Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Green season in Kruger

Nature erupts during the wet season. Here a young Black-backed Jackal pup hunts emerging Termite Alates.

So often we, as photographers want the perfect shot. That normally entails the perfect animal, in perfect light with perfect uncluttered background. But what if nature sends you something different? I have just returned from a week in Kruger with Dan Streck, a great photographer from the States and a Kruger regular who have taken some incredible images there( Take a look here: ). November is pretty much one of the greenest months in the Lowveld bush which results in limited visibility, admittedly m aking photography somewhat difficult. And being the rainy season one may spend days (as we did) without seeing the sun. So what now? Well, you pretty much take what is there. The greenery provided spectacular vibrancy to the images and the cloudy weather provided beautiful muted light and allowed us to photograph well into the late morning or early afternoons, time one won’t even think of taking out the camera when the sun is out.

So here are a few pics to show what is possible when many would pack away their gear due to “Bad” light.

Cloudy weather provided us with soft muted light allowing long hours of photography.

The sun did appear every now and again. Here I tried to capture the essence of Kruger as a mig male Lion feeds in thick cover.

A pack of African Wilddogs walked into a pride of feeding lions and having to see over the tall green grass this dog had to get as high a vantage point as possible to see the potential danger. With sightings like this Kruger is certainly one of the best wildlife photography destinations in Africa.

A Red Chested Bustard makes for a very interesting subject as soft rain washed the bush.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wildlife Photography in the Masai Mara.

Cheetah Learning school. An eight month old cheetah hones his hunting skills while mom supervise.
I have just returned from the last of this years Kenyan Migration Safaris. My season this year actually started in May already with a flying Safari through some of Heritage Hotels properties for Africa Geographic magazine. Although this trip took me through Tsavo and Samburu in the North it also brought me to the Mara before the main migration season. Being May, the long rains was in full swing but it did allow me to view the Mara again as I only saw it when I lived there way back in 2004. Wonderfully green with waist high grasses and breeding birds all around. A challenging time to drive a round the Mara’s black cotton soil but also a rare privilege to see the Mara as few see it. Have a look at the article below and if you do not see it in print on the shelves during November click on the image to link to the PDF article online.

Lion Lenses and Little Planes, an Africa Geographic article on flying safaris through Kenya
To quote friend and colleague Greg du Toit, the Mara is a great place to fill up memory cards but a very difficult place to get anything new or unique. It is one of the most photographed parks in the world. With these challenges clearly in mind I set off with guests in tow seeking new and exciting shots.
Although its always very special observing leopards, merely photographing them as a portrait doesn't do the animal much justice. 

A young leopard strolls through the grassland backlit by the setting sun.

In order to capture its true character and although a much trickier shot, opting for a motion blur image is a more accurate reflection of their character in the dense undergrowth where it makes its home. 

A trickier shot but when done well a motion blur image really stands out.
The rising sun illuminating steam from a freshly killed wildebeest carcass provided the perfect backdrop for capturing a familiar scene of feeding lions in a unique manner. Photographing backlit is very rewarding, especially in such dramatic sircumstances, yet I often find that people would rather go for the more conventional front lit shots, even though these have been done millions of times.

A lioness pause momentarily as the rest of her pride devours a wildebeest. The mist in this scene comes from the freshly killed wildebeest.
With its open habitat and clean backgrounds the Mara is a great place to capture action. Having done the “Cheetah on the Termite Mound” images countless times in the past, my personal goal this year was to get some action shots. Throughout the various trips we witnessed a dozen or so kills, ranging from crocs taking wildebeest to lion and the impressive high speed chases of cheetah. Realistically they are often difficult to photograph as it happens too far away or is obscured by grass. A few proved to be in range such as this lioness  below taking a young Topi.

A lioness about to grab a young Topi.
Action wasn’t limited to kills only and playing lions were equally impressive.

Playing Lions are allways very photogenic.
We saw a few servals on the plains, one of which spectacularly killed a young Scrub hare in clear view. Capturing the essence however of a determined Serval hunting through the long grass provided yet another challenge as I wanted to move away from crispy portraits.

Because its allways a rare sight one can be forgiven for doing for the safe crispy portraits of Serval Cats. But Motion Blur captivates the essence of the cat staliking throught its grassy domain.
Also very rewarding is capturing the quieter more pensive moments in the bush and playing with spectacular light allways helps.

Beautifull light and nothing else makes even the misunderstood Hyena look stunning.
We were privileged to follow this mother and her only surviving cub belwo for two weeks. During this time she used our vehicles several times as vantage points to scan for prey and remarkably were were treated to one of nature’s most emotional dramas as she released her kill for the cub to hone its hunting skills (Check out the first pic above). Being such a dramatic event I will post more images in a next post to share the entire event.

Her breath condensates in the cold mornuing air. We followed this mother cheetah and her cub for a few weeks.

Then the Mara is nothing without the dramatic and well known wildebeest crossings. Sitting in the heat of the day with 30 other cars only to get harshly lit images is certainly not my way of having fun on safari. Only a handful of places offer you the ultimate experience and C4 Safaris’ location provided the perfect platform to view our “own” crossings. Yet how does one capture this well photographed phenomenon in a unique way. Here is my latest take on it.

