I’m planning on making my way back here in January. I can’t wait to see the cliff to the left, and actually the very spot where I was standing to take this picture, inundated by flowing and tumbling white water.
The Victoria Falls during the dry season was an incredible experience. The gorge ripped open by the force of the Zambezi was clearly on display. We were able to walk across the top of the falls to swim in the Devil’s Pool and hang our heads over the edge, and I was able to take this photo of the rainbow born of the spray from the torrent just around the corner.
I enjoyed my time there so much that I’m planning on going back in January. This will give me the chance to experience the full power of the falls as it will be during the wet season. I’m also hoping to coordinate my visit with the full moon in the hope that I’ll get to see the lunar rainbow.
I found this image of a fisherman in Zambia, with his dugout canoe, that I processed quite a while ago but never posted it. I think at the time I was going through a panoramic phase and decided I needed to post something that wasn’t in this format. Then, I forgot about this image. Upon finding it, I remembered I like it and that it should be online.
Baobab trees really are fascinating. Grand in stature they loom over the Zambian landscape like giants frozen in time. Surprisingly, they are completely hollow on the inside. We got to experience this first hand when our guides took us to a lodge where they’ve actually put a door in the side of one of these mammoth trees that opens up to reveal a bathroom! This discovery was pretty shocking, but I found that people actually used this toilet more shocking. Just above head height, sleeping inside the tree were a handful of bats. I wonder how many people wound up running out with their pants around their ankles after startling the bats.
Another interesting thing about baobabs is that their greatest enemy is elephants. Using their tusks, they peel the trees and eat the bark, causing big holes to form. We can see the result of this practice in today’s picture.
Today’s Photo: Warthog on the Move
We needed to make a decision. The river branched off to the right, but our guide informed us it was a dead end and led the rest of the group to the left. Up ahead, I could see a number of animals by the water’s edge, including a couple of warthogs, right where the group was heading. It gave me the feeling that if we went right, when the animals got spooked by the rest of the group, they’d run past us. Also, I’d discovered on this trip that warthogs may be my favourite animal in the world. I don’t think anyone could not look at a warthog and smile. They’re funny little creatures, that just about live up to their portrayal in The Lion King. Although, I get the feeling the real ones are a little bit smarter than Pumba.
So, we went right, and paddled hard to get up enough speed to beat the group to the point where the two stretches of water nearly met. We were careful to stop paddling and glide quietly onto the beach, bringing the nose of the canoe up onto the sand so as not to send any animals scampering. Sure enough, as the group passed, the warthogs were first to get spooked and ran back into the brush, taking a route just in front of the nose of our canoe. I fired off a few photos frantically and got the one below.
Now came the tricky part of catching up to the group. Fortunately, on the way into the little inlet, about 2 thirds of the way down, I’d spotted a shortcut. The spit of land dividing this section of the water from the main river narrowed to about a canoe’s length. Again, we paddled hard, but didn’t glide in gently this time. We rammed the shore sliding up as far onto the shore as we could. As I was in the front I hopped out. The water was deep enough to disguise a crocodile so Chris couldn’t get out until I pulled the canoe in far enough. Then we quickly slid it across and I hopped back in as Chris pushed me out into the river and jumped in the back. We were safely back with the group.
Today’s Photo: Lonely Lion
Our junior guide, who typically stayed at the back of the group paddled up ahead and caught up to our main guide. Then, they made for the shore. It was about lunchtime and I thought that was why we were stopping. Instead, we were told to stay in our canoes and just beach them slightly. Then, we saw her, camouflaged extremely well amongst the brush, a lone lion, just 30 meters away.
We sat and watched her for a while as she sat and watched us, very casually. She’s an old lion, we were told, and had likely had to leave her pack and attempt to fend for herself. She seemed tired and had a sadness in her eyes, that I think you can see here.
After pushing off and continuing down stream our guide praised his assistant for spotting her and confessed it was a good thing as he’d planned on stopping there for our lunch break!
The Technical Bits
Camera: Canon 5d Mk II
Lens: EF 70-300mm f/2.8L USM
Exposure: 1/50 at f/8
Taking the Photo: I zoomed in far as I could and made sure that I set the focus on the lioness’ eyes as she gazed back at us. I was shooting handheld as I was sitting in a canoe at the time. I shot three bracketed images but chose not to use them.
