Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Finally unpacked and settled – damn!! Good feeling!

Not much news from our side just yet, but I felt I just had to upload this post on it’s own and not combine it with the Weekly High Five! Too special!

Let me start by saying that I did not capture the images in this post - not mine. Even though I wish I could have witnessed this event and got a few of my own. The following images were all taken by Hal Brindley (Thanks for allowing me to post it on this Blog!) and you can find a link to his own site towards the end of this Blog. Thanks to Riaan Kruger, also a contributing photographer on Photo-Africa, for sending me these images!

So here goes – as I received the images and text.

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Picture exclusive: The incredible moment a leopard attacks a crocodile

These are the incredible pictures which show the first ever leopard attack on a crocodile.
Hal Brindley snapped the amazing moment a leopard snatched a crocodile at a South African game reserve on the only occasion this behaviour has ever been documented worldwide.

Clash of the Titans: The leopard attacks a crocodile in Kruger National Park

The American wildlife photographer was taking pictures of hippos from his car at a waterhole in Kruger National Park when a speeding shape came out of the bushes and headed for the water.

After an initial struggle, onlookers stared in disbelief as the leopard emerged dragging a thrashing crocodile up the bank.

With its' snout pointing upwards, the crocodile snapped and attempted to fight back as the predators flipped and tumbled in a dramatic battle. But the leopard, who had it caught by the throat, remained in control as the crocodile's legs clawed frantically at the cat's belly, its jaws snapping at air.

Predator vs. Predator: The wily cat slams full force into the crocodile

Tussle: The leopard begins dragging the crocodile away from the water

Despite being outweighed, the leopard was able to sit on top of the crocodile and suffocate it. The big cat eventually dragged its' prey into the grass and out of sight as park visitors are forbidden from leaving their cars.

There have been recorded cases of crocodiles killing leopards but never the otherway around as the meat a crocodile provides is not sufficient enough to justify the risk.

Defeat: The croc hangs lifeless and limp from the leopard's jaws

Brindley said: 'I asked many rangers in South Africa if they had ever heard of anything like this and they all said no.

'It just doesn't make sense. The meat you get out of a crocodile is just not worth the risk it takes a predator to acquire.

'The whole scene happened in the course of about 5 minutes. Then the leopard was gone. He added: 'I drove away, elated in disbelief. It may have been the most amazing thing I've ever seen.'

Victory: The leopard gains control and gets on top of it, suffocating it.

Dinner's ready: The big cat drags its prey off into the bush

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So there you go. Truly an unbelievable sequence and a once in a lifetime sighting. Well done to Hal for capturing the event. To visit his website and see more of his images and wildlife films you can visit

As field guides I think we always have a very small part deep inside us hoping that this morning we will also find something unique that goes against everything that we know, read or get told.

Something that challenges your knowledge, breaks all rules and makes you appreciate even more, if that is possible, the life we get to live and the things we get to see! This is the kind of scene that wildlife photographers in Africa will wait a lifetime to see and capture - I know I am! Amazing stuff!!

Make no mistake, even being a firsthand witness to a sighting of elephant at a waterhole is beauty in itself, but something like this... beauty supersized!!

Off to grab some dinner and then time to relax! Check back later this week for new images in this weeks High Five!

As always I look forward to hearing from you!


Monday, July 28, 2008

Tuningi - A New Start!

It’s Monday morning and Adele, Gizmo and I are going through the motions of packing house and getting ready to move to Madikwe again... finally!

Now I suppose the city is not such a bad place but once you have experienced the life in the African bush the chances of you actually choosing traffic, smog, sirens and radios over the tranquillity of natures booming silence, lions roaring and sunsets that make life stop for a few seconds there is unfortunately (or fortunately) no turning back.

Since leaving Royal Madikwe earlier this year we have been freelancing and relief managing at various lodges in Madikwe. Some amazing lodges such as Nkurru, Morukuru, Kukama and Tuningi. As if by destiny we started chatting with Gavin and Heidi (glass of wine included of course) at Tuningi and to make a long story, which includes interviews and job offers at many lodges from the Sabi Sands all the way up to the northern Botswana, short – Adele and I will be starting our new positions at the 5-star Tuningi Game Lodge in Madikwe later this week.

