Thursday, 30 December 2010

My Top 10 for 2010

I really can't believe we are at the end of 2010...it seems like only yesterday when we walked into this year all excited about the big things that were set to happen in our famlies, our lives, our cities, our countries and our world. Like any and every year 2010 had its fair share of ups and downs. I'm going to abstain from getting all deep and philosophical in this post (heck, those who know me well know that I do that often enough!)...and focus on one of the things that I can honestly say had only ups for me this year...my photography. Ever since taking up this hobby (read: obsession), I have been privileged to get to know and learn from many great photographers, and looking back over the past year I can really see how my own craft has grown, evolved and morphed into what it is now.
 

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

PhotoShare: Blyde River Canyon



Well, as the holiday season is upon us I am reminded of the fact that this December we won't be going on a proper holiday (had a lot of trips during the year though!)...

We are, however, going away for the long weekend to the Mpumalanga escarpment near the town of Graskop. I am hoping to spend some time with my wife before the arrival of our first child early in 2011! We will probably be visiting all the local scenic locations such as the Blyde River Canyon, "God's Window", Bourke's Luck potholes and the likes. I would like to capture some images of these with my camera, as the only real images I have of the Canyon were taken hand-held and in poor light.

Here is a panorama I stitched together from a few shots taken handheld in 2009 while were were briefly in the area for a wedding:



If you are travelling during this festive season, stay safe! Enjoy the rest and for those who will still log into SAFFAscapes from time to time I will probably post some more blog posts since I will be biding my time at home.

Cheers (and don't forget your camera gear at home!)

Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Exhibit...

So, I am quite excited to leave for Cape Town tomorrow, where I will be attending the opening of the South African leg of the BBC Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010 Exhibit-Roadshow. I couldn't make the London ceremony due to various reasons...so being able to attend this one is a good consolation prize.


I will check back in on Monday with a new blog post or photo or something. Until then - keep safe (especially if you are driving on the roads this holiday season)!


Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

PhotoShare: Hold On!!

It seems the weeks are getting more hectic as the year drags to an end!


Here is a shot I took in December 2009 (almost a year ago) in the northern region of the Greater Kruger Transfrontier Park.


This little chacma baboon was clinging to his mother for all he was worth as she strolled on by early one morning close to the Shingwedzi river. I love framing portraits of animals that sort of break the mold, and this is an example of one. Many people will find many things wrong with this picture in terms of composition and the likes (for example, the mother's feet are too close to the picture's edge)...but somehow this just works for me. This photo is only cropped slightly from the left-hand side and converted to black-and-white to enhance the story.


Would love your thoughts??


f4.0  //  1/200 SS  //  ISO-800


Enjoy the rest of the week!


Morkel Erasmus

Monday, 22 November 2010

The frustrating magic of panning shots

Well, as promised, a lengthier, hopefully pithier, blog post...


You've seen them, right? Those blurry shots of birds flying or animals running with just the exact amount of sharpness on the eyes or face or head to make it work beautifully. Those shots which look "Photoshopped" but after investigation you find out it was all achieved using in-camera settings and specific techniques...



"Ground Squirrel Rocket"
f14  //  1/50 SS  //  ISO-200


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

PhotoShare: Sunrise over Goera Pan

Another insane week on my end has kept me from writing another lengthy blog post...so you will have to be content with another quick PhotoShare. Hopefully I can muster up a properly pithy blog post sometime over the weekend.


This was taken while I was participating in the Spirit of Africa challenge, I was able to do some much-needed Kalahari landscape shooting. Being able to walk around and play with different compositions is a breath of fresh air as far as landscapes in this area goes, as I'm usually bound to my vehicle in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park looking for dangerous predators when I find myself in this area.


The event was held on a local farm, and much of it took place on the "Goera Pan", a large salt pan on the farm which can be seen from the main road between Upington and Askham.


