Monday 28 December 2015

My first dabble with a macro lens

Again, I stand agasp at my ability to not post on my blog with proper regularity.
Or rather - I realise how much this year has ran away with my time!

Earlier in the year I was able to convince the kind folks at Nikon South Africa to loan me a macro lens to play with for a week or two. I was handed the Nikkor 105mm f2.8 Micro lens, and proceeded to (try to) put it through its paces.

I must confess, I have always enjoyed good macro photography (especially of the smaller organisms that inhabit our planet, more so than flowers and fine detail on porcelain teacups)...yet I have never felt an innate desire to partake in it, to try my hand at it as it were. I knew once I started playing with this great piece of glass that there's more to it than merely sticking your lens very close to a bug's face. The bug also would have to sit still, but that is a totally different issue.

Without relenting to too much text, here are a few sample images I was able to make during my time spent with this lens. I can definitely see myself investing in one of these "for the fun of it" in the future!

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 105mm f2.8 Micro VR  |  f5.6  |  1/100 SS  |  ISO-100

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 105mm f2.8 Micro VR  |  f20  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-1000

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 105mm f2.8 Micro VR  |  f11  |  1/160 SS  |  ISO-1000

What do you think? Should I dabble some more?

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday 12 November 2015

Madikwe: May 2010 (Part 3)

Hello everyone. It was with a shock that I realised that my last blog post was written in August! So much has happened...between hosting a Wild Eye photo safari in the Maasai Mara, jetting off to Hong Kong with my wife on assignment for Nikon Asia, and then attending the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards in London, it's safe to say things have been hectic.

I have not even had time to process many new photos - but I do know that I have also neglected to finish this trip report from way back in 2010, so here goes.

If you missed (or forgot) the previous part, you can catch up HERE.

Day 3

Our day started with an early rise and a drive out to Tlou dam to photograph the sunrise and whatever else may come across our path. I used the animal tracks in the mud as foreground interest for this image.

There was no real activity around the dam, so we set off again, and soon we had an amazing encounter, on foot, with the unicorn of the African bush...

I've spent time on foot with these amazing creatures many times since then - but you know you always remember your first time LOL.

Just as we were about to return to Nkurru Lodge to have brunch and pack up our rooms, we came across two gorgeous male lions in the south of the reserve. They were at the end of their morning patrol and just beginning to get lazy.

After roaring loudly right next to our vehicle, and sharpening their claws against a tree - the brothers disappeared into the thickets.

And so our short safari to Madikwe came to and end.

Little did I know that this first proper meeting with Gerry van der Walt would result in a great collaboration years later in Wild Eye - thanks a lot, my friend!

I haven't been able to go back yet, and maybe soon I will. The Wild Eye crew regularly host photo safaris in Madikwe, so be sure to check it out if you are interested in visiting this underestimated piece of wilderness!

Soon to come - a 2 week trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, from June 2010. I am sooo far behind on these trip reports, but it's great fun reliving the memories as I write them up here.

Until next time!

Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Under the Winterthorns

If you have been following my work for a while you would know at least two things.

1. I love Mana Pools in Zimbabwe.
2. I love showing the bigger picture in my wildlife photos.

Well, I want to show you a photo taken IN Mana Pools showing the BIG picture.
It's an elephant photo, but it's not really in principle just about an elephant - got it?

First, have a look, and then I will discuss it...

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8  |  Circular Polariser  |  f16  |  1/160 SS  |  ISO-6400

I captured this photo alongside my guests as I hosted a Wild Eye photographic safari in conjunction with Mwinilunga Safaris in Mana Pools. 

You see, as I explained in this post, my fascination with Mana Pools goes far deeper than just the wonderful experiences that can be had walking with the elephants, lions, wild dogs etc. It's also the ethereal beauty of these floodplain-forests and the immense and gnawed Faidherbia Albida (Winterthorn) trees that dot the landscape that has me in awe.

What I was going for with this composition and perspective that actually diminishes the elephant was that encompassing sense of beauty and awe, where the elements themselves combine with the wildlife to create a sense of what I was experiencing myself in this moment as I was crouching behind the base of the tree with the termite mound around it - closer to the elephant than I was to the perceived safety of our Land Rover...

