Wildlife Photography

Wildlife photography has been a life long passion of mine since a young age, I remember going to Kruger National Park with my grandparents as a 6 year old, on every trip myself and my brother would get a small disposable film camera, you had 24 photos and 5 days in Kruger National Park, self control for a 6 year old is an understatement.

After I left school I started working as a nature guide, armed with a Canon 350D a basic 75 -300mm Canon EF lens I was ready for action. I do not consider myself a professional photographer, I much later did an online photography diploma with a well known institute and for the rest picked up tips from other photographers, guests and the old faith full Canon user manual I read religiously before going to bed instead of The Bible.

In this post I will share some of my most memorable photos.

Male cheetah in the Kalahari
Late afternoon at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, in the distance my tracker spots the familiar outline of a cheetah on top of a dune, this particular male "Spike" was a bit of a film star, well habituated (not tame) after being used in a number of wildlife documentaries, one could follow him on foot, of course this presented you with some amazing photo opportunities of an magnificent wild animal.

This particular photo has always been a favorite because of the colour composition, blue sky, white clouds and the striking red dune with a bit of green to add that something extra.

Canon EOS 350D
Canon EF 75-300mm F/4 - 5.6 II Lens
ISO - 100

"Webbed Impala" from 2009.
Take two in 2014.
In 2009 I took a photo that did the rounds on the Internet of an Impala with a spider web caught between its horns. From the photo you can see the Impala walked through the web and it got stuck in a position looking like it was spun there intentionally.

In 2014 I was lucky enough to take another photo of an Impala with a spider web between its horns. What I have learnt from these photo's is that one should never drive past any animal without having a good look, even past Impala that are around every single bush in most parks in Southern Africa. Take your time when in the bush there is  no point in racing from point A-B to see as many of the big five as possible, you end up missing some of the best photo opportunities.

The African Wild dog is without a doubt one of my favorite animals to watch and photograph, besides the stunning contrast one gets photographing them they have an incredible social behaviour that always fascinates me. While on a early morning drive in Kruger National Park we came across a pack of 17 Wild dogs lying in the middle of the road, within 2min of sleeping they where up and running after some Impala that crossed the road about 80m in front of us.

Wild dogs have incredible personalities and spending time with them if you manage to keep up you are guaranteed some amazing photos. With this particular photo I increased the exposure time and F-Stop to capture the movement in the photo.

Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF 70 - 200mm F/2.8 L IS USM Lens, F/9.5, 1/90, ISO-400.

Take a new look at things, I took this photo of an elephant bull standing next to the road having a rest, when elephants feed or rest they are tough subjects to take a unique photo of, take a different approach and photograph and eye or the texture of their skin or tusks.

Play around with the photo in your choice of editor to create an abstract photo that tells a story, like the tusks on this elephant tells about the hard years in the bush it has been put through.

The blacked maned lions of the Kalahari are always a treat to photograph, this was one of the old males on Tswalu Kalahari Reserve a true king of the "jungle". If you are lucky enough to see them awake they are without a doubt the most majestic animals to photograph.

Lions are mostly active early morning, later afternoon and at night making them a challenge to photograph as you don't always have the opportunity to see them during these times of which early morning and late afternoon makes for the best photo opportunities due to the light conditions. Spend time with them, like any of the big cats it takes something as simple as a breaking branch to make them lift their heads. Patience is the key when photographing lions.

When they are on the move position your vehicle in front of them in the general direction they are travelling, this will give you enough time to setup for a perfect photo, if you are lucky enough to see them hunt put down your camera and enjoy the moment, some things are better when not seen through a viewfinder.

Enjoy the smaller things. We all tend to chase after the big five trying to see as many of them in a day when in fact the best photo opportunities are right under your nose.

Take some time and look around you next time you are in the bush, birds, insects, small mammals, reptiles all make interesting and unique subjects. I took this photo in the Kalahari of the famous Meerkats, yes the meerkats used in the TV series Meerkat Manor. They are incredible to photograph, each and every one with a personality to match its feisty reputation.

Below a photo of a female Southern Masked weaver taking some material to line her nest with.

Canon EOS 350D, 150 - 500 Sigma Lens, F/5.6, 1/250, ISO 200
Southern Masked Weaver - Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

Be patient. This must be the most crucial and important bit of advise any wildlife photographer will ever give you. Remember you are now taking photos of wild animals, not your pet, your child or a happily married couple, there are no rules as to what and when things will happen, always be ready to take a photo.

The above photo was taken by myself in Kruger National Park, after sitting at the waterhole for hours hoping to see a crocodile snatch something I saw this Egyptian Goose take flight, as he flew over the hippo's I snapped away, my composition is not perfect but it makes for a unique and interesting photo, something I always look for when photographing wildlife.


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