Monday, 31 March 2014

Travel Companions

I thought I'd give you a break from Chobe imagery for a short while...

This photo was taken at the Gemsbokvlakte waterhole in the Etosha National Park in Namibia this past November. We had waited for a long time for this male lion to get up and when he did, he proceeded straight to the waterhole. A lone giraffe was also in the area, and also thirsty. In this frame it looks like they are heading in the same direction (and the title implies thus), but the giraffe was actually mostly keeping a close eye on the lion. 

And no - this is not from the sighting where I witnessed a pride of lions taking down a giraffe on the same trip...more about that later!

In hindsight, I wish I'd shot this with my 70-200mm lens. I really thought I would fit them in better with the 500mm and wanted that telephoto compression effect for this (obviously the giraffe was not directly behind the lion). In the end, this is the best I got with both in the frame, and the horizon isn't perfectly level either...

Just goes to show, there's always an opportunity to learn from your mistakes in the field, and you're never too old to make mistakes and realise them way too late, haha!

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

I hope you have a wonderful week ahead of you! Thanks for looking, as always...

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday, 27 March 2014

A quick and powerful processing tip

Many of you will know that I present a popular post-processing workshop for wildlife photographers in South Africa. Obviously, if you don't live in our country it's hard for you to attend one of these.

While the +Wild Eye office team and I are working on a way to enable remote attendance of these workshops, you may be hungry for quick processing tips that will aid your processing workflow.

Here's a post I wrote for the Wild Eye Photo Chat Blog, detailing one of my favourite techniques for adding "punch" to your wildlife and nature photos. It's called "Local Contrast Enhancement". Much credit for the way I apply this method goes to my friend Robert Amoruso from the USA (

Before and After versions of a photo with LCE applied

I hope you find it helpful. If you are struggling to apply this or have any questions, feel free to drop me a comment here or on the original post.

Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Crazy Eyes

I wanted to share a quick image from my recent Chobe safari with you. I wonder how many of you have seen this kind of expression from an elephant before?

This young bull was enjoying a good frolic in the water, and came out head swishing and eyes all crazy. Captured from our specialised photographic boat, I was sitting on the floor with my lens resting over the side. In hindsight I should have gone to f8 for more DOF, but I'm happy with the sequence I got.

I was amazed to see how much the Chobe elephants really enjoy goofing off in the river...

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
f5.6 | 1/1600 SS | ISO-1100
Full frame except for slight crop due to rotation (to get water level in front of elephant level)

click on the photo to view at optimal sharpness and resolution
Morkel Erasmus

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Cosmos Sunset Abstract

It's autumn in South Africa again. In the Highveld, where I live, this means it's cosmos time - millions of seeds come into bloom, often in great sweeping patches of white and pink. The challenge is always finding a meadow of a decent size in a decent setting (minimal hand-of-man elements around) and in decent light.

I went out with my friends +Felix Reinders ( and +Rudi van den Heever ( to a local patch that looked promising. Being mindful of mistakes I made last time, I also made sure to take along my 70-200mm lens for some abstract attempts.

The patch was good.
The location was good.
The light was good(ish).
The 70-200mm lens rocked!

Here's one of my attempts using this lens for some abstract floralscapes - using a very shallow depth-of-field (DOF)...I hope you like it. I wanted to isolate a single flower or cluster of flowers against the setting sun and the myriad of flowers behind and around it...

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II @ 200mm
f2.8  |  1/400 SS  |  ISO-400

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Rowdy Family

Who doesn't love a cute picture of primates? Chacma Baboons nearly always provide for some adorable, funny and interesting moments to be captured on camera, and this was certainly the case recently on the Chobe river. We were able to drift very close with the Wild Eye photographic boat when we were photographing a number of baboon troops along the banks of the river, especially in the early mornings.

This frame really needs no explanation - it was a special moment and my guests and I were able to isolate these four from the rest of the troop using correct framing/composition. Can you think of an apt caption for this? What would the "parents" be thinking? Leave a comment if you have a quirky one...

Nikon D800
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-3200

click on the photo to display at optimal resolution and sharpness

Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Regal Eagle

There are many amazing birds of prey in Africa, but there is one that is undoubtedly the "king of the African sky" due to its beauty, splendour and hauntingly evocative, distinctive call. I am talking about the African Fish Eagle, of course.

