Monday 19 December 2011

PhotoShare: Wild Coast Waves

Since I will not be heading to the beach this summer (work commitments!), I dug up an image from a trip we did last year to the South African Wild Coast.

This morning I hoped for some dramatic sunrise conditions, but a cloud bank hovered on the horizon and kept the sun from breaking through in those first golden moments of light. I still liked the textures of this beach and the motion of the waves.

If you are travelling over this festive season - be safe! If you are planning to do some photography - remember all your gear!

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday 8 December 2011

PhotoShare: Ebb and Flow

So, here is an image I captured in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park recently. Given, it's not a clearly recognisable image at first, and it's not going to be everyone's cup-of-tea...but I felt like sharing it anyway.

Most mornings when you drive out from the Twee Rivieren rest camp up the Nossob riverbed, you see flocks of Red-Billed Quelea move to and fro between shrubs and bushes, looking for food. I looks like an orchestrated wave, and almost like a "swarm". I tried to capture something of this behaviour when they perched on a shrub for a moment. I used a slow shutter speed to enable me to capture a blur of birds as they took off, and hoped for some to remain on the shrub (and to be fairly sharp).

The conversion to black-and-white was also logical from the outset, as the colours detracted from the shape of the blurred flying birds. I am curious to know what you think of this one...

(Nikon D3s, Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II)  f7.1  |  1/100 SS  |  ISO-200
  Cheers, until next time...

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 28 November 2011

PhotoShare: Gemsbok Symmetry

We have just returned from one of my favourite places on earth - the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Many of the shots you would have seen from my portfolio were taken there. We had an amazing time and saw cheetahs and lions every day. Obviously some sightings were better than others, but that's the way it goes.

While I dive into the mountain of images I brought back, here's a shot I took during our trip there in June 2010. I just love the symmetrical poses in this herd of Gemsbok (Oryx), and of course the sweet morning light.

Chat soon!

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 7 November 2011

PhotoShare: Impala Portrait

A quick PhotoShare for you, folks!

This image was captured late one afternoon in the northern region of the Kruger National Park, South Africa. The sun was on the verge of disappearing over the horizon, and I loved the way the last rays of light kissed the outline of this Impala ram, particularly the horns.

Once again, the Nikon D3s has allowed me to capture amazing clarity and detail at a very high ISO setting.

(Nikon D3s & Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II)  f5.6  |  1/1000 SS  |  ISO-4500

I am as busy as ever, and am looking forward to spending some time in the Kalahari at the end of this month...

Keep well!

Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Shooting against the light

We've all been are sitting at an awesome sighting, watching some beautiful animal or bird...but the light is just W-R-O-N-G...

Now you've got 2 options. Either you pack away the camera and just enjoy the sighting...or you try to work with the light you have and create some images that might come out better than you thought, or better yet, might come out a litte 'out-of-the-box'. In this post I will elaborate on some of these situations you might encounter, and also show some of the images I have been able to capture in similar cases which I thought came out okay.

The classic case is the "back-lit" image, where the light comes from directly opposite your viewing position and you have to use it to enhance the contours and outlines of your subject. The key here is to ensure you under-expose significantly to ensure you capture the mood and don't blow the highlights. You can either do this by manually adjusting exposure or exposure compensation bias and checking the histogram, or if you like to use your metering function apart from your focusing function you can meter off the brightest highlights.

Another angle of light we encounter in the field is a case of strong 'side-light'. In this case the light hitting the subject creates a stark contrast between one part of the subject and another. Obviously this is only possible in the early morning and late noon-time shots available here! The ideal exposure for me in cases like this is to obtain enough detail in the shaded parts without making it look unnatural and without blowing out the highlighted areas.


The key to facing a situation where the light is challenging, is to know your equipment well, know how to use your exposure bias setting to achieve an over- or underexposed shot, and think the end the best images are formed in your mind's eye before you even trip the shutter.

We all want those moments of "perfect" light, but they seldom are advice would be to make the most out of the situations you do find yourself in when you are out in the field. Most of us have so precious little time to spend in the field to begin with!

Here are some more images I have been able to capture in these kinds of light.

Till next time!

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 10 October 2011

PhotoShare: Black-Headed Heron

Nothing fancy for you tonight, folks...just a simple image of an everyday bird (at least in our parts) in great light coming in to roost for the night.

(Nikon D7000  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II)  f7.1  |  1/2000 SS  |  ISO-1600

Enjoy the rest of your week!!

