May 4, 2012

Wildlife Photography - Photo Workshop

The workshop started off with the safe arrival of participants at Galago Camp in the northern Sabi Sands Game Reserve.   After settling in and a light lunch, we started off with a run-down on how the workshop would work followed by a discussion on the cameras and the various settings required to get the best wildlife photographs.
 With that sorted out we set off on our first game drive hoping to get some interesting subjects and little did we know how interesting it would become!

We hadn’t even left the area of the camp when I heard the single alarm bark of a baboon above the noise of the engine and immediately switched off to listen.  We heard the alarm bark again, but in the background we could hear very loud and urgent alarm snorts of a large herd of impala!  We raced across an open clearing and got to the impala herd which was staring fixedly in the direction of the woodland on the edge of the clearing.  We drove along the edge of the clearing expecting to see the leopard walking away from the impala through the woodland but saw nothing.  The impala kept staring into the same place and we repeatedly searched the area only to realise after the third try that the impala were actually looking into the long grass in the open no more than 10 metres from them.  We drove carefully in that direction and discovered an adult female leopard with a freshly-killed impala ram well-hidden in the grass.

We got ourselves into position to get as clear a view as possible and began to take photographs.  Five minutes later a single spotted hyaena came zig-zagging across the clearing and on picking up the smell of the kill, without any hesitation, simply ran in and grabbed the impala as the leopard scampered away.

We then spent the rest of the afternoon observing and photographing as the hyaena consumed the kill and the leopard lay patiently watching and waiting to pick up any scraps left behind has the hyaena dragged the kill away. 

Eventually, with its stomach bulging, the hyaena decided to stash the kill under a bush and wondered off and this gave the leopard a chance to get it back!  Surprisingly, she didn’t make any attempt to hoist the remains of the kill into a tree and simply settled down to eat.  A few minutes later the hyaena returned, chased the leopard up into a tree and ate some more.

We spent the rest of the evening watching as more and more hyaena arrived and the leopard rested in the tree watching her hard-earned meal disappear very quickly.

What an amazing start to the workshop with a lot of action which provided the photographers with great challenges.

That first afternoon set the tone for the rest of the weekend with sightings of another 5 different leopards, including a female leopard with her cub on another impala kill.  One evening was spent getting great flash photographs of the cub resting in a large monkey thorn tree as we learnt how to get correct exposures with flash and to use flash off-camera to cut down on red-eye.

Other highlights of the workshop included a great morning spent with 10 hyaenas in beautiful early morning light as they interacted with one another, early morning coffee next to a small group of hippos where we had the opportunity to get down on the ground and lie on our stomachs next to the water to get dramatic eye-level shots, a group of 5 white rhino who ended up walking so close to our vehicle that we were able to focus on close-up shots of their eyes, ears, horns and oxpeckers on their backs and a group of dwarf mongoose sitting on their termite mound basking in the early morning sun.

The early morning and afternoon activities were interspersed with lectures on various aspects of wildlife photography followed by the downloading of photographs from the previous activities for critique.

Hopefully the photographers left the workshop having learnt a few new things and inspired to go on to even better photography.  One thing’s for sure, we all came home with some magnificent photographs.

LEX HES - April 2012 EcoTraining Photography
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