It's not primarily about the elephant. It's about the tree(s), the mood and the moment my guests and I experienced.

I'd like to think I achieved that.
I'd also like to know what YOU think...
Drop me a comment, tell me what this photo does for you!

Until next time,

Morkel Erasmus

Friday 17 July 2015

Psychedelic Karoo Dreams

I was photographing this dry shrub under the Milky Way in the Karoo desert of South Africa earlier this year. After getting the standard "static" starscape I normally attempt, I started playing around a bit with in-camera techniques.

This is the "standard" photo...

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 14mm  |  f2.8  |  30 seconds  |  ISO-3200

Now, the photo you see below was captured using in-camera techniques.
Some of you won't believe me, I'm it looks like something that was tweaked in Photoshop, right?

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 14mm  |  f2.8  |  30 seconds  |  ISO-3200

For this photo, I started at 14mm focal length, performed light painting to get the bush sharp and lit up, and merely zoomed the lens in to 24mm gradually during the last 10 seconds of the 30 second exposure. You need to be very steady and gradual in this process.

Here's another variation...

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 14mm  |  f2.8  |  30 seconds  |  ISO-3200
In this case, I followed the same approach as above, but instead of turning the zoom ring during the latter part of the exposure, I turned the focus ring, rendering the image out of focus for the last 10 seconds.

It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I do like experimenting with these slow shutter exposures, and trying different techniques. It can be so boring to capture the same images over and over and over and over and...

What do you think? Which do you prefer?
Leave me a comment...

Until next time!

Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Close Call

Well folks, to say it's been a hectic busy month would be an understatement. Just look at the time span between this post and my previous post? The outrage!

Anyway - this is a quick recap of our last morning in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in December 2013...

Since we would be leaving the park on this day, I left Twee Rivieren early for a quick drive up the Nossob river towards Kij Kij and back, while my wife and kids slept in a bit and packed the rest of the small stuff in the chalet.

I found lions at Rooiputs waterhole - a small pride consisting of a lioness and 4 juveniles (males and a female). The lioness looked like she was nurturing a few wounds, no doubt picked up in a recent scrap. They looked fairly relaxed at the outset...but it was about to change...

Just as they were about to drink again, I spotted a big male lion approaching from further up the Nossob riverbed. 

I initially thought he might be this pride's male returning from his nightly patrol...but as soon as these lions at the waterhole caught scent/sound of the approaching male - they went into panic mode!

The lioness sprang to her feet and rushed up and scooted south in the riverbed (in the direction I came from), running at brisk pace to get away before being noticed by the approaching male. 

The cubs followed suit...and I could somewhat piece together what had probably happened that night. He was definitly not their pride male!

This male must have been on their tracks for a while, he might even have been responsible for the gash on the lioness hind leg...why? Who knows - perhaps because it's his region and they are not his cubs? The lion family disappeared from view just as the male caught their scent - he knew something was up...

He moved around the area for a while before finally having the drink he came for, and moving into the dunes...

This was one of those sightings that didn't deliver any outstanding photographs, but it was a very memorable moment of natural history and lion behaviour that I was able to witness. The dynamics between different prids of lions is always full of tension and drama, and this morning I think the lioness and her family came off the better for it. It also leaves some questions...

Why were they alone and without a pride male?
Why were they afraid of this specific male?
Why was the large male alone, was he a nomad that had been dethroned from his pride?

Nature is fascinating.
The Kalahari is fascinating.
You should make a plan to visit it!

Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday 26 May 2015

The Promise of Rain

I've been keeping this photo under wraps for a while...just never felt like it was time to share it - until now. By now, if you've followed my work for some time, you would know that I have this sort of fetish for contextual atmospheric wildlife photos taken with shorter focal lengths. I simply love the scenery of Africa too much to resort to frame-filling portraits in the majority of my image-making.

This photo shows a herd of desert-hardened Oryx, also called Gemsbok, moving across the barren Etosha salt pan as the first summer rains roll in from the distance. Etosha is a hot, harsh and unforgiving land for most of the year. However, towards the end of November a transformation happens - clouds start to form, moisture is tangible in the air, and storms start to build across the endless horizon. Water comes to this land, much needed sustenance, preserving life and keeping this fragile ecosystem in the right balance.