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 3 October 2011

PhotoShare: Noah's Giraffe

I know, I know, it's a somewhat weird and quirky title, but the rainbow should give the reason away!

I find giraffe difficult to properly compose photographically at the best of times...and know many wildlife photographers who share that sentiment. Their irregular form and contours and their size make them somewhat of an enigma and easy to do an injustice to on photos.

It's a bit easier for those frequenting the plains of the Masai Mara in Kenya or the Serengeti in Tanzania where they act as great anchors and pillars for wide shots of the landscape...but in the dense bushveld of South Africa it becomes a tad harder to do them justice.
Every now and again, though, the giraffe does all the hard work for stand in the right spot. This one posed perfectly right in front of a beautiful rainbow one summer afternoon in the Sabi-Sands Game Reserve.

(Nikon D3s, Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II) f5.6  |  1/1000 SS  |  ISO-320

Chase the light!

Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday 21 September 2011

World Rhino Day 2011

22 September is the official date for "World Rhino Day 2011". On this day, various NGOs and conservation bodies around the world join forces to create a huge surge in public and government awareness of the danger the world's 5 rhino species are in given the catastrophic rise in poaching.

Check out the information page here:

And the Facebook page here:

There's not much a mere individual can do - but maybe, just maybe if we all scream loud enough we can get enough government and official buy-in to engage with the Asian nations to where the horn is illegally trafficked and sold on the black market to do something constructive and decisive about it.

I for one don't want my children to have to resort to viewing my photos or going to the zoo in order to see a real live rhino. I want to be able to show them these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat in a wild and free environment.


Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday 6 September 2011

When it all comes together

Hello everyone.

I promised you a more lengthy blog post after my return from the Kruger National Park. Well, here it is!

I had a wonderful experience one afternoon that sure taught me a lot, and could also prove beneficial to those reading. A lot is said about patience being one of the greatest virtues of nature/wildlife photography...patience, preparation and knowledge of your subject matter. On this occasion, I had a little more patience than I normally have, and my knowledge of the subject matter enabled me to prepare for an amazing photographic experience.

We had come down from the far north of the Kruger Park, having already spent 6 nights in the Park and narrowly missing out on good leopard sightings quite a few times. Those who know these cats will know that they are very secretive and often a good leopard sighting can last only 5 minutes or so. The bush in the Kruger Park can also be quite dense in a lot of places, meaning that if the cat is not in the road or right next to it, the most you are going to see is a few spots anyway.

To give you an that stage this was our only "legit" leopard sighting to date - a youngster left alone by its mother in a dense mopani thicket while she went hunting:

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f4.0  |  1/1000 SS  |  ISO-560
Now to get back to the story...we booked into the Olifants rest camp for the night (our 7th night of a scheduled 8). This camp is located in the central region of Kruger, and our next night would be spent in Satara which is even more central and a great region for wildlife viewing with open plains, riverine forests and plenty of life around. Our neighbours on this particular evening told us of an impala kill that was tucked into a tree by the side of the main road between the camps (and that the kill was still untouched by the time they went past there that particular afternoon). We had come from the north and were thus oblivious of this development. Knowing that there was a very good chance that the leopard would return during the night to feast on its meal, and also then a very good chance that it would be there early morning, I planned to head down there at first light and hope for the best.

The next morning I did just was a good 30km from Olifants camp so I only got there at about 07h00 after the gates opened at 06h00. The kill was in the tree allright...but no leopard in sight!! I had always dreamed of getting a good photo of a leopard climbing up a tree.

The tree was nicely positioned for a shot of the leopard climbing up the tree. I spent about 30minutes waiting for the leopard to show itself, when someone who was also parked at the kill told me about some male lions further south that were lying next to the road. I decided to go and find them before checking back at the tree on my way back to Olifants camp. It occurred to me that this tree was to the East, meaning that by late afternoon the golden light would hit it dead-on as I was viewing it. I salivated at the thought of the leopard coming back later in the day and scaling the tree

When I returned from the lions I found the kill exactly in the position I had left it in. I went back to the camp to fetch my wife and daughter and our stuff for the move to Satara rest camp which would be our last night in the park. Again, on the way down past the kill it was still as I left it. We headed south, booked into Satara and had a bite to eat. By this time the weather had turned from lovely to pretty murky. It was overcast and starting to drizzle. Still, this was our last 'full day' in the Park and we had to decide where we would head off to for our afternoon drive.

