Sunday 27 July 2014

Giraffe Sunburst

I've been making a point of sharing some photos of ungulates on my blog and Facebook page recently. It's so easy to share the photos of the iconic big cats, other predators, elephants and rhinos...but many people have more appreciation for the lesser-known forms of life in the bush and actually enjoy seeing photos of them just as much.

Giraffes are certainly an iconic African species, and frequently turn up on the lists of "have-to-see" animals for new safari tourists to the continent. They can be tricky to photograph, though, as their awkward lanky stature makes it hard to compose your photos in such a way to do them justice. This old bull was feeding on a tree by the roadside around sunset in the Kalahari desert one afternoon back in November 2012. Giraffes were reintroduced to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park a couple of years ago after being hunted out many many years before that - and they are doing very well, particularly in the northern reaches of the Auob river valley where this photo was taken.

I used the late afternoon mood and position of the sun here to add interest to the photo (after careful positioning of my vehicle). Stopping down my aperture to f22 helped me make the most of the sun's rays creeping over the back of the giraffe - creating the "sunburst" or "sunstar" effect. The incredible dynamic range of the Nikon D800's sensor allowed me to have immense detail to work with, even with shooting directly into the sun. 

Does it work for you?

Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 @ 100mm
f22  |  1/400 SS  |  ISO-900
Exposure bias -1.3

click on the photo to view at optimal resolution and sharpness

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday 24 July 2014

Crumbling Walls

I really am neglecting my landscape photography - which is a shame, because I really enjoy my landscape photography! Anyhow, I was in the mood to share an older landscape photo from my archives - so I hope you like this one.

I captured this sunset a couple of years back on a local farm close to where I live. The farm belongs to family friends of ours so obtaining access is not a problem. These old farmhouse ruins provide plenty of interest on the otherwise boring scenery of the Mpumalanga Highveld.

I blended 3 separate exposures here to obtain the best representation of the dynamic range of the scene at the time.

Canon 7D
Canon 10-22mm USM @ 12mm
f16  |  ISO-100

click on the photo to view at optimal sharpness and resolution

Thanks for indulging me!

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 21 July 2014

Canary Clan

With this image I take you back to Zimanga Private Game Reserve for a brief interlude. You will remember I posted some images on my blog after our family's visit to this amazing place last month.

This photo is from my first session in the Mkhombe bird hide - where the action was coming thick and fast and recent updates from the reserve show no indication of the current state of affairs being otherwise.

A whole flock of Yellow-fronted Canaries were occupying the waterhole in front of the hide that morning, and the males in particular had very short fuses. With it being my first session in the hide, I was not accustomed to how shallow the depth-of-field would really end up being (the edge of the waterhole is merely 5 meters from the hide), given I was using my 500mm lens. I now know which settings to change for my return next year when I host a Wild Eye workshop there. The end result is that the bird with the outstretched wings was just-just out of my DOF here. I still like the photo, though, and the light is exquisite. 

What do you think?

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
f5.6  |  1/500 SS  |  ISO-1800

click on the photo to display at the proper sharpness and resolution

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday 17 July 2014

Thirst of a Kudu

The sound of a francolin's call fills the air - air which is crisp with chill, fresh as only a new day in a remote piece of African bush can be. The sky is painted the hue of a delicate rose. It's dawn, that magical time of day when the bush comes alive, when everything is on alert, when the crimson sun is not yet beating down relentlessly on the dusty earth...

A herd of graceful and beautiful Greater Kudu approach the waterhole. Gregarious, as they ever are, big radar ears scanning around for the slightest hint of danger. There are young ones in this herd, and there's no bull present, so the ladies must be vigilant indeed!

I sit motionless, my head, shoulders (and my camera of course) sticking out of a manhole made in the top of an underground concrete research bunker at this specific waterhole. I have been sitting here for a while so the Kudus have no idea I am here - unless I chase them away by moving suddenly. As they approach the water, I gently move my camera and lens in their direction by shifting its orientation on the beanbag I am using for support. The light is very low, so I need to have very steady hands. I switch on my lens' Vibration Reduction (VR) for extra stability, and I switch my camera to the quiet shutter mode, so I can be as non-intrusive as possible .