We are very excited about this move as not only have we grown very fond of Madikwe as a reserve, but the team at Tuningi are the kind of people that we look forward to working with. Professional (yes, I said it!!) great friends and the lodge runs at quite high occupancies! Gotta love the buzz! You will meet and get to know the team at Tuningi as time goes on so stay tuned. Here are a few initial images of Tuningi and a map of Madikwe (which in the region of 70,000 hectares so a LOT of space to play in the wild!!) that shows where we are situated but I will be sure to add more images as time goes on. Click on the logo to visit the website for more details (or to book to come and join us on safari!! Bring your camera!)

On a personal note, I am also very keen to join the two professional (yes, I said it again – read the previous Blog if you not sure) field guides at Tuningi, Gavin and Grant. Those of you who have been reading the Blog and viewing the images on Photo-Africa you will know that Gavin and Grant are two of the contributing photographers on Photo-Africa and also write articles for this Blog. I am sure that by combining our love for nature and obsession with wildlife photography we will be able to not only bring you more amazing images from Africa but through the Blog also entertain, educate and keep on giving you your daily does of Africa on your pc! Make sure to subscribe to the Blog so that you receive all the new Blog posts via email and as they say watch this space!

I have been out of the bush for almost a month now and am very much looking forward to getting back into the field for some new wildlife & nature images. For me I think it was a good thing as I have been reading a lot of books and photography blogs (check them out in the Blogroll) that gives you different ideas, inspiration, photo tips and things you want to try so bring it on! Can’t wait!

Another I want to try and do once we are settled is to keep more of an online diary from Tuningi with short (or hopefully long) updates and images as they days go by. With the amount of images we gather it will be a tough call so I will attempt to upload our Game Drive Diary twice a week. The Weekly High Five will still be posted around Friday of each week so make sure to check on that and keep leaving your comments!

To end of with I have included some of my very first ever wildlife images taken a very very very long time ago. I think this was wear my passion / obsession / love for photography started and it’s kind of nostalgic to think back of how I was shooting everything that moved, literally, with my little Sony Cybershot PS150. Apart from my Nikon D300 I still use a small Sony T100 as well which I carry around everywhere. Adele is still using the PS150 and it’s still producing great quality images!

Have changed camera since then and I would like to think I have improved since these early days but we all had to start somewhere and I am still proud of my first efforts!

Zebra at the water hole at Kwa Maritane Lode in the Pilansberg Game Reserve. Spent a lot of time here when i was younger.

Waterbuck butts. Gotta love their 'follow-me-signals'!

Elephant at the Kwa Maritane waterhole.

Reed Coromorant drying himself early in the morning.

Close up of a Black Backed jackal.

Hippo reflection in the Kruger National Park.

Anyway, time to finish packing. I might be a bit quiet for the next few days, until we are settled, but will be back with stories, updates and of course more wonderful images from our beautiful piece of Africa in Madikwe!

As always I look forward to hearing from you!


Friday, July 25, 2008

Weekly High Five #9

Africa is a place that touches your soul. You get addicted to the savage beauty of the wild land that shows us a small, unspoiled bit of the earth as it used to be a long time ago.

To have the privilege of capturing the aesthetic wonders is an amazing experience and something I would recommend to anybody who loves nature. Who loves photography. Actually... I would recommend it to anybody. Full stop!

When I looked through the new images that was uploaded to the Photo-Africa Stock Library this week, I was amazed at the amount of different photographic angles one could approach Africa from. Obviously lions and the other Big Five will always be a focus for anybody visiting Africa but there is so much more. Small things. Abstract things.

Short of going into the ecology versus tourism debate, we have to recognize that there is obviously an interaction between humans and nature. We go out into the wild to search out the Big Five. The Small Five. And I have even heard of the Ugly Five! Whatever your sought after prize out in the field, we cannot deny that when we are out there we are linked to nature. We have built lodges. We drive and walk in the field. We sit and watch the ageless story unfold.

Stopping the philosophical road where that whole chain of thought could lead (perhaps more on that in a later Blog), humans in nature also creates great photographic moments waiting to be captured.

