Behind the Frame – 30 May 2012

Gerry van der Walt All Authors Leave a Comment

Welcome to the eighth 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:


– Morkel Erasmus

– Laura Dyer

– Andrew Beck

– Gerry van der Walt


Ground Squirrel Rocket by Morkel Erasmus



Canon 7D, Canon 100-400mm L IS USM, Handheld while laying on the floor

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa


I love showing motion in a wildlife photo. It just adds a dynamic element to an image. Many people will stick to the old adage of getting everything tack sharp and every part of the action ‘frozen’ (ie having enough shutter speed). Yet there’s something about a properly executed motion-blurred image that appeals to me a lot. And then it frustrates me that I have so few of those that I could keep after attempting to capture such an image.


I think most wildlife photographers would agree that we have all attempted getting a decent pan-blur image of a running animal…and most of the time we fail dismally. This is just a technique that is so hard to get right, probably because the variables are never the same for 2 different scenarios. You have to choose a slow enough shutter speed for the focal length you are using, and it shouldn’t be too fast or you’ll have too much of the frame “defined”, yet it shouldn’t be too slow or else you’ll have nothing “defined”. It should also be chosen to somewhat match the speed at which you perceive the subject to be travelling.


Now you also need to be able to pan along with the subject and attempt to keep your central focus point on the head of the animal for the duration of the pan.  In this case I was lounging around the Twee Rivieren rest camp in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa, on an overcast afternoon. My travel-mate was catching up on some sleep, and I was getting to know the local Ground Squirrels a little better.


The overcast light provided some photographic opportunity in what would otherwise be very harsh and hard desert midday sun. I noticed some of the squirrels were running up and down a small dune in the camp, gathering food to their den. These guys are quick and nimble on the ground and I have always wanted to capture that in a photo.


I saw an opportunity, and grabbed a towel from the room and spread it on the sand a short distance from where the action was taking place (call me a wuss, but the ground was hot and I didn’t want sand gnawing at my elbows and tummy, okay! 🙂 )


I proceeded to play around with the settings to get the optimal amount of blur in the images. After every burst I fired I quickly checked if I was getting the results I was anticipating. I closed down the aperture a lot (since the image will be blurry DOF is not an issue) and dropped the ISO to a low setting.


After many, many frames I was able to take home 2 or 3 that I deemed fairly decent, of which this was the best one. My aim with these kinds of shots is normally to get the head as close to tack-sharp (“frozen”) as possible, and everything else nice and blurry while still showing some semblance of the outline of the animal.


In processing I cropped to a panoramic format to better emphasize the strong diagonal line the animal was running down the dune. I then applied normal levels/curves adjustments and added some contrast that was lacking due to the overcast weather.


I also dodged the eye slightly, being careful not to make it look artificial. Lastly, I resized and sharpened for web presentation. To learn more about my processing workflow, check out the course I am presenting with Wild-Eye regularly (the next one is on 7 July 2012).


Morkel’s Links:


500px Gallery

Facebook Page

Google +

Morkel on Twitter


Morkel Erasmus


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Chameleon by Laura Dyer



Canon 7D, 420mm, 1/200, f/9, ISO 400, Panning plate for support

Sabi Sands, South Africa


I was in the Sabi Sands when we came across this Flap-Neck Chameleon crossing the road ahead of us. I asked the guide to stop, as I wanted to get a low angle for the image. Getting down low on the ground creates a completely different image to one shot from inside a vehicle, especially when the subject is so low to the ground- yes I looked a bit silly, and was covered in sand afterwards, but I did get the shot I wanted!


Fortunately chameleons move very slowly when crossing the road, as they sway back and forth, apparently mimicking a leaf blowing in the wind. This meant I had enough time to shoot the proper frame. I wanted one when at least one foot was raised, to show the movement he was making. I chose f9, as when shooting a subject from quite close, you need a high enough aperture to get him in focus. I knew the background would still blur out very well, because of my proximity to the chameleon. I played around with a couple of options before settling on f9.


Some people may have preferred that I clean up the twigs in the pathway, but I am not a huge fan of post processing- I suppose I could have removed them before shooting, but if I was the chameleon I would have been feeling quite vulnerable already, without a giant person fiddling with the ground around me! I have wanted a shot like this for a while, but in Kruger on self drive, the risk of lying on the ground with no one else around seems a little much for me!


Laura’s Links:



500px Gallery


Laura Dyer


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Amboseli Elephant Herd



Canon EOS 7D, 33mm, f/13 ISO 320 1/500

Amboseli National Park, Kenya


I found myself grinning form ear to ear last week when I visited Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. Visiting this part of the world had always been one of my greatest desires since I first started to read about it in travel magazines as a kid. Just mentioning the name of the park conjures up memories of the quintessential image of a lone elephant bull standing his ground with the beautiful backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro dominating the background.


I was surprised at just how easily one could capture a fairly decent image of elephants and the mountain in a single frame, after all, this is one of the best places to see free-ranging elephants in all of Africa! The current population is estimated to be in the region of 1200 individuals and we were treated to some incredible sightings as lone bulls and large herds moved across the plains.


After managing to grab some of the typical documentary shots with a 70-200mm I started to look for different angles and shots. Switching to the 16-35mm helped me to capture a vast majority of the herd and convey a sense of just how large the herd was.


There are two things which appeal to me in this image. The first is how the elephants almost fade into the dusty background, and the second is how the scale and perspective of the herd moving towards the camera seems to follow the gentle slope of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.


Amboseli is an incredible place providing the photographer with some of the most incredible sightings and photographic opportunities. If you are looking to grow your elephant portfolio then you simply must visit Amboseli.


Andrew’s Links:

500px gallery

Andrew on Twitter


Andrew Beck


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Dazzle by Gerry van der Walt



Nikon D3s, 140mm, 1/30, f/4, ISO 200, Handheld

Madkwe Game Reserve, South Africa

One of the most important lessons a you can learn as a wildlife photographer  is to make sure that your shutter speed is fast enough to create sharp, crisp images.
And then, once you understand that, forget it and start playing with slower shutter speeds to create different images.  Creative images.


On this particular cloudy morning we were sitting watching a male lion with a small herd of zebra in the distance.  There were no real photo opportunities around but as the male lion got up and strolled in the direction of the zebra we knew we might get lucky.  The lion was in no way interested in the zebbies but they did not know this and were bound to stand their ground for a little while, making a huge noise, before taking off.


We repositioned out vehicle and waited.


As we thought, the zebra got a little too uncomfortable with the large cat strolling in their direction and took off down the dirt airstrip they were on.   This was the perfect opportunity  to create motion blur images so I dropped my shutter speed to 1/30 – did not want to to go too much slower as my subjects was moving pretty quickly so I would get more than enough blur.  I started shooting when the zebra were just off to our left and kept on shooting until they passed in front of our vehicle and continued on to the right.


When shooting panning images of moving subjects you will find that, as was the case with these zebra, your best chance of capturing a good panning image will be when the subject is straight in front of you.


I was quite chuffed with this image as I was able to get one of the zebras sharp and in focus while the rest were all blurry adding to the chaotic feel of the moment.


When you next in the field give panning images a bash.  Yes, there is most definitely a large element of luck involved but damn it’s great when you pull it off!


Gerry’s Links:


500px Gallery


Until next time.


Gerry van der Walt


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