The herd eventually relaxes enough to start drinking their fill...but the vigilance never leaves them. Ears alert, heads popping up every time my shutter trips, females looking around for danger the whole time. But danger is far away on this morning...they have a good long drink, and eventually saunter off back into the bush in search of food. I relax, and take a deep breath as the sun peeks over the horizon. 

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.6  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-2500

Moments like this is what it's all about...for so many it's just chasing those iconic species like lions, leopards, elephants...and yes of course I enjoy seeing and photographing them...but it's about so much more. Wildlife photography is about appreciating the diversity of Creation, the immense balance and beauty that exists in nature. It's an immersive experience, and one you need to be present for when you are in the field. 

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f4.0  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-1000

As usual, the photos will display at best resolution and sharpness against a dark background if you merely click on them and cycle through with your arrow keys.

Thanks for having a read of my blog! I hope you have a stunning day.

Morkel Erasmus

Sunday 13 July 2014

Two Young Kings

I thought it apt to post something that is NOT a "wider-showing-environment-animalscape" for a change, to show you that I do photograph tight, close portraits as well when I am in the field.

I was privileged to spend some quality time with these two brothers in Etosha last year during a week's intense photography and adventure with my friend Hans Rack. They were very cooperative models, and on my last afternoon in the reserve they posed very nicely in that soft glorious post-sunset light of Africa. The front-most lion was playing with a stick that you can see sticking up from the bottom of the frame.

I love the repetitive poses here, and the earthy tones in the shot overall.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
f5.6  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-4000
Pretty much full frame, cropped a sliver off bottom to remove grasses protruding from the bottom and a sliver from the LHS for balance

click on the photo to display at proper resolution and sharpness

Thank you very much for following my work. Feel free to share with like-minded people!

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday 10 July 2014

Big Wings

Just a quick post this time around, folks. This is from my 2010 archives (I've got sooo many photos still unprocessed from then until now, so every now and again I dive into the depths of the archives).

I captured this photo of the Lesser Spotted Eagle in the Kruger National Park one afternoon. I have some photos of it perched on the stump, but quite liked this "takeoff" moment with the wings stretched up and the feet just leaving the perch. As far as technically perfect bird photography goes, the background is a bit busy - but I don't mind that much as it's a rare bird to photograph properly (it's a summer migrant to South Africa).

What do you think?

Nikon D300s
Nikkor 200-400mm f4 VR @ 290mm
f5.6  |  1/1600 SS  |  ISO-800

click on the photo to view at proper sharpness and resolution

Have a lovely day!

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 7 July 2014

An Elephantine Moment

Wildlife photography, to me, is about telling the stories of nature and conveying a sense of the wonder of God's creation to my viewers. As a photographer, you need to be able to use all the tools at your disposal to do this. Besides the obvious - your camera and lens and the right settings for the shot you envision - you need to sometimes resort to cropping and post-processing techniques to "bring out" the story in the photo.

This photo of elephants drinking life-giving water was taken from an underground research bunker in Etosha National Park, Namibia. 

I was using a Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens, but even after capturing the tender moment of the young calf drinking between his protective mother's legs, I felt that it needed an extra touch. 

I cropped to eliminate distracting elements - in this case the sky, the other elephants (as much as possible) and some of the foreground. Mom wasn't as important to me as the young one, so it wasn't necessary for me to have "all of her" in the frame. Not much I can do about the giraffe you see through her legs in the background, though. I also wanted to convert this to monochrome to avoid the brighter colours drawing your eye from the cute calf who was in the shade.

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II @ 200mm
f8.0  |  1/250 SS  |  ISO-900

Let me know what you think!
Thanks for looking, and have a blessed week my friends.

Morkel Erasmus