Friday 4 January 2013

My 2012 in Review

Can you believe we are sitting in the year 2013 already? Every year feels like it's a flyer, but to me personally, 2012 felt like it went by quicker than any previous year. It's obviously a factor of how busy you are and how much you enjoy every day of your life - if you are discontent in everything you do I am sure the days will seem like they never end.

I've not been an avid photographer for very long, but for the past 2 years I compiled a best of post at the end of the year. For some it's a pretty cliche thing to do, but I don't really care, as for me it helps me look back over my photography of the past year, and recall some of the amazing memories that went along with tripping the shutter at specific times and in specific places. Often these memories link me to the adventure that was had, the people I shared it with and the total awesomeness of God's creation that I have the privilege of seeing and photographing.

So, as you can guess from the title, this year I am at it again. I quite like how I did it LAST YEAR, so I will try and follow a similar format,  showing my Top 5 landscape photos, my Top 5 avian (bird) photos and my Top 10 wildlife photos (since wildlife make up the majority of my photographic focus). Also take note that these are not necessarily the best photos I took this year (who can determine that anyway??), they are not even necessarily my favourites (I have not even had time to work through all the photos I took this year properly), but they do epitomize the experiences behind them for me, and that's what I want to showcase. I am grateful to have shared some of these moments with great friends and fellow-photographers like +Felix Reinders+Marlon du Toit+Andrew Aveley and +Gerry Van der Walt.

Shall we begin??

PS: click on the photos to display at best sharpness/resolution...


1. Ruined Sunset (February)
Mpumalanga Highveld, South Africa

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8   |   f11   |   ISO-200   |   Blend of 3 exposures for dynamic range
I would be a bad photographer in my own book if I didn't include an image in this piece that was taken close to home. Most of us just cannot be out in the field all the time (present company included), and it's important to find some local spots to explore and practice your art and fieldcraft on...whether this be a local birding hotspot or a spot with nice views for landscape photography. This old farmyard ruin is located on the farm of a family friend, about 20km from my house. I try to get out there whenever I see a great sunset see I live in a place that is quite flat and featureless, but has awesome skies and summer stormy skies. I would be the first to admit that I don't utilise this aspect to its full potential. Perhaps a good resolution for 2013...

2. Kalahari Rainscape (March)
Kalahari desert, South Africa

Nikon D7000  |  Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II  |  f8  |  1/1000 SS  |  ISO-200
You should know by now that I am really passionate about the Kalahari desert, specifically the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. This year we made our first visit in the midst of the rainy season, and found the semi-desert surprisingly green. Thundershowers were a daily occurrence, and this one was photographed in a very isolated part of the park as we sat waiting for some wildlife at a waterhole.

3. Zambezi Nights (June)
Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8  |  f2.8  |  30sec SS  |  ISO-3200
Camping in Mana Pools National Park on the banks of the mighty Zambezi river in Zimbabwe was one of the highlights of my year. I've never been to a more pristine and more remote place, a last vestige of truly wild Africa. This photo was captured viewing the course of the Zambezi to the west, towards the very far-off Indian Ocean. To join me in Mana Pools on a safari next year, click HERE.

4. Dawn in the Wilderness (June)
Zambezi river, Zimbabwe

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8  |  f11  |  ISO-200  |  Blend of 3 exposures for dynamic range
Staying in Mana Pools, here is the sunrise over a slinking stream in the riverbed of the Zambezi. This was in the middle of the dry season - in the summer you would not see open land in this broad riverbed. Standing here and witnessing this was like watching the sun rise over Africa for the first time, and for a moment I imagined that I was Livingstone...

5. Castle Rock Ablaze (December)
Brenton-on-Sea (Knysna), South Africa

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8  |  f16  |  8sec SS  |  ISO-200
My last selection for the landscape portion of this overview was taken right before Christmas on the beach of Brenton-on-Sea in the midst of torrential rain and lightning overhead (wouldn't you risk it a bit for this kind of light?). Andrew Aveley, a fellow Wild Eye ambassador, shared this glorious sunset with me. I rue the fact that I didn't explore more compositions, but truth be told I was struggling more to keep my camera and lens dry than I was focusing on changing the composition here.

I did not do enough proper landscape photography in 2012, and that's something I hope to remedy in the coming year, as it's something I really enjoy doing. Let's move on to the feathered friends.


1. Bob the Builder (January)
Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  1.4x teleconverter  |  f8.0  |  1/2500 SS  |  ISO-1800
This is a photo I had been wanting for a long time: a Southern Masked Weaver returning to his nest-under-construction with new building material. I captured this photo in the Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa. I had to pre-focus on the nest, dial in enough depth-of-field and keep my non-camera-bound eye open to anticipate his return.