This was taken from a small dune in the middle of the pan, and is a blend of 3 exposures to get the dynamic range of the scene right. I used a fourth exposure with my thumb obscuring the sun to remove distracting lens flare from the shot (more about this technique can be found on the site of Hougaard Malan, an inspiring young South African professional landscape photographer whose work belies his age - he has a few great tutorials on his site).


I set the aperture to f22 in order to get as much of the scene in focus as possible and also to obtain that nice solar star. I also used a circular polariser to obtain the deep blue tone in the sky and eliminate any unwanted reflections of light.


Here is the final image...


f16  //  Bracketed Exposures  //  ISO-100  //  Circular Polariser


Hope you liked it...and remember to keep shooting!


Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

PhotoShare: Double Leopard on the Rocks, please

Hey folks...


I don't know about you but I've had a HECTIC week thus far. I was planning a lengthier blog post for this week but, alas, I am not going to get round to it.


Here is another quick PhotoShare to keep the blog and the images rolling. This leopard mother and daughter (named Mambirri and Mantwane) gave us an amazing few sightings during a short trip in February 2010 to the Sabi-Sands Game Reserve in South Africa. Here the cub, Mantwane, was sitting on a large riverine rock as mom Mambirri passed by. I deliberately used shallow depth-of-field (DOF) by setting the camera's aperture to f4.0 in order to get the mother pin sharp and the cub slightly out-of-focus.


Enjoy, and till next time...


f4.0  //  1/1000 SS  //  ISO-500
Morkel Erasmus

Monday, 1 November 2010

PhotoShare: Backlit Meerkats

Time for a quick PhotoShare everyone...


This troop of Meerkats (Suricates) were taking in the early morning sun in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Kalahari desert) during our last trip in October 2010.


With the sun coming from directly in front of me, I used the light direction to create a rim-lit effect, with the sun nicely enhancing their outlines by shining through their fur. When doing this, it is necessary to underexpose considerably by dialing down your exposure compensation.


f8.0  //  1/2500 SS  //  ISO-640  //  Exposure bias -1


Enjoy the week ahead!


Morkel Erasmus

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010

Hi everyone!!


I am back from a short trip to the Kalahari during which I had some amazing sightings, amongst others my first caracal in the wild...but more on that later as I start to work through the photos.


I have the immense honour to have a photo among the winning images in this year's BBC Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition! A photo I took last year in the Kalahari of a lone blue wildebeest on a dune against a dramatic backdrop of cirrus clouds has been "Highly Commended" in the "Nature in Black and White" category.


This achievement evokes in me a plethora of emotions. It is humbling to be included among such amazing examples of photographic art whilst still being relatively new to nature photography, and it is overwhelming to know that I am able to take photos that are able to compete on such a stage.


You can check out my image here (and please also take some time to work through the other winning galleries and check out the inspiring photos on display):


http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/wpy/photo.do?photo=2647&category=49&group=1

I've seen a few more people have started subscribing to this blog - and for this I am very thankful! Please let me know what you think of the content I publish here by posting comments on the them (I moderate these comments just to prevent spambots).


Until next time!


Morkel Erasmus

Friday, 15 October 2010

PhotoShare: Kalahari Tree

Seeing as I'm off to the Kalahari again for the next 8-9 days, I thought I would share an image I captured during our previous trip in June 2010...

This is a typical Kalahari scene...camelthorn acacia, red dunes, vast expanse and (if you are lucky) a stunning sky.

f16  //  1/80 SS  //  ISO-200
Enjoy the week ahead everyone - I will see you on the flip-side! If you want to you can do me a favour and refer your buddies to my website and blog, hehe...


Morkel Erasmus


Friday, 8 October 2010

The Coucal vs The Chameleon

Before the weekend kicks off officially, I wanted to share with you a very dramatic bird sighting we had in July 2009 while on a trip to the Kruger National Park (these days called the Greater Kruger Transfrontier Park) in South Africa.

