I don’t really know what it takes to get a good wildlife shot, but I like this one shot off of a boat while on safari in Botswana.
Today’s photo was taken during a day where we rode elephants and walked cheetahs and lions. The cheetahs are walked on leashes and then you get to watch them chase down a bit of meat, which resulted in this photo. It was an amazing day capped off by coming face to face with the king of the jungle.
We were introduced to two adolescent lions, the female you can see below, and a white male who was starting to get his mane in. Rather worryingly, the guides said that these lions were reaching sexual maturity so would be released onto the reserve soon as they would get aggressive and be too dangerous to walk. The plan is for these captive bred lions to breed in the reserve and produce lions that have had no contact with humans.
Fortunately, for this trip, they were pretty docile, walking along with us a we patted them on the back and held their tails like leashes. The most exciting part was when the female decided to leap into a tree above us. From where she was I’m pretty sure she could’ve pounced on any one us at any moment.
As we waited to go on our boat safari in Botswana, the waiting area of our safari operators filled with Japanese tourists. When we were told to head to the boat we managed to take off in front of the crowd. When we saw the boat we noticed it was a double decker and decided we definitely wanted to secure a spot up top. Unfortunately, they’d reserved the upper deck for the tour group so that they could all hear the translator. As a result, we were stuck with the bottom. As it turned out, we were the only three on the bottom. Apart from getting hit in the head by a lens cap dropped from the upper deck, it was actually great. It was like we had our own private boat and guide for a few hours.
I snapped this shot from the lower deck, of a mama hippo and her baby.
I’ve been talking with my travel buddy a lot today about our future plans. We’re confident that we’ll be going to Livingstone and the Victoria falls. This will be my second visit and her first. As you may be aware the last time I was there I went swimming in the Devil’s Pool. As it turns out, it looks like the water levels will still be low enough when we get there for us to take a dip atop the falls. I am very much looking forward to watching the look on her face as she takes the plunge.
With that in mind, I thought I’d post a picture capturing what we’re likely to see as we make the walk to the Devil’s Pool. Last time, this beautiful double rainbow greeted me shortly before we prepared to swim across the top of that waterfall to the Devil’s Pool. When I hung my head over the edge and looked down from the Devil’s Pool I realized that rather than a double rainbow there was actually a triple rainbow in the swirling mist. Next time I’m there I hope to get down to the falls for some sunrise/sunset shots.
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.
You might recognize this gorilla. It’s featured in a previous post in a very similar photo (Chomp,Chomp,Chomp,Chomp). I couldn’t decide which one I liked more so I processed both of them. Let me know which one you like more in the comments section.
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
If you follow me regularly you’ll know that I had pretty much all of my camera gear stolen in Italy. If not, you can get the details here. I’ve now got an insurance check in hand and am trying to figure out what to buy. It’s a bit weird starting from scratch. I was dead set on buying the new 5d mk iii, but now I’ve looked at it I can get a used 5d mk ii and 7d for less than the cost of a mk iii. So, I’ve decided it’s not worth it. The two cameras compliment each other well, and the improvements I was interested in from the mk iii are covered by the 7d. Plus, if I accidentally drop one off a waterfall I’ll have a backup camera with me. With that decided I have to figure out what to get as far as lenses. I will be getting L-series lenses and had hoped to get them used from BH Photovideo to stretch the insurance cash as far as possible. Unfortunately, there aren’t many used L-series lenses available at the moment.
So far, I’m confident I’ll be buying another 14mm prime lens and a 24mm-70mm lens, though it’s looking like I’ll have to buy the new version of the lens I had, at a premium as it’s just been released. My big dilemma is with the longer lens. I had a 70-300mm lens, but now I’m considering switching that for a faster 70-200mm lens. That would allow me to really freeze motion, but I’m reluctant to lose the reach. So I think I’ll be buying an extender as well, which will effectively extend my reach to 400mm. I just hope I don’t get too disappointed by the drop in performance and image quality the extender causes.
Today’s photo was taken using my old 70-300mm lens. It, combined with the big, full frame sensor in the 5d mk ii, allowed me to get a nice tight photo of this guy, and then crop in even closer for a portrait.