During our recent Wild Eye photographic safari on the Chobe river that lies between Namibia and Botswana, we had some amazing encounters with these birds. This particular female was sitting on the edge of the river and we were able to glide our specialised photographic boat right up to her and capture some striking portraits. It's not every day you can be this close to a raptor in the wild and capture these images (the ones you normally see are taken of birds in captivity or in rehabilitation centres).

This photo is pretty much full frame at 36 megapixels, and the details are mind-blowing. I particularly love the tuft of feathers blown up by the wind on the crown of her head. I opened the aperture as wide as it can go to smooth out the green riverbank behind her and create a pleasing separation between subject and environnent. I was hand-holding my lens, so I pushed the shutter speed to a high enough value to compensate for possible camera shake.

I used the amazing Nik Color Efex 4 plugin to extract some more detail and contrast from the bird - since the conditions were overcast and the light was flat.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
f4.0  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-140

click on the photo to display at optimal sharpness and resolution

I hope you enjoyed this one. Have a superb day, my friends...

Morkel Erasmus

Monday, 17 March 2014

Golden Jaws

If you have been following my blog and/or social media channels for a while, then you would know that I have just returned from leading a Wild Eye photographic safari to the renowned Chobe river ecosystem between Botswana and Namibia. The photo opportunities my guests and I were blessed with were legion - and I've got so many new and interesting images to share.

Though the Chobe National Park boasts the highest density of elephants in southern Africa, I thought I would kick off the sharing of images from this trip with something different - an image I have been wanting in my portfolio for a LOOONG time. It's not anything new or groundbreaking, but it is a classically African image, and I am glad to have added it to my portfolio after this safari.

As we were approaching a pod of hippopotamus in the last light of the day, the sun just broke through the clouds for a moment, and I instructed our guide and boat driver Patrick to position us so that we can photograph silhouettes of the hippos against the backlight of the sunset. Just as we were nearly in position, the dominant bull of the pod reared up and gave a characteristic display of dominance with his mouth open. It was over in 2 seconds, and I was pointing my lens in that direction but not expecting anything. I quickly focused and fired off 4 frames with the boat still rearing to a stop, of which I liked this one the best. The golden glow and rim-light was achieved by dialing in an exposure compensation of -1.3 on my camera. The mood was enhanced by the light also hitting the thousands of insects flying about along the surface of the river.

I hope you like it! I will be posting a full trip report on the safari on the Wild Eye blog soon, so watch this space.

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

Morkel Erasmus

Friday, 14 March 2014

Interviewed on PetaPixel

If you are an avid photography enthusiast, then there's no doubt that you have come across the website/blog called PetaPixel somewhere on your websurfing. It's one of the most popular dedicated photography websites around, so I was caught totally left-field when their editor-in-chief contacted me via my website and requested to do an interview for PetaPixel.

A couple of email exchanges later (for lack of an appropriate coffee shop to get together in midway between the USA and South Africa!) and things were finalised. I am humbled and honoured to be featured on there, and you can read the entire interview (with some photos) HERE.

Morkel Erasmus

Monday, 10 March 2014

Forest Zebras

We usually associate Zebra (specifically, the species Plains/Burchell's Zebra) with the rolling plains of the savanna, and not with forests. However, there is one place where you can see them in a forest...and that's in Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe.

There are many things which could have been better in this photo. That darn middle zebra with its head down is my main bugbear, and the elements of the scene could have been better arranged. What I do love, is how this transports me to being out on the Mana floodplains at first light...and there's few things that beat that!! Can you spot the hippo in the background??

I captured this photo on foot. It was also my first time using the new and improved Nikkor 80-400mm VR-II lens (and I was duly impressed).

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 80-400mm VR-II
f5.6  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-900

click on the photo to display at proper resolution and sharpness

I will be heading to the Chobe river on Wednesday, leading my first Wild Eye photographic safari of the year. See you on the other side!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Free HD desktop background 2

The response to my last free desktop background was great, so I decided to put another one out there. I might release one per month...still deciding.

Anyway, this one shows a Spotted Eagle Owl chick, photographed against the setting sun in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Kalahari Desert, South Africa). Instead of including a "calendar" in the corner like so many people do on background images, I am going for inspiring quotes on each of these.