I was haunted by the mental image of that leopard scaling the tree and me not being there to photograph the we decided to stock up on refreshments, load enough toys into the car for our little girl to not get bored quickly, and set off on the 25 odd kilometer drive towards the tree. It was 13h30, and there were no other cars parked there at that stage (also, no leopard yet!). I knew which spot I needed to park in - the only one with a perfect view of the tree at an angle that made it possible to photograph the "climb" and be able to do it regardless of whether the cat decided to ascend from the left, right or front of the tree. Obviously if it decided to scale the trunk from the back I would be screwed - but hey, you have to keep some hope stored up if you want to "bring home the bacon" in nature photography! The kill was in exactly the same position as it had been all day...a good sign? Or not? Was this shy cat even coming back today?

And so the waiting game began...

14h00 leopard...
15h00 leopard...
16h00 leopard...

By now we had accumulated a following. There were quite a few vehicles parked out with us, and many more were coming and staying for a few minutes and then going again...but no leopard...

One of the characteristics of Kruger is the visitors/tourists sharing information with each other on sightings and the whereabouts of animals. Many who stopped at our car inquired as to what we were looking at...most thought it was something on the ground - which was humorous as the kill was quite obvious in the tree about 60m from the road.

One particular man asked me about it, I pointed it out to him, and he proceeded to tell his wife: "There's a buck in that tree, but it's already dead" which I had to restrain myself from replying:

"If you drive a further 2 clicks south you will find one who climbed in all by himself and is sitting in the tree drinking a beer!"

hahaha leopard...16h45...still no leopard...I knew from the start that this was a "six or nix" venture. It was either going to show, or it wasn't. I was either going to have my dream image...or I was going back to camp with an empty memory card. I knew we had to get out of there by 17h30 at the latest, as it would be a solid 30-minute drive back to camp at the speed limit of 50km/h.

Gear-wise I had to make a decision. Up to this point I was ready to shoot the action with the Nikon D3s and the Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II with the Nikon TC-14E 1.4x teleconverter attached. This gave me some much-needed reach towards the position of the tree on my full frame camera body. The problem I was facing was that with sunset approaching and the weather still heavily overcast, I would need to get as much light as possible to reach my camera's sensor when I tripped the shutter. I decided to remove the teleconverter and shoot the 500mm 'wide open' at an aperture of 4 (I had a maximum aperture of 5.6 with the converter attached).

At around 17h00 one of the vehicles a little behind us flashed its headlights and the driver indicated to his right...the leopard must have arrived back there! We had to look hard since there were a few small shrubby trees next to us which obscured the view to the Southwest. Finally we noticed its white belly through the branches. It was lying down under a shrub some distance into the veld. It was SOOO tempting to try and maneuver in reverse to get a glimpse of it, especially considering it might not even approach the tree at all! In the end we decided to hedge our bets on the hope we had cherished all day, and stayed put (besides, if we did move we would lose our vital positioning for the ascent!).

The view of the leopard initially from where we had been parked all afternoon...would you have moved?
The leopard seemed in NO hurry to get up and come towards the tree. One moment it was lying flat on its side. The next moment lifting its head. The next moment yawning. Then lying down flat again...needless to say it was torture...

After what felt like hours, eventually I could see the signs that it was getting up to move. It stood up and walked slowly towards the tree.

The leopard starts its approach. These images are heavily cropped.

It was a young male, probably kicked out by its mother a few months ago and learning to fend for itself and establishing a territory. He did some scent-marking, then proceeded to walk around behind the tree - and guess what?? He lied down again...

17h15. I went ahead and captured some images. I still had to prepare myself mentally for the possibility that he would not climb the tree before we had to turn around and head back for the night. These images came out much better than I expected and this sighting as a whole turned out to be a great test for my Nikon D3s and its famed low-light performance. I had it set on "auto-ISO" and Manual Exposure mode, meaning that I chose the Shutter Speed and Aperture settings I wanted to use, and the camera would select the ISO sensitivity automatically based on the light meter reading and whether I was opting to adjust the exposure compensation bias up or down.

These images are still very heavily cropped - and I was amazed by the detail retained given the crops and the high ISO settings used.

Nikon D3s |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-2800

f4.0  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-4500
f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-8000

17h20...I was getting agitated now...why doesn't the leopard want to eat? It hadn't been back at the kill since pre-dawn, and had to be slightly hungry? He even looked longingly up at the impala in the tree at one stage.

