Sunday, 19 November 2017

Nature's Best Photography Africa Gala evening

On 7 November 2017, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Nature's Best Photography Africa event at the Iziko museum in Cape Town.  

During the gala evening, prizes would be announced and after the event, we had the opportunity to see the exebition.

I was very happy to be nominated 'First runner up' in the African Reptile devision with my image 'Engulfed':


Engulfed.


My wife and I next to 'Engulfed'.


The prize ceremony.

The Nature's Best Photography Africa photo book is a world class collection of winning images from Africa.


A big congratulations to Brendon Cremer being nominated Photographer of the year! Truly remarkable images and well deserved!  

Another big congratulations to Geo Cloete being nominated with Photograph of the year! A beautiful image from the deep blue ocean.

Click here to have a look at the images!

Feel free to visit the exebition until March 2018.

All the best!

Jaco

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Maasai Mara: So much more than the Great Migration!



It is one of the most beautiful places on earth; hosting one of the greatest wildlife spectacles.  The Great migration of white-bearded wildebeest crossing the Mara River in Kenya.  For years this has been the focal point for photographers all over the world.

All would agree this natural phenomena makes for great photography: wildebeest crashing through water, trampling one another, water, dust and mayhem.  Some crossings can be twenty- of thirty thousand strong.  Truly breath-taking!




But I want to share the photographic possibilities around the great migration, everything that accompanies the migration, and the hidden jewels you come across as you traverse this magical land.  Hope you enjoy this photographic presentation (:

1.    Predators

There are without a doubt no place on earth with the unbelievable number of predators such as the predators of East Africa.  The main predatory species from a photographer’s point of view includes lion, cheetah and the Nile crocodile.  Leopard sightings are also amazing photographic opportunities but leopards can be much more elusive. 






It can be very normal to come across up to 50 different lion individuals on a ten day trip to the Maasai Mara.  The prides can be big and during the migration lions can hunt very often; sometimes more than once a day.  Because of the amount of prey, some prey will only be killed and left for other carnivores.  Lions mostly feed on wildebeest during this time, but also Topi, Zebra and in some cases eland.  It is wise when at a crossing of wildebeest with lions nearby, to wait it out.  In many cases patience will pay off and many a lion hunt will occur before your eyes.




Cheetah mostly hunt as individuals (in some cases two, three or four hunted together).  To photograph cheetah hunts can be a bit more challenging.  The cheetah can be slightly more difficult to see and most of the cheetah hunts are not in a small area, but a longer distance run.  You need some luck and quick thinking when you see this cat hunt, because these cats are fast!  Cheetahs hunt Thompsons Gazelle, Oribi and some smaller prey.




Another great hunter, and probably the “scariest” candidate is the Nile crocodile.  Nile crocodiles hunt while in the river and very seldom when they are outside and on the banks.  They will wait patiently for prey to cross the river and do a slow approach to get the kill as they drown their prey or do turns to twist parts of the prey from their bodies.  Crocodile kills can be quite common during crossings and if you have patience and a sharp eye, keep your focal point on the crocodile, the result will be a very quick and aggressive attack!





Leopards, when seen, can also produce beautiful sightings.  They can be elusive, but if you search within their territory, they will show themselves eventually.  Leopards are known to carry their prey into trees; away from other predators.  This will also make for great photo opportunities.




Hyenas are very common in the Maasai Mara and there can be multiple dens in quite a small region.  Hyenas mostly eat from prey killed by other predators, but during the migration, they can be fierce hunters.  They live and feed in groups.  They are very social animals with great stamina.

A jewel in the smaller predator department is the Serval.  The serval is a beautiful small predator hunting birds, rodents, insects and frogs.  Servals hunt at night, but when feeding on rats or birds for instance, they are known to hunt during the daytime as well. 




2.    Landscapes

The skies in East Africa are the biggest skies in the world.  The unique open plains of East Africa with the summer thunder storms will give a perfect backdrop for landscape photographers.  The lands are dotted with umbrella thorn trees, making this very unique and one of a kind.  Many wildlife photographers also choose to add a single or small herd of animals and include as much landscape or sky as possible, creating “animalscapes”. 





