Saturday, November 29, 2008

Weekly High Five #23

It is always slightly surreal sitting in the concrete jungle while looking through the images on the Photo-Africa Stock Library and having to choose images for the High Five.  During these times I appreciate these images just that little more. 

You see, many events during the last few days have triggered thoughts about appreciation.  Even at the best of times my head is quite a busy place so this morning when I woke up quite early I decided to take all these thoughts and ideas and go for a jog.  As I walked outside I was absolutely blown away by the color of the clouds as the sun was rising over the Johannesburg skyline.  As I set out it was strange to see that almost no one even paid the slightest bit of attention to the painted sky.  Apparently no appreciation.

It has, the last while, also seemed that many people who visit Game Reserves have this same kind of attitude.  Expectation rather than appreciation.  One would think that when visiting a place of such awe inspiring beauty people would take a moment to just let their preconceived ideas go and appreciate the privilege of being out in the wild.  Out in a place that, tragically, will more than likely not be around forever. Out in Africa.  

Perhaps this is one of the things that drives wildlife photographers in Africa.  Creating, or at the very least attempting to create, images that will stand the test of time and many years from now still be able to convey the power, beauty and mystery of Africa.  There are many different ways in which these images can create a visual memory and awareness and therein lies the challenge and reward.

By taking a visual safari through the diversity of African wildlife images available on Photo-Africa it is in a very small way good to know that the photographers out there are all capturing the African magic in their own special and diverse ways.  With that in mind, here goes with this week High Five.

Image 1 - Playing Wild Dog Pups by Grant Marcus

A good capture of one of Africa's most endangered species.  I quite like the long crop which makes your gaze move sideways across the image enhancing the feeling of movement.  My initial thought was that it would have been nice to see the dog on the left completely in the frame.  Problem would then have been that the dog being targeted by the others would have been close to the centre of the image which might have taken some of the image's strength away.  If you have ever witnessed these little guys go at it you will know that is quite difficult to decide where to point your camera.  By focusing on the dog being picked on Grant got a great action image.

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Image 2 - Rhino Horn by Gavin Tonkinson

White rhino is one of my favourite photographic subjects and this image shows why.  These giants of the African savannas must be one of the animals that offer you the most amazing lines and shapes.  You could spend an entire afternoon photographing them and images like this will be your reward.  Gavin's framing here is spot on and the front horn leads your view from top to bottom and then you slowly work your way back up to the small horn at the back.  Nice and crisp with great use of late afternoon and perfect black background makes this one of those images that, in my opinion, transcends the normal wildlife image and moves towards abstract art.  Great close up.

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Image 3 - Blurry Lions Playing by Gavin Tonkinson

Wildlife photography contains an undeniable element of luck and this images shows what the result can be.  Animals are unpredictable yet if you work with what they give you this is the result.  Gavin managed to use a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the centre lion, who played along and stood still for long enough, yet blur the motion of the other two lions running around.  This image almost demands a double take as it looks like the one lion is running into the still standing cat - almost as if they are merging into one.  The black and white on this image keeps the ghost-like feeling of movement going.  Nice one!

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Image 4 - Hyena and Flamingoes by Paul Benson

Mood.  Something that is quite challenging to capture out in the wild but something that Paul did perfectly in this image.  The use of color is perfect with the orange mist and black top and bottom framing the scene with emotion and mood.  The hyena moving across the bottom of the frame while visibly looking at the bird creates a mood of foreboding and mystery.  Even though at first glance the image seemed pretty straightforward a lot of elements make it work perfectly.

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Image 5 - Wild Dog Motion by Gavin Tonkinson

Great motion capture.  This image shows that even when you start running out of light it is still possible to capture striking images.  By tracking your subject you can create artistic images.  This image stood out for me as the background assists the feeling of movement to the left due to the diagonal lines 'dropping' in the direction that the dog is moving.  Wild Dogs move around and rather then stop shooting when they do this around the end of the day, select a slower shutter speed and keep firing away!  Love this image and my pick for this week!

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Nice collection of images that show there are more than one way to photograph and appreciate wildlife.

Since writing this post, a large number of new images have been added to the Stock Site and from Monday I will be catching up on all my own editing and uploading quite a few new ones.  Make sure to stop in at the site and have a look at more great African Wildlife & Nature images. 

As always I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time.