This image is being released into my limited edition monochrome print series. It was taken with the stunning 36 megapixel sensor of the Nikon D800 and will print massively for a beautiful adornment for a home or office wall. Only 30 of these prints will ever be sold, each one signed and numbered, delivered with a certificate of authenticity.

If you would like to own an edition of this print, please send me an email at to discuss your custom sizing, print medium (fine art canvas or Hahnemuhle Fotorag) and obtain a personalised quote. I handle each print personally.

Please do click on the image below to display properly against a dark background...

This photo is the copyright of Morkel Erasmus and unauthorised use is prohibited.
Photo Techs:
Nikon D800
Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II @ 175mm
Circular Polariser
f8.0  |  1/400 SS  |  ISO-900

I hope you enjoyed viewing this one! Have a blessed day, folks...

Morkel Erasmus

Sunday 17 May 2015

All in the eyes

The eyes have it, they say.
A picture is worth a thousand words, they say.
Whoever they are, they said it.

On our recent short visit to Singita in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa, we were fortunate to spend some quality time with an old male leopard called the "Camp Pan Male". He is estimated to be around 16 years old, which is very old for a male leopard (especially considering the amount of other males he's had to run into over the years).

Have a look at this photo.
What does it "speak" to you??
Think about it for a few seconds before reading on.

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.0  |  1/500 SS  |  ISO-1100

There's a very compelling story to this image - it was taken at the end of a very emotional sighting of him trying his best to feed on a kill he'd stolen from another leopard. His legs were wobbly, his hips looked cripple, and his teeth were worn down. He couldn't get into the very small tree that the kill was hoisted in. I will make the entire story the subject of a different post, because there's some good video footage that my wife caught of the event that would give you an idea of what went down.

Anyway, here he was lying in the grass after exerting all his energy to grab a bite or two...and as he longingly looked up at the kill he was unable to wrest free from the branch it was snuggled into, he looked forlorn...defeated. I was looking into the eyes of a dying leopard. He knew it. I knew it. 

As of today he is still alive (it's merely a week after we were there), but his condition was pretty poor, and we were probably some of the last people to see this leopard alive...and that makes this image special to me.

Morkel Erasmus

Thursday 7 May 2015

Returning to the Sabi Sands

It's been a while.

3 years to be exact.
3 years since I was able to last spend time in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, a jewel in the lowveld and one of the best places to view and photograph leopards in all of Africa.
3 years ago, I didn't have much luck. I was only there for 2 nights and with the constant rain we only found one leopard on the last afternoon as I was about to leave the reserve.

Despite living in South Africa and going on safari frequently - leopard photos are a bit lacking in my overall portfolio. I've enjoyed amazing sightings of most of the other iconic African mammals, but leopards keep on avoiding me. THIS encounter in Kruger was the most memorable, but I am yearning for a fresh dose of leopard-awesomeness.

This weekend, my wife and I are returning to the Sabi Sands.
Between the properties of Singita and Leopard Hills, I hope we will be lucky enough to spend some quality time with Africa's beautiful secretive predator. At the very least, we should have a great time and recharge some of our own batteries.

Have a great weekend, folks.
See you on the flipside...with some new images I hope!

Morkel Erasmus

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Drive-by Kalahari Scenes

By now you should know that I love the Kalahari desert.
It's a place that soothes the soul.
It's a place of silence, solitude, serenity and splendour.

Most of my visits to this region have been to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a National Park straddling South Africa and Botswana. Due to the nature of this place you are confined to exploring its landscapes photographically in two ways...within the confines of the rest camps and campsites, or from your vehicle as you drive around looking for wildlife (among which the magnificent black-maned lions of the Kalahari).

Over the years, I've managed to collect quite a few nice "drive-by" landscape photos in my pursuit to capture the arid beauty of the Kalahari effectively. It takes a different approach to traditional tripod-stomping, as you are really limited in how you can compose your photos. The following collection of images show some of the "drive-by" shots that I am most happy with to date. Most of these were taken handheld or resting on a beanbag on the vehicle door.

As always - the photos are best enjoyed by clicking on them...

1. "Kalahari Ghost Rain"
It gets very hot in the Kalahari - this image depicts "Ghost Rain", rain that evaporates even before hitting the earth. It's that hot! And this was taken right at sunrise!! Location - the dune fields between the Auob and Nossob riverbeds.

