About Rich Laburn
Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.
Latest Posts by Rich Laburn
The Prides, Leaps, Herds, Clans, Dazzles, Journeys, Crashes and Packs have made this week an unforgettable one. So much action and so much suspense. Tracking for hours, birding late into the morning and enjoying a cold dip in a plunge pool during what has become one of the hottest days this Summer.
This week, we have seen the Mhangeni Pride kill a young Hippo, the Pack of Wild Dogs, massive herds of Elephants roaming the river, a Young Male Leopard (The Torchwood male) still around and providing great game viewing, our oldest Leopardess surprised us with her presence, a new Hyena den with 1 small cub and incredible birding.
Beautiful afternoon lighting, backlit Impala ewe.
The Tamboti female leads her cub to a fresh kill. Looking out for danger as she approaches the carcass.
Soon these young Lions will be big and strong. The biggest Pride on Londolozi.
A black and white rhino portrait.
Amazing game viewing of the Wild Dog pack and their 6 pups, keep an eye out for a blog in the next few days.
A beautiful sighting of Zebra drinking.
The Mashaba female is now like a ghost. Pushing her territory further West into the heart of the territory of her late Mother, the Vomba Female.
A Mhangeni cub ascends a fallen Marula tree.
Many new borns around at the moment, this female Vervet Monkey, ever watchful for danger.
The Mashaba young female, alone, without her Mother. Trying times.
A Waterbuck cow in golden morning light.
Tamboti and her cub drink from a waterhole in the late afternoon.
The Ximpalapala young female.
The only Ostrich on Londolozi. A strange sight out here for many.
Watching his brothers play in the distance, this young cub takes time to awake after a cold morning.
A Giant Kingfisher and its Tilapia kill.
Mom and Daughter play times.
The ever elusive Vomba Young Male
A Little Bee-Eater perches awaiting a meal.
Written and Photographed by: Mike Sutherland
As the sun begins to kiss the horizon, the clouds are illuminated with orange and pinks, a Nightjar calls softly in the distance and the sound of a Bubbling Cassena fills the air. Night is coming, the darkness is rising and for most, our cameras disappear, like distant memories, only to awake with the dawn. This need not be the case.
ISO 2000, f 5.6, 1/80sec
With technology and ever evolving camera set ups, ISO capabilities that are unfathomable, and image quality, post sunset, unmatched, it is not always necessary to put your DSLR camera to rest for the evening. It should be time for evolution, time to take your photography to the next level and time to become creative. For this purpose, a creative one, I have decided to enlighten readers to the beauty of night photography, side lighting and backlighting.
It can take time, and team work, but all one needs is 2 vehicles, parked opposite each other, a subject and a spot light.
On your DSLR camera, I begin on Manual Setting, “M” on the dial. A great starting point will be: Shutter speed: 1/100sec, ISO 2000, f.stop: 4.0. It is now important to assess the situation, how far is the subject and how bright is the light? If the light is very bright, then a higher shutter speed is needed, i.e: 1/125sec, and vice versa for a dim light. (The dimmer the light, the slower the shutter speed, the more stability one needs for a sharp picture.) Your ISO will also work in a similar way, where a dim light may need a higher ISO number.
When focusing on your image, it is important to place your focus on the edge of the subject, i.e: the brightest place in the picture, otherwise your camera will not focus.
Do not worry about shooting straight into the spotlight either, you will see the results.
It is important, in life, to try new things, explore, and be ready for change. It is vital that for growth one allows windows to open and let fresh air in. I have tried it and these are the results. Something very different, but beautiful in its own way. I hope you enjoy this selection of images from Night Photography, and I hope some will try it for themselves.
ISO 2500, f 4.5, 1/80sec
ISO 2000, f 5.0, 1/80sec
ISO 2000, f 5.0, 1/80sec
ISO 2000, f 5.0, 1/200sec
ISO 1000, f 4.5, 1/100sec
ISO 1250, f 5.6, 1/60sec
ISO 2000, f 5.0, 1/60sec
ISO 2000, f 5.0, 1/60sec
ISO 1250, f 5.0, 1/80sec
ISO 1250, f 5.0, 1/60sec
ISO 1250, f 5.0, 1/60sec
Written and Photographed by: Mike Sutherland
The Sand River below, a Green-backed heron stands in wait for the winter sun to warm up before his day of fishing.
One of the adult Wild dogs returns to the pack, exuberant in clearly having made a kill. True pack animals, when this individual returned, the dogs all yelped with excitement and ran around him in circles until he ran back the way he came at full tilt, leading the rest to the carcass. Unfortunately, however, by the time they reached the dead impala, mere seconds after he had left it, most of it had already been consumed by hyenas.
Quite typical of lion mating, the Sparta lioness gave him a very aggressive post-coital sendoff. He then responded with an earth-shattering roar.
A White-bellied Sunbird feeds on nectar from an aloe flower. This beautiful little bird is a common site in the winter months when the Aloes flower in abundance throughout the Lowveld of South Africa.
The other Tsalala lioness grooms closely enough to us so that we can get a good look at her deadly claws. On this morning, they eventually killed an impala. These lionesses hunt frequently during the day, which as Freddy tells me is skill taught to them by their mother, the famous ‘Tailless Female’, seen occasionally in the north.