17h21...the leopard gets up...adrenaline starts pumping through my veins...this is the moment I had been playing over and over in my mind all day, and all my preparation made and chances taken were now going to culminate in these next few to focus on not screwing it up!! 
I quickly metered the light with the camera and took another split-second decision. My chosen shutter speed for the action was 1/400 which was quite slow considering I was using a 500mm focal length (the general rule is you need to have a SS of at least 1/focal-length to get a decently sharp image, though having Nikon's Vibration Reduction technology built into my lens meant I could sacrifice some more). These settings were giving me an ISO of 8000. I wanted to be certain of at least ISO-4000, and therefore decided to half my shutter speed to 1/200. It was a risk! Leopards can climb trees very quickly. If the action was going to happen too fast I would get it all blurry. Then again, having some elements (ideally the paws) slightly blurred would add greatly to the mood/story of the photo. The decision was made for me by the poor quality of light available, and I stuck to my guns and hoped my technique in following the leopard up the tree with the focus point would pull me through. I rotated my camera into the vertical shooting position to get the best framing of the action, and pre-focused on the bark of the tree trunk. I knew that at this focusing distance I should get sufficient depth-of-field this way and it would be easier to keep focus locked during the climb. The D3s would fire at 11 frames per many of those frames would even be usable, if any??
He walks towards the tree!! /things seem to happen in slow-motion and fast-forward at approaches the tree from the right...walks around the front of the tree, all the while looking up at the impala. I had anticipated that he would ascend from the right of the tree since that part of the trunk was sloping towards the left, making it an easier climb. I knew I had seconds before he would jump...and I was as ready as I would ever be...

...breath in... 
...breath out...
...leopard looks up...
...squats down...
...shuffles hind quarters...
...breath in...
and there he goes!!!

f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-5000
f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-5600
f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-5600
f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-4000
f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-2800

...breath out...!!!

What a rush! A whole day's waiting, hoping, planning came down to 6 or 7 frames of action...
The leopard settled in on top of its quarry and proceeded to start feeding...

f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-2800

f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-3200
After firing off a few frames of the leopard feeding, I needed to just take a moment to enjoy what we were watching. So often we get caught up in the moment of taking the photographs that we forget to "be there" to witness the natural history taking place, to create memories with our loved ones with us out on safari, and to soak up the feeling of being in the bush. This whole afternoon had come to this...and I loved it! 
17h30...We turned around and headed back to Satara as the rain started pouring down ever so lightly...what a day!

This sighting will probably end up being one of my most memorable ones. Not just because of what we witnessed and the excitement of having a beautiful leopard like this scale a tree out in the open savannah of Africa, but also because of the nature of the sighting. The planning the night beforehand. The visualisation of the shot from the moment I laid eyes on the tree. The waiting, waiting, and more waiting. The thrill of trying to anticipate the leopard's behaviour. The challenge of working in absolutely horrendous light and pushing my technical skills, knowledge and my gear to the limits. And lastly because this was in Kruger....a place I had been coming to since I can remember. A place with so many special memories, and so many surprises around the corner...anything can happen! There are many luxury safari lodges relatively close to where I took this photo, and they will show you leopard sightings you can only dream about...sometimes multiple individual cats on the same day...and though I love being on safaris like that, there's something about getting images like these in a place like Kruger where you have to "make your own luck" that just proves to be ever-so-much-more satisfying...

In the end, it's experiences like THIS that make me want to get back out there in the bush...and see what's around the next bend in the road...

I hope you were inspired by this account...and I certainly hope it wasn't too long-winded. I probably made up for all those quick blog posts of the past few months here.

Anyway - would love your feedback...and if you have similar stories to share, please do so by dropping a comment on this post.

Happy shooting...

Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday 31 August 2011

PhotoShare: Impala Leap

Hi everyone! We are back from a wonderful trip to the Kruger National Park. I am so far behind on working through images of previous trips, but I have managed to work through some images from this recent trip already since there were quite a few special sightings. I will do a lengthy blog post about an awesome leopard sighting we had soon...but for now, here's an image for you to enjoy.

This young impala male was leaping very gracefully at the start of its run, and I was happy to be able to fit him into the frame and also to be at quite a low vantage point relative to the buck's position.

(Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II)  f5.6  |  1/1600 SS  |  ISO-800

See you soon with a more lengthy post!

Morkel Erasmus

Friday 19 August 2011

PhotoShare: African Darter Portrait

I am off to the Kruger National Park tomorrow for a glorious 8 days of quality time with my wife and baby daughter, being in nature, feeling close to the Creator and obviously a little photography.