Nikon D800  |  31mm  |  f7.1  |  1/60 SS  |  ISO-640

2. "Southern Nossob"
A typical scene in the lower Nossob riverbed. Red sand dunes, camelthorn acacias, and big skies. This "river" runs only once every 100 years or so.

Nikon D800  |  24mm  |  Polariser  |  f8.0  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-500

3. "Red and Blue"
A typical late morning scene in the northern stretch of the Auob riverbed. Another fossil river, this one experiences a flash flood a bit more regularly than the Nossob, perhaps every 20 years or so!

Nikon D7000  |  92mm  |  f8.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-100

4. "Heart-shaped Cloud"
The space and the skies in the Kalahari are immense...and when the conditions are right you can capture something of that vastness on camera.

Canon 1000D  |  16mm  | Polariser  |  f11  |  1/80 SS  |  ISO-200

5. "Rain of Fire"
Although veld fires are common in the summer months, this was merely a spectacular sunset storm to the west, as seen from the lower Auob riverbed during a rare lush green season.

Nikon 1 V1  |  27mm  |  f3.5  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-400

6. "Ominous Overheads"
The storms in this part of the world can get quite rough. We were parked at a waterhole on this particular afternoon when a ripper came through - dust, rain, wind and lightning...

Canon 1000D  |  16mm  |  f8.0  |  1/80 SS  |  ISO-400

7. "Road to the Kalahari"
Just a grab shot of the road in the northern Auob riverbed. Doesn't this just make you want to get in your SUV and drive to the Kalahari??

Canon 1000D  |  28mm  |  f18  |  1/160 SS  |  ISO-200

Did you enjoy these? I hope it inspires you to not neglect your landscape photography even when you are not allowed to leave the safety of your vehicle...

Let me know what you think - which is your favourite? I intend on building this collection with every return visit!

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 30 March 2015

Death Dance

Sometimes you spend hours waiting for a specific photo, anticipating and watching for the decisive moment in sweltering heat...other times you just stumble into the right spot at the right time. 

I wish I could wax lyrical about the planning and preparation that went into capturing this moment, but I can't. It was a combination of right time/place and luck (we all need some luck in this thing called wildlife photography!). During our 2013 +Wild Eye Great Migration photo safari I hosted with +Marlon du Toit, we saw some lions lying in the grass next to the Mara river, and decided to head closer for some portrait photography. As we pulled to a stop, to our amazement a lone wildebeest scrambled up the riverbank (having just done a solo crossing we couldn't see from our vantage point), and the poor thing literally almost tripped over the lions. The largest female of the small pride wasted no time in pouncing on the unfortunate ungulate, and a lengthy struggle ensued during which we were privy to the emotional dance of death between these species that occurs during the Great Migration. 

This particular wildebeest didn't seem to want to give up and kept struggling to escape his attackers, but to no avail. We were very close to the action, and shooting with a 500mm lens forced me to compose a little out-of-the-box, but I liked how it came out!

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f8.0  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-1400

I also converted it to monochrome, and I like it better in that medium. What do you think??

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f8.0  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-1400

Let me know which you prefer by dropping a comment below.
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you have a great week...

If you would like to join us in the Mara Triangle this year for an awesome photographic adventure, then check out THIS page.

If you would like to purchase this tone version as a limited edition fine art print for your office or home, mail me:

Morkel Erasmus

Sunday 29 March 2015

Special Print Series - Atmospheric Elephants

Good afternoon everyone...

I've just released a new special print collection on my website. It's a specific portfolio of black & white photos showcasing elephants under the vast expanse of the African sky. This series can be printed on the finest Hahnemuhle Photo Rag paper or fine art quality canvas, and it will be an exquisite adornment for a home or a corporate office space. I am making each image available as individual prints. 

I will also be running special prices on multiple orders of 2 or 3 prints, 5 prints, 9 prints or the whole series of 13...multiple prints can be designed and sized according to the specific space you intend for them to be hung.

You can see the entire collection HERE.
If you want a moody piece of "Africa" to adorn your walls - let me know!

For detail pricing and enquiries, please contact me on:

Have a great week!