A Water monitor lizard tries to bask in a rather strange position, clutching a fallen branch.
Young boys will be boys… The hippos at Taylor’s Dam were minding their own business when a young male elephant became bored feeding with his family and decided to terrorize the youngsters, sending them back into the water! The adults looked on nonchalantly.
The Maxabene Female walks down the road with a spring in her step. With a full belly, she had clearly eaten recently, and was patrolling her territory, scent-marking heavily. There had been another female in the area, the Tamboti Female, and Maxabene seemed to want to leave a clear message that this was her ground.
Flowering at the end of winter, Impala lillies provide a bright splash of colour to the dry and tawny bushveld.
In a sudden burst movement, the South Pride pounce on an older buffalo who had dropped back from the herd.
The rain droplets on her face and the scar next to her eye are further reminders that life in the bush is not always so easy for animals like the Vomba Female.
After another female jealously snatched the baby up to cradle it, its mother grabbed it back to nurse.
Rhino are often used as a symbol of strength, durability, and aggression. In my opinion, however, they are gentle pacifists who are only dangerous when provoked. This cow and four other individuals grazed quietly around us within arms length, pausing occasionally to listen and smell curiously. Their naive trust in us was touching, but it is heartbreaking to think that they might have the same trust in the poachers that seek to harm them.
The Vomba Young Female relaxes in an ebony tree. We had a few sightings of this beautiful female around the Sand River this week. Generally the leopard we view in this area only go into trees if they have a kill, but we had three separate sightings this week like this, where the leopard was merely using the tree as a resting spot.
The younger male even ventured down into the river, but ran back up to the others soon after.
In parrot-like fashion using its agile feet and bill, a Brown headed parrot pries seeds from an Albizia pod.
With the spring rains, the fresh green growth seems to have given the herbivores new vitality. We came across these two zebra stallions play fighting, although at times the intensity was a bit more than ‘play’.
Two young elephant cross the causeway, smelling us as they approach.
Upon hearing the exhalation of a nearby hippo, she looked around to have a look. She eventually made it to the other side without incident.
A dragonfly catches the afternoon light by the Sand River.
A second elephant bull passes by after playing in the mud. They use their tusks sometimes to dig at the sides of the mud wallows, loosening the mud to roll against the banks. With all the focus on rhino poaching in Southern Africa, we tend to forget that elephants are also targets of poachers, for their ivory tusks. Unfortunately over the past year there has been a huge surge in elephant poaching, particularly in East and Central Africa. Although their numbers are more stable than rhinos, we should still be greatly concerned about this recent increase in the black market demand for ivory.
The ‘New’ Tailless Tsalala lioness walks past Taylor’s Dam just after sunset, while the hippos watch. She seems to be coping with her hyena-inflicted injury quite well, as she is keeping up with the pride, although slightly thinner than the others. We hope she will continue on the road to recovery.
One of the four runs towards us in a playful move to get to its sibling.
They then engaged in all-out battle, flapping and kicking one another until the victor chased the apparent loser away from the pond.
On our way to view the Tsalala lions, we had a sighting that proved to be of more entertainment to the guests than the sleeping lions provided… a pair of leopard tortoises mating! The male is usually smaller, and more determined, than the female, which made for an amusing scene of romance.
It turns out the sounds came from an extremely sad situation. A wildebeest had been trying to give birth all morning, a process that usually lasts minutes in wildebeest, but clearly the calf was stuck and both would eventually die. Here, one of the Majingalane Males, the one with the scar on his nose, runs towards the incapacitated wildebeest.
I think this crocodile might become one of the familiar faces of Londolozi… or at least the Week in Pictures! Last summer, it was usually in the Sand River at one of our crossings, in the same spot, mouth open in the rapids, seemingly waiting for a fish to pop in. This summer, he’s back, and gives us up close and personal views of a deadly predator which is normally quite shy and elusive.
Afterwards, they had a drink and a rest at a nearby pan. They were playing at the edge of the water, trying to cool off, but all the while clearly worried about crocodiles. Each time there was a ripple in the water they leapt away quickly!
After the failed attempt at impala, she used this fallen tree for some elevation in the thicket to try to spot other prey.
One of the South Pride Males looks for his three companions after a day of sleeping in the long grass.
More common to see sitting in the roads at night, this Nightjar was a fantastic daytime spot by Robert Hlatswayo, with whom I worked for a few days this week. Completely blending into his perch on a stump, a close look reveals its very large eyes, perfect for viewing its insect prey at night.
Two zebra stallions fight for dominance in a bachelor group.
After mating with the Tamboti Female, Camp Pan was very hungry. He luckily managed to kill an impala and hoist it in a tree, and we were lucky enough to catch him when he climbed up it one morning to feed.
It is interesting to see the tipping points in a pack of Wild Dogs. Once the first member had taken the plunge into the water, closely followed by the second, the remaining member of the pack all ran headlong into the water not wanting to be left behind.
Male Weavers spend hours building their nest in order to impress the potential female mates. More often than not, the female will fly along and strip the nest bare if she is not happy with the quality of the build. Clearly this male was too focused on getting it right the first time to notice our presence close by.