We were travelling from the Lower Sabie rest camp north-west towards the Skukuza rest camp on which is probably one of the best tar roads in the park for game viewing. It winds along next to the Sabie river and offers a myriad of opportunities. After a great lion sighting further down-river, we came across this peculiar sighting:


Monday, 4 October 2010

PhotoShare: Amongst Giants

Hi everyone...

I thought I'd kick off October 2010 with an endearing PhotoShare moment. I photographed this herd of African Elephants earlier in August in the Addo Elephant National Park. The little one seemed to get lost among the bulky adults around him, and I also liked that he was the only one facing me.

f8.0  //  1/500 SS // ISO-400

I hope you enjoyed this one. There are many more photos on my new WEBSITE (which I launched last week in case you missed it). Go check it out - and remember you need to have the latest version of Flash installed to enhance your viewing pleasure.

Enjoy the rest of the week!

Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Birthdays and Websites

Okay so here it is - my 28th birthday! Not that it's really a big enough deal to blog about, but I decided to give myself a different kind of present today...


I am indeed happy to announce the launch of my new "OFFICIAL" website!


It has taken me some time to select the best format and layout and put everything together, and I would love for you to pop on over and have a look. I have added a link on the right-hand-side of the main blog page as well, but here it is officially:


http://MORKELERASMUS.com


Please be kind enough to drop me a comment on this post and letting me know what you think.


Cheers!


Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

PhotoShare: Kalahari Lion

Hi there everyone!

Here's today's "PhotoShare"...an imposing male lion on morning dune patrol in the Kalahari desert.


This photo was taken in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa. Enjoy!

f7.1  //  1/1000 SS  //  ISO-500  //  Exposure bias +0.3

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday, 16 September 2010

PhotoShare: Steppe Buzzard

So here's my first attempt at a mid-week random blog post with very little of me babbling and a nice photo attached. Rather than calling it "Photo of the Day" (because I can't guarantee that I'll find time to select and post one every single day), I will label it "PhotoShare"...(patent pending! hehe)

This was my very first sighting of a Steppe Buzzard, a summer migrant to South Africa. I photographed this beautiful raptor very early one overcast morning in the Kruger National Park on the road between the Orpen and Satara rest camps.

You will have noticed from my previous post that I started sharing my technical settings as captions underneath my photographs - this is for all you fellow photographers to either learn from or challenge my settings...with the low light here I had to rest the lens on a beanbag draped over the car window to ensure a sharp shot at the 400mm focal length.

Enjoy!

f4.0  //  1/125 SS  //  ISO-800  //  Exposure bias -0.3  //  Focal Length 400mm

Morkel Erasmus

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Amazing African Night Sky

Well, good afternoon. I don't really know where you are when reading this, or what the time is...but right now it is about 17h40 on a lazy Sunday afternoon in South Africa.


I am aiming to now post at least one blog post per week, if not more, but in a more "photo-of-the-day" style, with intermittent longer, more thoughtful posts. That way I can keep everyone updated on my photos as I process them from previous travels, and keep the site a little more active.


Those of you who've been to Africa before will know that there is just nothing like the night sky of Africa. In the USA I know they speak of Montana as "Big Sky Country", but in Africa it just seems that everywhere is "Big Sky Country". And if the daytime clouds and expanse don't convince you, the stars at night surely will. In general Africa has many places that are still quite devoid of serious "light pollution", which enables a much clearer view of the Milky Way and Southern Hemisphere "starscape".


The Milky Way as seen in the Kalahari desert, South Africa
f3.5  //  30s  //  ISO-6400


Sunday, 5 September 2010

An Article About Addo

And so enters the month of September 2010...is it just me or has this year just gone faster than the previous one? Things are really steamrolling along this year. The much anticipated Soccer World Cup 2010 has come and gone, and I think our country has done itself proud. Unfortunately there are now a few things in the aftermath that could unsettle all the momentum our wonderful nation has built up.

But enough of that before I change this blog into a socio-political one..

