Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sunset Dam - Kruger National Park

Sunset Dam - Kruger National Park

On my latest visit to the Kruger National Park I dedicate my time to avian behavioural photography. Placing more emphasis on behavioural opportunities rather than just producing ordinary images.

But although the emphasis was on bird behaviour, one cannot ignore the abundance of wildlife Kruger has to offer, and as wildlife photographer you need to embrace every opportunity.

One of the most avian productive areas in the Kruger National Park must be Sunset Dam.

African Fish-Eagle
(Haliaeetus vocifer)

Situated near the Lower Sabie rest camp next to the Sabie river this dam is the ideal location for a variety of bird species.
Although the dam was formed due to the road constucted between Skukuza and Lower Sabie, it provides the perfect environment for a host of species dependant on water for their survival.

From kingfisher, hippos, crocodiles, herons, Yellow bill storks to fish eagles permanently inhabit the dam and the surrounding area. A wide range of birds and mammals visit the dam to quench their thirst, Burchell’s Zebra, Buffalo, Warthog, Kori Bustart, Elephant and Impala to mention a few.

Early mornings provide photographers the opportunity to capitalize on the abundance of birds species looking for their early morning snack.

Giant Kingfisher
(Megaceryle maximus)

The occasional call of the Fish Eagle made these morning excursions just more magically.

African Fish-Eagle
(Haliaeetus vocifer)

Hamerkop's are frequent inhabitants of sunset dam, and these dull brown birds can provide some outstanding behavioural images.

(Scopus umbretta)

With the breeding season approaching these birds provided enough opportunities to capture images.

The Pied Kingfisher might not be the most colorfull kingfisher, but these little birds can produce some amassing opportunities.

Pied Kingfisher
(Ceryle rudis)

The kingfisher on the bottom perch was sitting with its back towards me and any flight shots would have been disastrous. I was concentrating on a Fish Eagle some distance away, waiting for the Eagle to swoop down and do some fishing. Suddenly the second kingfisher arrived, and provides me with spectacular behavioural opportunities.

(Hippopotamus amphibius)

Not the most active mammals during the day, but actionable the hippos provide some alternative to the abundant bird live.
Hippos permanently occupy sunset Dam and providing the perfect perch for some birds from where they can conduct their daily fishing.

Grey Heron
(Ardea cinerea)

Grey Heron
(Ardea cinerea)

Yellow-billed Stork
(Mycteria ibis)

A visit to the park is not just about the big cats that rule the African landscape; you need to explore every opportunity you encounter.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Human Influence

Not even Africa’s wildlife sanctuaries can escape the influence humans have on the environment and in most Wilderness Reserves across the world human Influence is clearly visible.

Amur Falcon
(Falco amurensis)

In the image above the Amur Falcon used a manmade wooden stake as perch to engage in its daily aerobic exercise routine.
Although the perch is not natural, it has no detrimental effect on the final image.

Whether it’s a two spoor road, build structures or just an old wooden fence post, this could be any object that does not form part of the traditional wilderness landscape. Objects not normally found in the subject’s natural environment – information boards, electric pylons and road signs to mention a few, can creep into your images. This list could even be extended to altered natural objects – sawed off tree trunks or even fauna and flora introduced by human activity.

(Panthera pardus)

The leopard was photographed in the world renowned Kruger National Park, the structure might provide valuable research information to humans.
But the leopard accepts this manmade structure as part of his natural environment and a resource at his disposal.
Could this be his favourite resting place or just another valuable lookout point to scan his territory?

These and other objects are all around us, and yes they might be necessary, but for the creation of images depicting the subject in its natural environment these objects could be detrimental.

As photographer you must be cautious not to include these manmade alterations as part of the wildlife scape as this could ruin your perfect safari images, unless you want to portray nature’s adaptability to human interference by adding it to your wildlife scape.

White rhinoceros
(Ceratotherium simum)

Road signs might be used in recerves to manage access to restricted areas, or birds might deside these sign might just be the ideal perch.
But by adding the road sign as part of the image above definitely ruins the image.

To the photographer’s annoyance, these posts are frequently selected by birds over more natural perches, but as wildlife photographer these opportunities can be turned into an advantage.

Rufous-naped Lark
(Mirafra africana)

This Rufous-naped Lark preferred the sign post as perch, changing my position to ensure the sign post don’t obstruct the subject together with well-timed depression of the shutter paid off to capture the bird in mid-air without the sign post visible.

With scientific research conducted in game reserves it’s inevitable that you would eventually end up with a tagged or collared subject. Tagging provides researchers with valuable information, bird migrations can be followed, radio collared big cats could easily be found in their territory during research, but for wildlife photography this is just another manmade object to be avoided. But if the subject is a scarce species don’t be discourage, you might assist the researchers by providing photographic evidence.

White rhinoceros
(Ceratotherium simum)

This Rhinoceros image shows the effect ear tags could have. Wildlife photography is about patience all I had to do is to wait for the Rhinoceros to turn her ear and hide the tag from view.

White rhinoceros
(Ceratotherium simum)

But man’s influence on the environment can also be to the photographer’s advantage. Places like Marievale Bird Sanctuary thrive due to the creation of the wetland. A small weir not only attracts wildlife but could provide you with magical surroundings.

Little Egret
(Egretta garzetta)

The little egret uses the weir to forage for food. But the weir provided me with the most interesting and colourful motion pattern as backdrop.

There is no rules with regards to the inclusion of manmade object in your images. My suggestion would be to take the images regardless of undesirable objects that might be included. As stated in one of my previous blogs, the image design process start as soon as you approach the subject – be on the lookout for any undesirable objects you might want to exclude. As photographers we can also benefit from the human influence in nature – as can be clearly seen from the Little egret at the weir, and the image of the Amur Falcon.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Monthly Selection

Common Ostrich
(Struthio camelus)

The ostrich was drinking water at a small weir – with lots of vegetation. In order to produce the image I wanted I had to wait for the ostrich to lift is head. The drop of water dripping from its open bill adds to the success of the image.