There is an unrelaxed female leopard who spends much of her time on the Marula Crests in Marthly. We were fortunate enough to have a brief sighting of her delicately perched in a Marula tree. Eyeing us out and clearly, still uneasy, about being viewed she soon descended down the trunk of the tree and melted off into the brush.
A Woodlands kingfisher holds a recently caught solifuge, or sun spider, which is an arachnid although not a true spider. The bird then flew and deposited the meal into a hole in the trunk of a nearby Marula tree, implying that there were hungry chicks inside!
This was an interesting sighting. A young elephant bull had discovered an old rhino skull and carried it in his mouth for a while, clearly curious.
A flock of White-faced ducks stands at Tsalala Pan. These birds not only look beautiful but have a melodious, whistling call.
When we found the Sparta lioness with her two cubs, they were in a dense thicket polishing off scraps from a wildebeest kill she had made a few days before. We thought that might be the height of our sighting, but it was our lucky day as soon after they got up and started walking towards water. We immediately noticed the porcupine quill in the lioness’ left shoulder – ouch!
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the week for Freddy and me was seeing two enormous crocodiles fighting. One had come up from the Sand River to Taylor’s Dam overnight, and the resident croc was clearly upset by the intruder. Here one bites the other and ‘croc rolls’.
Londolozi’s newest superstar! This very relaxed little rhino put on a huge show for us one afternoon. Full of energy, he kept playfully running back and forth to the vehicle. It is extremely rare to see a white rhino cow so relaxed with the presence of the vehicle. Usually, a sighting of a calf is only a fleeting glimpse as the mother is so protective and usually herds it away.
The heel of a leopard’s foot has three distinct lobes, diagnostic when tracking cats.
Winter is coming and the bush is getting dry! Through the legs of a giraffe, a zebra grazes on the remainder of the nutritious summer grass which is now fading to yellow.
A Swainson’s francolin catches the early morning rays atop a small termite mound.
Three klipspringers catch the remains of the sun on a kopjie in Marthly, the north of Londolozi. These small and rarely seen antelope are specially adapted for rock living, with slip-resistant hooves and requiring very little water for survival.
Getting even between his toes, the Maxabene Young Male shows how his coat stays so beautiful.
A hyena cub waits at the entrance to the den for its mother’s return. This is the same youngster as we photographed so much about 4 months ago. We thought they had vacated this den site but our colleagues Daniel and Like rediscovered it this week. It has grown quite a bit in the past few months!
These colourful, boisterous birds are one of the highlights of watching the buffalo herds.
Realizing he’d been left behind, the male sprints towards the airstrip, chasing the Sparta lioness after getting her scent.
An elephant calf curiously gives us a smell. The dry winter months bring the breeding herds of elephants to the Sand River.
Unfortunately his tree-climbing capabilities were put into question when he subsequently fell out! Luckily he was not bothered by the fall, and climbed straight back up!
A huge highlight this week was a fourth discovery of the Dudley Riverbank Female and cub. We found them on an impala kill, which kept them in a good viewing area for the next 2 days. This was fantastic not only for the guests and rangers who hadn’t seen her, but gave the youngster some good exposure to the vehicles.
The sunrise from the new Founder’s Deck is worth delaying the morning drive an extra five minutes!
A giraffe towers over a bachelor herd of impala.
The morning sun creates a halo around a hardly-angelic baboon. The youngster was playfully wreaking havoc in a Jackalberry tree amidst the Leadwood forest of Londolozi.
A giraffe drinks from Serengeti Pan while an oxpecker works to clean her ear.
Even though the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male did actually mate with her, he played hard to get. He aggressively growled and hissed while she swished her tail across his face until he finally mated with her. This behaviour, however, is typical of leopard mating interaction.
Post-mating, he leapt quickly away to avoid a swift claw to the face by the female. It is interesting that despite mating with the Camp Pan Male and his son the Maxabene 3:2 Young Male several times during the past few months, she does not appear to have conceived. Sometimes leopards will mate with several males to ‘appease’ and therefore ensure the safety of her cubs from all the surrounding males. However, maybe this time she was in a true estrus and we will be tracking to her densite in a few months…
The best sighting this week for me was watching the first moments of a newborn elephant’s life. At dusk, we happened upon a herd very closely bunched together and edgy. We knew something was happening and watched as they eventually split and this little one appeared. The hustle and bustle of the excited herd was a stark contrast to the calm youngster who slowly tried to gain his feet and follow his mother. The herd was extremely relaxed with our presence and moved towards us, feeding and allowing the little one to lie down next to us. The mother slowly moved off, and then we watched as two younger elephants – presumably siblings – came and gently bent down and picked up the baby to its feet using their trunks and heads. I have heard of such behaviour in elephants but never witnessed it firsthand.
A curious young male elephant gave us a chance to view some of his features up close! After circling our vehicle, smelling us, he stood in front and tilted his foot, picking it up and scuffing it back and forth. This is a behaviour elephants commonly display when contemplating their next move. But you can clearly see his toenails, and the grooved underside of his soft feet. It is always surprising to people to learn that elephants make almost no sound as they walk, due to this soft foot sole.