We have just returned from an amazing (albeit short) road trip which took us to areas we had not visited in quite a while. As a big fan of South Africa's National Parks and a big fan of the self-drive safari (maybe it's because of budgetary constraints as well hehe, but I DO so love finding my own sightings and making the most of them photographically), I was happy to make my first real trip to the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape province. I had only been there once in the past for a quick drive-through en route to elsewhere, and this time we managed to book a 2-night stay in one of the safari tents of the Main Rest Camp.

f8.0  //  1/640 SS  //  ISO-800

Friday, 20 August 2010

Hartebeest Derby!!

Hello to all the SAFFAscapes readers. Are you liking the new look of my blog? I am also in the process of setting up my official website, which should be live within the next few weeks. I'll keep you posted on that!

Well, lucky me to be leaving on another road-trip tomorrow...my time does fly. We are doing a round-trip to the Central Drakensberg, the Wild Coast near the old Transkei and then on to the Addo Elephant National Park and the Mountain Zebra National Park. Basically, we will be travelling right around the mountain country of Lesotho in a sense.

Before I leave, here is a photo of a Red Hartebeest in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park...this is what our car will look like as we rocket out of the city towards the clear skies of the Drakensberg!






Keep well until I return with MANY more photos...


Morkel Erasmus

Thursday, 5 August 2010

WORKING THE LIGHT

Hello again everyone...

I thought it was time for a new post since we're already a few days into August. My, how this year is just rocketing past!!

Sometimes we find ourselves in that "sweet spot" for photography. You know - the golden morning/evening light from the sun teetering on the brink of the horizon falling over your shoulder and straight onto whatever animal or bird happens to be caught in your viewfinder at that moment. Everything just comes together...like these giraffe I found the other day in the Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa:


More often than not, however, we find ourselves in a situation where it's just not possible to get into that "sweet spot". In many cases it's an insurmountable task to get ourselves in that position due to terrain constraints or the fact that you might not be allowed to go off-road in certain reserves (at least that's the case for most of the places I go on safari to), but at other times there's just not enough T-I-M-E to do so...these "truly" golden minutes only last for a few fleeting moments after all.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Continuous Improvement

Many of you will have noticed that I have been making a few changes on the look, layout and overall content of my blog. It's just the natural progression of being new to blogging  and also the progression I am seeing in the development of my art as a photographer. 

Monday, 19 July 2010

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The obsession with eye contact

The last time I blogged, I spoke about "seeing the bigger picture" when you are out taking photos. In the meantime I was privileged to do a guest post for Photo-Africa about the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as a safari destination (check it out here

I thought it prudent to share more of my thoughts on alternative approaches to wildlife photography. If you frequent various online photography forums (like I do), you will often find the critiques given lamenting the lack of better eye contact and/or a glint in the eye (catchlight). Now while this may be valid in many of the cases, this doesn't mean you should pack away your camera in situations when you're not getting that golden eye contact from your subject. Often while on safari we will be faced with a situation where the most gorgeous animal presents itself, only to spitefully shy away from eye contact with the tourists/photographers.




Thursday, 1 July 2010

Seeing the BIGGER picture...

When I first made the switch from "point-and-shoot" snapper to a bona fide DSLR photographer, I couldn't wait to get my first close-up shots of my favourite animals. But alas, it didn't take me very long to get bored with getting standard close-up shots. Why? Mainly because everyone with a half-decent lens has them. You see, for me it was never going to be about just "getting" the photo. It was always going to be about creating art. Now don't get me wrong, for many people getting the photo is enough and it's the only reason they lug around a camera and some lenses on their safaris...and each to his own indeed. I've just always been artistically wired and on top of that I always throw myself 200% at something I'm passionate about (something which can be frustrating for people around me!).