Processing: I decided not to use the bracketed images as there was too much movement in the scene, from the lion to all of the foliage around her. I tried creating an HDR image by adjusting the exposure levels in Adobe RAW, but realized that I preferred the single exposure to the output from Photomatix so just adjusted contrast in Photoshop and bumped up the detail in Topaz Adjust.
I had to make a substantial crop in order to zoom in further on the lion. As the 5d mk II uses a full frame sensor this was possible without the resulting photo being too small.
Software: Photoshop, Topaz Adjust
Another shot of that spectacular, lingering sunset on the Upper Zambeezi. At this point the liquor had been flowing and the group was in good spirits. We can’t say the same for the morning. When we woke up the next day to take on the category 5 rapids below the falls we weren’t the happiest campers. It was still a great day, and most of us had recovered by lunch time. But here’s a pro tip, if you get the white water rafting + booze cruise combo at Jolly Boys, Livingstone, do the booze cruise after the rafting… not the night before!
We’d turned the canoe sideways and were drifting down the Zambezi as I photographed a huge group of elephants taking a refreshing dip. I had my big lens on… 70-300mm. I started out fully zoomed in and was gradually zooming out as we got closer. Suddenly, I couldn’t zoom out any further. I dropped the camera from my eye. We were VERY close to these elephants. Then I heard Chris’s voice from the back of the canoe, “Keep taking photos J. I got dis.”
I kept taking photos.
Late Night Tonight
I’ve decided to stick with my rule of not posting photos from the same country two days in a row (I know I’ve broken it in the past), but I’m desperate to work up some of my Iceland photos. I expect I’ll be up late tonight doing just that. On top of that I was in the middle of redesigning the site when I had to take a break to travel to Iceland. I really want to make a little more progress on that tonight.
For those of you patiently waiting for my tutorial, I did make a lot of progress before leaving. I find I work best on the weekends when I can really dedicate a lot of time to it. I’ll be putting in some more effort this weekend.
Today’s Photo: The Journey
Canoeing down the Lower Zambezi makes use of the old cliché “the journey is half the fun” really come into its own. Drifting casually down the river (while carefully keeping your limbs in the canoe) is punctuated by moments of intense activity and excitement. A lot of the time this is brought on by hippos hanging about in the shallows. The problem posed here is that when hippos get scared they head for deep water. So, if you’re in between the hippos and the deep water, you’ve got a problem. As a result, the approach is simply a bold game of chicken, in which you steer straight at the hippos in an effort to move them into the deep. Other exciting moments resulted from elephants coming down to the water to drink and play, which Chris and I may or may not have gotten dangerously close to. Other times the excitement was that we had an opportunity to get out of the canoes, whether it was to eat lunch, make camp, or go for a swim in a “safe” stretch of river. I say “safe” because, when asked, our guide said we were safe from crocodiles in the shallow water because we could fight off a crocodile there. Now, I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, if I’m having to fight off a crocodile I am already in serious trouble!
This photo was taken at one of the calmer moments as we floated through a narrow channel of the river. I’ve changed my approach to photos with moving subjects. Rather than trying to combine three different exposures I’m working with one RAW. Using Photoshop’s RAW converter I create three images by adjusting the exposure of the original. Then I combine these three images using Photomatix. This way, I don’t have to deal with loads of ghosting issues. If you look through my gorilla photos by clicking the category to the right, the last few have employed this method and you should be able to see an improvement over my earlier attempts.
Today’s Photo: Snacking Elephant
I wrote about this experience previously, here. We’d pulled our canoes up to an island in the middle of the Lower Zambezi. I thought we were there for a closer look at these elephants and started firing away. When I turned around I realized that our guides were setting up for lunch. We sat and ate lunch with these giant animals no distance away. They didn’t seem to be bothered by our presence. After about half an hour they walked to the other side of the island where they splashed into water and swimming off down the river, trunks raised like snorkels.
Something Interesting: How to Survive a Suicide Shower
I had the pleasure of using a few of these shower contraptions while traveling through Bolivia and Peru. They use electricity to heat the water… in the shower head. Bare wires are not uncommon. I thought they looked a bit questionable but didn’t give them a second thought, I was typically desperate for a shower. None of the shower heads actually shocked me, though a few friends of mine got zapped. I did get a pretty nasty shock off of a light switch hanging from my ceiling with bare wires on the back though. This is an interesting little article on suicide showers with a bit of advice in how to go about showering safely when faced with them: How to Survive a Suicide Shower.