Hot air balloon rides are very popular to experience the open spaces and twirling rivers from above.  Some beautiful photographic opportunities for aerials can be photographed from the sky.




3.    General game

The unbelievable numbers in general game are out of this world. 




Millions of wildebeest occupies vast plains and savannah.  A scene that will leave you awe-struck at first glance.
Zebra herds in many cases move with the white bearded wildebeest.  The zebra also cross rivers with the wildebeest.




Other animals to keep an eye out for are elephant, buffalo, giraffe, eland, reed buck, topi, Thompson’s gazelle, Defassa, hippopotamus, warthog, bat-eared fox, rhino,mongoose and impala.











4.    Birds

With over 470 species of birds recorded, which includes an impressive 46 different birds of prey, the birds range from the world’s largest bird the ostrich to tiny sunbirds.




The grasslands are occupied by Secretary Birds, Kori Bustards and Ground Hornbills. Jaunty Crowned- Plovers and White Storks walk the plains looking for insects. Flocks of Crowned Cranes gather before dispersing to the swamps where they breed. On the edge of the swamps the large Saddle- Billed Storks can be seen.  Also here are groups of Yellow-Billed Storks and Sacred Ibis, often feeding together. The heron family is well represented with the world’s largest, the Goliath Heron, plus Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron and Great White Egret.  Squacco Herons are also seen.



Kingfishers are also well represented with 7 species from the Giant Kingfisher usually found along the Mara River to the Pygmy Kingfisher which usually eats insects. Along the edge of the riverine forest look out for the large and magnificent Ross’s Turaco and the Schalow’s Turaco. Also keep an eye out for the seven species of vultures around lion kills!



Birds of prey include the Martial Eagle all the way to the tiny Pygmy Falcon. The most spectacular has to be the Martial Eagle, Africa’s largest eagle which preys on small mammals such as young Impala and Dikdik and birds as large as the Kori Bustard.

5.    Cultures

No trip to the Mara is complete without a proper introduction to one of the most prominent peoples in Kenya: the Maasai.  The Maasai people are very friendly, open and very eager to share their culture with tourists.  If possible, a visit to a Maasai village will truly give you the Maasai feeling and everyday life of this great people.  You will experience ample opportunity to photograph the Maasai and to learn from yet another culture.


Thank you for taking the time to experience another realm of what East Africa can offer!

Until next time!

J

Monday, 19 December 2016

Monsters of the Mara

When you talk about the Nile crocodile, words that come to mind are 'scary, 'fearless', 'blood-thirsty' and 'silent killers'....

The way these magnificent beasts claim the Mara River as their territory, is something to behold.  

Often invisible and hidden, the Nile crocodile demands a presence.  The reaction is clear when animals gather at the river banks to drink or cross.

These creatures can emerge from nowhere and explode onto prey, having them engulfed in jaws of death.

Below a few images I photographed in East Africa during a safari to the Mara Triangle, Kenya:








Hope you all got a glimpse into the world of these very bold creatures.

Thank you for checking in,

Best

J

Friday, 9 December 2016

SCAR

Few animals provide as much pleasure to experience as the big cats of Africa.

Lions are kings and queens of the land; to be in their presence and to hear the roar of a lion gets the heart pumping!  

From a photographer's point of view, these magnificent cats are rewarding to photograph.

On a recent trip to the Mara Triangle in Kenya, I was fortunate enough to photograph SCAR (Scarface), possibly the most iconic male lion in Africa.  We spent a good couple of days with this male lion, surrounded by his females and siblings.  With scars to show his past, cubs that will carry his genes into the future, and a black mane running across the back of his shoulders, this male lion gets the respect he deserves. A life well lived.

A privilege to meet this cat, hopefully I will get another opportunity to see him again.  

These cats are in a severe decline as wild lions and everything should be done to help protect these cats.






Until next time folks,

J

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Lens choices for the Maasai Mara

It's empirical to do research before going on a bucket-list safari to East Africa.