So it didn't take very long for me to start becoming very aware of the myriad of possibilities that exist with every photographic opportunity that I encounter. Not that I recognise ALL the possible compositions and variations - oh no! Often I have come home and looked at the photos I created, only to realise then that I could have done something differently and it would have made all the difference in the world! In those moments, I try and file the mistake as a lesson learnt to tap from when faced with a similar opportunity.






Monday, 21 June 2010

How to Cheetah your way through the Kalahari...

You've got to love the unpredictability of a day on safari. I've had so many experiences where you go through an entire day without seeing anything of note...without seeing anything dramatic or unique. On those days you have to focus on other things - like the privilege of actually BEING in an unspoiled piece of wilderness instead of a bustling city office. Yet so often the very next day can yield more drama than you can handle...




Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A dark future??

This blog post has been coming for a while now, since finding out more of the shocking statistics about the increase in Rhino poaching in South Africa and Africa in general of late, and since reading an article by world-famous widllife filmmakers/photographers/conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert about how lions, once thought the least endangered predator in Africa, are now facing extinction in the long run.

Recent blog posts by Shem Compion and Gerry van der Walt (click on their names to go and read their posts) have also served as catalysts for my thoughts in this blog post.

For me, the privilege of being able to capture forever moments of natural history in the wild places of Africa really boils down to leaving a legacy...something tangible that might still be able to be enjoyed long after all that we've seen and all that we've come to love in Africa (and other wonderful locations around the world) has passed away and been replaced by garbage dumps and concrete living quarters. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those "tree-huggers" who will chain themselves to whaling ships or despise all technological advancement (although I do think whaling is disgusting and that some technology cripples us more than it enables us to better conserve our planet)...in fact I do drive an SUV (maybe not as big a gas-guzzler as a Hummvee but one that at least gets me where I need to be in Africa, potholes in the roads being more dangerous than the wildlife these days), and I do live in a bustling town of industry and I do in fact work in a field that creates a bit of pollution. But one thing I know...I love Africa. I love her vibe, her cadence, her charisma, her unbridled energy and most of all, her natural beauty.

I find myself longing for days long gone when explorers such as Livingstone and Hemingway stood atop the kopjes of the African plains, and looking out in all directions all they saw was a mass of animal life as far as the eye could see. Large herds of elephants with tusks thrice as long as a man...buffalo herds that made the great wildebeest migration look like a flea circus...clans of wild dog that roamed vast grasslands and outnumbered even large predators like lions. These men could only but capture their fascination with Africa in their writing, and boy do these tales excite...grand sweeping prose that makes you yearn for times gone by with a thick lump in your throat. These days we have the tools to make those memoirs even more vivid...our cameras. The majesty and elegance and beauty of this continent of ours is now in our hands to portray to all who would perhaps stop by our blogs, read our books or stumble upon our images on a calendar or in a magazine, and if I can evoke those same feelings in at least one other person, I would be ecstatic.

The fact that poaching of rhinos (for the supposed medicinal value of their horns) is rising at an alarming rate all over Africa, and more specifically in the national parks and wildlife reserves of South Africa, has sparked these ideas into another direction. What if the only rhino/cheetah/leopard (fill in the blanks) that my children will ever get to see, are the ones that I have had the privilege of taking photos of during my lifetime??? What if I can never take them to the places I've been and show them the things I've seen, save for showing them a large print of a photo that tries in some meager way to capture the essence of the animal/bird?

This rhino bull was captured in stunning morning sidelight, and I deliberately underexposed with a moody black-and-white photo in mind to convey my concern over this species and others. I hope with all my heart to show this one to my own children one day, and then get into the car, drive to a nearby reserve and show them the real thing...


As Gerry rightly put - we need to take action on a grander scale than merely joining a Facebook group or signing up for a newsletter at Conservation organisation. How and what that involvement will be is up to each of us to determine, decide, and put into action. Until I have the funds to invest in conservation efforts and sponsor large-scale projects, I will continue to try and share the images I have the honour of taking with whoever wants to see. And I do hope we all desire very much to SEE...

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The narrow escape with the Lionscape...