Morkel Erasmus

Sunday 22 March 2015

Study of a Kalahari King

Sometimes, when you spend time photographing a specific animal, you become quite taken by them - as if you are able to capture a part of their being on camera, and therefore transport them back to whoever views your images.

Over the years, I have had the fortune of photographing some very good-looking male lions in the Kalahari. Every time I return there, I seem to come across another individual male who embodies the spirit of that harsh yet special semi-desert environment.

During our safari to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in December 2014, my wife and I spent a few days photographing the new pride male around the 13th Borehole area. We saw him mating with a female, posing in gorgeous light, snoozing at the break of day, and finally patrolling the dry Auob riverbed, all in the space of 3 days, using various focal lengths.

I will let the images do the talking - so check out this beaut of a lion in all his glory!

Nikon D810  |  Nikkor 400mm f2.8 VR  |  f5.6  |  1/1000 SS  |  ISO-1000

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 38mm  |  f5.6  |  1/400 SS  |  ISO-720

Nikon D810  |  Nikkor 400mm f2.8 VR  |  f5.6  |  1/1000 SS  |  ISO-800

Nikon D810  |  Nikkor 400mm f2.8 VR  |  f4.5  |  1/800 SS  |  ISO-220
Nikon D810  |  Nikkor 400mm f2.8 VR  |  f5.6  |  1/640 SS  |  ISO-640  
I do hope you enjoyed seeing the images of this magnificent specimen as much as I enjoyed taking them! Have a lovely week, my friends, and thanks so much for stopping by.

Morkel Erasmus

Friday 27 February 2015


The sun has just set after another blissful day in this piece of remote wilderness.

In front of me is a life-giving waterhole in a harsh land, where a myriad of animals came to quench their thirst during the heat of the day...

One animal was still thirsty, though, and for some reason he had waited until everyone was gone and he could have the waterhole to himself.

I first notice him emerging from the treeline behind me...a phantom in the dusk light.
He takes note of the human presence in his path, and swerves slightly to make his way around my position towards the water. He is an experienced old warrior, the signs of many battles etched on his face and in his ears.

He sports a defense weapon that is in high demand by certain misinformed members of my species - and that makes him a constant target. Does he know this?? I doubt it. At least in this remote corner of Africa, he is safe at this particular moment as I am watching him approach, watching him emerge from the shadows...

As he scuffles towards the water, dust kicked up lingers, and all the way he seems to be "emerging" from the dust and the fading light, like a ghostly apparition. He moves very quietly for an animal of his bulk and stature...

The light is gone. I can barely make out his shape. I dial in a very slow shutter speed to limit my ISO to within the 4000-6400 band, which I know my camera can handle with aplomb.

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f4.0  |  1/60 SS  |  ISO-4500

I grab a few photos, being careful to pan lightly with him as he moves (given my slow shutter speed). Then I put the camera down and enjoy the moment. So many wildlife photographers these days forget to merely enjoy the moment, being so caught up in grabbing that "winning photo". 

We need to admire once again what drove us to take cameras on safari in the first place...
We need to maintain our respect for the natural world, instead of pushing too deeply into the natural rhythms and disturbing out subjects for "the shot"...
We need to view our subjects like we first viewed them, through the eyes of awestruck children...

We need to emerge as a driving force in raising awareness for the wildlife we love photographing, and to do that, we need to let go of our narcissism and egos...

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 16 February 2015

Joined for a Drink

This year has been a whirlwind thus far and my photo processing has taken a serious back seat between a new role at work, continuous family commitments and other random things.

I found time tonight to take a quick peek at some of my photos from our safari to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in December last year. This photo was taken at first light from the walkways between the cabins at the Urikaruus Wilderness Camp. This specific pride of lions had spoiled us by lounging around the camp waterhole all day that day!

It started when I randomly awoke at around 2am, and as usual when staying in these camps I stepped out on to the balcony to see if something was visiting the waterhole. "Something" was - a pride of about 9 lions were all drinking from the waterhole! It was deathly quiet, and all you could hear was their tongues lapping up the water. I woke my wife and we enjoyed this moment for a few minutes. I figured they would hang around a bit, so we lied down again. At around 3am the roaring started...3-4 of them would roar in turns, and it didn't stop until sunrise around 05h30! So much for shut-eye haha...