So for the first time, this week I have included images that show humans, or their impact, on nature.

Image 1 - Wooden Moon by Warren David Diack

A truly beautiful abstract. Now I know that this could have been taken absolutely anywhere in the world, but if you have ever been to a safari lodge in Africa this image will fit the possible image of what you could expect to find if you wander around the property. It is always possible that an image like this can just catch your eye, but it also shows what can be done by taking your time and thinking about the image before you click the shutter. There is more to photograph when going on safari then all the big game. The image shows great use of the wooden wall / fence (human influence) to create a frame around the moon. Originally I felt that the moon should have been perfectly in focus but on second thought I decided I quite like it as is. This kind of image can start taking us into the discussion of wildlife / nature photography versus fine art photography but not going there now! Beautiful abstract image!

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Image 2 - Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk by Grant Marcus

I admire bird photography. If you have ever tried it I suppose you will as well. It is not all that often that you find a beauty like this sitting still with a perfectly blue background. The bird is sharp and, as a bonus, Grant was able to capture that little bit of catch-light in the eye which gives any wildlife image that little sparkle of life. The diagonal branch leads your eye to the bird and he is staring off into the open right side of the frame. Great capture.

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Image 3 - Processionary Worms by Johann Marais

Another great example of photographing the small things. Initially you have to look very closely to figure out what the image is all about which, to me, is a sign of an 'interesting' image. To give you a better understanding of this image, here is some details on the Processionary Worms seen in the image.

These are members of the family Thaumetopoeidae (Processionary worms). There are nine species in Southern Africa, the most common type is Anaphe reticulata.

The caterpillars form long "trains" when moving between food sources. They walk touching the one in front and will stop abruptly when one looses contact with the one
in front. These groups can be up to 600 strong, but is usually a lot less. There are two beliefs about the strange walking-in-line behavior. The first has to do with finding food. Each caterpillar leaves a strong strand of silk behind them and those that follow walk along the line of silk. They literally are creating a silk ‘road’ that helps keep the line together. The second one is, as you might have guessed, is to deter possible predators. (I.e. the group looks bigger and more dangerous than an individual.)

When pupating they spin a silk envelope over the entire group. In this each larvae spin its own cocoon. You often see this spongy mass in hidden corners. Once they emerge form their cocoon, the highly attractive adult moths is short lived.

So you see. An image of quite a unique natural wonder!

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Image 4 - Night Drive by Craig Muller

I absolutely love this image which, to me, is another great humans in nature image. An 'action' image of a night drive in a game reserve in South Africa. For those of you who have not been on safari yet, the image shows the tracker sitting on the front left of the vehicle which is moving through the African bush. You definitely get the idea of movement through the blurring of the road but if you look closely you can just make out the branches on the trees on the side of the road. Awesome image and on of those that makes me very excited to get back to the bush next week!!

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Image 5 - Buffalo Sunset by Matt Jones

Great low-light silhouette capture. It is not always easy to photograph a silhouette like this, which includes animals, and get it pin sharp. The image was taken at Tlou Dam in the Madikwe Game Reserve and shows a little bit of Africa's soul. Their is an old Afrikaans saying that refers to this time of the day as "Die room van die dag." Translated this would be "The cream of the day." That last bit of perfect on top of a great day. The image without the two buffalo would have been ok. With the animals in the the corner it is a great African image. Only small issue would be that the tree is slightly chopped but not a major concern.

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Image 6 - Flying Beauty by Craig Muller

Amazing shot. A perfect example of how to fill the frame with your subject. The chopped off wing does not bother me as it gives you an idea of the size and action of the image. Like I mentioned earlier photographing birds is not easy but to capture them like this, in flight, is truly spectacular! Could be really really picky and go into color balance and the white rim around the edges but not going to. I reckon this is a marvelous, eye-catching image.

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After looking through all the images I reckon I am going to go with the last image as my pick of the week. It found it very difficult to choose one as all these images are very striking in their own right. The first image was also a serious consideration but I think I will stick to Image 6 as my favorite. (Yes, I admire bird photography!) Would love to hear which image you prefer and why! Always interesting to get feedback on what other photographers / guides / people think of an image!

