Hey you – made you look! You probably weren’t expecting a post dedicated to Rhinos, were you?
Part of my desire to see a Rhino was based on fear. Fear that if I waited too long, they would be poached into extinction. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen. At last count, 273 had been lost in Kruger National Park this year alone. It makes me feel sad and dismayed that people cling to these outdated, and patently false beliefs about the power of Rhino Horn (or Bear Gallbladder, Tiger parts…) Sadly, as long as there is a market for these items, people will continue to brutalize animals.
The first time I saw a Rhino, it was somewhat anti-climatic. We were just about to stop for sundowners, and there they were…. It was one of those sighting that I had to be told where to look, and I still didn’t see them at first. They were far from us, in the tall grasses and amongst some bushes, in the falling light. Blackish grey blobs in the distance. Even at 300mm zoom, I couldn’t get a decent view of them. It didn’t help that the group of three was so focused on grazing, not a single one raised their heads the entire time we were stopped. It was exciting to know they were there, but I really didn’t get a sense of them at all.
It wasn’t until our last evening game drive that we had a proper opportunity to watch the rhinos and get some good photo opportunities. I was surprised by how close we were able to be to them in the vehicle, but they were completely unconcerned with us. We were completely captivated viewing them, and they were completely captivated by their grazing. I had heard previously that rhinos have terrible vision, and looking at them up close, it is easy to understand that fact, as they appear to have very small eyes in proportion to their body size, and they always look to me a bit squinty, like they need a strong pair of glasses.
This little bird captivated me from my first sighting, but proved to be a difficult photography subject for the first couple of days. Obviously there was the usual scenario – that birds don’t necessarily sit still long enough for photographs. Then I had overcast weather or flat out rain that did not do the colours justice, or fading evening light. But in the end, I managed several lovely shots, one of which is now framed so I can see it every day.
“The Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus) is a member of the roller family of birds. It is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula, preferring open woodland and savanna; it is largely absent from treeless places. Usually found alone or in pairs, it perches conspicuously at the tops of trees, poles or other high vantage points from where it can spot insects, lizards, scorpions, snails, small birds and rodents moving about at ground level.
Nesting takes place in a natural hole in a tree where a clutch of 2–4 eggs is laid, and incubated by both parents, who are extremely aggressive in defence of their nest, taking on raptors and other birds. During the breeding season the male will rise to great heights, descending in swoops and dives, while uttering harsh, discordant cries.
The sexes are alike in coloration. Juveniles do not have the long tail feathers that adults do.
I look forward each week to the Londolozi photo blog. It brings me back to a place I loved and whets my appetite for a return trip. This week James mentioned two things that got me thinking. The first was a computer problem causing photo access issues – a great reminder to hook up my portable harddrive and do another backup (plus a secondary backup in case of a serious meltdown). The second was a photo he included that he noted was a photographic failure, but the story of the sighting was amazing (check out the week in photos #80 on the Londolozi site). Had I not had the explanation, I wouldn’t have gotten the full impact of the photo. Which got me thinking about the lion cubs we saw while at Londolozi.
The photos I have of the cubs include some of the most shockingly poor photos I have taken. Out of focus, odd colour, motion blur when there shouldn’t be, depth of field that was inappropriate for the situation, highly grainy & filled with noise… Honestly without the story behind the photos, people would probably think one of two things:
1) “That is the first time this person held a camera… and it didn’t go well.”
2) “The photographer was drunk.”
I can assure you that this gem was taken by someone, who although is in perpetual learning mode when it comes to photography, has definitely held a camera before, and was also stone cold sober (in fact, I’m quite certain I have managed far more in focus photos than this after a glass or three of wine. (I have no idea how I managed to cut her feet off and make her float.)
So why, out of 98 photos, did only a handful turn out?
The weather was poor when we headed out for our afternoon game drive – the ponchos went on right away, and I actually took my iPhone with me in case I couldn’t get my Nikon out (note to self, I need to get rain gear for my camera for the next trip). We found tracks of a lion pride, and followed them up through the trees and a dried riverbed, and eventually found the pride – with four adults and 7 cubs. As we had been driving, the weather got steadily worse. Lead gray skies, pouring with rain as well as cold and windy. Perhaps Mother Nature just wanted to ensure that the people from BC felt right at home in South Africa! I finally extracted my camera from beneath my poncho and instead of trying to coordinate manual settings, I just put it on auto – and the camera couldn’t focus (the joyous “Subject too dark” message – and wanting to us the flash on a subject 20+ feet away). Back to manual mode, I found that to get a correctly exposed photo,I would need to use an exposure time of around 2 seconds. Long exposures are great – with stationary objects and a tripod. Playful lion cubs? Not so much. So I snapped away using the slowest time I thought I could manage, and mostly just watched. Because when Talley and Freddy started saying things like “This is special – we don’t see this everyday” it was all about the experience. The camera was definitely a secondary consideration, and not something that would take my focus off the scene.
The lion cubs played in the rain on a fallen tree – they climbed, wrestled a bit – they entertained us immensely, and the rain and cold didn’t matter at all. They stayed in the area a good 20-30 minutes before setting off. We were also lucky enough that day to see an old female lion, who has since passed on.
The lions gave us great viewing opportunities at Londolozi, from the mating pair on night one, to the beautiful male I wrote about earlier, to the playful cubs, and rounding out with a male and female stalking impala as we drove off in the transport on route to the airport (actually a male watching a female stalk impala). Not to mention the calls we heard throughout the night each night we spent at Londolozi.