As the first rays of sunlight kissed the desert sand, the big male and one of the females rose (they had been plonked down behind the waterhole) and proceeded to drink again. I used the elevated position of the walkway between the chalets to get their reflection in the frame as well...

After they drank their fill, they got lazy again, and we headed north in our vehicle and found lots more lions - but that is a story for another day...

The pride lounged around all day, roared again at sunset, and moved off into the dunes as darkness fell. A special treat dished up by a special place!

Nikon D810
Nikkor 400mm f2.8 VR
1.4x teleconverter
f5.6  |  1/1000 SS  |  ISO-720

click on the photo to view at optimal sharpness and resolution

I miss the place already...

Have a blessed week, folks!

Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Elephant in the Mara

Hello everyone. I've been a bit flooded of late so blog posts have been sparse.

In the beginning of the month, I published a collection of images from my 2014 "photographic year". Though I always do this and view it as a useful way to assess my growth and artistic voice, I purposefully posted only images taken at 100mm focal length or less. You can read the entire post HERE.

The image I am sharing today NEARLY made the cut in that post.
During our +Wild Eye photographic safari to experience the Great Migration in the Mara Triangle in September 2014, we spent some time with a gentle yet impressive African Elephant bull who was leisurely grazing on the long red oat grass along the Mara river. He was right next to our vehicle so I was able to inspire my guests to really work the scene with their wide angle lenses. I am a sucker for an "animalscape" and having a circular polariser in front of my lens helped bring out more detail in the sky and tame some of the harsh late morning light.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 24mm
Kenko Pro Circular Polariser
f4.0  |  1/400 SS  |  ISO-100

Do you enjoy seeing photos like this? Or do you prefer the animal to be larger in the frame?
Let me know - drop me a comment on this post and let's discuss...

Morkel Erasmus

Sunday 4 January 2015

10 below 100 - my reflection on 2014

Good day folks! I bet the title of this blog post has you perplexed...

Since January 2010 I have made it a habit of posting a collection of my personal best moments in nature photography on my blog. I know some people scoff at this trend (obviously because many photographers seem to be doing it to get attention), but for me it really is a great way to take stock at the end of another calendar year and its accompanying travels/adventures, and also to assess where my personal expression in terms of photography is going. 

Am I growing as an artist? 
Am I changing the style and feel of my images subtly and subconsciously or boldly and consciously?
Am I putting out bland images and stagnating in my creativity?
Am I still enjoying what I do?
Do I primarily find joy and fulfillment in the work that I put out there?

These questions are constantly at the back of many artists' minds and doing these posts is a good way for me to try and answer them. The last one is paramount - we should primarily focus on producing a body of work that satisfies ourselves, if other people enjoy it then it should be a bonus. You can never cater for the majority of tastes out there, so it's prudent to first satisfy your own notions and tastes in the art that you produce...

Anyway - so this year has seen me really making a point of putting down the longer telephoto lens more often when doing wildlife photography. I have always immensely enjoyed landscape photography, and my previous years' reflective posts have included some outright landscape entries. I have also always had a knack for composing wildlife photos to include more of the environment and the scene in which the subject finds itself. We often harp about conserving the African wildlife, but in order to do that effectively we also need to place an emphasis on conserving the habitat, the ecosystems in which these species thrive. Habitat fragmentation is a big threat to most of the African biodiversity and it's a bigger problem year after year. 

This year I tried to create even more of these "animalscape" kind of images, and with shorter lenses too. Which brings me to the title of this post...

Instead of opting for another "best 20 shots of the year" divided into landscape, birds and wildlife (my 3 main subjects), I am going to post only 10 photos, all taken at focal lengths of 100mm or less. Yes, 10 photos of wildlife or landscapes or birds, all captured at focal lengths ranging between 14mm and 100mm. The short side of things. I hope this inspires you to reach for your shorter lenses more often - it's so easy to rely on the big guns to bring us tack sharp nicely isolated portraits of our wildlife subjects (in fact, if the winning images of this year's Natures Best competition are anything to go by, these kinds of tight portraits are probably coming back into fashion). 