Lens choice is one of the most important factors.  Keep in mind that one cannot do off-road driving everywhere in the Mara, only on certain areas.  For this, you need a long telephoto lens.

It is always advisable to take two camera bodies to such a trip.  This will give you flexibility to attach a fixed telephoto on one body, and a wider angle zoom on the other:


  • BODY 1:  Attach a fixed telephoto lens, for example a 400mm, 500mm, 600mm or a 800mm on a body shooting at a high frame rate, such as a Canon 1Dx or Canon 7DII.  A very popular lens these days is the 200-400mm, which gives one even more flexibility, noted that this lens is equipped with a converter. This body can be used for animals in the distance, bird photography or close-up portrait photography.  
  • BODY 2:  Attach a wider angle zoom on this body to allow some opportunity to photograph animals in the environment, even landscapes.  These wider angle zoom lenses are perfect for animals close to the vehicle.  Lenses to consider are: 100-400mm (Canon), 80-400mm (Nikon), 70-200mm (Maybe the preferred option).  My personal configuration is a Canon 5DIII and a Canon 70-200 f/2.8.  This is one of the most versatile lenses on the market with beautiful detail.
  • If you are really keen on some landscape photography, you can add a wide angle lens such as a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8, but if you are hardcore wildlife focused, it's not that critical.  In cases where I needed really wide angles, I shot three/four images to be merged as a panoramic photo, which worked wonders.
  • Remember your IPhone! It's a perfect contender for videos!

The bodies mentioned above are great in low-light conditions.  I would say this is an important point to mention, since so many great sightings happen late afternoon; for this you need the hardware to get these moments in great quality.  If you have an entry-level/semi-professional camera, try to get a high quality lens to allow for good light to enter.

This, in short, will be my lens/body configuration for a trip to East Africa.

Hope this article was helpful!

Please comment and share ideas!

Until next time,

J

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The greatest migration spectacle

It's been a bucket list item since I can remember: to visit Kenya and witness one of nature's greatest shows...the wildebeest migration crossing the Mara river as the wildebeest make their way towards the Serengeti, Tanzania.


A panoramic view with zebra and wildebeest building before a crossing.


Another panoramic view with zebra and wildebeest building just before the herd got wet.


Crossings can be challenging to photograph since it's hocus pocus where to focus and what the aperture/shutter speed should be.  In this case I got close to be intimate with the action.


With great dust clouds and running wildebeest in bright light, this particular image was a sure contender for monochrome.

I also realized that this is so so much more than just the migration of white bearded wildebeest.  Predators were in abundance, enjoying easy opportunities to hunt.  Lions, cheetah, leopard, hyena were all over....

But more of this in my next post (:

Have good light!

Jaco

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Mara Triangle

During the last week of September 2016 I set foot in East Africa to spend some time in Kenya, more precisely the Maasai Mara, Mara Triangle.  


A rainbow paints the sky with color as the sun sets on another day in the Mara Triangle, Kenya.


We had a cracking time with more than 11000 photographs taken with such unbelievable sightings.  Before I share these wonderful moments, I would like to explain what the Mara triangle is and why it's a great destination to photograph East Africa and her beautiful fauna and flora.

The Mara triangle is situated in the North-Western part of the Maasai Mara National reserve in Kenya and is managed by the Mara Conservancy.  The Mara river is boundary between the triangle and the rest of the Maasai Mara reserve and what makes this great is the triangle is much less crowded, under great management and tied to strict rules and regulations within the Mara triangle.

A perfect getaway for the nature and wildlife enthusiast not in a mood for big crowds and ill discipline in the African bush.

The Mara conservancy plays an important role in conservation regarding reducing poaching, road maintenance, secondary roads, restoration of ranger stations, implementing IT based revenue collection systems, promotion of responsible Eco-tourism.

Read more here.

A map of the Mara triangle will give a better understanding.

In my upcoming post, I will share some of the unbelievable encounters we came across during our ten day adventure.

Best,

Jaco