There is a lot of talk lately about the giant crocs around Londolozi. During the winter months they can often be seen sunbathing on the banks of the river and waterholes, but this year it seems as though there are many more resident monster crocs! It has therefore been put forth to the rangers a challenge to try and ‘measure’ the crocs, obviously done through photographs and not the croc hunter wrestling method. Watch this space to see what we find, and definitely expect to see more croc photos in the weeks to come!
It turns out she was trying to capture the attention of one of the Majingalane Males – the Dark maned one – in order to mate with him.
They greeted their mother warmly, who nursed them before hunting. That night, they left the cubs hidden nearby while they unsuccessfully hunted.
A Giant kingfisher waits for prey at Taylor’s Crossing.
Our ‘kill’ sighing of the week! A Stripe-bellied sand snake tries to subdue a skink by constricting it.
An elephant gives itself a dustbath.
It is always an incredible treat to see these two beautiful animals.
Even the birds are participating in the baby boom, as this protective Blacksmith plover guards her batch of eggs.
A business of dwarf mongooses gaze from their multi-level reconverted termite mound home, catching the last rays of sun on the first sunny day of the week!
All of the new green grass has attracted many grazers like zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and rhino to the southern areas of Londolozi.
An up-close view of the leopard’s ‘spots’ – which are actually called rosettes, and differ from a cheetah’s polka-dot pattern.
A Saddle-billed stork searches for frogs which have recently appeared in throngs in the waterholes around Londolozi.
As he settled down for the heat of the day, we had a gorgeous close-up sighting of him, regally staring into the light.
Leopard mating always provides for exciting viewing!
They sought a bit of privacy behind a marula tree!
When we arrived at the sighting, Camp Pan was sitting on the base of the tree, very full from having eaten most of his zebra foal carcass. However, he then made an acrobatic effort to get back up the tree by jumping from a nearby rock!
A bushbuck displays a former battle wound – a huge tear in his ear, most likely the result of being pierced by another male’s sharp horn.
A lot of time this week was spent with the cub of the Tsalala Tailless Lioness. The little girl is getting big, and extremely curious!
The Tsalalas kept losing their balance while standing on the floating hippo, and did not want to risk being grabbed by the crocodiles if they tried to drag the carcass away. In the end, they left having only fed on a small portion of the meat.
Two millipedes coil in the defense formation – a behaviour used to mimic snakes and therefore deter potential predators. If you’re wondering why one is white and one is brown (they are usually black), you aren’t the only one! Even the other rangers were asking upon seeing this photo. There are many different species of millipedes, and my best guess is that these two are different species.
Warthogs are strong creatures and it took a lot of effort for him to grab this large sow by the throat. The female leopard (Maxabene) even came in to ‘help’ – although the male ended up doing most of the killing!
A hooded vulture slowly approaches the site of where the Mapogo took the buffalo down. Seemingly unfazed, ‘Makhulu’ feeds on the buffalo in the background. Being in such an open area, it wasn’t long before the vultures started descending. The Mapogo, however, were in no rush to give up this big meal.
This was my favorite find of the week! As we rounded one of the final corners on the way back to camp, I had a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. It turned out to be a painted reed frog perched in the fork of a buffalo thorn branch. These frogs are responsible for the high pitch ‘pinging’ sound that one often hears at waterholes on summer evenings.
The beautiful, lantern like, flowers of the sickle bush which can be seen all over Londolozi at the moment.
A male tree agama lizard, with the exception of his blue head, shows excellent camouflage against the bark of a torchwood tree. The female would be similar to the male, but without the blue head.
A breeding herd of elephants feed alongside a fig tree. I love the effect of all the green that surrounds the elephants.
Vomba Female and Cub
Returning to Safety
A Pair of Mating Chameleons
A photograph I have been waiting a while to capture; the Golden Mane Majingilane strolls nonchalantly past the Londolozi sign. I have had bad luck in previous attempts at such a shot, as the light was always on the wrong side, or I was too late to get into position, or any number of factors, but the stars finally aligned on this morning.
A pair of red-billed oxpeckers with hair plucked from an impala lamb. These birds will often gather hair as nesting material from their host animals.
A slightly irate looking yellow-billed hornbill enjoys a dust bath in the sand overlooking the Manyelethi River. Dust-bathing fulfills a vital function for many bird species, helping them to control parasites and excess lipids in their feathers.
A pair of impala enjoy the sunset together on Fluffies Clearing. Their abundance at Londolozi can lead to them being taken for granted, but spending time with a herd can be a fascinating and beautiful experience.
An amazing caterpillar found by one of the Londolozi staff members.
Probably the cutest thing I’ll see for a long time. An African jacana chick scurries across the duckweed and lilies towards the safe wings of its father.
The Mashaba female pauses whilst hunting. Straight after this shot was taken she went into a crouch and began stalking something in the grass. We couldn’t see what it was, but all was revealed as she dived into a thicket and a flock of guineafowl exploded out. She missed, so went hungry for awhile longer.