Below are a couple of the shots I managed to salvage. The nice clear shots will have to live on only in my head – unless I’m lucky enough to see such a sight on my next trip, with far more favourable lighting conditions.
Now that I am FINALLY finished my Bachelor of Commerce degree, I have been able to start taking photography courses. Learning more about photography technique is something that I have wanted to do for awhile, I just never had the time. I was so excited to be finished my degree; to have more free time to pursue other interests, but in the end, I lasted a measly 7 weeks without any school. I just enjoy learning new things.
In Saturday’s class, we were working on an editing process and asked to bring in a minimum of 100 shots, and they could be recent or something that we did previously, as long as it was shot in RAW. So I packed up about 800 pictures from two days at Londolozi, and headed off to class. At the end of our editing exercise, we had to submit the 8 best edited shots we had.
The woman that sits next to me described it as “Sick!” – I was pretty sure that was good, but I actually double checked on urban dictionary to be certain (and then I felt old….) I think this photo falls into my top ten shots taken at Londolozi and probably in my top ten shots of the entire trip.
This beautiful Lion (I believe he is referred to as Hip-Scar Majingilane, but I could be mistaken) provided us with wonderful photo opportunities. He was located right at the entrance to the property, and was very casual around us, and went about his business grooming, snoozing and staying very still for great shots.
I could have spent the whole day watching this fella, and I imagine if I had the opportunity to see him daily, I would never grow tired of it.
***November 30, 2015: Note I’ve had to update this post as I had to reload the original images that I included with this post.
My pup has been sick this week – nothing really serious – “tummy troubles” – but he is my fur kid, and any time he is hurting, I am hurting. I get pretty sappy and sentimental when I think of everything that my boy means to me. But I know he won’t be here forever, so I try to think of every day as a gift with him. We have a great time whether we are heading out for walks, or cuddling on the couch.
Spencer loves his toys, and now that I have a great camera, I have tried to capture Spencer in action.
I first came across the term sundowners on a trip to Hong Kong. Basically, it’s just a fancier way of saying an after work drink.
Now, popping into a nice pub or sitting on a patio having an after work drink is a great, but having a sundowner on the African Bushveld, or a Zambezi River cruise – that’s absolutely fantastic. I admit freely that these photos are not the best pictures I have taken. The photos really weren’t the point – they were almost an afterthought.
On the river cruise, I relaxed and chatted with my parents, enjoyed a cold Zambian beer and spotted wild life and birds on the shore. I had some fun playing with my camera photographing the sunset on full zoom, and ended up with the photos below, filled with colour.
For sundowners at Londolozi, I enjoyed the company of our fabulous guide and tracker, Talley and Freddy, the other guests along for the game viewing, and a cold glass of Chenin Blanc (and far too many Chili Bites). I even left my camera on the vehicle, not just once but on two different evenings and had to climb back up for it, as I was so content simply enjoying the peace and tranquility of watching the sunset in what I can honestly say was my favorite place on earth.
I am shocked I managed to get this last photo, as I didn’t have a tripod and was trying to avoid the dreaded camera shake on a fairly lengthy exposure.
Before I left for my first trip to Africa, people would ask me what I was most looking forward to seeing. Of course, I would say “Everything!”. I enjoy nature, love watching wildlife and birds, and enjoy traveling and seeing new places, so I really was looking forward to seeing everything. When pressed though, I would admit I would really love to see a baby elephant, and wild dogs.
As we were traveling to the Zambezi River and a taking a day trip into Botswana, I knew the chances of seeing a baby elephant (or many baby elephants as it would turn out) was quite high. In talking to people though, wild dogs seemed very unlikely. My ranger at Londolozi explained that for private reserves, unless the wild dogs den on the site, viewings are very rare because the wild dogs travel over great distances, and are a threatened species, so there are not many of them to see. She also told me of more than one group she knew of that had been on several safaris, never to see the elusive wild dogs.
In Botswana, we spent a lovely morning on a boat cruise, viewing elephants, hippos, water buffaloes, crocodiles and loads of different types of birds. In the afternoon, we went for a game drive in Chobe Park, allowing us to get much closer to the elephants. Our lovely guide Mike pulled over early in the drive to read a text message sent by another guide, and told us that wild dogs had had a kill the previous day in the area, and would likely still be near the water hole – would we like to try and find them? I answered yes for the group and we went off on an hours trek, up to the water hole, following their last tracks, over to their kill site – which by this point was nothing more than a pile of bones being fought over by vultures.
Just as we were giving up hope of seeing them, another guide had found their position, and a few minutes later, we were sitting amongst a pack of wild dogs – 18 in total. They were enjoying the shade, trying to beat the mid afternoon heat and digest the large meal they had recently had. The lighting was unfortunate for photography, but the experience was simply amazing.
This photo was taken April 2013 while on a safari boat cruise at the Chobe Marina Lodge in Botswana.
I was lucky enough to travel for two weeks in Southern Africa with my parents, and on this morning, we saw many breeding herds of elephants. This baby spent a great deal of time in the river playing. She was rolling in the river, submerging herself and sticking her trunk up, spraying water around – generally behaving like a small child having a great deal of fun on a warm, late summer day.
I took hundreds of photos that day. Actually, probably closer to a thousand, but this view remains my favourite. Seeing mama and baby in perfect step with one another, heading off to a new area to graze and play, was amazing to view in person. Looking back at it now brings a smile to my face.