So, like so many other wildlife photographers putting out their best work from 2014, I could have shown you frame-filling shots like these, showcasing how I used my super telephoto lens for the purpose it was built for:

While I do capture these kinds of portraits, and while they do look beautiful in many cases, I find that they also don't give context - they don't always scream "AFRICA!" to me - it's just where my personal taste has been going and growing in the past few years. The images I picked here were all taken by me, either hand-held or using a tripod (in the case of some landscape shots), using no fancy tools like remote control buggies and drones and selfie-sticks - just plain old photographer looking through the viewfinder...

So, without further a due, here are my 10 selections, with some back-story and technical info thrown into the mix. They are posted chronologically based on date of capture. To view the images at best resolution and sharpness - please do click on them...

1. "Chobe Crocscape"
During the Wild Eye Chobe Photo Safari I hosted in March, we came across a young Nile Crocodile basking in the morning sun on the banks of the Chobe river. We were able to position our photographic boat in such a way so as to make nice low angle close-up photos possible. I whipped out the 24-70mm lens with a polariser attached and made some "crocscape" images.

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8  @ 24mm  |  f5.6  |  1/500 SS  |  ISO-200  |  Kenko Pro Circular Polariser

2. "On Another Level"
On the same Chobe safari as above, we have a massive storm move through one afternoon, after which the air was crisp and clear and fresh. We spotted a herd of elephants moving down to the river to goof around, and set our photographic boat in that direction. We were able to coax the boat in gently quite close to where the young bulls were being boisterous in the water. I'm a sucker for low angle shots of wildlife, and if it can be low angle and wide angle, even more so. This is one frame from many we captured during that afternoon's session - my guests being inspired to also whip out their shorter lenses and make this moment count.

Nikon D800  |  Ni'kkor 24-70mm f2.8  @ 62mm  |  f5.6  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-560  |  Kenko Pro Circular Polariser

3. "Wild Coast Rocks"
Seascapes is another genre that has eluded my lens (based on the travels I've been preferring) over the past 2 years. This year we made a family pilgrimage over Easter to my brother-in-law who lives in Gonubie, a small town on the outskirts of East London in South Africa's Eastern Cape province, and which lies on the start of what is called the "Wild Coast of South Africa". I was only able to work in one afternoon's shooting due to the nature of the trip (family time a priority), and quite liked how this one came out. Another sunset which looked promising, but fizzled out - monochrome was a nice alternative.

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 14mm  |  f10  |  3 sec SS  |  ISO-50  |  RedGed Tripod

4. "Hazy Zambezi Daze"
If you have been following my work for a while, you will know how enamored I am with the beautiful wilderness of Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. I was notably excited to return this year hosting another +Wild Eye safari, and I made a point of shooting with wider lenses here as well, to try and capture the essence of this haunting landscape. This moment stood out for me - there was a constant haze from fires on the Zambian escarpment across the river for the first couple of days, which gave off an eerie kind of light and mood. Standing on an embankment looking down over the floodplains, I was able to capture this scene - the fallen albida tree a stark reminder of the cycle of life and death in this place, and the elephants meandering between the trees like they always do.

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 62mm  |  f7.1  |  1/500 SS  |  ISO-2500  |  Kenko Pro Circular Polariser

5. "Big Vic"
Here's another image from our Mana Pools photographic safari. For me, a photograph is more than just what it is, it's also about what it evokes. Firstly, it should evoke something in the viewer, but it should also evoke the memory of the moment for myself - I should link back to an exciting or ethereal moment in nature, and remember it as if I was still standing there. This moment is one such a moment - it's certainly not an award-winning photo, but my clients and I will never forget this morning when we were sitting on a fallen log and one of Mana's gentlemen, Big Vic, sauntered over to us and started feeding on a tree right in front of us. And I do mean right in front of us - he was a mere 5 meters away from us here (the wide angle distortion makes it seem further, though).

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 24-70mm f2,8 @ 29mm  |  f5.6  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-400

6. "Floodplains of Fantasy"
Staying in Mana Pools, I wrote extensively about the story behind this photo in THIS BLOG POST (would love for you to check it out). Suffice to say that capturing a true wide angle landscape image of this unique area was somewhat of a challenge for me on my previous trips, and it came together with this shot.

