Behind the Frame – 13 June 2012

Gerry van der Walt All Authors Leave a Comment

Welcome to the tenth edition of Behind the Frame.

The behind the Frame post features  wildlife and landscape images from wildlife photographers who share some of their thoughts, whether from an artist or technical point of view, behind their image.  I still feel that one of the best ways to learn and be inspired is to look at other peoples images and get some insight as to the how, what and why.  In the spirit of sharing we then share links to their websites so that you can see more of their work.

If you are keen to contribute check out this post for details.  For now, here goes with this week’s images from the following photographers:

– Grant Marcus

– Anthony Robbins

– Marcelle Robbins

– Andrew Beck

– Gerry van der Walt

Amazing Moment by Grant Marcus

Canon 50D, 200mm, 1/1000, f/8, ISO 500

Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

The image above will probably not win awards but it was one of those days where the events in nature played of like it was rehearsed, lions attacking kudu wile drinking, elephants came into drink and then chased lions away and kudu stood up and almost got away.  In short – that was what happened.

This last weekend was a very special weekend with great friends. I do believe you should go and shoot for yourself as well when you have the opportunity.   Being out in the field everyday and getting new shots everyday I am extremely lucky to have that window of opportunity.  When you are out with clients or guests you want to try and give them the best experience photography wise you can. So going out on your own and with mates let you share and learn in a different and good way.

We went out not knowing what we will photograph that afternoon and pulled up on the dam wall seeing the lions struggling with something big in the mud that was when this whole chain of events happened.  So firstly position the vehicle in the best way you can and what made it difficult was the distance and the angle we were on but you make the best of it and start shooting.  Sharing info on settings and composition on what will the animal do next and questions like where do you think should we position the vehicle?

I decided to go with ISO 500 because of the movement the whole time, F8, because we didn’t have a back ground to blur out really.  When the elephants pulled in it was difficult composing the shot so you can see the lions, kudu and elephants in one shots.  By composing it in a certain way you can tell the whole story in one shot.

We had very harsh light to work with as well bit the color of the cats and the mud worked well with the underexposure of a third.  These sightings are great for sharing in documentary style for example on a blog and I will do a blog on these events later in the week.

Next time you have time of and have the opportunity to go out and shoot for yourself my advice to you is – use it and go for it.

Grant’s Links




Grant Marcus

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Getting to Know Your Subjects by Anthony Robbins

Canon 1D Mark III, 1/800, f/13, ISO 500, EXP -2/3

Mabula Game Reserve, South Africa

Over the past year or so that I have taken up wildlife photography again, seriously, I have learnt many things but the one thing that no one can teach you is what happens next, oh yes you can suggest to a person but whether they listen or not is another story.

For those who know me, my wife or our page would have noticed a whole heap of photos taken and uploaded of hippos recently. Hippos playing, hippos sleeping, hippos eating and well just about anything to do with hippos and there is a reason for this. We have spent probably the best part of 2 months so far sitting at the water’s edge watching, observing and taking lots of photos.

As time moves one a few things have happened, one is that the pod of hippos have become habituated to us and now do not feel so threatened by either us or the open vehicle and the second thing is, and this is the important one, we have learnt what will happen next.

By sitting and watching these amazing animals on a daily basis we know when they like to play, where they like to play and which ones to be wary of. Which ones want to fight, who they want to fight with as well as how cute the new baby has become.

Basically what I am trying to say is this:  With all the equipment, fancy lenses, cameras etc and with all the fancy lodges and reserves nothing but nothing beats time with the animals themselves.

Get to know your subjects, whatever it is.

Anthony’s Links:

Facebook Page


Anthony Robbins

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Crikey Mate! by Marcelle Robbins

Canon 1D Mklll, 400mm, 1/8000, f/8, ISO 3200

Kruger National Park, South Africa

These settings are in no way technically correct – so don’t try this at home folks! 😉

Two weeks before the Jan 2012 floods that ravaged the Kruger Park and surrounding areas we were driving from Tzendze camp down to Maroela. Its a long drive and so we were only stopping for the unusual, close or active critters until we got closer to Maroela Camp. The road between Satara and Maroela is famous for predators and we wanted enough time available to enjoy whatever sightings came our way on that road.

The rain had been pouring down for two days solid and as a result we had very wet camping equipment in our trusty Land Rover which we have named The Armour-dillo. ( This is a useless piece of info, just designed to tell you how much we love camping with our old Landy!!) We were having a great time on the drive, not seeing much but still having fun none the less. Of course every photographer dreads those dreary rainy days when they are on a photographic trip. Nothing beats good light or at least sunlight and unless we had a Mongoose on a Zebra kill, even the content couldn’t be displayed properly in the dismal conditions. So we were making the most of things along the way.

