Sunday, 29 June 2014

Stumped by a Cheetah

Okay, I should probably post some images from elsewhere for a change, but allow me one more Zimanga moment...

I had some amazing encounters with Cheetahs on foot during my stay at this reserve. On one occasion, Charl Senekal (the manager of the reserve which is owned by his family) took me and my young daughter up to within 7 meters of a female he's named Scarlet as she was resting under a tree on a hill after making a kill early that morning. She was very relaxed in our presence and needless to say my daughter was thrilled with the experience.

This photo was taken a day or two later, when we released the oldest male on the reserve (called Kalahari) from a boma in which he was recuperating from a small surgical procedure he'd been subject to. We followed him on foot as the boma was opened and he started patrolling his territory again. These cheetahs are wild and hunt for themselves, and have been habituated to Charl's presence since they first came onto the reserve.

In this photo, he had jumped onto a fallen tree and took in the scent of a rival male who passed through here the previous day. I crouched down and framed my shot to have the curious Giraffe in the background as well (he just happened to walk by at this point in time).

The fact that I was shooting with at 112mm focal length should give you an idea of how close I was...

Nikon D3s 
Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR @ 112mm 

f4.0  | 1/1000 SS  |  ISO-200

click on the photo to view at optimal resolution and sharpness

Encounters with the predators of Africa on foot are special and to be recommended - provided you do it in the company of guides who know the animals of the region and are trained to handle dangerous encounters on foot.

Have a great day, folks. Keep your eyes on the Wild Eye website as we should be releasing a Zimanga-based package soon!

Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Big Splash

I hope you're not tired of me posting about my awesome trip to Zimanga Private Game Reserve yet? Indulge me one more...

I absolutely love being able to shoot at eye level with my subjects. It makes the photo come alive in a way that shooting from the normally elevated position of a vehicle just cannot do. Given, you can get some nice eye-level shots through clever vehicle positioning and using the lay of the land to your advantage. Often, however, the only way to achieve this is to get out and get dirty by lying on the ground (if the reserve you are in allows this). 

I was able to do just that at Zimanga last weekend as we photographed their dominant Hippo bull thrashing about in the Hlambanyathi dam in sweet golden afternoon light. This spot was next to their new "Lagoon Hide" which is currently under construction and which would definitely warrant a return visit! I wanted to focus on the facial expressions of the Hippo and on the resultant splashes, so I fitted the 1.4x teleconverter to my lens for this session. The one concern with these shots is that the camera autofocus will lock onto some of the bigger water splashes that fly towards you, rendering your actual subject out of focus behind the splash.

I think this one came out alright, don't you? This is pretty much full frame from the camera.

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
1.4x teleconverter
f9.0  |  1/1000 SS  |  ISO-1600

click on the photo to display at optimal sharpness and resolution

As always, I appreciate your time and attention. Have a superb day!

Morkel Erasmus

Sunday, 22 June 2014

WILDpaper - Free Desktop Wallpaper for June 2014

I know I'm a bit late in releasing this month's WILDpaper, but here it is folks...

This photo shows a Glossy Starling taking a morning bath in one of the amazing bird hides of Zimanga Private Game Reserve.

The quote for this WILDpaper:

"No water, no life. No blue, no green."

Sylvia Earle

You can download the HD resolution (1920 pixels wide) wallpaper HERE.

Feel free to share this post with anyone whom you feel would love to download this wallpaper!
Also, take note that you are welcome to contact me for any fine art prints that you desire from my portfolio - you can mail me directly using morkel(at)

Thanks, as always, for your support.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Zimanga Wolfpack

Sticking with my recent trip to Zimanga Private Game Reserve...

The majority of photos coming from people who were fortunate to visit Zimanga leading up to their official opening in July 2014 have shown the fabulous photos obtainable from the bird hides currently in operation on the reserve. If you follow the reserve's Facebook Page, though, you would have seen that there's more to Zimanga than just birds. Charl Senekal has built up a gem of a reserve over the years where there's a wonderful immersive bush experience to be had. For me - a wildlife nut who enjoys to photograph birds now and again - being on foot with the resident Cheetahs and local pack of African Wild Dogs was an even better prospect.

I captured this photo one morning after we were relentlessly tracking the pack of "Painted Wolves" as they were hunting in the thickets and valleys of the reserve. These animals are the most endangered of Africa's predators. We eventually caught up with them as they finished a small kill. We approached them on foot, and as they came out onto the road I was able to lie flat down on my side and capture an image that framed them with the natural dense foliage of the area they were in, complemented by the morning light filtering through the tree canopy as well as the very low angle I was able to achieve. I can't wait to get back there and spend more time with this pack of impressive canines!

