Behind the Frame – 23 May 2012

Gerry van der Walt All Authors Leave a Comment

Welcome to the seventh 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:


– Guy Dekelver

– Marcelle Robbins

– Anthony Robbins

– Gerry van der Walt


African Fish Eagle by Guy Dekelver



Canon 7D, 300mm, 1/1000, f/18, ISO 1000

Lake Baringo, Kenya


Lake Baringo must be one of the best places in Kenya to get a shot of an African fish eagle in flight.


I must admit, I find the baiting a bit dubious, yet I guess most of these going-in-for-the-catch shots are taken that way.  It would take an immense amount of luck and time to get such a shot right otherwise.  On this particular morning, although we were early, the eagles didn’t seem to get into action and we met 2 boats on the Lake who came back frustrated, we actually saw the guides calling for the eagle, yet without it making any attempt to move.


When they left, our guide got into action and he clearly spoke the eagles language in a better way, since it set off.  It is by the way great to watch the action unfold without a camera, I’ve done that before and I can highly recommend it.


When you do want to get a shot of the action though, I would recommend not to follow the guide’s instructions. They would tell you to focus on the fish and to wait for their count to release the shutter: 3 … 2 … 1 … and fire away, in my case that has always resulted in a nice pair of legs holding a fish belonging to a bird that already left the frame.  It might work for you, yet it doesn’t for me. What works for me is to dial in a high enough ISO and a small enough aperture to then trust your servo auto focus, or to dial in similar settings (in this case ISO 1000 and f/18), manually pre-focus on the fish and follow the bird as he approaches, to then fire away and pan along as he catches the fish.


Next time I’m in Baringo, I will go with the shutter seed priority setting, since 1/1000 seems to be just right to get the bird in focus and the fast moving wing tips slightly blurred, which to me gives this shot a slight edge.  This actually highlights how fast their wings are, shot at 1/1000 and still blurred. Talking about fast, know your equipment and be prepared, since the moment they leave their lookout, there is very little time left till the actual catch.


Nice anecdote on this shot is that the bird actually missed the fish, to swiftly turn around and have a second go. It was in the moment of turning around that this shot was taken.  One final thought, this shot was taken with a 300mm prime lens, yet depending on the fish throwing skills of your guide, that might be too long, since if the fish ends up too close to your boat, no way you will manage to make the eagle fit within your frame, something to consider when deciding on the equipment you plan to carry to get this type of shot.


Guy’s Links:


Facebook Page


Google +

500px Gallery


Guy Dekelver


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Wow Dad! What Big Teeth You Have by Marcelle Robbins



Canon 10D, 425mm, 1/100, f/9, ISO 100

Mabula Game Reserve, South Africa

So most of us will agree that equipment does not affect the outcome of your image. I guess today when you look at the advances even in small hand held point and shoots, it’s quite true. Right moment…great image! So yes, we can’t blame equipment for a bad image. What happens though when the equipment you use poses a problem all on its own?


I shoot with a Canon 10D. It was launched in 2003 so its 9 years old. Its a 6.3 mega-pixel camera with an ISO of 3200! It was quite modern and revolutionary in 2003. Last we checked it was a safe bet that more than 50 thousand images have run through this camera.


With this particular shot I used a Sigma 170-500mm lens launched in 1993 and is 19 years old. Don’t get me wrong, old stuff still works that’s for sure, especially if all is fully functional! Actually even old stuff that’s not fully functional can work too.


This 170-500mm lens is quite a challenge to shoot with. Here is an example of the challenge I have with this lens. It sends the wrong messages regarding light readings. I have to shoot at ideally F6.7 on a bright sunny afternoon for it not to blow all the whites to kingdom come. F 16 gives me a solid white image. I can’t shoot higher than an ISO 200 because this old camera throws out noise like confetti.  At F6.7 I don’t get the most ideal depth of field for these kind of shots. So what do I do?


Do I simply put all the equipment away and give up? Never!


I accepted the challenge set by my aging equipment. Using light metering to help get a larger depth of field, F9.5,and  locking it in manually using my thumb, I steadied my camera so that 1/180 shutter speed my camera decided on could be used as effectively as possible.  I kept my ISO at 100 to reduce noise PLUS  underexposed by 2 stops to make sure I didn’t blow any whites and still pick up the blue tones in the water. Then I waited for the right moment ignoring the burn in the thumb.