Right, before I end of please indulge me for just a minute for a bit of digital fun!

When I was looking through the newest images in Photo-Africa I saw this one by Grant.

Now I was viewing them as small thumbnails and I originally thought that this was the most amazing piece of artistic composition!! I thought that, when viewing it as small thumbnail, that the male lion's eye was also open thereby almost creating a single lions's face. (Make sense??)

I took about 3 seconds and used Photoshop to double the females eye to get the image closer to what I thought I saw should the male have obliged and opened his eye when the shutter was triggered! (Yes I am slightly bored and can't wait to get back to Madikwe!)

Can you see what I was (almost) getting excited about? :)

Somewhere in between my very bad attempt at editing the image and Grant's original lies a lesson in composition & photography. By thinking out of the box when shooting wildlife you have the possibility of coming up with the most weird and wonderful 'abstract' images. True, you cannot always plan an image like this but don't dismiss an image that does not conform to your idea of a 'perfect image'. Look at the images when you get back home or, in this case, the lodge and then decide whether to delete it or not. Perhaps you can use it as an abstract, such as with motion blurred images.

Alternatively, if this is your kind of thing and you want to spend a lot of time on the computer, you could use Photoshop to blur the background which includes the male lion, so that the female has more punch. This can start another line of thought concerning the editing of wildlife images but not going there for now. I still believe the less you do afterwards, the better. Use the camera to do the work!

Bottom line - never never never delete images while you are in the field no matter what they look like on the small screen on the back of your camera! Look at them on your pc first!!!

Anyway, enough of that. :)

As always I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this week's Hight Five!

Until next time!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where do Field Guides Go on Leave?

As you might know, Photo-Africa is a website where Field Guides and anybody who loves and photographs African wildlife can upload their images.

Over the last few months you might have read some Blogs that have been uploaded by Gavin Tonkinson and Grant Marcus who are two of the contributing Field Guide Photographers on Photo-Africa. As you might have gathered from their Blogs, they are not only great photographers but Field Guides that work in the Madikwe Game Reserve.

Matt Jones is another Field Guide that works in Madikwe and contributes to Photo-Africa and he has sent through his first Blog post.

The life of a Professional Field Guide (yes I am calling it that - read the previous post) is always interesting and through this Blog we will attempt to give you an inside look into our always exciting life in the bush - which will of course include some great images!! If you have any questions for any of the contributing Field Guides with regards to any of their posts, images or whatever else you might wonder you can leave comments on the Blog and they will get back to you as soon as possible! Also, if there are any specific images you would like to see or parts of the lifestyle you would like to know more about let us know and we will do our utmost to get it onto the Blog!

In future I will create a link from the author of each Blog which will take you directly to his images on Photo-Africa. So anyway, enough from me.

Below you can read Matt's first post on the Photo-Africa Blog.

As always I look forward to hearing from you!



"Where do Field Guides go on Leave?"

This is a question guests always ask us, and yes we do sometimes go to other game reserves for leave! Although a lot of people don’t understand this, but we can enjoy the bush without having to pay all our attention to the guests…and just relax.

This past July I went up to Caprivi – Namibia, for some birding and of course…the FISHING!!

What a beautiful place! Yes there was a bush war fought there with South Africa and some other forces some years ago, and it does not look like any war torn area; although it has been some years. The people are friendly and are very helpful, always with a smile, but how could you not have a smile when you live in Africa and in such a great place.

Five countries converge in this area, AngolaBotswanaZimbabwe - Zambia and Namibia– two great African rivers flow here, Zambezi and Chobe Rivers – and I have heard some say that up to 75% of Africa’s elephants live here!

Bird life is stunning, as this area in the Miombo woodland area, (broad-leaved deciduous woodland, a transition zone which in the plants change from area to another; eg. Tropical to bush veld. The bush in between). What makes it great birding is you get birds from both biomes and all the water birds as well.

Went up to a wonderful little fishing lodge on the Zambezi – Kalizo Lodge, just in the camp there are birds which we don’t get in South Africa. Coppery – Shelly’s and PurpleBanned Sunbirds, Brown Firefinch, White Browed Coucal, Open Billed Storks and Western Banded Snake Eagle; the list goes on. My friend came away with about 25 Lifers (new birds) and has been a guide for many years.

