you can never underestimate the value of good and outstanding guides as these two are. If we were doing this on our own, we would have missed this owl and Rod picked it up based on sounds that were being made at the time.
When you go to Africa you will have so many highlights and it is hard to isolate just one. In my case I have a bunch of them. The next part of the blog that I’m going to share is one of those bunch of highlights. We left camp early as all the departures are early, around 6am which is a good thing as the animals are most active in the early morning and afternoons.In the early hours we came across a lion who was calling his brother to be able to locate him. We stopped and listen to him which was just gold.
This fella clearly has been in a fight as his right eye had been injured. He sat down and was in the right position to see the sunlight hit is adorable face. His eye looked so sore and all I wanted to do was to bath it for him but we all know how that would have ended for me.
Later in that morning we also saw him swim to the other side of the river which was lovely as had awesome light on him with glass like reflections. You can never predict wildlife where they are going to be, you just have to run with the flow and in this case , we were blessed with these photographic opportunities that we were given.
There are moments that you just don’t have words for and in fact much of Africa is like that. Africa is wildlife at its best. Yes it can be brutal at times when the animals hunt but one needs to remind ones self that the animals only hunt for food, to survive whereas humans do things for no reason at all in certain areas.
To be continued… each day when I get a chance I’ll add to this blog on the trip to Africa where I took another group of awesome people to share this awesome land…