Eventually after much patience, settings adjustments and finger cramps I managed a good few images that I could try work with. They were good enough to share on my wildlife page and our followers really enjoyed it, which made me quite happy.


The best part about it all…. I didn’t let 20 year old, dysfunctional equipment get me down. I identified the challenge and tried really hard to work around it. I still have some things I need to try to perfect, to get it to work better but it’s still fun trying. After all, the whole time I’m trying, I’m sitting next to a pod of hippo’s in a peaceful section of bushveld, in the best office in the world. I think I can deal with aging equipment.


Moral of the story. Try not to let things get you down. Especially if you cant change it. Rather try to find a way to work around it. At the end of the day, you should just be enjoying PHOTOGRAPHY as a whole instead of just photographs.


Marcelle’s Links:

Facebook Page




Marcelle Robbins


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Sun Go-Away by Anthony Robbins



Canon 1D MIII, 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 100

Mabula Game Reserve, South Africa

If anyone else was with me the day I took this photo they would have burst out with laughter.


I was driving around late afternoon by myself looking for nothing really in particular when I stumbled across this scene. I have to say that what I could see from the driver’s seat was not quite what the final photo looks like. I had the tree, the 2 birds on the tree and the sun somewhere behind. From the low angle, the sun was at a really high angle from the tree and birds and just about no way to get it behind the birds or tree.


Now this is where things become really funny as well as I guess dangerous. I moved the vehicle into the correct position as to line up the tree, birds and sun. Note that at this stage the sun was still nowhere near the tree or birds and I had to raise myself up and change the angle in order to get the sun behind the tree and birds. So, I started to climb up the side of the open vehicle, camera/lens in one hand and the other hand a firm grip on the round bars of the open vehicles canopy. I couldn’t seem to get into the correct position no matter where I stood on the vehicle. I needed to lift myself up slightly higher or rather much higher. So balancing myself, standing on one leg on the top of a head rest, holding tightly with my left hand so as to not fall off and then using one hand lift, aim and fire away some shots to get the right composition.


Now the weight of the camera and lens start to come into play. Try holding your camera with 400mm lens on with a stretched out arm, not supported and see how much fun it is. Now taking aim, more or less, I took some more images then stopped for a rest, check images, re-adjustment of legs/arms as well as camera settings and then fired away again. After about 65 photos I had what I was looking for as well as some sore arms and legs.


My one armed, balancing trick photo camera settings were f5.6, shutter speed 1/1000. I wanted the shutter speed high because of the balancing going on. My ISO was set to 100. I did also use spot metering so I could get  a reading off the background colours. In processing  very little was done as I had more or less what I wanted in the camera. I played with my levels slightly and sharpened.


Now, I know while reading all of this you are wondering why I did all the climbing etc and just not wait for the sun to get lower. Well,  I saw what I wanted and went for it. Yes it was risky but in the end I was happy with the outcome. I also don’t know what the light would have been like later or if the birds might of flown away so I took the opportunity handed to me.


I know this has been mentioned in previous photo chats by other photographers much more qualified than I am, but stop always worrying about who/where/how and use what is given to you. This was given to me, ok I had to do a little climbing, but I hope I made the most of it.


Anthony’s Links:

Facebook Page




Anthony Robbins


* * *


Storm Brewing by Gerry van der Walt



Nikon D300, 1/800, f/5, ISO 160

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa


Sometimes a striking wildlife image does not have to be too busy, intricate or have a funny description.


Sometimes a simple composition, little bit of texture and amazing light is all you need


Sometimes you can simply shoot what you see.


Gerry’s Links:


500px Gallery


Until next time.


Gerry van der Walt


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Comments 0

  1. Henry26dean

    Whilst it is good to encourage sharing, I have some issues with the techniques being ‘shared’.

    1) Shooting birds at F18 is not advisable, as defraction, particularly with a 7d will produce soft images. You should be using the sweet spot around f8.

    2) the hippo image is clearly underexposed, and recommending -2 on this image is not advisable. Water will naturally underexpose a subject, due it’s reflective properties. You should be at 0 EC or +1/3. This would give detail to those dark shadow areas.

    1. Gerry van der Walt

       Thanks for the comment and thoughts Henry. 

      I couldn’t agree with you more. 

      The point, however, is that the Behind the Frame posts act as a platform for wildlife and nature photographers to share their work, how they took it and and how they ended up with the result they posted. 

