In light of some of the comments from last week regarding photo settings and techniques, I have taken a slightly different approach to normal.
This week I have chosen photos, some recent and some older, which illustrate different situations encountered in the field and how to handle them using the settings available on most, if not all, digital SLR cameras. Most of what I have learnt has been either through fellow rangers with more experience, or through my own trial and error.
A close up of Nyaleti Female’s eye from some months back. Shutter 1/250sec; F2.8; ISO320. In order to get the very shallow depth of field where only her eye is in focus but the foreground and background are blurred, I used a wide aperture of F2.8. This creates a very shallow depth of field. In situations where you want the viewers attention drawn to a specific point in the photo, this is a good technique to use.
An older photo of one of the Nyaleti Young Males running to greet their mom. With a running shot like this, you want to have a fast shutter speed in order to freeze the movement. Shutter 1/1000; F3.5; ISO 640; Underexposed 2/3. In order to get this shutter speed, I have used a wide aperture (with aperture a low number actually means a bigger aperture!), underexposed and also used a relatively high ISO. Despite all this I still managed to cut off his tail though!
A recent shot of the Short Tail Male. Shutter 1/320sec; F2.8; ISO 800; Underexposed 2/3. Taken in low light which, meant having the ability to have an aperture of F2.8 even at full zoom, really helps. It not only ensured a fast enough shutter speed to get a sharp shot, it also blurred the background nicely.
This is a photo of Short Tail Male at last light. A motion blur photo like this is a good option in low light when a normal photo is unlikely to produce results. Shutter 1/30 sec, F7.1, ISO 800; Underexpose 2/3. In order to reduce the shutter speed, I narrowed the aperture (increased the number). The key to a photo like this is to set the camera on Continuous Servo Focusing. With the shutter half depressed, as you pan with the camera the lens continually refocusses. By following the leopard, with the focus point fixed on the eye, you are able to get the area focussed on reasonably sharp. Due to the slow shutter speed, anything moving at a different speed is blurred.
For this photo of Tamboti female, settings were as follows – Shutter: 1/800sec; F4; ISO 400, Underexpose 2/3. I also used spot metering. What this does is evaluate the light in a smal spot around the focus area. The camera makes a decision on shutter speed based on this area only. In cases such as this with a very bright background, it ensures that the face is still properly exposed. If not used, the face would be much darker as the camera would compensate for the bright background.
The Vomba Young female lies on a termite mound at last dusk. Shutter 1/200sec; F2.8; ISO 320; Underexpose 1 2/3. In order to get the silhouette shot, I underexposed by 1 2/3. This means the camera will work out the optimal shutter speed based on your settings, and the adjust so that it is underexposed (i.e allow less light in). This gives the silhouette effect on the leopard.
Vomba Female Leopard
Another one from the archives-this time Vomba female descends a tree with an impala lamb. Unlike some of the previous photos there was no need for a shallow depth of field. There are different points of attention, from the leopard to the impala and the texture of the tree bark.
This means want you want a smaller aperture (big number) which results in more of the scene in focus. This usually would reduce shutter speed, but with a higher ISO, underexposed by 2/3 and good light to compensate, a fast shutter speed was still obtained which allowed me to freeze the movement and obtain a sharp image.
For a day there was not a leopard to be seen. In spite of the hard hours tracking and eyes desperately searching the winter bush, these beautiful creatures remained elusive. And then, seemingly all at once, the flood gates opened and individuals appeared sauntering down a dirt track, appearing from behind a bush and even mating with each other. After a day of silence they were back, as magnificent as ever. This week we saw, amongst others, the Vomba 3:2 Female, The Maxabene 3:2 Young Male, the Short Tail 5:4 Male and the infrequently seen Maxabene 3:3 Male (b.2006). Enjoy…
The Maxabene 3:3 male, born in 2006, had not been seen on Londolozi for some time. Although he now spends most of his time east of our boundary, he made a few appearances this week. This is a picture from his younger days, soon after first dispersing.
The Maxabene 3:2 Young Male was looking decidedly sorry for himself when seen for the first time in a while this week. With an empy stomach and injured left eye, he is finding life on his own a little tough it seems.
Tutlwa female sneaks out of the shadows into the afternoon sun after an unsuccessful hunt of some nyala.
The “unknown” female from last week turned out on closer inspection to be a female very seldom seen around the old Moodies Camp. The scar on her left side changed the appearance of her spots on that side of her face, but the black spot in her left eye was unmistakeable.
We had been searching unsuccessfully all morning for a pair of mating leopard that had been seen the previous night. After a few hours of following tracks, we were driving past Tingwe Camp,( the place where John Varty raised the abandoned lion cub, Shingalana.) when I noticed the rear end of a rhino sticking out of some bushes.
One of the other rangers had seen tracks and dung of a black rhino a few days before so it had been on my mind that this was a possibility. As I saw it I immediately, even from the little I could see, thought it just looked different.
Not wanting to shout out “Black Rhino” and then loook silly when a young white rhino wandered out, I held my tounge and reversed a few meters for a better view. Then, in a typical display of Black Rhino behaviour, it ran out of the thicket towards us to investigate, a bunch of leaves dangling from its mouth.
After staring at us for a few seconds, it promptly turned tail and ran at full speed in the opposite direction.
Suddenly, even the possibility of finding a mating pair of leopard seemed to pale in comparison to what we had just witnessed. What made it even more special was that just the day before, Dan (the geust who took the photo below) had been telling me how how fascinated he was by rhino and how much he enjoyed seeing them, but none of us could have imagined we would see the elusive Black Rhino. That brief glimpse ended a five year wait since the last sighting at Londolozi. In a time when Africa is experiencing some of the worst poaching for rhino horn in its history, it is an encouraging sign to see one of these extremely rare creatures.