This sighting provided such perfect photographic opportunities that at one point I felt like we were getting greedy, and I had to put my camera down! f3.5, 1/2000s, ISO 320 @ 200mm
A red-billed oxpecker uses a white rhino as a convenient perch from which to grab a drink. These birds will often use large wallowing herbivores like rhinos, buffalo and hippopotamuses as water access points! f4.5, 1/125s, ISO 1600, @ 200mm
The Cheetah is proving particularly difficult to find these days. If he isn’t perched on a log or up in a marula tree scanning for prey, the long grass of his territory makes spotting him an almost impossible task. When he does rear his head however, magic moments like this can happen… f4, 1/5000s, ISO 640, @ 70mm
The cub of the Mashaba female leopard, wonderfully relaxed around vehicles these days, saunters casually towards us. f5, 1/400s, ISO 160
A spotted hyena. Often misunderstood and certainly mis-portrayed in many popular animated films, hyenas are fascinating creatures with a highly complex social structure. f4.5, 1/1600, ISO 320
Two wildebeest bulls chase each other around Fluffies clearing. The pursuit lasted for over 15 minutes, with both males reduced to an exhausted trot by the end. f4.5, 1/1000s, ISO 320
Their necks arched and eyes closed as though in ecstasy, these two bull giraffe were in fact fighting for the attention of a female nearby, swinging their necks into each other with sledgehammer-like blows.F2.8, 1/1600, ISO 160
A gorgeous evening on my favourite clearing, Ximpalapala crest, complete with an elephant bull with magnificent tusks. For a first evening back from leave, it doesn’t get much better than this. f5.6, 1/320s, ISO 640
A tree squirrell nibbles on a nut while sitting on the stump of a marula branch. Photo by Richard Burman
I imagine you might have done a double take when you saw this. The reflections in the water, almost undisturbed after the ripples from their drinking had died down, were too beautiful NOT to try flip the photo for effect… f8, 1/800s, ISO 320
A wild dog ducks under the noses of some curious giraffes. Far too small to be a threat to them, the wild dog and his pack were soon to head back up to the crest where the rest of their pack had taken down an impala yearling. f2.8, 1/200, ISO 3200
The paw of one of the Sparta Pride sub-adults. They were so bloated with wildebeest meat on this morning that I have seldom seen more uncomfortable looking lions! f4.5, 1/500, ISO 320
Stopping for coffee is one of the best parts of a chilly Autumn morning drive. A biscuit had fallen from the coffee stand, and these Burchell’s glossy starlings lost no time in descending to pick up the crumbs. It was a great opportunity to get low to the ground for a fresh angle. f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320
The vertical stripes on the face of this young Burchell’s Zebra stallion make this photo for me. f3.5, 1/500, ISO 640
The morning sun catches the spray as a bull elephant drinks from Circuit Pan. f3.2, 1/4000, ISO 2000
The same sighting. Perfect viewing. f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 320
The tail of the Vomba female leopard in all its glory. f2.8, 1/1000, ISO 100
A herd of elephants drinks at Shingalana Dam. The dry season is upon us, and elephants, who have to drink everyday, are forced to focus their movements around the major waterholes and rivers. f6.3, 1/320, ISO 640
The Tutlwa young male peers on from a high vantage point moments after he was chased up a gnarly Marula tree by the Marthly male leopard. f4.5, 1/800, ISO 100.
One of the Majingilane Male lions on a Territorial patrol. We followed him throughout the morning while he roared and scent marked their boundary.
Canon 500d, F2.8, 1/1250, ISO 200
Sunrise over Circuit North as some Burchell’s Zebra pause to listen to the distant alarm bark of a kudu. f8, 1/200, ISO 320
After driving them off the remains of their kill, the warthog boar was unceremoniously chased off by the male cheetah cub, having harassed the injured female one too many times. f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 640
A lovely frame of the Mashaba young female leopard staring back at us through the Jackalberry branches. f3.2, 1/640, IS0 800
By simply comparing lions to other lions it is hard to get an idea of just how big and impressive they are. When they walk past a Land-Rover for reference however, it becomes a little easier to appreciate their size, as the scar-nosed Majingilane walks past ranger Byron Serrao’s vehicle. f4.5, 1/640, ISO 800
The scar-nosed Majingilane mates with the Tailless Tsalala lioness while her sister looks on. This was just the beginning of an epic evening spent with the pride and the coalition. All four males were there, arriving one by one, and spent over an hour in pursuit of the young Tsalala female. f2.8, 1/800, ISO 1600
One of my favourites in black and white, this Cheetah posed perfectly at the base of this Knobthorn.
The Majingilane approach with power and dominance.
This was one of the most incredible elephant sightings I’ve had this year. A seemingly endless herd just kept emerging out of the woodland near Lex’s Pan, with almost every individual taking the time to fling mud or water on themselves. f4.5, 1/640, ISO 800
A Majingilane side lit. (ISO 2000 f 5.0 1/100sec 200mm)
Some creative Zebra shots. (ISO 800 f 5.6 1/250sec 400mm)
Photographed by: Talley Smith, Henry Smith, James Crookes, James Tyrrell, Mike Sutherland, David Dampier, Rich Laburn, Richard Burman, Trevor McCall-Peat
The tendency when shooting wildlife and travel photography is to go too heavy on the zoom. 400mm and up can certainly be great for photographing things like birds, taking portrait shots of leopards and lions and maybe capturing images of shy animals you need to keep your distance from. I find though – and I know I’m not alone in this – that larger lenses can be extremely limiting.
