Thursday, May 28, 2009

Photo workshop report back. 30 April -4 May

4 days, 8 game drives. That is what it boils down to, and what bliss it was. Ill list each drive below.

1. First game drive everyone in the vehicles with anticipation. Isak Pretorius is hosting a workshop with us for the first time, along with Shem Compion, the owner of C4 Images and Safaris. Two vehicles, 7 clients and we find a leopard with a fresh impala kill in a dry riverbed. It is dusk, so the lights are on, but that does not stop the photography. The leopard climbs a high tree with a nice blue sky behind him. Lovely. Just then a hyaena arrives. The leopard decided to go walk about and we anticipate that he will head towards some water. We motor ahead and he walks right up towards us, within 2m of the vehicle, silently padding away into the night. Some excellent images are had of him drinking in a pool. By now it is getting late and we head off to camp, heady with the first evenings excitement.

2. Mornings are for anticipation, and this one is no different. Everyone is up and fresh faced ready to photograph. The first animals we see are two bull elephants feeding on mopane trees. The leaves are starting to turn a nice golden brown, and the first light of day does them a lot of justice. We practice working out the various compositions with elephants and also emphasise using different lenses- as these large animals have so much to photograph! The rest of the morning is filled with elephant. About 300 to be exact! Elephants crossing riverbeds, elephants drinking in riverbeds and elephants drinking milk from mothers. By the time we head back to camp everyone is famished and memory cards are full.

3. This drive will go down as one of the legendary drives of all time. It starts with great fun as a pearl spotted owlet peers down at us from a dead Leadwood tree. Its inquisitive face making wonderful portraits. Then off to the bee-eater colony where we watch these beautiful birds flutter and sand bath spectacularly in the setting sunlight. THEN, comes the big call for the leopard on the log. It was what any photographer has ever wished for- the perfect set up. Leopard lying on log, in the open, head high and with the evening light creating a beautiful glow on its face. Stunning. For a full explanation see this entry on the blog as well as the video here. It has to be one of the best leopard sightings ever, but then the porcupine had to come along and really add some spice to the evening…. What drama and action. I have never see so many excited photographers at or after the event!

4. After the evenings sighting, I don’t believe any of us were expecting much for the morning! We headed out south and found some lions that had killed an eland. They were lying in a gully and difficult to photograph, although we did get some images of the cubs and one lioness as they went for a short walk. Probably the highlight of the morning was some elephant’s backlit against a hill in some dust. The warm morning colours and the characteristic shapes of the elephant made for some nice compositions.

5. During the day, the wind started to pick up and by the time we headed out on the afternoon drive it was very blustery. We managed to do some motion blur with some running impala (they are always skittish in the wind) and we did find a leopard with her cubs at an impala kill, but the conditions were not good and the leopard was lying in some thick bush. So we headed back to camp for a quick session on post processing and dinner.

6. The wind had brought in some bad weather. It wasn’t so cold, as more overcast. As the sun rose, a gap opened in the clouds and some beautiful light shone through allowing a few very nice landscapes. The clouds lifted throughout the morning creating a very dramatic effect over the landscape, allowing us to play with some landscapes. Probably the highlight of the morning was photographing a running eland that all of a sudden jumped high into the air. We’ve all hear about the jumping prowess of an eland, but this was a sight to behold- and we all got it on camera! It was a fitting end to all the panning practise we had been doing on running impala.

7. Unfortunately the afternoon clouded down deep with shadow and some rain, making photography very difficult. We did find a leopardess with her cubs again, but they were so deep in the fever berry bushes that photography was impossible. So we did as all the other animals hiding from the cold and wind and headed back to camp.

8. The last game drive, as I have mentioned before, is always a bittersweet one. This time though, it was sweet, very sweet. We found a leopard kill in a mashatu tree. The leopard was not there, but two hyaenas were skulking around. We photographed a hyaena humorously trying to climb up into the tree. It only got into the ole of the tree, but getting down was quite a sight. Then, out of nowhere, 20m away from us, the leopard popped up its head! It had been lying in the long grass… It had seen the hyaena and returned to the tree, at one stage they were within 3m of each other, with the trunk of the tree between them. The hyaena didn’t know a thing and the leopard nonchalantly chose to ignore it, alighting into the tree with graceful ease. We then watched as the leopard sat down to move the carcass and begin eating. The hyaena was directly below the branch, drooling away at the feast above it! Fantastic viewing and photography! Eventually it lost interest and moved off. The leopard lay down to sleep and we moved off to the white fronted bee-eater colony for a last goodbye- as we had been so rudely interrupted on game drive no.3! The birds were out in force and provided some great shots. On the road home we encountered a herd of 60 elephant crossing the Matebole River. A beautiful way to end the photo workshop.

Of course, whilst at camp Isak and I presented talks and slideshows on our photography and many discussions were had on the technical aspects of photography, post processing and workflow. A full 4 days indeed, and one that will go down as one of the best photo workshops ever!