Thursday 27 February 2014

The Crash

A group of rhino is called a "Crash".
But this title is about more than that.
Rhino numbers are crashing. And crashing terribly fast.
Rhino poaching is on a seemingly unstoppable rise on the back of increased demand for their horns in the East (China, Vietnam, etc), where it's (falsely) believed to have medicinal and healing properties.

Rhinos poached in South Africa by year:
2010: 333
2011: 448
2012: 668
2013: 1004
2014: more than 146 to date...

At the current rate of increase, the death rate will probably overtake the rate of new births sometime during the next year or two, with extinction becoming a reality not long after that.

What can we do to help? Besides funding conservation and anti-poaching efforts, not much. You can do a small part to spread word through social media and help educate end-users that their purchase of rhino horn powder or carvings fuels the death of the species.

First off - sign THIS PETITION. Done? Good, thanks.

The African Wildlife Foundation recently released a new ad campaign featuring Jackie Chan, in both English and Mandarin. Share these videos around on your social networks...



Other useful links:

If you want to contribute R250 (ZAR) to anti-poaching efforts in the South African National Parks, you can buy a raffle ticket from the Table Mountain Honorary Rangers. They are auctioning an A1 print of a rhino photo I donated. Up to now the amount gathered from this auction exceeds R23,000 (about $2200), and there are still 8 weeks or so to go. Contact Diane Brooks ( or Michael McSweeney ( for more info and payment details.

I for one hope that my children's children can one day still see rhinos living free in the wild places of Africa. It may be far-fetched, but without a glimmer of hope, where would we find strength to fight this evil scourge??

Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday 26 February 2014

About those roads...

If you’ve ever visited Southern African National Parks and Game Reserves, you would have encountered animals on roads. Many in the photographic fraternity frown upon including the road in your photos, as it detracts from the ‘natural look’ of the image.

I’ve got a few thoughts on this...and you can read them HERE on the Wild Eye Photo Chat blog.

Have a great week...

Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Stumped by the Kalahari

This photo is one of the older landscapes in my archives. I took this one back in September 2009 while visiting the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park for the first time in years. It was captured behind our tent in the Kalahari Tented Camp (where lions often roam through since there are no fences).

It was taken with my first entry-level DSLR and a kit lens, but you know what? I still like it. This photo was also processed by blending together 3 exposures of the same scene manually. I used an aperture of f22 to create the sunburst. My new Nikkor lenses great much more pleasing sunbursts, and that's one advantage of a high-end wide angle lens for sure.

What do you think? Are there some "old" shots in your portfolio that you still cling to and enjoy viewing? This one takes me back to a lovely morning in one of my favourite parts of Southern Africa...smelling the smells and hearing the birds and feeling the glow of the sun on my face, with a lion roaring somewhere in the distance.

Canon 1000D
Canon 18-55mm IS @ 18mm
f22  |  ISO-100

Have a lovely day, my friends!

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday 13 February 2014

This part of Africa is so beautiful... makes me want to come and build an open-cast copper mine here!

Not. But that's the kind of thinking that must be going on in the heads of people like the directors of Zambezi Resources Limited (an Australian mining company). They are planning to open an open-cast copper mine in the MIDDLE of the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia!

Here are a couple of things that are VERY interesting about this case:
  1. The Lower Zambezi National Park lies on the northern banks of the mighty Zambezi river, directly opposite the Mana Pools National Park (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
  2. There was a formal, proper EIA done (Environmental Impact Assessment). This EIA strongly recommended that mining does NOT continue in this area.
  3. The minister responsible for these decisions in Zambia has recently simply overturned the EIA and the decision not to continue with the project, for no apparent reason (he cites job creation but probably received a fat incentive cheque too).
  4. Tourism is the fastest growing economic sector in Zambia, and the one with the most potential for sustainable economic contribution to the country's GDP.
  5. Did I mention that the Lower Zambezi National Park lies on the northern banks of the mighty Zambezi river, directly opposite the Mana Pools National Park (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site)?
  6. The Lower Zambezi National Park is listed to also be given UNESCO World Heritage Site status soon. This will obviously fall flat if the mining continues.
  7. The mining company claims this will be the "cleanest, greenest copper mine ever". Have you ever seen open-cast/open-pit mining? Puhleeeze. What a load of hogwash!
  8. Any pollution to the ground or surrounding water sources will flow DIRECTLY into the Zambezi, which sustains a myriad of wildlife and human settlements for hundreds of kilometers before it reaches the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.
What can we do? Mostly make a noise, spread the word and support our Zambian conservation colleagues in any way possible - believe me they are fighting this thing tooth and nail on the ground.