A Legal Question - Saturday Humour

I have just gotten back to Johannesburg.  I have a lot of things to try and do during the week at home and it's also Adele's birthday on Sunday so quite busy all round but I will be uploading the Weekly High Five sometime this weekend. 

In the meantime here is an email that got me smiling!

A Legal Question

Is this statutory rape or a monumental mistake?

Poor thing really needs a girlfriend!! :)

Will be back soon.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Girafffe Sunset

Summer in Africa is a magical time and produces some of the most amazing sunsets.

This is one of the first sunset images I have gotten since the rain clouds moved away a week or so ago. Absolutely loved the sky, which was what made me want to get the shot, and then this giraffe was kind enough to pose in exactly the right place.

I am sure there will be more great sunsets and sunset images during the next few months!

As always I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time.


The Changing of the Guard

It is amazing how things change.

The Batia male lions have been the two 'godfathers' of Madikwe for almost 14 years now. They were the first two lions to be introduced into Madikwe and is probably also the most photographed lions in the reserve. Absolute legends.

Approaching 17 years of age they are now visibly old and, unfortunately, very close to their end. One of the brothers is close to our lodge on a wildebeest kill which he has now been guarding for almost 4 days. We have stopped in to view him on a couple of occasions and in a way it is sad to see how this once mighty beast is fading with age.

Even though his body is old and his movements labored you can still see the experience, power and spirit in his eyes as this image, taken yesterday, shows.

It is anybodies guess as to how long these two titans will still be around. Possibly until 2009? Perhaps even a little longer? How will their story end? Who will take over from them? No one knows but until the changing of the guard we will continue to follow their story with a passionate interest as we capture the last few chapters of the Batia's Story!

If you have been to Madikwe and have any images of the Batia Brothers you can email them to me as I am putting together a 'picture story' of their life and will post all these images along with their story on the Blog when the time comes.

On a slightly different and more philosophical note.

Have you ever had to make a choice in your life - and then end up making a choice only to have almost the exact same scenario present itself all over again.

What if you made your (difficult) choice and subsequently things did not work out like you thought it would only for life to mix things up even further and present you with a completely different road to travel. Life is never without irony and without expecting it this new road leads you right back to the original choice.

Do you make the same choice and see if this time the road leads to where you think it could or do you take the option that has now been presented to you for a second time. Do you even make a choice?

Kinda helps to write these things down. Makes you think a little clearer about how everything fits together and maybe even assists in making the choice! :) Anyway, enough of my philosophical rhetoric for now. More on this when, and if the time comes.

As always I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time.


Attempt at Bird Photography

I have never done a huge amount of bird photography and truly admire the work of photographers who spend the time to get crisp action images.

Make no mistake, I like my birding and my list is growing but I believe it takes a great deal of patience, skill and good luck to get mind blowing bird images. It is also quite difficult when on drive to spend time to photograph the bird world as you are on the vehicle and it can be difficult to get yourself in the perfect position and to move the vehicle is not the quietest episode.

My dream would be to get a prime lens, something like a 600mm f.4 and do some bird photography with that. This is a challenge I will play with and hopefully get some 'decent' birding images.

Here are a few of the birding images that I was able to capture from the vehicle during the last three days.

European Roller (Coracias garrulus). These guys have just returned to Madikwe after their winter vacation. They are one of the more dull Rollers but still beautiful bird.

Coqui Francolin (Peliperdix coqui). One of the very shy Francolin species. They are terrestrial and it's the first time I have ever even come close to getting an image of one of them. The male has the copper head while the female has lines on the eyebrow and a white neck.

Cape Glossy Starling (Lamprotornis nitens). A very common bird in pretty much any game reserve in Southern Africa. The colours on these guys can vary from pitch black to dark green and metallic blue - all depending on the way the sunlight catches them. Not often appreciated, but stunning looking bird.

Red Crested Korhaan (Eupodotis ruficrista). Also known as a 'Suicide Bird' due to it's breeding disply where it flies up into the air and then tumbles to the ground as though he has been shot. Apparently the Korhaan girls quite like that kind of thing! This guy can be seen in full cry just before he flies up to do his 'act of bravery'.

Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta). The direct translation of 'Hamerkop' is Hammer-head and you can see why. They feed in the shallows of watering holes and catch prey such as frogs and fish. The lighting on this guys was pretty bad so I took the shot with the intention of creating a silhouette in Photoshop. The above image is the final result. Still hoping to get one of these in that early morning light!