2. Rocket Landing (February)
Marievale Bird Sanctuary, South Africa

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f8.0  |  1/8000 SS  |  ISO-4000
Few South African bird species present as much of a photographic challenge as the lightning fast little Malachite Kingfisher. I was fortunate to capture this frame one morning at the Marievale Bird Sanctuary in South Africa.

3. The Secretary
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  1.4x teleconverter  |  f5.6  |  1/1600 SS  |  ISO-640
I posted a Secretary Bird taking off in my selection last year too. This one was taken in the last light of day in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The bird was flying right above the South African border with Botswana, coincidentally, at this point.

4. Incoming Kite
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.6  |  1/2500 SS  |  ISO-800
We witnessed a strange phenomenon during our February/March visit to the Kalahari. Hundreds of Yellow-billed and Black Kites had congregated in the Nossob riverbed to feed on some sort of termite or insect spawn brought on by the summer rains. It was a joy to watch and photograph them from the Nossob rest camp hide. This is a Black Kite coming in for a landing.

5. Wet Look (April)
Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f4.0  |  1/500 SS  |  ISO-2500  |  EV +3
The Burchell's Coucal is normally a secretive bird, preferring thickets and dense foliage - very often heard and not seen. On a rainy day in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve I found this one looking wet and miserable out in the open. I made sure to overexpose for the bright sky behind the bird, and came away with some interesting high-key photos.


It was REALLY hard to pick only 10 out of this year's crop of wildlife images. It's been a great year for me in terms of building my portfolio and getting some very interesting images (at least in my own mind - though I hope you'd agree after this post). Again, I am arranging them chronologically as the year progressed, and not in order of personal preference.

1. Speedy Siblings (March)
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  1.4x teleconverter  |  f5.6  |  1/800 SS  |  ISO-1400
I've been treated royally by the Kalahari cheetahs on my recent trips to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. On this particular occasion, Felix Reinders and I followed a cheetah mother and her 3 adolescent cubs as they walked up the Auob riverbed. Suddenly the youngsters got a surge of energy and started frantically chasing each other. I ended up with "too much lens" as they hurtled closer at full speed but came away with some keepers. Those who prefer bird photography to mammal photography often bemoan the static nature of much of the mammal species for much of the day. I must agree that one has to be even more patient and have some luck on your side to get good action photos of mammals.

2. Who's the king now? (March)
Undisclosed Location

Nikon D7000  |  Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II  |  f8.0  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-450
The light may not have been the best, but as a sighting this just rocked. Imagine a coalition of 4 male lions in their prime, kings of their domain, lounging around and surveying their territory. Enter a crash of white rhinos...who smell the lions and come closer for investigation...causing the lions to get up quickly and saunter away disgruntled at having to give up their comfortable resting spot. Moments later the agitated rhino bull chased one of its kids and one of the lions right past us (missing us by meters). Seeing the interaction between these 2 members of the Big 5 was special.

3. A stroll in the forest (June)
Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.6  |  1/640 SS  |  ISO-2000
You'll inevitably see a few images from this trip in this selection. It was a defining part in my photographic year and one that moved the iconic location of Mana Pools to the top of my list of favourite safari destinations in Africa. Marlon du Toit and I spent an entire day following these elephant bulls on foot as they went about their business. The light and forest setting makes this magical and has etched this moment in my mind for a long time to come.

4.  A Fine Balance (June)
Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.6  |  1/500 SS  |  ISO-1250
There's a good chance you've seen this one shared on social media this year. It also got some nice publicity through news syndication as a news story. I captured this on the same morning as the previous photo. Some elephant bulls in the Lower Zambezi valley have learned how to reach the juiciest, most succulent leaves in the massive trees. Remember that you can join us on safari in Mana Pools in July 2013. You can find more details HERE.

5. Lazy Dog (June)
Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  1.4x teleconverter  |  f5.6  |  1/400 SS  |  ISO-1800
We also spent 2 afternoons in Mana Pools flat on our bellies in a sandy riverbed with a pack of highly endangered African Wild Dogs. Prior to this year I had just about zero usable photos of this species in my portfolio. With fewer than 5,000 individuals estimated to survive in the wild, this species is on the brink of a disaster...and it's a shame as they are fascinating mammals. You can find out more about this species and the conservation efforts in Zimbabwe at

6. The Approach (June)
Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  1.4x teleconverter  |  f6.3  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-5600
Not only did we spend some time observing this pack of canines from a safe distance, taking some nice photos...the Alpha Male decided to take a closer look at us on the 2nd afternoon...and came to within 10 meters from us, before plopping down and lying next to us for a few minutes. A totally exhilarating experience that I shall not soon forget! This image is not cropped - it's shot full frame in portrait mode! You can read more about this experience HERE.

