Earlier this year (back in June actually!) I hosted two return guests for a combination of our Madikwe Wildlife Photography Workshop and a Private Guided safari. This gave us 7 full days in the filed and really allowed me to work on the specific technical issues that they guys were experiencing but also to push them from a creative point of view.
As they say, nothing beats time in the field!
They also say “better late than never” so here’s their guest trip report titled “a Tale of Two’s”.
Two brothers and two decent cameras (far more decent than the people using them). Two 3 night trips with Wild Eye and two (overlapping) but very long lists of objectives for Andrew to try and work his magic on.
3 Nights in Madikwe for the Madikwe Wildlife Photography Course
2 Best Lodge Highlights: the spotlit waterhole and 24/7 access to the underground hide giving a continuous sense of expectation. It was actually exciting to come back from the drives to see what animals were awaiting us. Second must be the fantastic rooms with huge beds that we hardly slept in.
2 Best Sightings: the pair of aardwolves at their den. One of them was very relaxed with vehicles, allowing us to share the evening light. The great pachyderm (not everyone will be such a girly swot as you – never heard of it before!!) sightings – white rhinos and elephants at all hours in all lights and at every imaginable distance.
2 Best Camera learns: Back button focus – no looking back after switching to this. It just allows so much more flexibility from composition to easy manual focusing. And full manual control at night creating a better understanding of the shooting possibilities.
2 best extras: Drive with the park ecologist allowing us to learn so much more about Madikwe and the bigger issues of conservation as well as an introduction to the three new and very nervous male lions from Pilanesberg (in their Boma). A superb guide in the form of Megan. A perfect guide with contagious enthusiasm who was amazingly patient with the photographers in the back!
Timbavati – Umlani Bush Camp
2 Best Lodge Highlights: The night sounds – much more down to earth with no fence around camp and no brick walls to mask the bush sounds. A fine contrast to Madikwe luxury. Dawn and dusk by the Boma fire – raring to go or reminiscing over the day just gone with coffee and beer respectively. There was a great sense of community – everyone getting to know each other, eating meals together, sharing experiences/photos etc. etc.
2 Best Sightings: Leopard and her 18mth old youngster – flat at first but active as the light went down. Crash course in spotlight photography required – an amazing sighting on our first drive! The 2 white lionesses – only seen 2-3 times per month, they were resting peacefully like most of our cats but a privilege to spend some moments with them and their pride and see why these 2 were survivors.
2 Best Camera learns: Night photography – our spotlight crash course with our 2 best sightings at night of leopard and lion. Lightroom processing – a huge gap of knowledge for both of us and the more chilled out nature between drives allowed us to put into practice what Andrew had taught us at Madikwe (still a bit of a way to go but we feel so much more comfortable with Lightroom now than we did before the trip).
2 best extras: A guided Bush walk where we learnt so much about the smaller animals and plants. A night in the treehouse by the waterhole on a moonless night, great for our (or at least Andrew’s!!) Milky Way shots, accompanied by elephants below.
Of course this was so much more than a trip of 2’s. The winter made for great colours in the Bush but quieter drives some mornings and evenings – especially at Timbavati where we had quiet golden hours and not as much practice subjects as we had hoped. But primarily we were there to learn better photographic skills and I cannot imagine a better way or a better person to allow us to do that. With limited ‘aperture priority’ time of just over a year for both of us, we now have much more confidence with our settings whether that be settings for low light, bright light and almost no light. Other key concepts grasped include understanding depth of field and the relationship with distance and the lens on camera, thinking more carefully about our composition and taking less photos. We’ve had a crash course in macro, astro and very low light photography; all of which we can practice anywhere in the world.
Getting a better grip of these skills allowed us to start playing around more creatively and hopefully we are both now starting to think more creatively going forward. We had some well-timed reminders to put the camera down and enjoy, soaking up what we were trying to capture.
And last and definitely not least, we had a masterclass in lightroom processing throughout the trip. Carefully processing and reprocessing from rainy UK keeps the trip and all our learning alive.
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