Sunday, 17 May 2015

All in the eyes

The eyes have it, they say.
A picture is worth a thousand words, they say.
Whoever they are, they said it.

On our recent short visit to Singita in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa, we were fortunate to spend some quality time with an old male leopard called the "Camp Pan Male". He is estimated to be around 16 years old, which is very old for a male leopard (especially considering the amount of other males he's had to run into over the years).

Have a look at this photo.
What does it "speak" to you??
Think about it for a few seconds before reading on.

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.0  |  1/500 SS  |  ISO-1100

There's a very compelling story to this image - it was taken at the end of a very emotional sighting of him trying his best to feed on a kill he'd stolen from another leopard. His legs were wobbly, his hips looked cripple, and his teeth were worn down. He couldn't get into the very small tree that the kill was hoisted in. I will make the entire story the subject of a different post, because there's some good video footage that my wife caught of the event that would give you an idea of what went down.

Anyway, here he was lying in the grass after exerting all his energy to grab a bite or two...and as he longingly looked up at the kill he was unable to wrest free from the branch it was snuggled into, he looked forlorn...defeated. I was looking into the eyes of a dying leopard. He knew it. I knew it. 

As of today he is still alive (it's merely a week after we were there), but his condition was pretty poor, and we were probably some of the last people to see this leopard alive...and that makes this image special to me.

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Returning to the Sabi Sands

It's been a while.

3 years to be exact.
3 years since I was able to last spend time in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, a jewel in the lowveld and one of the best places to view and photograph leopards in all of Africa.
3 years ago, I didn't have much luck. I was only there for 2 nights and with the constant rain we only found one leopard on the last afternoon as I was about to leave the reserve.

Despite living in South Africa and going on safari frequently - leopard photos are a bit lacking in my overall portfolio. I've enjoyed amazing sightings of most of the other iconic African mammals, but leopards keep on avoiding me. THIS encounter in Kruger was the most memorable, but I am yearning for a fresh dose of leopard-awesomeness.

This weekend, my wife and I are returning to the Sabi Sands.
Between the properties of Singita and Leopard Hills, I hope we will be lucky enough to spend some quality time with Africa's beautiful secretive predator. At the very least, we should have a great time and recharge some of our own batteries.

Have a great weekend, folks.
See you on the flipside...with some new images I hope!

Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Drive-by Kalahari Scenes

By now you should know that I love the Kalahari desert.
It's a place that soothes the soul.
It's a place of silence, solitude, serenity and splendour.

Most of my visits to this region have been to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a National Park straddling South Africa and Botswana. Due to the nature of this place you are confined to exploring its landscapes photographically in two ways...within the confines of the rest camps and campsites, or from your vehicle as you drive around looking for wildlife (among which the magnificent black-maned lions of the Kalahari).

Over the years, I've managed to collect quite a few nice "drive-by" landscape photos in my pursuit to capture the arid beauty of the Kalahari effectively. It takes a different approach to traditional tripod-stomping, as you are really limited in how you can compose your photos. The following collection of images show some of the "drive-by" shots that I am most happy with to date. Most of these were taken handheld or resting on a beanbag on the vehicle door.

As always - the photos are best enjoyed by clicking on them...

1. "Kalahari Ghost Rain"
It gets very hot in the Kalahari - this image depicts "Ghost Rain", rain that evaporates even before hitting the earth. It's that hot! And this was taken right at sunrise!! Location - the dune fields between the Auob and Nossob riverbeds.

Nikon D800  |  31mm  |  f7.1  |  1/60 SS  |  ISO-640

2. "Southern Nossob"
A typical scene in the lower Nossob riverbed. Red sand dunes, camelthorn acacias, and big skies. This "river" runs only once every 100 years or so.

Nikon D800  |  24mm  |  Polariser  |  f8.0  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-500

3. "Red and Blue"
A typical late morning scene in the northern stretch of the Auob riverbed. Another fossil river, this one experiences a flash flood a bit more regularly than the Nossob, perhaps every 20 years or so!

Nikon D7000  |  92mm  |  f8.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-100

4. "Heart-shaped Cloud"
The space and the skies in the Kalahari are immense...and when the conditions are right you can capture something of that vastness on camera.

Canon 1000D  |  16mm  | Polariser  |  f11  |  1/80 SS  |  ISO-200

5. "Rain of Fire"
Although veld fires are common in the summer months, this was merely a spectacular sunset storm to the west, as seen from the lower Auob riverbed during a rare lush green season.

Nikon 1 V1  |  27mm  |  f3.5  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-400

6. "Ominous Overheads"
The storms in this part of the world can get quite rough. We were parked at a waterhole on this particular afternoon when a ripper came through - dust, rain, wind and lightning...

Canon 1000D  |  16mm  |  f8.0  |  1/80 SS  |  ISO-400

7. "Road to the Kalahari"
Just a grab shot of the road in the northern Auob riverbed. Doesn't this just make you want to get in your SUV and drive to the Kalahari??

Canon 1000D  |  28mm  |  f18  |  1/160 SS  |  ISO-200

Did you enjoy these? I hope it inspires you to not neglect your landscape photography even when you are not allowed to leave the safety of your vehicle...

Let me know what you think - which is your favourite? I intend on building this collection with every return visit!

Morkel Erasmus

Monday, 30 March 2015

Death Dance

Sometimes you spend hours waiting for a specific photo, anticipating and watching for the decisive moment in sweltering heat...other times you just stumble into the right spot at the right time. 

I wish I could wax lyrical about the planning and preparation that went into capturing this moment, but I can't. It was a combination of right time/place and luck (we all need some luck in this thing called wildlife photography!). During our 2013 +Wild Eye Great Migration photo safari I hosted with +Marlon du Toit, we saw some lions lying in the grass next to the Mara river, and decided to head closer for some portrait photography. As we pulled to a stop, to our amazement a lone wildebeest scrambled up the riverbank (having just done a solo crossing we couldn't see from our vantage point), and the poor thing literally almost tripped over the lions. The largest female of the small pride wasted no time in pouncing on the unfortunate ungulate, and a lengthy struggle ensued during which we were privy to the emotional dance of death between these species that occurs during the Great Migration. 

This particular wildebeest didn't seem to want to give up and kept struggling to escape his attackers, but to no avail. We were very close to the action, and shooting with a 500mm lens forced me to compose a little out-of-the-box, but I liked how it came out!

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f8.0  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-1400

I also converted it to monochrome, and I like it better in that medium. What do you think??

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f8.0  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-1400

Let me know which you prefer by dropping a comment below.
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you have a great week...

If you would like to join us in the Mara Triangle this year for an awesome photographic adventure, then check out THIS page.

If you would like to purchase this tone version as a limited edition fine art print for your office or home, mail me:

Morkel Erasmus