Before I go, here's a portrait of an African Darter taken in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, earlier this year for you to enjoy.

f7.1  |  1/640 SS  |  ISO-400 |  Focal length 600mm
Expect some new images when I return!
Stay safe...

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 8 August 2011

First Nikon D3s results

So, I received my new photographic equipment on Friday...and took it for a test run on Saturday at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve in Pretoria, South Africa.

Let me say right off the bat that I am by no means a technical gear-tester-cum-review-writer...for that there are many fine websites all over the world where they do extensive testing with colour charts, sharpness metrics and fancy lab results. I can only reflect here how I experience the equipment based on my techniques and preferences in real-world shooting.

Anyhow, here are some initial results obtained with the Nikon D3s and the Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II lens (with and without the TC-14E-II teleconverter).

This first image is of a male ostrich walking towards me. This is basically full frame and is chock full of details. The image quality is something else and there is no grain visible at all on this shot (taken at ISO-800).

f4  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-800

Here is a close-up of the same ostrich's face. This was cropped from 12 megapixels down to 3.5 megapixels, and have a look at the detail retained.

f4  |  1/2500 SS  |  ISO-800

This herd of zebra shows how beautifully the 500mm lens renders the out-of-focus background:
f5.6  |  1/1600 SS  |  ISO-400

It's a well-known fact by now that this camera excels in low-light situations because of its excellent handling of high ISO settings. The benefit for bird/wildlife/sports photographers is not just that it handles poor light well, it's also that the excellent image quality attainable at high ISO settings translates to a much faster shutter speed being possible when the light is decent. Here are a few shots taken on this particular morning with higher ISO settings. These were taken with the 1.4 teleconverter attached.

f5.6  |  1/3200 SS  |  ISO-1600
f5.6  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-1600

I also went one step further to test the high ISO capabilities of the D3s. I took the camera to church this morning with the aim of doing some low-light photography on our stage. For this purpose I also took along 2 of my new lenses in my bag: the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8G ED and Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8G ED.

Both these lenses excel in low-light situations...and I was amazed by the overall results. The following photos are directly out-of-camera, I did not even apply slight adjustments in the conversion of the RAW files (NEF files).

Test Shot 1: ISO-3200
Most of you won't know that my other favourite pastime is making music. Before photography came along and completely ruined my budget and time allocation I was a very active touring musician (vocalist/guitarist), now I mostly play and sing at our church and for friends and family. This is my favourite electric guitar, a PRS Custom-22. This was photographed with the ambient light from the stage lights and no camera flash was used.

f2.8  |  1/30 SS  |  ISO-3200

Test Shot 2: ISO-12800
I photographed our drummer, Mike Botha, on stage using the 14-24mm lens and some fill flash from the Nikon SB-900 speedlight. Again, this is straight out of the camera at a ridiculously high ISO setting...

f22  |  1/60 SS  |  ISO-12800

Well, there you have my initial images taken with some of my new kit. I might post some sample images of my experience with the Nikon D7000 at a later stage.

Curious to know what you think?


Morkel Erasmus

Friday 5 August 2011

The Big Switch

The time has finally arrived...after months of planning, contemplating and weighing my options...I am now officially switching photographic brands.



I have been shooting with Canon ever since I started out early in 2009. At the time they had the most enticing entry-level offering, and as many of you know, as soon as you start buying lenses you are mostly set onto one brand for the rest of your photographic career.

But something strange happened early in 2010. I was afforded the opportunity to shoot with the acclaimed Nikon D3s and a couple of Nikkor lenses. Needless to say I was impressed...for wildlife photography there simply is no other camera that can perform like the D3s does. Its high ISO files are very clean, even up to commercial usage standards. Its autofocus system simply rocks. And image quality and dynamic range are off the charts. Since using this monster of a camera, I have dreamed of owning one...which of course implied that I would have to change systems sometime.

Yes, yes, I know many will say I am senseless and a new announcement of a possible Nikon D4 is due later this month...but the time is now. I have an opportunity to make this move now...and the D3s will be a magnificent piece of machinery for quite some time still. I also like to give a new piece of photographic equipment some time to 'settle in'...see what others are saying about it and see if there are any glitches that came in during development (that's one thing the Canon 1Dmk3 fiasco taught the photographic community). We should also try to avoid always trying to be on the forefront of developments - it's a dangerous place to be since tomorrow's new technology is obsolete the next day.