Whilst a fixed 500mm f4 lens can produce exceptional quality images, in terms of framing you might struggle to make it work for you. You do not have a zoom range as you do with say a 70-200mm or a 100-400mm, so what you see through your viewfinder is what you get.
Something important to remember in wildlife photography is that you need to tell the story. A leopard up a tree with a kill is an amazing scene to take in, yet being close to it with a 600mm lens isn’t exactly going to let you get everything into the frame. A wide-angle lens is what you need in this situation, to take in the tree, the leopard, it’s kill, and maybe even a skulking hyena at the base of the trunk.
I’m waffling a bit here, as what I really wanted to get onto was the value of a wide-angle lens in the bush. In many private reserves like Londolozi where animals have become habituated to game drive vehicles moving around in their environment, the creatures great and small can be wonderfully relaxed, going about their daily routines as if the Land Rovers were not even there. What I find (I shoot with a 70-200mm lens) is that I need less zoom far more often than I need more. Zooming out a bit lets one take in the environment in which the animal is living, not just the animal itself.
I am sure that many visitors to the bush have found themselves confronted by a beautiful view, whether there is an animal in it or not, and wished to capture the whole scene in one go. Even with really high-quality wide-angle lenses it can be difficult to encapsulate everything one is seeing in a breathtaking panorama.
Luckily, post-processing software these days is so advanced, if you know a few tricks and which doors to open and when, it is relatively easy to get past certain limitations you may find with your camera/lens.
I will briefly explain here how to use Adobe Photoshop to create a wonderful panoramic image.
The first thing you need to realise is that serious zoom lenses will not work. The effect of a panorama can be greatly increased by using less zoom. I can just manage at a 70mm focal length, but less is probably better. What Photoshop can do is digitally stitch photos together leaving virtually no trace of any merging, creating a narrow panorama that can encapsulate a whole scene.
- Open Photoshop.
- Under “File” in the top menu bar, scroll down to the option “Automate”.
- Another sub-menu will appear, simply select the option “Photomerge”.
- The Photomerge screen will open, asking for the source files you wish to merge.
- Click on “Browse” to go to the source folder where your files are stored.
- Select the photos you wish to merge, making sure they are in the right order.
- Once all are selected, simply click “Ok”
- The Merging process will begin. It may take a few seconds for the final product to appear.
- If you were shooting handheld instead of with a tripod (you may even have this happen with a tripod), you will see that the borders aren’t straight, so you will need to crop it to get out all the jagged borders.
This is one of the original photos used for the panorama. 9 of these stitched together can end up with a result like the scene below.
Elephants drink from the Sand River next to a pod of Hippos.
If all has gone well, you should hopefully be left with something like the above image. Bear in mind that this was shot with a 70mm zoom, so one shot would basically only fit in the elephants. As you can see in the 3rd image above, 9 photos were all merged together.
I shot these pictures in a Portrait format (ie. holding the camera on its side) to fit in a bit more of the river and sky. Landscape can also work, and will require less images to cover the scene from left to right, but won’t be as good with more zoom.
The top photo is a panoramic image taken in the Sand River, just upstream from where the elephants were drinking (although not on the same day) This illustrates the difference between using a higher zoom (elephants and hippos) and a wider angle lens (Land Rover photo). Image by Ryan Hilton.
We hope that this has been informative and useful. Photomerge is a very basic tool in Adobe Photoshop, but a fun one to play around with.
Written by James Tyrrell and photographed by James Tyrrell and Ryan Hilton
There is a common misconception that once the sun has set over the lowveld it is time to pack away the cameras and take in the sounds and smells of the bush alone. We decided to disprove that theory and try our hands at a few images taken after dark. Next time you are somewhere and its too dark for conventional photography I hope you too will try test that aperture of yours in creating very moody and beautiful images.
This first image is an example of back lighting, we found the Sparta Pride lying in the clearing and experimented with different lighting techniques. In this particular image an additional vehicle was approaching the sighting and the head lights of the vehicle framed this isolated member of the pride in a beautifully rich, golden light.
In this case we were very fortunate to have the whole pride lying out in the open away from any usual distracting elements such as tall grass or shrubs.
The next few images are a completely different approach to photography for us as there are no animals in sight with the exception of the one shot of the lion at night! However we set out one clear evening when all the stars were out to find an area with an array of old dead leadwood trees. We wanted to capture an image of the milky way with a lead wood tree as the focal point for the foreground.
f4.0, 30 Seconds, ISO 5000 – Kate Neill
30sec, f4, ISO 3200 – Jacqui Hemphill
Adding a new dimension to the shot, we lit up the tree with a flash light for a few seconds of the exposure. f4.0, 30 Seconds, ISO 5000 – Kate Neill
It is also important to note that you must find a place with as little light from the cities as possible in order to get the full compliment of stars above you into the frame. I know this is often easier said than done but will be well worth the wait when you finally find the right spot!