      These posts are by no means aimed at being a ‘tutorial’ or ‘educational’ but rather to give people the opportunity to share their work, inspire other people to try something similar and then, as you did, stimulate conversation around the how, what and why of the images.  If that means people disagreeing with how the image was created – so be it – and if the photographer can learn something from it – even better.

      The points you raise are 100% correct and hopefully the photographers will see this and take some value from it!

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

      1. Henry26dean

        Thanks for the reply, Gerry. I would point out the intro to these blog posts

        “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. ”

        The focus on learning is great, however tips on technique are poor. Unless this is commented on as part of the crit, eg wrong aperture causing defraction, then many beginners may actually try out this technique, to their detriment – getting inspired by incorrect techniques.

        Perhaps these flaws should be highlighted in more critique posts. The comp and POV on the hippo image is not that great either….

        1. Guy Dekelver

          Dear Henry,

          Thanks a million for your feedback on my African fish eagle shot. I am far from being a tech head like you and I’m learing the tricks of the trade as I go and I am happy sharing and learning. And in learning there are some rules of thumb for me, one of them being that imposing rules has never inspired anybody. That being said, I can assure you though that this shot is as sharp as sharp can be. I understand that I might have been lucky here and thanks for pointing that out.

          Looking forward to some of your work, including tips and techniques, so I can learn more!

          Have a great evening, Guy

  2. Guy Dekelver

    Hi Gerry and the Wild Eye crew, thanks for considering my contribution. I really enjoy this sharing and reading from others and I think it’s great you offer a platform to do that. For me, a big shout out here to Anthony, I found out I like silhouettes in general, yet I absolutely love this one. Hearing the story behind it even makes it better. It’s a great story, resulting in a great shot, and was it a lucky shot, I don’t think so, since you definitely created it. On top of that you and Marcelle took the time to write it down, not on your own site or blog, yet contributing to another site. A great example of giving and taking. Keep it up guys

  3. Henry26dean

    No problem Guy.

    Just because I understand the limitations of a camera, does make me a tech head. All photographers should understand the capabilities of their camera, particularly when it comprises the image quality. Much like I don’t understand, or care to, the whole theory behind noise Pixel sensor etc, I don’t know the maths behind defraction.

    I just choose to understand the impacts it has on me and adjust accordingly. It is not a rule of thumb to be broken, but a de facto situation of digital photography.

    Whilst I appreciate that you may not like rules of thumb, they work for a reason, mainly aesthetics. If looking for an inspiration, I would draw more learning points from your image;

    1) shooting a baited eagle. Hardly original and a questionable practice.

    2) the shooting angle is a bird in the sky, no real intimacy with your subject eg eye level POV

    3) the light is harsh. Your whites and shadows have very little detail, making your whites very white and the rest of the subject dark.

    Sharing an average image is fine, though just because it breaks the rule of thumb does make it different in a good way.

    Doing so, whilst encouraging poor technique, is something that Gerry should comment on as learning point from any ‘sharing’

    1. Henry26dean

      Meant to write; Breaking a rule of thumb does *not* neccesarily make your photography different in a good way.

    2. Guy Dekelver

      Dear Henry,

      Thanks for pointing out the mediocracy of my shot.

      Since you seem to like de factos and rules of thumb so much, here’s another one from my book: catch somebody doing something right! That being said, I am quite happy with the capabilities of my camera, even at f/18. And here’s some recent feedback I got from some big names whose work I appreciate big time (still havn’t seen yours btw): one of them mentioning they don’t have a shot of an eagle in flight nearly as good as this one. And here’s another great quote: ‘shoot for yourself, if you like it, you won’.

      Unless you have anything constructive to say, things to consider and actual ways to improve instead of only pointing out what is bad in your opinion and according to the great book of photography, I consider this consversation closed.

      Have a great day, Guy

      1. Henry26dean

        Why be so defensive and sensitive? It is not about my images….we are discussing your eagle shot, what
        I have produced is of little consequence.

        There is plenty of constructive information there;

        What apertures to use
        The fact the image lacks intimacy – easy, get eye level etc
        Harsh light – avoid it for these subjects……

        Of course, someone on social network has left a nice comment so it must be a great shot. Social networks dont provide good honest feed back. Why not start posting somewhere like BPN and get some true honest opinions?