So - in the past few weeks I have sold all my Canon gear. Every piece of equipment I have owned has served me very well and you will find it hard to get me to bad-mouth the Canon brand. However, I feel Nikon is better suited to the photographs I want to create, and and am looking forward to getting to know my new toys. I am picking them up to get the first half of the day to pass quickly!

I will be pairing up my D3s with the D7000, giving me both a full frame and 1.5x field-of-view crop factor camera. The lenses I am going to use are:
14-24mm f2.8
24-70mm f2.8
70-200mm f2.8 VR-II
500mm f4 VR-II

I will also try to convey some of my experiences in using these cameras and lenses in the field during the coming months.

Till next time, keep shooting, no matter what you're shooting with! And remember, in the end it's the monkey behind the viewfinder that's responsible for taking the photo...

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 1 August 2011

PhotoShare: Pied Kingfisher

Another quick photo! This was taken from the Mankwe Hide in the Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa, sometime last year. I am hoping to go there again soon if time and opportunity allows.

f8.0  |  1/2500 SS  |  ISO-1000


Morkel Erasmus

Sunday 24 July 2011

PhotoShare: Cape Mountain Zebra

It seems like July will slip by without another decent blog post, but here is a quick PhotoShare for you guys.

I captured this image before sunrise in April 2011 in the quaint little Mountain Zebra National Park in the Karoo desert, South Africa. I will do a proper blog post sometime soon about this great underappreciated National Park.

f4.0  |  1/100 SS  |  ISO-1000  |  420mm focal length
Hope you enjoy this one. Cheers!

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday 14 July 2011

Petition: Stop Rhino poaching in Africa!

Hi there folks.

This'll be a short post. I was shared this petition by a fellow photographer on Facebook and thought to send it on via my blog too. Many of you might be aware of this issue already, but Rhino poaching has been on a dramatic increase over the last 2 years, especially in my native South Africa.

By June the 3rd 2011, more than 170 rhinos had already been wiped out for their horns, and in the 2010 calendar year the figure amounted to more than 1 per day on average. The ridiculous notion held in the Far East that their horns are worth something medicinally and helpful for sexual arousal is fueling the demand for this "commodity".

Please take a moment to sign this petition HERE, which is due to be sent to high-ranking government officials in Vietnam.

Thanks for your time!

Yours in conservation (in a very small way),
Morkel Erasmus

Sunday 3 July 2011

OVERWHELMING: The power of panoramic presentation

Hey everyone...

I did a rework this week of an old know how that goes, right? You progress in your photography and your post-processing skills, and you think: "hey, remember that photo I captured at ______ last ______? (fill in the blanks) Let's see what it looks like now."

In this case it wasn't so much a new processing skill I learned, but that I realised after browsing through the particular shoot's thumbnails that I realised I had taken alternative compositions of this scene. With the advent of digital imaging we tend to sometimes just click the shutter as many times as we can at as many perspectives possible to make sure we make the most of the scene...the problem is we end up forgetting exactly what we shot and why we did so.

The original is of a lonely tree (cliche, right?) overwhelmed by some building cumulus clouds over the South African Highveld. I titled the photo - you guessed it - OVERWHELMING. The original perspective was shot using the Canon 100-400mm zoom lens, at a focal length of 105mm (thus nearly as wide as I could go with this lens).

100mm focal length  |  single image  |  slight crop from the top

Just for overall perspective, here is the same scene (albeit with a cooler white balance setting) shot at 22mm. This is close to how the human eye perceives the scene (at 35mm focal length equivalent). 

22mm focal length  |  single image  |  no crop

Now, going back to the folder I remembered that I had also used the 105mm focal length setting in the first post on this scene and shot a few consecutive frames with the view of stitching them together as a panorama one day. That day came last week. I opened up the 3 consecutive shots in Photoshop in order to stitch them together using the "Photomerge" command. Now it goes without mention that the final stitched image not only provides a "grander sweep" of the scene, but also has a much higher resolution than I could have achieved with a single image...this makes it easy to print it BIG

I also went for a darker, moodier feel...converting to black and white with a red filter to bring the most out of the blue sky (that tip is for free!). The only crop I applied was to remove the "white edges"...after compiling a panorama the image is usually left with some white edges where the image had to be straightened to fit the next image perfectly.

105mm focal length  |  3 images stitched together  |  crop to remove white edges
This kind of image unfortunately doesn't display well on a blog format where the maximum image width is constrained. You can view a larger version on my 500px profile here

I don't have a larger version than the 500px version online watch this space.

I would love your feedback. Which one works better for you, and why???

Cheers, till next time...

Morkel Erasmus