Firstly - check out the "No mining in Lower Zambezi National Park" Facebook page HERE

Join up by liking the page and make sure you stay updated and share important announcements from them to your Facebook network. You can also check out their blog HERE.

Secondly - check out the petition they created on Avaaz and sign that, HERE.

Have a look at this photo I took in Mana Pools...

This lovely chap is standing in the Zambezi river (in the dry months). Do you see that escarpment behind the elephant? That's Zambia...moreover, that's the Lower Zambezi National Park...and even more precisely - it's right in that basin up there that they want to open a freaking OPEN-CAST COPPER MINE. Huh? You want to what? Go on, click on that link - tell me if you think it will be "beneficial to the wildlife" as the mining company's PR release put it...

Greed is going to be the end of Africa, especially with corrupt politicians selling out our natural heritage to make a quick buck. It's sickening.

Okay, rant over.

Please have a look at the links I shared and do your part to at least spread awareness of this issue.

Have a great day, friends!

Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday 11 February 2014

In Memoriam: Basie van Zyl

Nobody can look up at the magnificence of the stars in the sky and feel untouched or unmoved by them. 

Perhaps you feel very small when gazing up at them. 
Perhaps you feel very insignificant. 
Perhaps you feel that there's so much still to discover.

I look up at the heavens and I see a chorus of praise for God our Creator. I find comfort in the fact that despite the fact that the universe is vast and the stars are beyond a number that the human mind can count to, He has chosen us and loved us and rescued us from ourselves in His Son.

f3.5  |  25 seconds  |  ISO-1600

Yesterday, one of the brightest stars in South African photography circles faded out. +Basie van Zyl was an immense inspiration to countless up-and-coming and professional photographers in the nature photography community in our country. He wrote the definitive star photography guide, he was a soul of the Kalahari sand, he was a gentleman and an all round great guy. After a sudden diagnosis of a severe form of leukemia not even 2 weeks ago, Basie passed away peacefully on Monday 10 February 2014. I count myself fortunate to have known him, laughed with him and shared a meal with him. I never got round to actually taking photos alongside him, and I will regret that for sure.

Life is short and it can all be over in an instant - make sure you love the people close to your heart fully. Remember that the best things in life are not things! Please take a moment to explore the links below...

To purchase Basie's star photography ebook (you will assist his family greatly) - CLICK HERE

To get an idea of his commitment to his craft and his passion for nature, do yourself a favour and read the following blog posts detailing how he managed to obtain an amazing series of photos showing Malachite Kingfishers at their nest:
Part 1
Part 2 

Thanks for your time! Please keep his wife and son and his close family and friends in your prayers during this time of grief.

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday 6 February 2014

A Classical Shot

Hey everyone - a short one from me today. 

A great many wildlife photographers online keep talking about doing something unique and thinking out of the box, and while there's nothing wrong with aiming for that (I often do too), it almost starts coming across as if shooting a classic shot according to sound photographic principles, with great technical settings and great use of light isn't a good thing anymore. Yes, some photos have been done by many others before. Yes, it's good to be unique. But realistically, with SO many people these days having access to digital photography equipment and posting their work online for everyone to much truly unique work is really being done? 

That's not to say you should be discouraged from aiming for that, I'm just saying that sometimes you need to do whatever feels right in the moment (photographically speaking). Sometimes, shooting a classic shot that countless others have taken should be okay and should be satisfying to you. I know it is for me - heck, very little of what I do seems unique to me anyway, so I try not to get hung up on whether I'm really shooting groundbreaking shots all the time.

This lioness was photographed at a remote research waterhole in Etosha, Namibia. It was first light, and I was actually able to crouch on the ground next to our supply trailer and sleeping structure to photograph her as she strode past into the rising sun to my left. A thrilling experience (I had an exit route though - always be safe)! 

Good light, good subject, good angle. 
Nothing groundbreaking, but a pleasing image to me as a wildlife photographer.
What do you think?

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II

f4.0  |  1/640 SS  |  ISO-250

click on the photo to display at optimal resolution and sharpness
Until next time - keep the shutter whirring!

Morkel Erasmus