A different view of Kruger – Abundance and beauty

As a wildlife and nature photographer one sometimes has to make do with what you are presented with as wild animals cannot be manipulated like studio items. This can very easily lead to despondence and a feeling of hopelessness if things do not go your way. (I am referring to real wildlife not the canned type). This fact does however not mean that a shot cannot be planned or that a photographer cannot go out with a certain idea or project in mind. As is the case with most things in life almost anything is possible and some projects or shots will just require more effort and patience. It is however a prerequisite that you know your subject, and keep other factors like season, area, time of day etc. in mind. In some instances you can improve your chances and create opportunities like adding bird feeders to your garden or erecting a hide at an owl nest. In the Kruger park however you have to work with nature and are not able or allowed to create opportunities artificially (for instance by feeding wild animals) and this brings me back to my first point, you have to work with the situation that you are presented with. Most people visit Kruger with the main aim to see or photograph the big 5. The problem is that there are literally millions of lion and leopard photographs out there that you have to compete with.  Now what are we as part timers and hobbyists to do in order to create something unique?

The answer is to take a different view and open yourself to all that nature is able to give. This might include anything from the Mauritian Tomb bat hanging upside down from the beams at the picnic spot, the sunbird on the aloe flower in camp to the big tusker  walking the plains. Open yourself up to all the possibilities Kruger has to offer. I have always been fascinated by the different seasons in Kruger and have for instance captured beautiful autumn colours in northern Kruger, but you have to understand that the seasons in the lowveld differ from that of the rest of the world as you can only record these beautiful "autumn"scenes after winter! For game viewing  the best time to visit Kruger is during, or just after winter as the bush is open, water is scarce and animals have to come to the water and is easily spotted and photographed. It is however also true that this time of  year can be  dusty and the surroundings rather drab and monotonous, offering additional challenges to the photographer. Summer on the other hand makes sighting and photographing animals difficult due to dense vegetation and abundance of water in the veld. Temperatures, mosquitos and other factors can also be challenging. Good summer rains however, transform this drab and monotonous bush, as if by some magic wand, into something of extreme beauty.

Although rain fell sporadically and patchy during the start of the rainy season, general summer rain only came late in December this summer. Having worked  through December I took a couple of days off in January and set out with the main aim to try and capture and record something of this incredible transformation, a transformation showing a totally  different view of Kruger, one of abundance and beauty, not noticed by many.

Please enjoy the journey with me and when you feel despondent again, remember  – take a different view!

Steadfast, high on a rock and in pouring rain, the Klipspringer stands looking out over the plains down below as if he owns them.

                  200mm, 1/250 @ f2.8   Handheld through the front window in pouring rain with the windscreen wipers at full speed.

On the plains below Giraffe is enjoying the abundance against the backdrop of the follow-up rain needed to sustain life in the bush.

                     160mm, 1/400 @ f5.6 

Abundance is everywhere, not only providing food but also cover and invisibility against enemies. Use this to your advantage and  by showing this in your composition.

                420mm, 1/1000 @ f5.6

After good summer rains wild flowers are plentiful in Kruger, especially in the north and I were always drawn to them, trying to isolate them from the background and getting them nice and sharp, all with the camera resting on the window of a parked car. This obviously is a huge disadvantage as these flowers can be photographed along any road outside the park or even in your garden with much better control and results. 

                 200mm, 1/500 @ f5.6

My aim this time around was to show the bigger picture, the abundance and the beauty of the bush, so I went wider, with the camera still rested on the car window.

                135mm, 1/320 @ f9

                98mm, 1/250 @ f11  Taken outside Pretoriuskop

                 17mm, 1/125 @ f6.3

But these images could also have been made elsewhere, so I added the real Kruger, sometimes with the flowers as major subject  but mostly somewhere in the background, silently adding colour and beauty.

                420mm, 1/640 @ f5

                420mm, 1/640 @ f5

                190mm, 1/500 @ f8

                200mm, 1/160 @ f7.1

                420mm, 1/800 @ f5

                420mm, 1/640 @ f5

Remember to look down once in a while!

                420mm, 1/640 @ f5

                 140mm, 1/250 @ f4

                420mm, 1/640 @ f5

               200mm, 1/1000 @ f5.6

Another pack resting among the flowers!

                420mm, 1/640 @ f5.6

I showed the value of the whiteberry bush in previous posts (http://photocritic.digitalphotographycourses.co.za/photo/baboon-in-...). It reacts to good rain by providing food in abundance to all and sundry and provides excellent photographic opportunity to the patient photographer.

                 380mm, 1/640 @ f5

On the grassy plains large flocks of Red-billed Quelea descent on the thick stands of grass to feed on the seed, moving forward in spectacular "rolling waves".

                 420mm, 1/1600 @ f5.6

                420mm, 1/1600 @ f5.6

The big 5 will also play along if you set your mind to it!

                  200mm, 1/320 @ f5.6

Even the king has some flowers in his bedroom....

                  380mm, 1/640 @ f5

                 270mm, 1/400 @ f4

to create the right atmosphere for his romantic endeavours!

                330mm, 1/500 @ f5.6

                420mm, 1/800 @ f5.6

                 195mm, 1/1000 @ f7.1

Leopard are elusive creatures and are not easily seen, especially when the bush is dense and catching a male leopard rolling in the flower patch is practically impossible. I am not sure if the dense bush helps or hinders in hunting but this male was watching something intently, something only he could see. The bush is so dense that he vanished from sight a couple of meters from the road.  I am not sure if he was successful in the hunt as we could not see anything once he moved deeper into the bush, but I do believe that he too benefits from the abundant provision the good rain provided.

                      420mm, 1/800 @ f5.6

And 150 kilometers to the south, another male leopard are stalking a different prey animal but the situation is exactly the same. As a photographer you need to be ready to act fast as opportunities like this does not last very long. This sighting lasted mere minutes before he too, like a ghost, vanished in the dense vegetation.

                      270mm  1/1000 @ f5.6

I trust that you enjoyed my journey and will look at Kruger differently in future, appreciating all it has to offer. May you all end up with breathtaking images. Keep the following in mind:

  • Have fun.
  • Think creatively and outside the box, but stay in your car :) 
  • Work with the seasons.
  • Observe - look and listen. Spend a day or two assessing the situation, then decide what you want to shoot and plan to be be in the right areas at the right time.
  • Be open to everything Kruger has to offer - even a little Klipspringer on a rock in pouring rain.
  • Use more than one lens. Go wide, you don't have to fill the frame at all times.
  • Be patient.
  • Try to tell a story.

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Comment by Pietman Muller on March 4, 2015 at 12:30

Dankie Dries!

Comment by Dries Alberts on March 3, 2015 at 12:30

Mmmm!

Dis 'n gawe skuilplek wat jy nou het.

Ek stem saam. Grasgoen van oorvloed.

Pragtige jaar en pragtig vasgevang.

Geluk Pietman.

Comment by Pietman Muller on February 13, 2015 at 10:21

Dankie vir die kommentaar Leon!

Comment by LEON PELSER on February 13, 2015 at 9:34

Dankie Pietman...absoluut fantasties!!

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