So, I am back from a very exciting and fulfilling trip to Dullstroom and the Madikwe Game Reserve. Not only were there loads of mind-blowing photographic opportunities, but I got to spend some quality time with my wife, a few good friends and like-minded photographers like Gerry van der Walt and Kerry de Bruyn.

I thought you might get a good chuckle out of the story I want to share, as well as have even more appreciation for the image it produced upon reading it.

We set out on Tuesday morning at 5AM to drive to a section of the Madikwe Game Reserve called the Madikwe Plains...a vast open stretch of African savannah that is reminiscent of the Serengeti in many ways. We got there well before the sun peeked over the horizon, and there were some wildebeest and springbok visible on the plains, with nice mountain ridges and some clouds that were adopting glorious colour tones from the rising sun.

In a great mood to make the most of this landscape, Gerry and I hopped off the Land Rover with our cameras and tripods and started setting up in front of the Landy in the dirt road, looking to the West to capture the colours of the sunrise on the plains. All of a sudden my darling wife asked: "What's that in the road?"

When I turned my head, a cold shudder ran down my spine and tingled in the tips of my toes...even though the sun hadn't completely risen, the shape that was lying about 20 meters up ahead in the road was unmistakeably that of a full-grown male lion...and he was looking straight at us. We could certainly have broken some kind of record for high-jumping with our attempts to scramble back into the vehicle! All the while the lion was just lying there, minding its own business. It's kind of funny when you look back at it now...

Here is a shot I snapped very quickly after we'd hopped back into the relative safety of the game viewer...



As we drove closer, it turned out to be one of a coalition of 2 brothers who were dominant on these plains, but this one seemed to have bit on the short end of the stick in a scuff with his brother recently. The next moment he broke out roaring right next to us! 


A few moments later his brother answered from across the plains.


It was quite a surreal experience...they kept roaring at each other periodically, and we kept trying different photographic compositions. In the end, one of my favourites from the trip is this last one. I held my camera way down the side of the Land Rover, went ultra-wide with my wide-angle lens, and snapped 3 exposures, of which I used 2 to blend this final image together. One exposure was used for the sky and mountains (underexposed) and one for the lion and plains (zero exposure).


Here is my lion in high dynamic range...(remember to click on the images for higher res viewing)


 I would love to hear what you think about my "experience" and the resulting shots! :)


Thanks for keeping a watchful eye on my meager blog...


I will be changing the overall content of this blog to cover more of my photography than just "HDR" or "blending" since I am in the process of constructing an official homepage and will link this as the official blog to my page.


Keep shooting!!


Morkel Erasmus

Saturday, 3 April 2010

An ancient tree...

Once again I have to apologise for a very short blog post. I merely wanted to share this photo I took this morning. It was a very emotionally loaded day for me and my wife and this tree just made me think of the cycle of life and death... 


How many summers and winters has it seen? How many storms has it weathered? How many pests has it had to endure, and was it ever threatened with being cut down?


So I share with you this tree - bearing scars that have healed well and others which are still visible.


May you stand strong and grow where you are planted despite the storms, the hardships and the turmoil. May you soak up every ounce of sunshine and rain as if it were your last. And may I do so as well...



Morkel Erasmus

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Nature in Black and White

Seeing that I haven't processed any multiple exposure HDR shots recently, I decided to do another post on an area of wildlife and nature photography that fascinates me...


Black and white has a certain panache to it. A good black and white photo just leaps out at you, whilst an average one just does nothing for you. I always try and have a look at which photos will be done justice by the black and white medium. I guess the key here is to actually visualise a shot in B&W while you are taking it, in other words as you see the scene through the viewfinder, try and visualise if it will work as a monochrome image.


