Lessons in Photography: Still fuzzy from the night before…

This morning we were surprised by the wild dogs! A minute spent with the dogs is never boring. Take this morning when we watched the puppies run around before the wildegnus intervened and chased them around even more. Then the dogs tried to chase off the wildegnus then the wildegnus went for the puppies. Whew. Yeah, Wild Dog sightings are like that.

So last night, I can’t remember how or why, but I’d clearly used my camera and stuck my ISO up really high. It stayed that way this morning. So my wild dog ‘action shots’ are all super grainy. But it’s a cool lesson to learn for the next time, and what was I saying yesterday? Catch the animal’s inner light. And I think these fuzzy images do. Fuzzy puppies, fuzzy photos. Love.

Let Their Light Shine…

I’m really wild for my new camera right now. As I learn how some of the buttons work, I’ve found I’m also learning so much more about my myself, the environment I work in, the job I love, the souls of the animals out here and the people I get to share it all with. Sweet. That’s a lot of stuff. I didn’t expect that.

As a duckling photographer, here’s my discovery for the week:

Your gorgeous photos will come. And they’ll shine. When you let the animal shine first.

The best wildlife photographers don’t go out on safari and roll their eyes around making ‘tsk’ noises until the animal ‘does something’ or the light shines on it nicely. They watch the animal. They enjoy it. They look for that moment where it’s personality shines through and they capture it. Click!

Mid-blog hoofnote: Oh my goodness, how satisfying is the shutter noise??? 

A face shot of a zebra in the right light is so darn boring. Where’s its complicated love life? Its flatulence? Its clumsines? Its famous karate kick?  Its head shot is definitely not where awards are won and it’s not something that’ll reach down into anyone’s heart and grab at it. Rather take on that zebra’s imperfections, its movement, its quirks and all those tremendous facets of its personality. Photography lets us do that! Who knew?! So take in that weird lighting, that low lighting, that no lighting, whatever lighting makes it shine. From the inside.

I adore this Rhino photo and what I love the most is that the ‘shine’ here comes from the rhino simply being a rhino. He’s walking away from us because that’s what rhinos do. It’s classic rhino. He doesn’t give a moose about us because he’s big and he’s badass and he only cares about what he can actually see – the grass directly in front of his nearsighted eyes. A rhino like him should have no natural predators. No worries. Hakuna matata. That’s what shines.

Photographing the Queen

It’s always going to be quite the privilege, right?

A few mornings ago, we found Queen Ntombi’s tracks meandering along the long dusty road that makes up our Northern boundary. Magic Albert was left to do his thing and not half an hour later, we were in the presence of royalty. Thanks Albert!

It’s not often that you get to have a long, uninterrupted encounter with a leopard anywhere in Kruger, but on this morning we lucked out. Another leopard sighting in the far north had drawn the masses there and the safari guides in the south were all far away tracking lions who were never found. And there we were in the middle, all alone with a leopard who has ruled this area for over a decade. Special much?

These are the moments we live for. With a really shaky and excited hand, I managed to snap a couple of photos (okay, 176 photos), before we eventually drove away after an hour in her relaxed company. I can only hope that she went on the catch a much needed meal later in the day.

A leopard’s life isn’t easy. They’ve got to make it on their own, or not at all. Any leopard who makes it past the fluffy cubby stage still has a lifetime of lions ahead of it. And other leopards willing to fight to the death for a great territory like Ntombi’s. And hyenas following them around constantly looking for an easy meal, and often getting it.

I decided to go black and white with these photos and up the drama. Because that’s her. Sometimes you need to edit photos BIG and BOLD to match the weight of the subject. The Queen is an old girl now and it shows. To stick her in black and white is a tribute to the fact that she’s a classic. She oozes straight up old-skool glamour. If she was a human, she’d be retired to her home in the Hollywood Hills. Love this lady always.

Wildlife Photography for Ducklings: “But… But… Butt.”

“He’s beautiful!” I gasp out loud.

He’s looking the wrong way,” says the safari guest.