I left the collar on the one on the left...easy to clone out though if that's your thing. This pack is monitored by the reserve management and the Wildlife ACT volunteers - adults from this pack have been used to successfully repopulate various reserves across South Africa at no cost, also adding valuable genetic variation to regions with limited genetic variation - a good beacon of hope for Africa's most endangered predator. I have tremendous respect and appreciation for the way in which Charl is managing his wild dogs and using them to aid in bolstering the genetic pool of Wild Dogs in other reserves in South Africa.

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
f4.0  |  1/640 SS  |  ISO-400

click on the photo to display at optimal resolution and sharpness

Thanks for your time! I hope you enjoyed this image.

Morkel Erasmus

Monday, 16 June 2014

Terrific Twinspot

Hi everyone.

I have just returned from a visit to an exciting new photographic reserve in South Africa called "Zimanga". Besides spending time on foot with an awesome pack of African Wild Dogs and a relaxed male cheetah, the reserve also boasts some new established and in-progress specialist photography hides, built in consultation with Bence Mate from Hungary. Zimanga is situated close to Mkuze in the northern corner of Kwazulu-Natal, a veritable birders' hotspot.

You can see more of the reserve and the hides on the official website:

This Pink-throated Twinspot was photographed from one of these hides. It's a bird not often seen in the open as it prefers dense woodland areas, and it also is only found in the northern corners of Kwazulu-Natal (South Africa), Swaziland and Mozambique. More species info can be found HERE.

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
f7.1  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-2800

(you lose a stop of light from shooting through specialised one-way glass with no noticeable loss of image quality - this ensures the birds are mostly unaware of the photographers inside due to the sealed hide being much darker than the ambient conditions)

click on the photo to view at optimal resolution and sharpness

Stay tuned to my blog and social media channels as I share more of my Zimanga experience in the coming days and weeks...

Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Beach Elephants

I can't believe I haven't posted this photo on my blog before - but oh well, here it is. It looks like a pristine beach with idyllic white sand, but it is in fact the riverbed of the mighty Zambezi river flowing between Zimbabwe and Zambia at this point. I was sitting on the bank of the river in Mana Pools National Park (Zimbabwe), and you can see the escarpment of the Lower Zambezi Valley in Zambia rising up across the river.

The late afternoon light, combined with the hazy skies due to winter veld fires burning on the Zambian side, gave an otherworldly blissful feel to this, and this certainly echoes what I felt on this first afternoon of my first trip to this magical piece of wilderness.

I am returning on 29 August 2014 hosting a 4-night photographic safari with Wild Eye and Mwinilunga Safaris, and I can't wait. There is still a spot or two open for those keen to experience and photograph the magic of Mana Pools - you can find all the details you need HERE.

Nikon D7000
Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II @ 120mm
f5.6  |  1/500 SS  |  ISO-640
Exposure Bias +0.7 

please click on the photo to view at the proper resolution and sharpness

Thanks for taking the time to have a look!

Morkel Erasmus

Sunday, 8 June 2014

An elusive Kingfisher

I haven't shown you a bird in quite a while - so I'll remedy that situation right here and now! Southern Africa is blessed with a lovely variety of Kingfishers, a species that is a firm favourite with avid bird-watchers and photographers in most parts of the world, for sure.

I've had good opportunities in the past to photograph the more commonly found species in our region - the Malachite, Pied and Woodlands Kingfishers (and I've even had some good sightings of the Giant Kingfisher) - but there are 3 that have eluded me thus far in terms of getting a nice usable photo. These are the Half-collared Kingfisher, the African Pygmy Kingfisher and the Brown-hooded Kingfisher.

Well, one of them can now be taken off the "never photographed" list. On the recent Wild Eye Chobe Photographic Safari that I hosted, we were able to get nice and close to a Brown-hooded Kingfisher that had a nest in the bank of the Chobe river. Lighting conditions were challenging as it was at the end of the day in the shade of a large tree, but we all got some portraits we can be pretty pleased with.

Next up - to find the Half-collared and Pygmy!!

Nikon D800
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
f4.0  |  1/1000 SS  |  ISO-1800

Thanks for looking, and I hope you have a wonderful week ahead of you. I will be heading to the exciting new photographic reserve called ZIMANGA later in this week, where a number of photographic hides have been built and many more are in planning. Keep your eyes on my blog and social media channels as I share some images (which will surely include many beautiful birds) upon my return.

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Ode to the Impala

There are so many fantastic photographic subjects in the African bush, and so many of them are iconic and highly sought after by tourists...yet there's one gentle graceful little guy that often gets ignored, purely because of the sheer numbers in which you find them (think about how many you see in the Kruger National Park).

A couple of years ago I wrote a guest post for the Africa Geographic blog, which amounted to a photo essay to celebrate the Impala. You can read the entire essay HERE.

Thanks for taking the time to read and view my work, I appreciate every single view and comment. Feel free to share my blog with people who have an interest in African nature photography.

Morkel Erasmus