Just a few for now but I will keep working at it and hopefully some more birding images soon.

As always I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Found - Dr. Doolittle's PushmePullyou in Africa!

The game viewing has definitely picked up after the sun came out a few days ago. So much so that this morning I found this...

It's a 'Rhino-PushmePullyou'!! :)

Nah, seriously. We sat watching these two White Rhino for quite some time. They were being very accommodating as they posed for us all to snap away. As the youngster walked behind it's mother I saw this through my viewfinder and could not help but have a quiet little chuckle. It's not quite the two-headed Lama from the original movie but I reckon it's pretty close!

Other than the game viewing the birds are all also back after their winter break. I have been taking a lot of bird images the last few days and will try and get them onto the blog tomorrow.

Before I go one more images that made me smile.

This Zebra was REALLY enjoying his roll-around in the dust. You can almost see the pleasure on his face.

Thanks a lot to all the recent comments! We are a little hectic until Thursday but I will get back to you during next week when Adele and I are on a short break in Johannesburg.

As always I look forward to hearing from you!

Until next time.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Week So Far

Just a quick post before we head out on what seems will be our first evening drive without clouds in almost two weeks!!

In no particular order, a few images of the week so far.

It's all in the eyes. Found this 'blonde' young leopard a few days ago. She is extremely chill but just did not want to come out from behind this bush.

When we drove back past the same spot again she made it a little easier. She was checking out some impala from her elevated position.

These two young male impala was having a 'friendly negotiation' about nothing in particular. They were not very serious about their fight but made for a few interesting images.

Another 'funny face' image to add to the collection for the upcoming book! :)

I was quite excited to get two Steenbok together. First time I was ever able to capture a pair of them. After a few images they decided to bolt together and I was able to get this shot. Quite like it!

To end of with something different. I got this image at Sun City's 'Valley of the Waves'. We took all the Tuningi staff their for the annual Xmas party. This Palace of the Lost City can be seen in the background. Even though the whole place is over the top 'African' it is still a great day out and worth a quick stop for anybody visiting Africa.

Anyway, time to go and see what else Madikwe has to offer on this afternoon's drive! Will be back soon.

As always I look forward to hearing from you!

Until next time.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekly High Five #22

The diversity never fails to impress.

This does not just refer to nature but the variety of images that is being uploaded to the Photo-Africa Stock Library.   It is great to see how all the contributing photographers have their own style, their own way of looking at the natural world around them.  That is what keeps it interesting, exciting, beautiful!

For me it personally it is amazing to see how normal photographic principles get taken and applied in wildlife photography.  The composition and use of space is just two of the things that stood out the last while.  I still maintain that looking at other people's work is one of the best ways to learn and improve your own photography.

I think many photographers, or wanna-be-photographers, miss a lot of useful hints, tips and tricks by not looking at other people's images.  I would like to think that I have a half decent eye and can take a pretty decent photography but even the guest how arrives with their out-the-box-brand-new DSLR can sometimes show you an image that makes a coin drop. Something you might have never thought of before or something that reminds you about the basics.  

Photography is a journey, not a destination.  And the journey is filled with amazing images and many lessons to learn. 

So with that all out of the way, here goes with this weeks High Five.  Let the teaching begin! :)

Image 1 - Female Leopard by Grant Marcus

I still reckon this is the most beautiful cat.  And the image does a great job of showing that.  Grant did a great job in capturing the cat's movement, backward stare and a little bit of the environment.  One thought though.  There is a little space on the left for the cat to move into - great.  The image might have been even stronger if the space was left on the right hand side for her to look into.  Create a bit of mystery?  Still, I reckon this is a great leopard image that could be used for the next field guide on South African mammals!

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Image 2 - Jackals by Paul Benson

Background, background, background.  That is to me what makes this image work!  Stunning use of colour and background to highlight the vast size of the area in which these two little jackals find themselves.  The original thought, to many, might have been to zoom in a lot closer to the two youngsters but this image shows how you can create images with impact when considering the total picture.  The space on the right of the two jackals and the grasses leaning in that direction also all add to a great wildlife image!