7. King of the Kalahari (November)
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f8.0  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-450
The next few posts are all about the lions. Though the Kalahari is traditionally a great place for viewing lions, I've mostly had average photographic opportunities of them during previous trips. Not during our November trip (which was an unplanned one), which was lion-infested! This is the most regal, majestic and beautiful male lion I have ever seen in the wild. We found him on 3 occasions, and on this morning he was patrolling his territory with a confident stride, roaring loudly with a blood-covered face from the previous night's feed. Look at that specimen! I have seen many many lions in my lifetime...and none of them come close to this guy.

8. Eyes on the Prize (November)
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.6  |  1/800 SS  |  ISO-3200
During our recent Kalahari safari I was privy to witnessing (and photographing) an entire lion kill from planning to mealtime. I will do a proper blog post about this sighting soon! This frame was pre-visualised and executed at the only moment that it could be achieved. It's not often that I am able to really capture a whole story and so much context into one shot. The tensely poised huntress, the dawn breaking in the background, the open setting, the seemingly blind eland antelope, the anticipation of what's to come. 

 If I had to choose an absolute favourite for the year, I think this photo would be it...

9. Lion in Flight (November)
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.6  |  1/800 SS  |  ISO-2500
This frame was taken shortly after the previous one. The chase started in a frenzy and I was able to track the leading lioness for quite a few seconds, getting a number of sharp shots. This was my favourite pose, with her running through the dust kicked up by her prey. It's sad to think that these magnificent and iconic cats face a dire future, with their numbers plummeting to a mere 30,000 odd left in the wild. Please check out and for more info on the lion epidemic and how to get involved.

10. Crashing
Undisclosed location

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f8.0  |  1/640 SS  |  ISO-1800

In the light of the recent Rhino Poaching crisis (well, it's not that recent anymore, is it?) I felt compelled to include an image showing these docile giants. A staggering 633 rhinos were illegally poached in 2012 (as at 19 December - stats HERE), almost 200 rhinos more than 2011 and 300 more than in 2010, bringing the total poaching figure since the end of 2009 to a mind-boggling 1414. At the moment it doesn't seem like there is much that can be done to curb this alarming trend, fueled by a newly wealthy Asian market that falsely believes that the horn has medicinal properties. For more info, check out the SAVE THE RHINO and STOP RHINO POACHING campaigns.

11. Kiss me Please (bonus image)
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f8.0  |  1/1000 SS  |  ISO-360

I'm including this one as a bonus because it's a fun moment and to show you that I don't just focus on the large and iconic African species. If you look at last year's post you'll see bigger specie-variety, this year just panned out to be a great year for me in terms of the larger and more "typically African" mammals.


 There you have it, friends. I would love for you to tell me which was your favourite of this selection - and why! Drop me a comment on this post and let me know. I hope 2013 holds great light and great sightings for you all.

One more thing - this year saw another increase in our household! Since I posted a photo of our daughter last year, I better post a photo of our son this year lest they compare these posts years later. This is little Daniël!

Keep well, and keep shooting!

Morkel Erasmus


  1. Very difficult to choose a favourite but I think the lioness and eland would just win by a whisker. They are all great shots.

  2. Morkel, your work is a continuos inspiration for me, and I find it impossible to pick just one favorite.

    I will thus try to narrow it down to one per category:
    Ladscapes: Sunrise in the Wilderness beats Kalahari Rainscape by a whisker.
    Birds: They're all great, but the intimicy of "wet look" does it for me.
    Wildlife: Again, wonderfull pics all of them, but I think "a stroll in the forest" epitomises your work, using the magnificent light of early morning to such great advantage.

  3. They are all fantastic pictures!! Very well done, what a wonderful year you had! If I have to choose favourites it would be the Zambezi Nights for the landscapes (stunning!!), Bob the Builder for birds and my absolute favourite "Eye on the Prize" for wildlife. Brilliant stuff, please keep on sharing. Happy New Year!

  4. You have chosen some really fantastic photos, they represent a year well spent! Its difficult to choose which are favourites, but I do love the landscapes, the kingfisher, the coucal, the wild dog and of course the lioness and unsuspecting eland.

  5. A very difficult choice this... I really enjoyed the Lion in flight photo the first time I saw it but the Elly standing up just beat that one :)

    For me it has to be:

    Zambezi Nights for Landscapes
    Bob the Builder for Avian ( So sharp, even with a teleconverter )
    and A Fine Balance for Wildlife

  6. Morkel,

    Full credit to you for establishing and maintaining an active presence on various social media in 2012. Putting yourself "out there" requires a good deal of artistic courage, but, I find your generosity, integrity, hard work and consistent photographic quality distinguishing features versus other photographers. In my view, you're one of the best in the country in terms of these criteria.