Nikon D800  |  Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 14mm  |  f8.0  |  ISO-200  |  Blend of 3 exposures

7. "Into the Storm"
Invariably, trying to do wide angle wildlife photography without the use of a remote controlled buggy or drone predicates that the better images will be of the slightly bigger animals - hence this is the 4th image in this post that contains elephants! This is just one of those images that evokes so many possible responses linked to conservation, family, life's hardships, etc. Wouldn't you agree? I captured this moment on the first afternoon of our +Wild Eye Great Migration photo safari to Kenya in September.

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 24mm  |  f4.0  |  1/125 SS  |  ISO-640  |  Kenko Pro Circular Polariser

8. "Quintessential Migration Sunset"
Those of you who have been in East Africa to witness and photograph the Great Migration will know how hard it is to capture the encompassing grandeur of this natural spectacle in a 2D photo. I tried last year and I tried again this year - I found that true wide angles don't really do the trick, the 50mm to 100mm range seems to work better. It's something I will keep plugging at until I get a better shot!

Nikon D4s  |  Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 70mm  |  f4.5  |  1/160 SS  |  ISO-2000

9. "Kalahari Dune Storm"
During our trip to our beloved Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, my wife and I were privy to see some immense storm activity as the summer rains arrived to this arid land in full force. Our first evening in the park was spent at the KielieKrankie Wilderness Camp, set aloft on one of the highest dunes in the park. Having driven in under a blanket of building cumulus clouds the afternoon, the storms that rolled in were dramatic, intense and awe-inspiring. The wind was so strong that using a tripod was moot, and I had to resort to hand-holding my camera and trying my best to time my shutter finger with the lightning strikes that occurred frequently. This is one of the better results...

Nikon D810  |  Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 14mm  |  f8.0  |  1/60 SS  |  ISO-1250  |  Handheld!

10. "Love Bites"
I noted above that many of my attempts at wide angle wildlife photography invariably ends up being spent on larger animals as it's easier to fill a significant part of your frame with them. Sometimes, however, things do work out in your favour with other species. We found this mating pair of lions early one morning at the 13th Borehole waterhole in the Auob riverbed of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and they proceeded to have their honeymoon ritual right next to our vehicle. Naturally, I whipped out the 24-70mm and worked the scene. This is one of the frames that I am happiest with...

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 42mm  |  f5.6  |  1/400 SS  |  ISO-800  |  Kenko Pro Circular Polariser

That's about it, folks. I hope you enjoyed this selection, if only for the fact that I tried to veer away from my usual format in this "year in review" post.

Are these my absolute favourite images from 2014?
Not all of them, no.

But I did set out with a specific photographic goal in mind for 2014 - to do more of these kinds of shots, and more of them that are worthy to add to my portfolio, no less. I think I succeeded in some ways. I shall probably carry on doing that. 

I doubt that I will ever find myself using remote buggies and drones to photograph wildlife. I do enjoy the fresh perspective that those methods bring - and perhaps it's only because I'm a bit of a cheapskate and don't really see myself splurging on those toys yet. There are also unanswered questions in my mind as to the effect these things have on the wildlife that you approach with them - not so much the single dude who does it here and there, but more on the effect it will have when every 2nd photographer rocks up at a sighting with a drone flying and a remote buggy driving closer...this debate is lively and ongoing - let's see where it ends. For now, I still hugely enjoy being behind the viewfinder, grabbing different cameras and lens combinations as the situation changes, and forcing myself to be creative right there where I am in the sighting. Each to their own, right?

I entered the big photo competitions in 2014 as well. Despite having 3 single images and a portfolio of 6 images in the final round of the "big one" (BBC), none of them placed in the awarded images. I shall probably try again in 2015, if only to take a shot at it. I know there are so many high quality images entered every year and the standards keep lifting - but I like the process of deciding which ones to take a chance with and entering them. 

As a side-note, one of my images that was shortlisted for the finals in both the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and the Natures Best Windland Smith Rice awards was also a wide angle image (taken in 2013 from a research bunker in Etosha). I remains one of my personal favourites in my portfolio, regardless of whether it rakes in any accolades:

I hope you all have a fabulous 2015 - and that you will be challenged to shoot a variety of scenes and focal lengths when you are out spending time in nature.

God bless you all, and thanks for reading!

Morkel Erasmus