A nice new angle of a familiar scene
The most difficult large animal to see and photograph is Black Rhino. The first two weeks produced not a single sighting and only on the last morning of guests stay they were fortunate so see this animal out on the open plains. 
The highly threatened and endangered Black Rhino
So thats it for now. For those interested in joining us on Safari next year, contact us by clicking on the below links for a wide variety of trips. Cheers Albie 

Private Photographic Safaris throughout East and Southern Africa

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lowveld Private Safari

This past weekend (7 – 9 Sept) I had the privilege to host a private photographic safari right on my own doorstep in the South African Lowveld. And what a treat. Friday afternoon strarted somewhat wet. Ok we got totally drenched on our first drive and basically made piece with the fact that we will be photographing frogs in the lodge gardens for the remainder of the weekend. It all turned for the better on Saturday morning though and soon we were raking in the sightings which just kept coming right till we had to leave Sunday morning. Four fo the big five plus cheetah and wilddogs put in an appearance as well as the countless other inhabitants if this region. Below a few pics from the weekend

Our first sighting was of this female and her large cub. Serendipitously the cub came to lie down right next to mom from where they posed for us photographers.

We found no less than six individual Cheetah, all of which were in very photogenic positions. Here one stalks towards the vehicle.

Remarkably we also found Africas second most endangered carnivore, African Wilddogs and to top that a litter of nine pups.

A portrait of the ubiquitous White Rhino.
Resting the shutter fingers. Manus and Ursula, who made it such a pleasurable weekend. It was a pleasure sharing this all with people not only interested in photography but who also has a keen love for their subject. Looking forward to many more

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wilddogs Crossing Flooding River

Its been the third year running that I have been visiting Sosian Lodge on the Laikipia plateau in the rainshadow of mount Kenya in northern Kenya. What grabbed me at first, three years ago, was the unique wildlife, anything from birds and mammals to reptiles and amphibians unique to the area. But after photographing most of it I am still fascinated by what the area delivers. The most rewarding part however is that one gets involved in the daily life of the wildlife you follow. And it’s no mystery that the African Wilddogs of the region is incredible and certainly my favourites. I had one shot in mind this trip though. In order to access their entire territory the dogs are forced to cross often flooding rivers. And it was exactly that high drama I wished to photograph. Although I had photographed Wilddog crossings before it has always been from a steep bank and the intenseness of the scene was lost. What I wanted was eye level action. Normally an anticipated shot only happens weeks into a shoot after days of fruitless pursuit, yet this time on only the third day after my arrival the whole pack crossed as one unit in a flooded section of the river. As soon as I dashed down to the rivers edge the first dog had started crossing. Within seconds the action was finished but at least some pics were in the bag.    

The most daring or experienced takes the first plunge and start for the opposite bank.

Intensity of crossing a flooded river.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Behind the shot - Cheetah and Cubs

I was asked by Gerry and the guys from Wild Eye to share some thoughts behind the Cheetah image that won the February 2012 Photographic competition and decided to add it here as well.

A classic moments when all six cubs joined mom briefly on the termite mound.
  I was leading a photographic safari for C4 images and Safaris in the Maasai Mara and we were following this female cheetah and her six, six week old cubs for an entire week. During this time we were privileged to witness their antics and adventures as they faced up to the many challenges of life in the Maasai Mara. The cubs playing on a very photogenic termite mound, mom trying to hunt and even crossing a river were all some of the remarkable sighting this family gave us. We even got the very typical scene of them on a termite mound. Yet although we managed to get images of all 6 cubs together they were very often obscured by grass, not all cubs were very visible or, as Murphy would have it, taken in very flat light. Ever optimistic we went to say goodbye to the family on our very last morning.

During the week we followed the cheetah family we were privileged to witness some remarkable interactions.

It is quite easy to get Cheetah images on top of termite mounds in the Maasai Mara. As the animals walk through the flat terrain they seek out anything which gives them some vantage points and a quick scan often reveals the right perch. So on the very last morning we found them walking through the grass and headed straight for a termite mound. I prefer moody backlit images as it lends fantastic atmosphere to photographs and with this in mind gambled for the money shot and positioned our vehicle away from the others who went for the classic front lit images. The rapidly rising equatorial sun was also not in our favour and realistically we only had a few minutes before the sky would be a completely washed out white. At this stage we were only hoping and praying that mom would oblige and go for “our” termite mound. And as it (very rarely) happens in nature all came together for a few brief moments. With the vehicle in a good position mom made her way onto the termite mound, then one by one each boisterous cub joined one another next to mom. I only got two shots of this scene before the light changed and the cubs started playing in the grass.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Herald Snake Hunt

I never leave home without a macro lens. There always seems something to photograph, even when back at camp after game drives or during rainy weather when most photographers pack away their gear. One’s back garden always seems to provide some incredible sightings and in fact some of my favourite images have been taken right in my back yard.