Murphy’s Law we come across a Verreaux Eagle Owl perched on a tree 2 meters off the road! It was open, there was nothing in the way and the bird kept flying down to the ground, scratching around and then back up into the tree. Even though the day was grey and gloomy, we could not resist the opportunity to capture this magnificent creature on camera. We kept playing with the settings as we only acquired the lens about 6 days prior to this. So we took the opportunity in the horrible light to play around with the lens a bit. We did this with a BW image in mind as no colour was showing up at all, probably because our settings were all mucked up.

To our delight the bird started to groom itself which ended up showcasing its amazing ability to turn its head in all directions.  We were totally amazed by its maneuverability .This is my favourite image of the whole lot. I love its upside down pose with the one eye open, like a “down under” sea pirate!

We had pulled over onto the run off area of the road so that other cars could comfortably pass us. While all of this was taking place, an elderly couple showed up and gave us a stern talking to because two of our tyres were “off road” and the rules of the park clearly state that you may not go off –road!

After we promised to remove our two tyres from the sand run off area, the couple happily drove off with their windows all the way down, their radio blaring and a self satisfied look on their faces. I wonder if they stopped reading the rules after the “off road” section and failed to read the one regarding open windows? What was funnier than all of that put together was the fact that even though we had a massive camera and lens pointing at this huge owl right sat in the open on the side of the road, neither of them saw it!!

Whether this image fits into the “technical box” or not, I will always love this image. It reminds me of holidays and good times. (And Kruger Park road rules!)  It belongs in my portfolio just like every other image because it gets the memory juices flowing.

Man I love having a camera in my hand!

Marcelle’s Links:

Facebook Page



Marcelle Robbins

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In the Spotlight by Andrew Beck

Canon 1D MK III, 235mm, f5,6, ISO2000 1/40, –1/3EV

Sabi Sands, South Africa

The advances in photographic technology has meant that photographers are now able to capture images that would not have been possible a couple of years ago. How can you increase your chances of getting a decent shot after dark?

Increase the ISO

Increasing the sensitivity of the sensor to light by raising the ISO settings of the camera will give you a faster shutter speed and increase your chances of capturing a decent image. The down side to this of course is that high ISO’s go hand in hand with digital noise and grain. Although there have been massive advances in noise management from both canon and Nikon at the top end of the range bodies, you will more than likely pick up noise and grain in your images when pushing your ISO up.

Open up as wide as possible

The biggest problem when shooting under low light or even under a spotlight, is ensuring that you have as fast a shutter speed as possible in order to reduce the chances of camera shake and the resulting blurred image. Increasing ISO is one way to do this, another would be to open up the aperture as wide as possible and in this instance I could not do more than f5.6. Ideally I would have loved to have captured this image with a 70-200 f2.8 lens as it would have given me a decent focal length, but more importantly, would have allowed me to open up to f 2.8 and achieve a faster shutter speed.

Meter Correctly

Your choice of metering mode is also very important to consider as it will not only provide you with a correctly exposed image, but will also assist you in obtaining a faster shutter speed. By selecting spot metering mode and ensuring that this was linked to the selected focal point of the camera I was able to meter off of the face of the animal, creating the dark background.

Had I left the camera on evaluative metering mode it would have automatically tried to expose the content of the entire frame rather than just the subject. In this instance I then opted to underexpose by 1/3 of a stop in order to loose some of the detail in the background.

Remember your White Balance Settings

Shooting subjects bathed in light form a spotlight will always result in a very warm, orange image. This can easily be corrected to provide a more natural and accurate representation of the subject by selecting the Tungsten White Balance Setting.

Eliminate Camera Shake

You will most likely be having to cope with slow shutter speeds and camera shake when shooting at night under s spotlight. Make sure that your camera is as steady as possible by wedging it against anything that you can find and draping your arm over the top of the lens to eliminate as much movement as possible.

So that’s the story behind how I captured this image. Shooting wildlife at night is an incredibly interesting and challenging scenario which hold both technical and ethical components. With this in mind I can’t wait for an upcoming presentation by Greg du Toit which focuses specifically on this subject in 2013!

Andrew’s Links:

500px gallery

Andrew on Twitter

Andrew Beck

* * *

Young Ellie by Gerry van der Walt

Nikon D3s, 200mm, 1/2000, f/3.5, ISO 200

Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

Sometime I think we try too hard.

We look for too much in our compositions.  We worry too much about trying different techniques.  We worry too much about, well, everything!

For this image I decided to go back to basics and in this case the basics were:

– Single subject.  No clutter.

– Shallow depth of field to isolate subject

– Clean background with little bit of texture

– Rule of thirds

– Low angle to try and get to subject’s eye level

– Leave some space for the subject to move into

– Click

There is definitely a time to get fancy and try different things but don’t get to carried away and forget about the basics.  They still work!

Gerry’s Links:

500px gallery

Gerry on Twitter

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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  1. Pingback: Amazing moment « Grant Marcus Photography

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