You can download this image for free by clicking on THIS LINK. I hope you enjoy seeing it on your iPad, laptop or desktop computer!

"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others." - Jonathan Swift

Have a great day, friends!!

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday, 6 March 2014

A tree on a hill

I posted a pretty grim update on a poached rhino last night on my social media outlets, so I thought I'd just post a simplistic and serene landscape photo this morning to make up for it. I haven't been out photographing landscapes properly in a long time - I blame the wildlife haha.

This is from my archives - a trip in November 2011 to be exact. What was supposed to be a relaxing fly-fishing retreat with good friends inevitably turned into a photographic mission for me as I woke up one morning to what looked like a promising sunrise. I trudged up the hill behind our little cottage, and looked for a composition before the light peaked. I found my composition, but the light didn't really "show up" as well as I anticipated. It's still a decent image and I've kept it. What do you think?

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 14mm
f16  |  ISO-200  |  Blend of 3 exposures using manual luminosity masks in Photoshop

click on the image to display at proper resolution and sharpness

Thanks for your time, my friends!

Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

View of a Leopard

I've minced no bones about leopards being a nemesis species for me. They are elusive to begin with, but it does seem that when I am in the area, they get a special memo to avoid being seen. This was one such an occasion - I was visiting my friend +Marlon du Toit when he was still working at Singita Sabi Sands in the hope of building up my leopard portfolio (seeing that the Sabi Sands is infamous for its leopard sighting and density).

What do you think happened? The first afternoon, upon my arrival - it started bucketing with rain. Rain which didn't stop for about 3 days, intermittently. And we saw no leopards! We had a couple of amazing sightings otherwise...but on my last afternoon as I was bound to leave and rejoin my family that night, we got word of a sighting of the Keshane Male, a magnificent and powerful male leopard that roams in the area. We had to fall into the queue of the paying guests, though, but eventually it was our turn. The entire sighting was spent watching his bum as he moved up the roadways in the bush, marking his territory. Eventually he settled in the grass, and for a fleeting moment (it was literally 10-15 seconds) I could snap some portraits. After this he got up and moved off into a drainage line and we had to leave so I could drive home.

Anyway - this is one of the better photos I took in that brief spurt of eye contact. He has amazing eyes, but the shots where he's looking my way were all marred by blades of grass obscuring one of his eyes. This one has the eye clear, still with some pesky grass in the way. My personal processing ethic is geared more towards natural-looking photos and zero cloning out of parts of the image. One way I do deal with the grass, is through monochrome conversions - converting in such a way as to negate the effect of the grass by way of filtering out some colours.

Here are 2 versions of this photo. Colour, and monochrome. Which do you prefer? And why?
Drop me a comment and let me know!

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-2200
Shot handheld from a game viewer

click on the photo to display at proper resolution and sharpness

click on the photo to display at proper resolution and sharpness

Have a great day!

Morkel Erasmus

Sunday, 2 March 2014


I've often recommended to wildlife photographers (on safaris I guide or online) that they should shoot wider to include more of the scenery, rather than merely trying to get as close as possible for as much detail as possible. One of the reasons I say this is that a very tight headshot could actually be taken anywhere (like in a zoo). Framing wider tells your audience a bit about WHERE the animal or bird found itself and WHAT it was doing. This does not always mean you should whip out a shorter/wider lens...sometimes it just means using your telephoto lens and not driving right up to your subject. 

I'm a big fan of using the compression factor that comes with the super telephoto lenses to tell stories and enhance the overall composition by seeming to bring the compositional elements closer together than they really are. The photo below shows such an example. This male cheetah was photographed in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Kalahari desert), and was scanning the Nossob riverbed for a potential breakfast target. The sun was just coming up and the light was sublime. I particularly liked how it was lighting up the shrubs and grasses around him, and a the camelthorn acacias in the distance. I chose to frame vertically (portrait orientation) to include the tree.

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
1.4x teleconverter
f5.6  |  1/640 SS  |  ISO-1600
Exposure Bias: -0.7 

I hope you found this useful, and of course I hope you like the photo. Either way, drop me a comment and let me know what you think...


Morkel Erasmus