Leopards continue to allow us into their intricate and elusive lives as displayed by this weeks selection of images. Camp Pan is still holding onto his territory and is demonstrating just how much of a fight he is prepared to put up in order to keep it – there is definitely a lot left in the tank of this leopard. The Nyaleti Young Female was also sighted a few times and provided for some spectacular photographic opportunities just prior to her hunt of an impala. And, of course, what would today’s Leopard blog be without a mention of the spectacular sighting of last week’s mating epic between the Dudley 5:5 Male, the Mxabene Female and the Tamboti Female. Enjoy…
The Camp Pan Male is still not giving up just yet. Despite sporting a bloody injury on the inside of his left leg (most likely from a warthog tusk by the looks of it), he was moving well and looking in good condition.
Camp Pan surveys a portion of his territory before attempting to hunt an Impala. While he does this, Dudley 5:5, in the heart of this territory, mates with two females that in past years would have rather sought out Camp Pan.
The Vomba Female continues to be seen regularly and was even seen North of the Sand River for the first time in many months this week. She too will hopefully follow her daughter’s lead with a new litter of cubs soon.
The Tutlwa Female, still as elusive as ever, finally showed us her new cub! Hopefully as it gets a little older she will become more comfortable in bringing it out of the sanctuary of the river for us to see.
Usually a sign that a leopard is about to start moving, this big yawn from Nyaleti young female shows us her formidable set of teeth.
After a long absence, the Nyaleti young female has started being seen more frequently. With no sign of her mother for over four months, she has been frequenting all her mother’s old favourite areas, looking to take over what her mother appears to have left behind.
With some impala in the distance, the Nyaleti Young Female crouches down low on top of a termite mound in golden afternoon light.
Dudley 5:5 and Maxabene prepare to mate. This was the start of their time mating together, before the Tamboti Female joined the fray.
The Mxabene female relaxes in Marula at night. She spent most of this week mating with the Dudley Riverbank 5:5 male although she was forced to compete with the Tamboti Female (daughter of the Sunset Bend Female) for his attention.
We will be showcasing the leopards who have been taking center stage for the past week, with photo’s of their exploits and some information regarding who has been doing what. Hope you enjoy catching up on these magnificent cats that we are so fortunate to share time with, please leave your thoughts and questions about your favourite images in the comments section below.
Since moving into Camp Pan’s territory this year, the Dudley Riverbank 5:5 Male has been attracting a lot of attention. Here he is seen scent marking, as the Vomba Young female walks in the background. She was definitely courting him, but her inexperience and age was obvious and he turned her down with disdain.
Vomba Young Female, wet with morning dew, perches on a falllen tree. She is doing her best to establish herself as a permanent presence in the prime territory surrounding and including the sand river, much to her mom the Vomba Female’s discontent.
The Maxabene Female has been her usual elusive self lately. Draped over a fallen acacia in the Maxabene River, she snarls at a hyaena that approaches just a little too close, her breath visible in the cool morning air. We are hoping that she will produce a new litter of cubs in the not too distant future.
For the most part, leopard’s don’t come across as overly intimidating-it’s their beauty that immediately grabs your attention. This is particularly true for the petite Maxabene Female. Occasionally though, they give you a glimpse of their darker side, as she does here whilst continuing to glare at the hyaena.
Despite knowing a lot about the majority of the leopards we see, the beauty of being a part of a 3million hectare conservation and wilderness area is that you just never know what may be around the next corner. This unknown male leopard sizes up the tantalising but impossible prospect dining on a bufallo bull. He was one of three males (two never seen on Londolozi before) found within five hundred meters of each other on this morning.
This young male was the second unknown male mentioned above. At his age he has dispersed from his mother’s territory and is nomadic, awaiting a time when he is strong enough to challenge for a territory of his own.
The Short Tail male has managed to avoid most of the conflict surrounding Camp Pan and Dudley 5:5. With Camp Pan pre-occupied defending his core territory, “Shorty” has been seen pushing slightly further north and west than usual on occasion.
Winter and the low water levels in the Sand River make it the ideal place for leopards to move and hunt in at this time of year. Controlling a large portion of this area, the Vomba Female easily negotiates a small channel in the river.
The Tutlwa female has become a bit of an enigma amongst the rangers at Londolozi and I think this picture of her sums that up just perfectly! Crouched on a fallen Marula tree she cuts a typical leopard pose, silhoutted against a darkening sky.
Oh so close!! During my first year and a half at Londolozi I don’t recall the Marthly male being seen once, but he has since become a regular visitor. Here he springs effortlessly up an ebony tree south of the Sand River to an impala kill hoisted above. Just a split second too late, I managed to cut off his head, ruining a potentially spectacular photo. I’m sure many who have been to Londolozi to photograph these amazing animals could relate to this frustration though?!
Renee Blodgett is the founder and editor of We Blog the World, which was created in 2008. Renee has lived in ten countries and traveled to nearly 80, giving her a unique understanding and appreciation of international cultures. She is ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes and referenced in two renowned books on how social media is changing how we live our lives.
Since its launch, the site has grown organically across multiple online platforms. We Blog the World combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network, where independent voices capture the best cultural experiences, events, ideas and stories for the discerning, educated and savvy globetrotter.
Check out our About Us and Work With Us pages for opportunities to get involved with us on or off-the-ground.