Zambezi was nice and high, as the flood plains have emptied into the river; pushing all the small fry into the river as well – making for wonderful fishing. Tiger Fish also know as Stripped Water Dog, due to the fact of when he hits you – sometimes could take your rod out of your hands if not paying attention. Fifteen different species of Bream, some growing more than 3 kg (7 Pounds) in size, and a bream which grows in a river always puts up a great fight.

Just spending time and having the privilege to be on a great ancient African river like this, sooths your soul and you come home with a mind which has been widened; just by drifting down the river and seeing everyday life of the locals and the wonderful wildlife on the banks.

We drove from Madikwe up through Botswana, was a long road at times but the monotony was broken by seeing elephants or buffalo just off the national road. Reminding you that there are still some wild areas around…if you know where to look. At night we saw honey badger, civet and just missed an ellie or two, as they don’t really reflect your head lights. We camped next to road when we were too tiered to drive any future, and were kept up by elephants fighting with hyena’s whole night, not far our tent.

This is what we as guides look for when we go to other wild areas on leave…something wilder than were you work. A place which will re-new your passion or fuel your fire for wild places of this world.

If you ever have a chance to go to Caprivi, one should take the opportunity to and experience a different life which the locals live; and fantastic wild life in and around the area.

Matt Jones

Composition in Wildlife Photography

Exposure and focus are obviously very important technical skills, but it is composition that gives your image structure and creates a pleasant viewing experience.

When you read any photography book or website you will find more than enough information on depth of field, rule of thirds and other such ‘rules’ that we should follow to create good images. In these same books you will read how you should go about breaking these rules to create striking images, whatever you might be photographing.

Wildlife photography is no exception and in this Blog, which complements a previous Blog called "Lines & Shapes in Wildlife Photography", I have scratched around the images on Photo-Africa to see how composition plays a role in creating striking, interesting, dynamic and when you break the rules, different wildlife images.

Focal Point – What is the focus of your image?
One way to draw your viewer’s attention to your focal subject is to place the subject on a ‘power point’ which is defined by the rule of thirds. To complement this, or as an alternative you could use lines to draw your viewers attention into the frame ending on your planned focal point. The following two examples show how to draw attention to your focal point.

Example 1 – Focal Point

This elephant in this image is placed perfectly on the top-right power point which gives it a strong position in the frame. (Pity the tusk is slightly cut but not a huge problem.) In addition to the good placement of the focal subject the off-road track leads the viewer’s eye from the bottom of the frame, in a diagonal line, towards the elephant.

The above image shows much better composition than if Matt were to place the elephant dead centre in the frame. Also, whenever you are about to click the shutter, have a quick look around your subject and see whether there is not some kind of lines or other shapes in the surrounding environment which can assist you in highlighting your focal subject. There are normally many creative ways in which you can highlight the subject that caught your eye in the first place.

Example 2 – Focal Point

In this image the lion is again placed on one of the power points. The viewer’s gaze is again drawn in from the left of the frame by the diagonal line created by the brown road leading towards the big cat.

As you can see in the image above there is a bit of conflict that is created between the line leading your view into the image and the direction in which the lion is looking. This actives space, more on this next, makes you wonder what the lion is looking at. The ‘conflict’ between the two lines makes this an interesting image. Don’t you think that the image would not have been that interesting if the lion was placed more to the left of the image?

Active Space – Leave space for your subject to look or move into.
If you are photographing a subject that is looking at something, such as the lion in the above example, or moving in a specific direction you should try and keep some space for them to do so. Two examples of using active space.

Example 1 – Active Space

The bat, which is placed in a strong position, is flying towards the top-left of the frame. The open space in that corner gives the image a dynamic feel as the bat has a place to move into.

If the bat was placed dead center in the frame it would not have been as dynamic.

Example 2 – Active Space

A great action capture. All three impala are clear and moving, and looking, into a specific direction. By leaving space on the right Grant has left space for these three antelope to move towards.