"What will make it work in monochrome?" I hear you ask. Not that I'm an expert at all...but I do find that the B&W medium enhances form, line, texture and mood in the shots that it does work for. Look at this shot taken in the Kruger National Park last weekend. This pride of lions were just doing what they do best - sleeping. Occasionally one of them would get up, reposition him or herself and lie down again. At one stage one of the males got up, walked to his brother and lay down next to him - and gave a big yawn, followed by an obligatory snuggle against his brother's mane. I immediately knew that this shot would have to be done in B&W...and see how it enhances the expressions of the lions, whilst taking out the distracting bright green background colour...(as always, click on the pictures for a better view)




On the same weekend - a day or two earlier - we were in the Sabi-Sands Game Reserve, and were following a leopard mother and cub around the bush. This is a shot of her approaching our vehicle, and again, in B&W it just does something with the leopard's coat patterns and the fall of the light that I find fascinating...


Another animal that is just a shoe-in for B&W experimentation is the zebra. The black and white stripes on these animals lean very nicely into any type of B&W treatment, especially with abstract compositions...here's what I mean:




The monochrome image can also be used to emphasise action and movement. These images from our trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park last year show just that - and the subjects this time are mere Springboks and Oryx, not half as 'tourist-spectacular' as predators, but look at how these shots panned out!






Even landscapes can get a whole different feel when viewed in black and white. The key here is especially on lines, shapes and textures. Here are a few of my own attempts at landscape conversions to B&W:





Okay - before I give you a sensory overload in "Black and White", I'll end off with two shots taken of the same scene which are incidentally two of my favourite photos in my entire (vast) portfolio...The scene was simple: a lone blue wildebeest on a dune in the Kalahari, with wispy clouds behind it, painting a perfect picture of the harsh environment and the skill these animals have developed at surviving against all the odds.

Enjoy it, and I hope I have at least inspired you to go out and be more creative when taking photos...

Morkel Erasmus




Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Silky Slick Silhouettes

Hellooooooo and welcome back to SAFFAscapes...

For today's post I decided to do something different - something which is not exactly what you would call HDR. But, after all, I am a photographer and I don't only do HDR, it's just one of the fun techniques I play around with.

I am posting a few very different silhouette photos today. Silhouettes can either rock the house or they bomb out and fizzle into nothing - depending on what you choose to portray and how that image leans itself to lines, texture and simplicity.

The first shot is one that was taken late one afternoon on a dune in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. A herd of oryx was grazing peacefully, minding their own business, as the sun was setting behind them in the little piece of blissful serenity which is called the Kalahari desert.

 
(click on the photo for a larger view)

 The second shot was taken in the town where I live at a local duck pond. The smog from the factories drifts past the sun on many evenings, creating a hazy, smoky scene which makes normal photography very challenging when you're waiting for that sweet golden light of sunset as the sun is hidden behind the smog. This time it didn't make a difference...I was ready. I had spotted a section of the willow tree on the island in the middle of the pond where I could capture a bird roosting on a perch with the sun directly behind it. Many afternoons I had hoped for the perfect bird to sit on the perfect perch with the perfect combination of smog and clouds. And on that day - it was there! I do wish that I'd had my longer lens at the time as this is quite a crop to get the other birds and branches out of the frame...

 
(click on the photo for a larger view)
I personally love these 2 photos. Finding the right scene for your silhouette is half the battle. Composing in camera is another 30%. Processing right afterwards makes up the rest.


Sticking with birds...I also want to show you a silhouette I captured sometime last year of a black-headed heron flying in to roost for the night at the same local duck pond.

(click on the photo for a larger view)

I like how the dramatic clouds and sunset colours add poignancy to the bird's pose.


The fourth photo I want to share was taken early one morning at the entrance gate to the rest camp in the Augrabies Falls National Park. The falls are currently flooding after some intense rains and I wish I could be there now! The quiver tree is quite a landmark in the Northern Cape and Namibia. Rugged. Hardy. Lonely. These words all describe this beautiful tree, yet none of them really describes it to one who has never seen them. 

