I’ve not been having much success in crafting regular posts these days. I had planned on dedicating a post to birds in flight, but many of the photos I thought I would use do not look as crisp as I would like, and are now in the reject pile. Besides, it seemed a bit discriminatory towards those birds I have had the pleasure photographing that do not have the gift of flight.
So instead I’ve put together a rather random selection of birds to feature this week, and fingers crossed I will have both the time and inspiration for something more next week.
I headed out at 6am on Saturday, armed with a travel mug of coffee, my camera, tripod and ND filter, in the hopes of practicing some long exposure landscape photos at the Pitt River. My intention was to work on techniques that when converted to monochrome, renders the water looking misty and any clouds in the sky ethereal. But the BC weather foiled me again – it was TOO NICE. I won’t complain about that, ever, I just couldn’t photograph what I had hoped to.
I’ve noted the settings that I have used and some of the combinations may seem a bit odd. I was playing around in manual mode and while it was bright, I was in the shade. Since I had my tripod, I went with the one thing my instructor repeated a good half dozen times in class “If you have access to a tripod, you have no reason to use anything other than ISO 100.”
The river was smooth like glass and a lovely Great Blue Heron sat on a pillar in the water the entire time I was out, giving me the opportunity for some lovely shots of both the hills and the water, and the heron. I’m sure I’ll be back to African animals later in the week, but I was pretty happy with these shots, taken so close to home.
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 It makes me feel sad and dismayed that people cling to these outdated, and patently false beliefs about the power of Rhino Horn (or Bear Gallbladder, Tiger parts…) Sadly, as long as there is a market for these items, people will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.
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.
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.