Welcome to the sixth 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:
– Andrew Aveley
– Morkel Erasmus
– Mark Dumbleton
– Andrew Beck
Future Queen by Andrew Aveley
Canon 1 D MK 3, 200 mm, 1/100, f/4, ISO 1250
Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
As a photographer , my most sought after subject is a leopard. On a safari last year I was fortunate to experience the beauty of my first young leopard in the bush. This young female was estimated to be about 8 months old. She was perched on a fallen tree and we had to approach from with the sun behind us and it was setting fast. I was playing with various settings while we were approaching and watching the sun set.
We did not get that elusive golden light as the ranger had to negotiate the bushveld and respect the animal by approaching slowly and as quietly as possible. The vehicle was positioned in such away that we had a clear line of sight through some over hanging branches and much to our delight , the young leopard was relaxed enough to simply remain prone across the tree stump allowing us shoot many a frame. As it was now past twilight, we used two spot lights from the two vehicles that were together in the sighting.
Each tracker took turns illuminating for the other vehicles group with much care taken not to shine directly in the eyes of the animal as their eyes are very susceptible to bright lighting after the sun has set and we also did not use it for extensive periods of time. The only issue some have with this technique is that the spotlights used by some vehicles has a very yellow cast to it and requires some editing in colour balance in post. This is easily correct with the advances in software but care should be taken if you are in this situation.
The advantage of being in a situation where an animal is relaxed and comfortable with your presence is that it will lead to you calming down and enjoying the moment even more. I captured this image about 15 minutes after we had stopped and she yawned and stretched elegantly. She sat upright and peered over my head to view the ever darkening bushveld. She was no doubt waiting for her mother to return and take her to a fresh kill somewhere in the nearby darkness. We left the sighting just after complete it became completely dark as to respect the animal and leave her be.
If you do go on a safari orientated around photography , it is important not to loose sight of the fact that animals are wild and you need to respect them. Do not get frustrated when having to leave a sighting if the animal is getting stressed, or having to allow another vehicle in to enjoy the beauty of the African bush. Instead , enjoy each moment you are able to spend capturing images and awesome memories.
Peace n Light.
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Thirsty Foal by Morkel Erasmus
Nikon D300s, 400mm, 1/1000, f/4, ISO 800
Kruger National Park, South Africa
We were traveling through central Kruger on an overcast, gloomy day. A dazzle of zebras were grazing close to the road, and we stopped for some photos.
At first I shot a few ‘regular’ images of the zebras and particularly the young foals that were part of the dazzle, but then I noticed that the foal on the other side of the road, which I wasn’t photographing since it was standing behind its mother, was moving in for a drink. I had been wanting a close-up shot of a suckling mammal for a while at this stage, with none of the sightings I had had delivering the goods…most often due to lack of eye contact from the “suckler”. In this case, I knew that the foal coming in from behind might give me a unique perspective. I zoomed in tight with the 200-400mm (giving me an effective 600mm field-of-view on the DX sensor of the D300s)…and clicked a few frames.
I didn’t get my eye contact, but I got the mouth probing for the mother’s nourishment…and I knew I had an image for my portfolio here…something different. I wish I took something different every time I shoot. It’s sometimes not possible due to focal length or other constraints, and other times we tend to not think properly and just shoot stock-standard “rule-of-thirds-animal-on-the-left-with-space-on-the-right-to-look-into” images. I know I do…
The conversion to black-and-white was in my mind from the moment I tripped the shutter. Zebras, by their appearance, are suitable candidates for all kinds of monochrome representations. In this case the strong lines/curves of the mother’s coat pattern made it a no-brainer, along with the diffused light caused by the overcast conditions, rendering beautiful detail in the fur all over. In the conversion process I needed to strike a fine balance between getting good contrast (I love my contrast!) and retaining detail in the blacks and whites.