So here’s the confession: I rather like it when animals don’t look at us on safari.

Why? Well, it It means they’re doing what they’re meant to be doing – going about their lives without worrying much about the big metal blobby thing full of humans that’s standing right next to them. That should be our goal when we’re in close proximity to wildlife. Always.

“But… but… it’s a butt…



Your photography doesn’t have to suffer. Doesn’t that butt encourage you to be more creative? Look for wilder angles? Focus on someplace new and exciting? I can promise that there are thousands, if not millions of images floating around the internet of that animal’s face. How’s your image going to be different? How will it stand out? How will it be anything but? Butt?

I like this zebra image that I shot this morning. The sun shines right on his big rounded belly, which reminds of me of how gassy zebras are, which automatically makes me smile. The glow brings back the sunrise we had today, that cast an immense light over not only this zebra, but the impalas and the Wahlberg’s eagle behind him. And the random hyena who showed up too. It’s memories.

As a brand new baby photographer, I’m quickly falling in love with looking for that weird perspective; the photograph that doesn’t just get lumped in with the rest. And as a result, I’m finding new quirks in every animal I come across and making tons of new memories and I love it. That’s what truly matters.

Happy snapping, Safariosophers…

The Little White Elephant of Timbavati

I’ve been trying to get a great photo of his stunning white tail for months! Thanks Nikon x

This morning we were lucky enough to spend some quality time again with the little albino elephant who lives in our corner of Greater Kruger Park.

And wow. He. Is. Adorable.

Sure, he has his obvious disadvantages. He’s wobbly on his feet and probably rather sight-impaired as well. Whenever we see him, he’s tripping over things or bumping into things or eating food that’s a bit weird. His lighter colour is also going to leave him vulnerable to sunburn. But instead of focusing on what he’s got going against him, let’s look at the weighty advantage he carries with him everywhere he goes: his family.

This super cute toddler is never more than a step or two away from his brilliant mother and has a big brother who’s got his back. And that’s just his immediate family. If he ever finds himself in trouble, he’s got aunties and cousins who’ll step right in.

Albino elephants are extremely rare and don’t often survive out in the wilds of Africa. There have been only a handful spotted in Kruger over its entire history. This little guy really is extremely special. For my guests, I make sure that they understand that he’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime safari sightings.

His life isn’t going to be easy, but right now he’s got the best support a little elephant could ever hope for. Love.

Smile, little cutie!

Eating some Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (actual plant name). Yum?

He can certainly navigate the thorns on this Acacia nigrescens…

Elephants use their highly sensitive feet to feel their way around. For an elephant with impaired vision, his feet are extra important…

Wild Puppy Love

This morning we’d barely left the lodge when my tracker, Magic Albert, spotted some Wild Dog tracks in the road and hopped off to investigate. Wild dog tracks can be nearly impossible to follow because the dogs run WILD. They run up. They run down. They run in circles. They run here. And there. And back again. When they’re on the move, they’re on the move. When Magic Man tracks a leopard, he can think like a leopard. No one can think like a Wild Dog. Unless they’ve consumed lethal levels of sugar.

After a minute or so, Magic Albert called me over to show me how fresh he felt these tracks were. So fresh in fact, that as my tracker and I were sitting nose to the ground, inspecting paw prints, my guests were happily snapping photos of the wild dogs who’d come from nowhere and were now standing right in front of the vehicle.

The dogs are never easy to keep up with, but we managed to spend some quality time with the puppies, who’d  hung back while mummy, daddy, aunties and uncles had gone off in pursuit of unfortunate antelopes.

The puppies always stay out of the way when the adults are hunting, and for good reason. Firstly, they would totally screw up the hunt, the way baby lions and cheetahs so often do. But also, why hunt when you’ve got a massive family with overtly altruistic tendencies who are going to come and regurgitate all the meat you could ever dream of? Regurgalicious.

So here they are, a few snaps of this morning’s very energetic little puppies. Not the greatest photographic subject when you’re still trying to figure out all the little buttons and knobs on your camera. But more on that later. Love. Puppy love.