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Image 3 - Black Shouldered Kite by Paul Benson

Action and framing.  The ability to capture a bird in flight is what makes some photographers walk away from a day in the office with images like this.  Awesome!  The blurred wings, angle of the body and the direction the Kite is looking in all adds to the feeling of movement but what makes it work for me is the fact that both wings have been cut off.  Too many times you might think an image is a no-go as you have chopped a part of the animal off.  If you did not get it in the original shot see if you could perhaps crop it to highlight the focal area which made you click the shutter in the first place.  Love this shot!

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Image 4 - Concentration by Grant Marcus

This image shows the absolute definition of concentration.  The lioness is in the process of stalking and the images shows the focus in her eyes and the stealth like movement in her body.  Another thing that stands out is that, as with the Lion Fight image from last week, it feels as if you are almost at eye level which adds a lot of tension to the image.  The eye level shot makes you a part of the animal's world rather than someone looking down onto the animal.  (Check how many wildlife images you can see where the photographer was obviously higher than their subject - just does not feel natural!!)  Anyway, back to this image...  The tight crop produces a frame filling images of absolute power and focus.  One of the better lion images I have seen for a while.

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Image 5 - Anemone Fish by Paul Benson

When I started Photo-Africa I never even thought of this.  Since Paul Benson, who works as a wildlife photographer in Kenya and is also a Scuba Instructor, joined the site there have been numerous underwater images added to the Stock Site.  It is amazing to have this new and different images on the site.  Underwater photography.  I truly admire anybody who can go underwater and produce images like this. Think of how difficult it must be to get the lighting right.  Perhaps it is because I have not had any underwater images on the site before that this is my pick of the week.  No.  I think the image is brilliant.  Great lighting.  Great colour and the background fills the frame with the fish's natural environment.  Yip.  This is my pick for this week!

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There you go. Probably one of the more diverse group of High Five images we have had on Photo-Africa.  Which image was your favorite?  Why?

I would love to hear your thoughts on these images and whether you did, in fact, learn something from any of them.  For me personally I guess it all comes down to one big lesson - look at all the aspects of the scene before clicking the shutter.  Background, space, whatever!!  

If you can take a breathe, look again and then shoot!  :)

During the next few weeks I will be posting a Q&A with the various photographers who contribute to Photo-Africa.  Just a few interesting questions on their equipment, what drives them, etc.  I am sure there will also be a number of other wildlife and other images that I will be posting as I get time to work through them.  The rain clouds are still painting the sky dark here in Madikwe so no new images but still have a lot of images to work through and finalise.  As they say... watch this space!

As always I look forward to hearing from you!  

Until next time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Letter to Wolwedans Dune Camp

To the Wolwedans Dune Camp team,

"We are there for you!" This was the response I got from of one the Wolwedans Dune Camp staff when, on the first evening of our stay, I asked some arbitrary question.

Being in the lodge and hospitality industry this stayed with me and it is how I will always remember our stay at the Wolwedans Dune Camp in the Namib Rand Nature Reserve. When Adele and I chose this as our wedding venue we knew from all the reviews we had read that the landscapes and scenery is awe-inspiring but no matter what you read about the staff or activities at a lodge you never truly know until you get there.

From the moment we arrived at Wolwedans we knew the place was special. The staff was warm and friendly without it feeling forced and within the first few minutes we were sharing laughs with Italy and Ben, the two guides that were to accompany us during our stay.

When we arrived at the Dune Camp the unbelievable landscape was only echoed by the warmth and friendliness of Abraham, Kenneth and all the other members of the team. We felt completely at home in the lounge area where we would end up spending quite a considerable amount of time. There were always a few of the staff members around that were willing to assist with anything and we never had to go and look for someone to top up the drinks. The staff had that perfect balance of being there but not in your face all the time - something that is so important in a small, intimate environment such as this.

During the entire three days leading up to our wedding the service was perfect and with our group being quite loud and outgoing the staff took the invite and became a part of the group rather than outsiders standing on the side. Even with this relaxed atmosphere the service levels never dropped and we never wanted for anything.

At most lodges the food and dining experience plays an integral part of the whole picture and again we were not disappointed. From the staff members introducing the meals in English and their native 'click'-language to the beautifully presented four course meals we felt we were treated like royalty. When comparing the cuisine at Wolwedans to all the lodges I have ever visited and worked at I would rate them in the top five percent. Absolutely stunning. And when you consider that they are really in the middle of nowhere it is just so much more impressive.