        BTW, I took tons of blurry and out of focus images from my last Kruger
        Trip…by your theory, as I like them, they must surely be winners.

        1. Guy Dekelver

           Dear Henry,

          I guess we will have to conclude that you and I (and luckily many others with
          me), have different opinions on photography and that we will have to
          agree on disagreeing here.

          Since feedback is about giving and taking and not about one way traffic, here’s what I’m giving back to you:

          The only constructive information I find in your feedback is the aperture issue and I
          thanked you for that, the rest is far from being constructive, since
          they are your opinions or repetitions of textbook knowledge that don’t
          help in better capturing my vision on the sensor. A lot of people like
          the shot for it being a capture of a great sighting, even though it is
          not perfect. Btw, the shot was taken at 8 in the morning, the bird was 2
          meters above the water and I was in a boat, so far for your harsh light
          ad intimacy feedback. As wildlife photographers we have to do with the
          conditions that are given to us. You might have decided that the
          conditions were not good and it would prevent YOU from taking the shot,
          that’s your choice, yet it will never be mine. I captured the moment and
          decided to share it, to the great enjoyment of many. Which is quite
          different from your suggestion that my shot will now result in tons of
          people getting bad eagle shots because of me;
          I don’t like your way of providing feedback, way too paternalistic, and
          you could learn a lot from the greats when it comes to this, I’ve had a
          lot of great feedback on how to improve on my shots by people
          suggesting what I could do to improve. People whose work I’ve seen, whom
          I respect and whom do this for a living. They make suggestions instead
          of making blank and opinionated statements: you should do this, you
          should do that, … that is helping nobody. ‘The best steersmen are
          always ashore or ‘Bachelor’s wives’ and maiden’s children are well
          thought’ are proverbs that don’t apply to the great, think about it and do with it what you want;
          that being said, I don’t know BPN and if this is how things go there, I
          have no interest in finding out, since it clearly doesn’t work for me,
          if it does for you, fine, go ahead, and I suggest you also stick to
          fora where this is the way of doing things. The fora I share on, work
          for me and have helped me big time in growing as a photographer;
          maybe you could consider going through your Kruger shots once more,
          there might be some work in there worth sharing, and if not, well I wish
          you all the best in your search for the perfect shot.

          I would like to thank you for lighting my photographic fire even
          higher, since you’ve just helped me clarify why I do this, looking
          forward to sharing more.


  4. Gerry van der Walt

    Based on some of the comments on this post:

    – The Behind the Frame posts are intended to act as a platform where wildlife photographers of all skill levels can showcase their work and share their own personal thoughts behind their images.  This is not to say that their own thoughts, methods and approach to photography will comply to all the text-book definitions of the craft but it will give other photographers out there the chance to see how other people do things.

    – Above anything else these posts are aimed at sharing.  There are a lot of forums out there where people can upload photographs and have people rip them apart based on all kinds of photography theory.  If that is your thing, and you either like to get that kind of crit or you like to point out the negative in everything, that’s great.  Each to his own.  In the spirit of sharing, and learning in a more friendly and community based fashion,  the Behind the Frame posts aims to offer that kind of platform.

    – These posts, and the contributing photographers, also do not ‘encourage poor technique’ in any way or form.  The images showcased in these posts are good, solid wildlife images taken by photographers who are passionate about not only their craft but their subjects as well.  Will all the images win awards?  No.  Can these image be improved upon?  Absolutely.  Do all the images, and the way in which they were taken, comply to the various ‘rules’ out there?  No.  Does it matter?  Absolutely not!  Photography is a very personal thing and regardless of how you get to the final image, as long as you are happy with your own results and feel happy to share – that’s what it should all be about. 

    – In stead of pointing out what is wrong with other people’s images without offering any constructive criticism or showing some of your own examples, a better way to learn is to engage in conversation.  That is when everybody will start learning.  The photographer who originally posted the image will learn why they should potentially change their approach on a certain type of image and the rest of us will have the opportunity to decide whether to use the techniques given or to change our approach to get a different type of result.

    – I applaud people who are willing to share their work even though they might be quite nervous to put it out there at the risk of being criticized or compared to professional photographers.  That is when you start growing as a photographer!

    As Guy Dekelver said in his comment, unless there are any constructive comments I also now consider this comment stream and conversation closed.

  5. Pingback: Connect | Pics from the Wild

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