Again, if this image was centered and cropped it would have been a mildly interesting but not as dynamic as it currently is. A quick thought - with this image it might have been an option to place the three impala towards the far right of the frame as this might have made the viewer wonder what was chasing them?

Create Depth – Draw your viewer deeper into the image.
Photograph is a two dimensional representation of three dimensional scene. In order for you to create a realistic representation of what you saw at the time of clicking the shutter you need to try and create some sort of depth in your images. This can be done by playing with different lenses, which gives you different perspectives, or by placing various elements in your frame to support the focal subject and place it within a three dimensional scene.

Example 1 – Create Depth

In this image you get the feeling that the lion is moving towards you. The game drive vehicle in the background is blurred perfectly and along with the diagonal road leading up and away from the lion creates depth in the image.

Great safari image which is more interesting than if the lion was walking towards you on a flat surface and without anything in the background to create a feeling of depth in the image.

Fill the Frame – Get in close, then get even closer!
By filling the frame your viewer cannot make a mistake as to what your focal subject is. You still have to keep composition and placement in mind but by getting in close to your wildlife subject you are on your way to creating a striking image.

Example 1 - Fill the Frame

This close up of a female lion was shot as is – no cropping. You can almost see the inquisitive nature of this young lioness which would have gone missing was the image not shot full frame.

The placement of the eyes and nose still conforms to the rule of thirds and even creates an diagonal line between them. Good example of how you can fill your frame to create interesting and striking wildlife images. (Also see the Blog "Fill the Frame" on Your Photo Tips)

Cropping – Crop your image for more impact.
If you have even been on safari you must have a few images that you looked at afterwards and thought “this could have been much better”. By cropping some of your images you might find that they have more punch than the original. You can also use cropping to highlight the size of an animal or, if you chopped of an ear of a certain animal, crop both ears and see what you come up with.

Example 1 – Cropping

This is a pretty decent image of a quite irate elephant. You can see he is not happy, but he does not look all that intimidating just yet. By cropping off a little of the dead space at the top of the image you can make this image look a lot more ‘dangerous’ than the original.

Now that the elephant almost fills the frame he seems a lot more imposing and a helluva lot bigger. This crop, combined with the fact that image was taken from a low angle, looking up at the animal makes for a great elephant image.

Keep it Simple – Know what to include and leave out.
Every element in your image should highlight and the support the focal subject. A lot of the time we try and add more and more to an image in order to spice it up and make it interesting. Not necessary. A lot of the time it is a plain and simple image that turns into a winner.

Example 1 - Keep it Simple

A Black-Shouldered Kite on a branch – plain and simple. The branch not only half frames the beautiful little raptor but also creates a diagonal line that leads your view from the top of the image down towards the bird.

You can also see that the red color of the bird’s eye, which has been captured perfectly) is repeated in the little bit of red in the prey that is held in its talons. Very simple image that shows you should keep it simple. Any more colors or objects in the frame would have taken the focus off the bird and dropped the punch-factor of the image.

Other point to keep in mind when thinking about the composition of your image:

  • Background – Does it draw attention away from your subject?
  • Emotion – What was it that drew your attention in the first place? Shoot with your ‘emotion’ and try to highlight that feeling in the image.
  • Numbers – Odd numbers are visually more exciting. Triangles, odd number of side, also make more dynamic image.
  • Study – View other photographers work and see how they approached the scene they were photographing.
  • Be Yourself – Don’t try and mimic someone else’s images. Do your own work and don’t be afraid of experimenting.
  • Shoot – Really work every subject and try to use different angles and lenses.

There you go. A few thoughts on what you might look at when composing wildlife images and examples from Photo-Africa. It is true that wildlife photography requires a lot of patience and a lot of luck. It is therefore not always possible to comply with all the above composition guidelines but the more you practice the better your eye will become in seeing the various components of what will make your image stand out. Hey, at the end of the day keep these things in mind but shoot what catches your eye and have fun! That's what it should all be about!

If I find the time I would also like to do a Blog on Exposure in Wildlife Photography, a slightly more technical one, so will see how that goes.

Make sure to check back from Friday when I will upload this week’s High Five.

As always I look forward to hearing your comments!