This is the silhouetted quiver tree shot as I have adjusted it from the camera - in other words - as shot with a bit of natural tweaking:

 
(click on the photo for a larger view)

Notice how the texture and shape of the quiver trees make for a lot of eye-candy.
 

Now - let's see where creativity can take us...

Getting a bit more creative, I also used a little Photoshop magic on the photo posted above - I copied the silhouette of the flying heron into the quiver tree photo and created a piece of 'visual art'. I don't mind when people play around creatively with their photos in Photoshop - one should just always make mention of the fact that the photo has been 'shopped' (that is to say - one has gone beyond the boundaries of enhancing what is already naturally in the photo by adding elements and transforming the photo into something else). I also boosted the colours of the quiver tree shot a lot to add to the visual impact of the silhouettes.

Here is my final result. I call it "Quivering Landing". I would REALLY like to know what you think of this one, whether you enjoyed it or whether you think I've "crossed the line too far". :)

 
(click on the photo for a larger view)

There you have it! Hopefully I've inspired you to go and look out for some stunning silhouettes in your area, or on your next holiday.

Until next time...keep capturing those moments in time...

Morkel Erasmus  

Monday, 1 February 2010

Valley of Winelands - Paarl

For my first post in February 2010 (my does this year rocket past - even faster than last year!!) I thought I'd share another image from our trip in December 2009 to the Western Cape province of South Africa.

This area plays host to some of the best scenery, best wine estates and best restaurants in the country.

This 3-exposure HDR was shot from the wine-tasting lawn on the Seidelberg Wine Estate near the town of Paarl. The view looks over the Simonsberg mountain and the Franschhoek valley to the far left.

I hope that, if this serene scene finds you behind your desk wishing you were somewhere on the road to a beautiful place, that you will feel as if you could be on this lawn, tasting the fine wine, looking out over this lovely valley.

(remember to click on the photo for a better viewing size)

If you stumble across this post - please drop a comment telling me where you are now, and what you are doing! This way we can all share a moment in time.

Keep healthy and productive and keep clicking those cameras wherever you go!

Morkel Erasmus

Saturday, 16 January 2010

There be giants here...

This past December we spent some time in the Kruger National Park - oh wait, it's now called the 'Greater Kruger Transfrontier Park'. The summer sees the bushveld transformed from the dull yellow and brown of winter into a lush green paradise. This also makes spotting the wildlife a little trickier, but it also brings a lot of beautiful migrant birds from the Northern Hemisphere.


We headed north to avoid the hustle and bustle of the southern part of the park. The north is quieter - not just in terms of visitor numbers but the game is also more spread out. But the sightings you DO get are a lot better since most of the time there isn't a traffic jam at any of the sightings.


The north of Kruger is also where most of the larger elephants roam. The vegetation suits them - and if you ask me - the smaller number of tourists also suits them...


We came across this bulky bull north of the Shingwedzi rest camp on a rainy day when we were the only ones driving out.



Applying HDR to this picture helped me pull a lot of detail from the moody rain clouds behind the elephant, as well as from its skin texture. I also quite like this shot as a black and white conversion.



As you travel to the utmost northern part of Kruger, you meet less and less people, and you also wind your way to a magical place called 'Pafuri'. This is a region of lush riverine forests, exotic birdlife and the ruins of ancient civilizations. The Levuvhu river winds through a dense fevertree forest and ends up joining the Limpopo river at a junction called "Crook's Corner". This 'corner' gained its notorious name from the fact that many fugitives from justice came here to escape the arms of the law of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). At the time the place was literally a no-man's land and all the fugitives would sit and watch as the law-enforcement from the 3 countries fought over who could arrest them.

Here are some shots I took while driving through the area. You are not allowed to get out of your car so these were all taken from the car window.






I could spend hours in these tranquil forests.


So, the next time you book a trip to Kruger, don't just hang around the nexus of Skukuza and Lower Sabie, even Satara. Head north, and let your soul unwind...


Till next time...take care.


Morkel Erasmus