Being used to Big 5 areas and drives we were very curious to see and experience the activities at Wolwedans. When you look at the landscapes and scenes through which you travel you can see that the 'product' sells itself but the total experience still relies heavily on the input and personality of the guides. Ben and Italy conducted themselves in a very professional manner throughout yet it did not feel forced or acted, something that can happen very easily. They were knowledgeable, funny and are a true asset to Wolwedans.

On the last afternoon the Wolwedans staff blew us away, again. The wedding setup, the service, the reception. We were expecting something special but the way everything was put together was textbook and there was never a point were anything felt rushed. Your planning and execution was flawless! Thank you!!

What else can you say about such an experience? We decided to share our once in a lifetime moment at Wolwedans and looking back now we could not have made a better decision. The relaxed yet professional service. The friendly faces and amazing meals. New friends and a great adventure.

Here are but a few of our images from the magical time we had at Wolwedans.

Arriving at Wolwedans. Our adventure begins.

The activities and drives were always a highlight. We must have more than 300 pictures all together!

Bekka (my sister), Adele and Glen on the couch we got the staff to drag out into the open area in front of the lodge to get some pictures.

Ben and Italy, our two guides, on our wedding day. You guys were great!

Adele and Glen having fun on the dunes during one of the drink stops.

Adele and I on one of the red dunes. Truly a beautiful place!

Adele and I with a couple of the Dune Camp staff at the end of our last evening. A great bunch of guys! (Still not sure about the pineapple though?)

Adele and I after our wedding ceremony. You guys should all also take a bow!

Adele and I would like to thank all the Wolwedans Dune Camp staff for creating one of the most amazing and memorable experiences we have ever had. Their is no doubt that we will be back one day.

You are all a credit to Wolwedans and a great example of how things should be done in the hospitality industry. From our experience, both working in the industry and as a guest, a lot of the larger lodges and companies can learn a thing or two from you.

From our first contact with the office to the very last hug goodbye, you made it all special. If anybody ever needs an excuse to visit probably one of the most beautiful places in the world, the staff and experience at Wolwedans is it.

Thanks again to all of you and we look forward to seeing you all again soon! Please do stay in touch!

Our warmest regards,

Gerry & Adele

Something about Madikwe's neighbours in Supingstadt

As you all read Gerry and myself went to Suping to collect the staff after their day off. We decided to take some images of some kids playing around outside the school. And O BOY , did they love the attention.

The people in Suping live a very simple life and they can get by with the minimum. When we asked the boys where’s the soccer ball ? The one boy made a plan with some newspaper.I then realized that if you really want to achieve something you can , you must just have the will power to do it. Then some teenage boys came along with a proper ball. The boys took fully advantage of the situation and they really showed some skill. They can even play dirty and then fake the injury like the pro’s. Unlike the pros they do everything bare foot and on bare soil with rocks and paper thorns , they are really children of the earth , and I mean it in the best way possible !!!

Harry our trainee chef was there aswell and he is a very good example of being hip and fashionable in the bush, as you can see he loves his jewelery……….

Madikwe provides work for a lot of the people of Suping , but there is the unemployment factor aswell. One of the past time activities when there is a day of is drinking beer and smoking , something that forms a big part of their culture and social life. Don not get me wrong , I have nothing against it , we social aswell………..ask Gerry !

We tried to photograph the kids without any posing but as soon as they saw the camera it was all action and acting , I mean you can not blame them. As Gerry was busy with the kids , a lady approached him to take a few pics of her aswell. For them it is just amazing to see themselves 2 sec. after we have taken the shot , the wonders of Digital !!

Even the older generation wants to see themselves on the 2,5 inch screen. You can really see all the character on his face , and he had a few deep thoughts through his life!!! Sometimes your house or garage is not big enough for everything , you have to make a plan !

That’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed a little something of Madikwe’s neighbours.

Till next time

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Three Crops - One Image

I am in the process of trying to work through quite a few images. Everything from Namibian landscapes to wildlife and then a few of the afternoon I went to Supingstad.

Am quite keen to hear your thoughts on this one. It is the same image, cropped in three different ways. Still not sure which one I like best.

This was the original image. Nice, but I reckon the eyes in the top left corner throws it off a bit.

This seemed like the most obvious crop. Cut out the distracting parts and keep the rest.

Then there is the very close, long crop. I think this might be my pick but still not convinced!

As always I look forward to hearing from you!

Until next time.


PS: I am in the process of updating my page on Photo-Africa. View it here! G.