    If you're intent on raising the bar exponentially and showcasing only the very best - and internationally competitive - for your 2012 portfolio, my picks would be as follows:

    Landscapes: 1 & 2
    Avian: 2 & 5
    Wildlife: 1, 4, 8 & 9

    All the images in your 2012 portfolio are very good. In my view the above images are standout.

    Good luck for 2013. I look forward to seeing your images and commentary.



    1. Wow, thanks so much for your very kind and flattering words, made me blush!

  7. Very impressive Morkel! My favourites are Kalahari Rainscape, Wet Look and Fine Balance.

    I look forward to more inspiration in 2013!

    1. Dankie Chris! Altyd goed as jy kom inloer. Hoop dit gaan goed.

  8. Eye On The Prize and Bob The Builder for me..... And now that I've looked a 2nd and 3rd time I need to add an honorable mention of The Approach and Rocket Landing. You're an inspiration to all, very darling baby too. Congrats on a great year for you and yours.


    1. Thank you kindly, Patsy! I appreciate your humbling comment.

  9. Totally agree with Rob about your photographic talent and sharing energy !

    My favorites are :

    Zambezi night, weaver & kingfisher, fine balance, Alfa wild dog and the beast hidden behind its prey.

    Congrats !

  10. Morkel your Images are great inspiration for me....Impossible for me to pick a favorite, they are all great! I wish you much success! Keep the "Son" in your eyes!

    Christopher L. Nelson

    1. I am grateful for your message, Christopher.
      Keep well, and God bless!

  11. Great post. Some really nice pictures here. Makes me wanna go to Africa.

  12. Great images Morkel! My favourite: The Approach!

    Best wishes for 2013!

    1. Thanks so much, Dana. I look up to you as a photographer so it means a lot!

  13. I love them all but my favourite is Eye on the Prize. A powerful image and as a photographer, it is very inspiring. Thanks for sharing :-)

    1. Thanks Sharon, appreciate you taking the time to stop by and leave such an encouraging comment.

  14. Jackie Gouverneur8 January 2013 at 08:56

    Love the landscape shots, they make me wish I was there!
    Best of all are the Mana Pools shots - perhaps the feeling one gets when you think of such a beautiful, wild place, following game on foot - you captured it well, particularly the ellie bull strolling out of the forest - magic!

  15. I think to select a good one would be very difficult they are all great , but if i had to choose it would be the wild dog,male lion, both elephant shots at mano pools ,the kingfisher , but seriously these photos are just magic . How much is the trip to Mano

    1. Thank you, Dave. All the details of the Mana Pools safari can be found in the link in the post - or HERE:

  16. Wow, thank you all very much for the kind comments and compliments. It's very interesting to see which photos end up being people's favourites. I hope you all have a wonderful year.

  17. Difficult to choose.
    Favourite Landscape: Kalahari Rainscape.
    Favourite Avian: Bob the Builder.
    Favourite Wildlife: A Fine Balance and Lazy Dog.

    Keep up the good work.

  18. Beautiful collection. Love the birds. My favorite is the king of the Kalahari

  19. Morkel, I am blown away by your talent. To choose a favourite from this stunning selection is very difficult. Life is about choices so I will have to do so. My vote goes to the lioness with her eyes on the eland. She got the vote for the anticipation, the story it tells and the focus in her eyes. Well done Morkel

    1. You are most kind, Tobie, thanks for the wonderful compliments. Have a great year!

  20. Fantastic work here Morkel! Love your wildlife photos - not the species I get to see around here! Hope you have a great 2013.

    1. Thank you Michael! Good to hear from you. Have a great year...

  21. I dont think the idea is to pick a favorite ... just enjoy the emotions that each image brings ... that being said, "eyes on the prize" - expecting big things from that image at BBC comp this year! met iesh ja ... cheers Etienne

    1. Thanks for your kind compliments, boet!! I hope we can share that campfire soon...

    2. You are a true inspiration. Congratulations and Good Luck for 2013


  23. Wow, incredible photos! I was lucky enough to visit Mana Pools last July and it was truly a wondrous place. I will definitely subscribe and also follow your journey there again this year!

    1. Hi Michael - thanks for your comment - apologies for the late reply LOL

  24. Awesome collection of images Morkel. "Eyes on the Prize" is my favorite. That image is absolutely incredible. Cheers to 2013!

  25. Great gallery Morkel !! It is so nice for you to have the opportunity to capture these shots.

    Thank you for sharing, filling me with envy and wanting to go back to the Kalahari

  26. Stunning Morkel, thank you for sharing your journey!

  27. Oh man
    That´s sooo amazing! Each one is better than the previous one! Very lovely images: the weaver in flight is goregeus, but the lion and the eland is just incredible
    Thanks for sharing!!
    That made my day :)

  28. No choices tonight Morkel, just amazement and pleasure at scrolling through the collection. Excellent well done.