If I had to give one “moral of the story” it would be this: No matter the light, no matter if the conditions aren’t right, there’s always a photo that can be made…
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Sunset Leopard by Mark Dumbleton
Nikon D3, 200mm, 1/200, f/3.5m ISO 1600, Flash
Sabie Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
Creating an image like this needs a lot of things to fall into place at the perfect time. Leopard in a tree, with a clear view to the horizon and sky behind, near perfect twilight skies, laden with dust to create an even more orange colour, and of course, the correct perspective and camera technique to photograph the scene.
I have always imagined this scene, but never had the opportunity to photograph it, until one autumn afternoon in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Skies where hazy from winter fires in the area, and we found a female Leopard resting in a Marula tree, having killed and hoisted a Duiker kill earlier that day. We watched her eat during the afternoon, and closer to sunset she moved to rest on a nice open branch. I knew what I wanted to do…
Photograph her into the sunset sky!
Having thought about this type of scene over and over in my head before, I knew exactly what to do. I manually exposed for the sunset sky, making sure to keep my shutterspeed within sync of my flash exposure. If the shutterspeed was faster than 1/250 sec, the flash may not have been powerful enough to illuminate the scene properly. I dialed about -1/3 flash exposure compensation and fired away 2 shots before she turned around and looked the other way. The combination of ambient sunset light and artificial flash light created the perfect balance to properly capture the scene, and upon seeing the result on the LCD of my camera, I was more than happy with my achievement. There are many moments I remember as a photographer, but this stands up amongst the best.
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Luangwa Leopards by Andrew Beck
Canon 1D MKIII, 400mm,1/200, f/5.6, ISO 3200
South Luangwa, Zambia
I was super stoked to be heading to Zambia’s South Luangwa valley last year. You see, my leopard sightings have been pretty few and far between seeing that the bulk of my guiding was done in Madikwe (where leopards were historically very skittish) and my rare visits to mates in the lowveld found us sitting in the back of queues as paying guests were given first option to sightings. South Luangwa though has a reputation for having some of the highest leopard densities and sightings frequencies.
We spotted this young female late one afternoon as the light was fading. ISO up, aperture down and with my lens firmly wedged between the seat and my camera bag I was able to get a fairly decent grab shot – even if I wasn’t able to achieve the ideal shutter speed given my focal length.
It’s not an award winning image, but it turned out to be my only leopard sighting in the region. Sometimes it’s just not possible to get the award winning shot but it’s always possible to get a grab shot which seals that moment in time for ever.
I will never forget my first and only sighting of this leopard in South Luangwa.
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Leopard Portrait by Gerry van der Walt
Nikon D3s, 600mm, 1/1600, f/4, ISO 2000
Masai Mara, Kenya
I sometimes feel that many people photograph leopards purely, well, because they are leopards.
There is no denying the beauty of these spotted cats but to assume that if you put a leopard in a frame it will automatically make for a great image is a big stumbling block for many photographers.
On a photo safari in the Masia Mara last year we discussed this while sitting with a large male leopard. The large cat was fast asleep in the shade of a tree which meant that we all grabbed a few frames here and there more for a ‘proof’ point of view than anything else. We must have spent a good hour with the large cat and in this time a number of other game viewers joined the sighting and left five minutes later.
During these shorts visits the people in the other vehicles, a few which were dedicated photographic groups, we sat in amazement as people literally filled card after card of the sleeping leopard. No did not move – at all – yet people would get hundreds of images of the sleeping beauty. In between all of this our group had a good chat about having patience, picking your shots and also just enjoying the experience of being out there. As one of the next vehicles arrived the leopard lifted his head and looked at them over his shoulder.
That was the moment we had been waiting for.
Stick to the basics, wait for the moment and click – I got my shot. The leopards face is placed close to one of the power points, as recommended by the rule of thirds, and the leading line created by his body makes for a great path for your gaze to leave the frame.
During our six night stay in the Mara we had seven great leopard sightings but this is still one of my favorite leopard images from the trip.
Until next time.
Gerry van der Walt
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