I recently stumbled upon this fantastic scene at home. A fairly large Herald snake had gotten hold of a large Red Toad, probably hunting it from within the hollow log pictures above. Once immobilized the snake could not get the toad back into the tree hole and was left to consume it from a somewhat precarious (to say the least!) position.
Painstakingly slow the snake managed to consume the prey until the very last bit.

 Whether the snake would eventually make a meal of its quarry was anyone's guess which meant that I had to stay with the snake quite a while to determine and photograph the unfolding events. These things take a while though and I was very fortunate that I had time on my hands that day. Scenes like this certainly do not come around too often and it was indeed a pleasure to witness such drama unfold almost from start to end.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Time with Wilddogs

An inquisitive dog investigates my camera from a few centimetres away
 Its been more that two years since I first met up with the Wilddogs of Northern Kenya and whenever I find myself in the area I make an effort to spend as much time with them as possible. Although Africa's second most endangered carnivore's future always seems to balance on a knife's edge the population seems to be doing well. Highlights included witnessing several kills, packs fighting (impossible to photograph) and the first sight of a new litter. So here are a few images from their lives.
The Drama of the action packed hunts proved very difficult to communicate effectively on a photograph yet this one I feel does it some jsutice

Allways out on a hunt, a dropped cap makes for excellent practice.


Before setting off on his afternoon hunt, a young male gives me an inquisitive glance. 
The dimunitive Dik dik forms around 70% of the Wilddogs prey, like this one in Samburu.

They kept their dens out of sight amongst the granite boulders of the area and only at around 8 weeks did we manage to see and photograph the pups for the first time.

Monday, March 5, 2012


We witnessed this entire Cheetah kill from the stalk, the high speed chase over hundreds of metres to the actual kill. Here she catches her breath minutes after her prey expired. 

After our very eventful predator Safari in the Mara we hopped across the border into Tanzania to go and catch up with the Migration which we met in the Seronera region.

 It really doesn’t matter how many times one has seen this spectacle it still remains an incredible sight.
Six week old Cheetah Cubs. 

After the migration it was across to the shortgrass plains and woodlands of Ndutu where the predators put up a spectacular show for us. From the first evening being kept awake by lions roaring though camp to the last morning following four playfull cheetah cubs the action never stopped. Highlights included a female Cheetah killing a Thompson’s gazelle in full view of everyone with four cubs in tow while for me sighting such as Golden Jackal (regular in the Serengeti) and a remarkably relaxed Striped Hyena mom and cub at a den was real treats. 

Although common in the Serengeti it was a highlight for me to get to eye level with this Golden Jackal. 

After keeping us awake for the entire night we caught up with this pride on lions on our first morning. Still wet with dew it was amazing to see steam escape from their bodies as the sun warmed their pelts.
The last stop and very fitting end to our wonderful Safari was the legendary Ngorongoro Crater. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

C4 - Maasai Mara Predator Safari

The first afternoon, although overcast produced exciting Lion behaviour.

The nice thing about hosting Photographic safaris is that one gets to experience various regions during different times of the year.

Most people flock to the Mara for the dramatic and action packed Migration. This year C4 hosted it predator safaris during February when the Mara put on a totally different face to the more familiar migration season.
The Maasai Landscape never fails to impress. 
The first noticeable difference was the sea of tall grass waving from horizon to horizon.  What at first seemed to be a photographic challenge turned out to be real blessing as the grass seeds provided superb mood to photograph the predators in. 
This Female leopard had her den nearby and although we missed photographing the days old cubs managed to get regular views of her walking down the riverbed most days. 
In short we saw all three big cats as well as Spotted Hyena withing the first 24 hours. Other highlights included a reliable leopard den where we managed to photograph the female every morning in superb light. Spotted Hyenas feasting on a hippo carcass which was later taken over by a pride of lions. The latter then provided more excitement as the young lions chased off the descending vultures.
Jan standing with the Cheetah
But the highlight of our trip came when a female cheetah decided to use our game drive vehicle as a perch to scan for prey turning every guy in the car into a 16 year old. What an experience having one of Africa’s most charismatic predators sitting a mere arms length (literally) away from us oblivious to the excitement inside. A truly fitting apex to our predator safari. 
An excited Louis and Andrew withi touching distance of the spotted cat.

C4 Images and Safaris - Lake Nakuru Private Photographic Safari

Thousands of relaxed Great White Pelicans epitomise Nakuru and presents lots of fun photographing them. Here Jean gets close enough to a few hundred Pelicans to get some wide angle shots. 

Before starting the Mara predator safari I met up with an old friend and regular C4 guest Jean Manson for a four day private safari to Lake Nakuru. Seeing we were headed to the predator rich Maasai Mara we were more focussed on the birds of Lake Nakuru. Although focussed on the birds we did manage to catch up with three black rhinos, a couple of Lions and a Leopard during our time there. 

The sheer numbers of birds are overwhelming. Here a mixed flock of Ruff and other waders fly part in the late afternoon sun. 
Buffaloes against the Acacia forests on the lake's shoreline. 
The dry, dusty conditions this time of year created stunningly dramatic moods and the sheer abundance of birds kept the shutters clicking.   

If you would like to arrange a private photographic trip contact C4 Here.