30sec, f4, ISO 3200 – Jacqui Hemphill
It has been a long winter, the days have been shorter, the nights longer. The chill in the air, the dryness and the mist. It is a time of struggle, a time where animals search far and wide for their daily needs. For water and grazing, fruits, flowers, nectar and insects to feed on and survive. However, for some, for the apex predators, it is a time of plenty.
As winter draws to a close, let us think back to the struggles endured. The intense cold and the lack of necessities for survival, all of this, these creatures have been faced with. It is something that affects some more than others and particularly the large herds of Buffalo. As the land begins to dry up, the seep lines fail to run, the river level drops and the pans evaporate, leaving behind a bitter reminder of summers abundance, the grasses become hard and dry, almost unpalatable. Yet, these large herds of herbivores, in this case, the grazers, continue to move, to search and to survive.
With a lack of vitamins in the soils and the grass, the Buffalo herds need to move larger distances and without constant and sufficient nutrition they begin to weaken. They lose condition, become slim, move slower and rest longer.
The Sparta pride now consists of 9 members, 3 adult females, just under 6 years of age, and along with them is a group of sub-adult lions, their offspring, that age between 16-18 months old. Many hungry mouths to feed, and what better way to indulge than to trail large herds of grazers. An ultimate prize is something substantial like a Buffalo, and this is where it gets interesting.
In many senses of these words, Lions and Buffalo are ultimate enemies, if you remove other predators like Hyena, and match up groups of animals that create ultimate wildlife experiences, it would be to place a pride of Lions in the path of a large herd of Buffalo.
I had the rare privilege of such a sighting recently, the first Lion vs Buffalo interaction in my 3 year guiding career, and it was an intense affair. Back and forth they went, grunting and snarling, charging, stampeding and scurrying in all directions. Above, two of the Majingilane males, the power behind the operation.
In this particular sighting, there was the added presence of 2 Majingilane males to add the strength needed for ultimate success. We found them in the thick mist of an early winter morning, each Lion, noses to the wind, the fresh scent of a Buffalo herd, and as the mist began to rise, the Pride began their pursuit.
A social cat, and here all honours go to Dad, these sub-adults know he is needed for success. Strategy, confidence, communication, stealth, power, strength, hunger and possibly some stupidity, all the things needed for this to be a rewarding exercise.
The chase begins, the lead lioness attacks at a water hole.
Hot on the heels of the Buffalo as they run for their lives.
The Lioness peers over her shoulder for assistance.
A full speed chase, power on power. Strength matching strength.
Unfortunately in this particular sighting the ultimate price was not paid and both parties went their separate ways. Agitated Buffalo, and hungry Lions. But a lesson for all. Especially for the young Lions, certainly not a task lost into the depth of the unknowns of nature, but one that will be ingrained into the young Lions minds and mine for some time to come.
For the past four days, the Sparta pride has been following a herd of Buffalo, close to 400 in number, and until now they have been unsuccessful. Will tonight be the night?
Written and Photographed by: Mike Sutherland
I last went to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in 1993, although back then I think it was still the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. That’s 20 years ago for the less mathematically inclined amongst us. That was way before I developed a passion for photography, yet I still have vivid memories of the things we saw; the ground squirrels and yellow mongooses in camp, the stately Kori Bustards moving through the riverbeds, and the beautiful red sand of the Kalahari dunes, turning almost the colour of blood as the sun descended in the Western desert sky.
Dawn light filters through the dust kicked up by a herd of wildebeest as they feed in the Auob Riverbed.
Since moving to the bush, I decided it was time to return. We had left our booking quite late and as a result only managed to stay 4 nights in the park, yet saw fantastic game. The birdlife in particular is very unique to this arid part of the world, and as almost all the watering points are concentrated in the two main riverbeds, the Nossob and the Aoub, the wildlife is concentrated there too.
Cheetahs on a kill vs about 25 blackbacked jackals, enormous Sociable Weavers nests and lionesses hunting on the dunes were just a few of the highlights, but just driving through the incredible stark riverbeds was an experience in itself.
