JHP Newsletter - 2007, No. 2, 31 March
Travel: South Africa
I've just completed an awesome six-week trip to South Africa. The weather was much more cooperative than in Tanzania. I was only rained out one day, and dark solid could cover hampered shooting on two other days.
I started the trip in Pilanesberg National Park. Shooting was pretty slow, but I did get some nice shots including some of a Zebra drinking (below left).
1/500 sec, f8, ISO 250
1/60 sec, f8, ISO 400
1/180 sec, f8, ISO 200
Next stop was Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which encompasses the former Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. I saw more owls while there than on all of my previous trips to Africa combined! I was able to get nice shots of Verreaux's Eagle Owls and Spotted Eagle Owls. The Spotted Eagle Owl in the shot above center was unbelievably cooperative. It was on the ground about 5 ft (1.5 m) from the road, and patiently watched me maneuver the car to various shooting positions. It's wings are held slightly open to help it stay cool. It was stinking hot in the park — 105°F (40°C) in the shade! Raptors are also plentiful, and the juvenile Dark Chanting Goshawk (above right) was also cooperative. It was on a low branch in a small tree right next to the road, and it changed poses several times to give me different looks. Black-Breasted Snake Eagles were more common than before, and I was able to get my first good shots of one (below left). While watching some Red Hartebeest and Gemsbok, two Hartebeest started chasing each other around in circles, and apparently prancing is a good way to run and show off at the same time (below right).
1/500 sec, f8, ISO 200
1/1000 sec, f8, ISO 200
Then I headed to the central west coast for the first time ever. I went to shoot the Cape Gannets at Lamberts Bay. There's a large breeding colony on aptly-named Bird Island just off shore. The island is accessible via a manmade breakwater, and I had a lot of fun shooting the gannets as they circled above the colony to alert their neighbors that they were about to drop in and also as they were landing with their flaps and landing gear down (below left). I also shot at nearby Elands Bay where there is a large estuary.
Then I headed to the Cape Peninsula, a place I hadn't been since 2002 and had never been at this time of year. I went to shoot the African Penguins at Boulders Beach in Simon's Town. I saw penguins on eggs, on really young chicks, and with older chicks. I also saw several mating and courting (below right).
1/1500 sec, f8, ISO 200
1/350 sec, f9.5, ISO 40
Next stop was Mountain Zebra National Park. I got nice shots of the Bontebok and Red Hartebeest, and also of the park's namesake. The Mountain Zebra in the image (below left) is yawning. She must have been really tired because she yawned three times in a row, and then a couple of more times about 15 minutes later. The highlight of the stay was seeing an Aardwolf for the first time.
Next stop was Addo Elephant National Park, and I got some nice shots of dung beetles, leopard tortoises, and yes, elephants. But, in order to keep the size of the Newsletter manageable, none of the images from that stop are included.
The next stop was Hluhluwe/Imfolozi Game Reserve. It was incredibly dry there, and the game was very sparse compared to previous visits so I didn't shoot very much. However, I was able to capture some good images including this Red-Billed Oxpecker and Cape Buffalo (below right). I took the image as I was leaving the park, right in the middle of the day. There was almost solid cloud cover, but it was fairly bright and the diffuse light let me take some good images. The image is also an example of spending time in a location, or with a subject, to let things develop. I had stopped to shoot this male Cape Buffalo because it was standing next to a mud hole on bare ground and made a good subject for a full-body shot. As I was shooting him, a female walked up behind him, and I was able to capture the two of them together to show the differences between the sexes. As I was shooting them, two other males had laid down nearby and one had its head resting on the other letting me take some images of an unusual tender scene. Then the Oxpecker arrived, and I was able to capture the most interesting images of the whole stop.
1/750 sec, f8, ISO 200
1/250 sec, f8, ISO 400
Then I headed to Kruger National Park and had a wonderful time. Bee-eaters were very common on this trip, and I got some great shots of (Southern) Carmine Bee-Eaters and European or Golden-Backed Bee-Eaters (below left). As I was going by the area where I had shot Klipspringer on my last trip, I was looking for them again and was pleasantly surprised to see a young Leopard looking back at me (below center)! I'll take a Leopard over a Klipspringer! While shooting a small group of Zebra, a White Rhino came walking out of the thick brush into the large short-grass area near the road, and it kept walking straight towards me (below right)! It stopped about 25 yds (23 m) away, went to the shade of a small tree to think things over, then walked parallel to the road for about 100 yds (91 m) before indicating that it really wanted to cross.
1/250 sec, f8, ISO 400
1/350 sec, f8, ISO 400
1/500 sec, f8, ISO 200
The most exciting shots of the whole trip were of a group of Dwarf Mongoose. I found them along the road, shot some from the car, followed them up the road a bit and shot some more. After they stopped at one spot for a while, I got out of the car and shot from ground level. I shot like that for almost half an hour!!! Got some great stuff. After their initial shock that something funny was going on with that metal contraption, they settled down and some of them came closer to check me out. Others went back to playing. It was really neat.
Other nice eye-level shots were taken at the Biyamiti causeway. There's a low dam immediately upstream, and the water level's less than a foot below a car's windowsill. The most interesting shots were of a Nile Crocodile after it had moved up next to the bank (below right).
1/180 sec, f8, ISO 400
1/250 sec, f8, ISO 200
Take care, and happy shooting.
James Hager Photography :: www.jameshagerphoto.com