Here are a few photo highlights of the trip…
Many visitors to Londolozi would have seen Fork-Tailed Drongos following herds of large herbivores around, waiting to catch insects stirred up as the animals pass through the grass. They are not averse to scavenging as well, as this one in the Twee Rivieren rest camp shows as it feeds on a dead Sociable Weaver. f4, 1/1600, ISO 400
Red-headed finches, ugly looking birds when you see them up close, are very aware of how vulnerable they are when leaning down to drink at a waterhole. This flock would perch in a nearby Camelthorn tree, quickly dive down to drink for a few seconds, and then flutter back up to the safety of the foliage within a few seconds. The arrival of a Lanner Falcon a few minutes after this photo was taken made their caution justified. f5.6, 1/2000, ISO 200
The ridge-lines and dune-crests of the Kalahari offer some unrivaled opportunities for silhouette and profile photographs, with animals standing out nicely against the blue background. Here, two Gemsbok pause before descending to the Nossob riverbed. f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 100
Ground squirrels are fairly common in the park, and have infact set up colonies in some of the camps. This one was stretching during his early morning forage just outside the gates of Twee Rivieren. f8, 1/3200, ISO 640
Waterholes are the focal points for much activity in the Kalahari. This black-backed jackal had been trying his luck at dove hunting, without much success, so decided to make do with a drink before he trotted off into the dunes. f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 200
A meerkat stands guard over it’s troop. Ever vigilant, these little members of the mongoose family are very aware of danger approaching from the air in particular, and an eagle flying overhead will send them scurrying for safety. f2.8, 1/2500, ISO 125
Birdlife in the Kalahari is very different to that of the Lowveld. Some wonderful raptor species are found there, with the Pale Chanting Goshawk, pictured here, being amongst the more common. f5, 1/4000, ISO 500
A secretary bird that had made its nest atop an abandoned sociable weaver’s nest. These large predatory birds are excellent hunters, often stunning prey by stamping on it with powerful legs, then moving in to finish it off with their sharp beaks. f5, 1/2000, ISO 800
Sociable Weavers build some of the most impressive nests in the world. The nests are cunningly designed with the entrances underneath to make it much harder for predators to gain access. f4, 1/2000, ISO 1000
A Speckled pigeon perches above the Orange River Gorge below the Augrabies Falls. f4, 1/3200, ISO 160
A wildebeest scrapes the ground, marking territory with his interdigital glands and stirring up the dust in the Nossob Riverbed on a windy evening. f5, 1/1000, ISO 800
A herd of Burchell’s Zebra enjoy the sunset from a dune crest overlooking the Tswalu Game Reserve. f5.6, 1/1600, ISO 200
A cheetah chases off two black-backed jackals that had strayed too close to its kill. Two cheetahs (the other one can just be seen feeding on the carcass in the bottom left of the screen) had brought down this wildebeest minutes before we arrived, and we watched them throughout the day as an ever-increasing number of jackals arrived to torment them, eventually driving the two cats away just before sunset. f7.1, 1/2000, IS0 400
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell
As a ranger in Africa, you will hit a so-called “Purple Patch”. Amazing sightings seem to be on pause until the moment you get there, and then the action starts. Leopards are literally presenting you with their cubs, lions that have been sleeping for hours start to roar the moment you arrive and switch your engine off, and you leave camp each day brimming with confidence that you are going to see something else epic. We have been incredibly lucky to be in the right place at the right time to see some amazing things take place over the past week.
A weevil. Don’t ask me what species, but I will try to find out. This tiny little critter was crawling along the rifle rack on the front of the Land Rover as we stopped for coffee this morning, providing a perfect opportunity to get the Macro lens out and take some shots.
The flip-side of the coin is that I know this run of luck will probably end soon, and a 4-hour hack, trying to find a leopard that is keeping just ahead of us will be what my drives are replaced with. But I’ll ride the wave as long as I can.
The Thickbilled Cuckoo is a very special bird to see. There were actually two of them in this sighting, most likely a male and a female, and this was probably only the fourth or fifth time I have ever seen this species. They are migratory, coming down from North and West Africa for the Summer, but these two have arrived quite a bit earlier than we would have expected.
Wild dogs from the pack of 8 (that we were ironically looking for in the Dudley Riverbank/Camp Pan sighting of two days ago) delight in each others company as they reunite after a successful hunt. f2.8, 1/1250, ISO 400
An African Fish Eagle soars majestically over the Sand River.
This point in the Sand River is rather appropriately named ‘Old Elephant Crossing. Go figure. f8, 1/800, ISO 500
Summer’s creatures are starting to appear in greater and greater numbers as the weather heats up. This tiny frog was found next to the Pioneer Camp car park as we waited to depart on morning game drive. It was still quite gloomy, so with Mike shining the spotlight I was able to capture a shot with a Macro lens. f5.6, 1/320, ISO 2000
This poor lioness from the Mhangeni Pride had 7 little cubs vying for suckling rights on her 4 teats. As you can see, she was NOT impressed, yet whenever she tried to move off she was followed religiously by the hungry things, not allowed a moment’s peace. f8, 1/500, ISO 400
A tender moment between cub and mother in the Mhangeni Pride as they settle in for the day on the cool sand of the Sand River. f5, 1/1000, ISO 400
A Fiery-necked Nightjar alights on a thorny branch next to the road. It’s rictal bristles can clearly be seen in this photo. These modified feathers supposedly help funnel insects into the mouth.
A rare visitor to Londolozi, the Piva female is occasionaly seen in our Southern areas. On this day she had caught a duiker near Weaver’s Nest Pan and hoisted it into a Weeping Boer-Bean tree. f2.8, 1/800, ISO 640
The South Pride is a pride we don’t often see.
The Tamboti female and her cub explore a fallen Jacket Plum as they head East towards an impala kill the adult female has made.
The pair line up together for a drink and a wonderful photographic moment at Gert’s Pan. This was less than 200m from where the wild dogs were lying and we believe the leopards had actually been chased by them earlier, as when ranger Greg Pingo first found the female she had been calling urgently for her cub. I simply kept my shutter button depressed, shooting at high speed, hoping to capture both tongues out at the same time.
Photographed by James Tyrrell