Slowing It Down in the Chobe

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

As you might have seen the WIld Eye team recently visited the Chobe river to launch a brand new, dedicated photographic boat that will form a part of our photographic safaris in this amazing wildlife photography destination.

Now if you follow any of the Wild Eye Ambassadors on Facebook you will have seen some of the amazing images that you can get on and around the river.  Approaching animals from the water side not only leaves them a lot more relaxed but you also always have them facing you which is, of course, fantastic for wildlife photography.

As we head up to to the Chobe I was, for the first time in quite a while, going to a destination without any preconceived ideas of what I wanted shoot.  Without any idea on the types of images I wanted to create.

In the end, and this kinda happened as we head out onto the photographic boat, I got stuck on movement, panning and shooting with slower shutter speeds.  It’s always been something I very much enjoy and a tool I use every once in a while but this time around I specifically went after the shots and scenes that I could portray by slowing down time rather than freezing it.

Here are a few of the slow images I got during the trip with a few thoughts on each.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife & Nature Photography

Shutter Speed:  1/13

On our first morning out on the water we saw this big guy grazing on the banks of the river.  The sun had just started to color the sky and there was almost no light to work with so my slow shutter approach was ideal.

As the hippo charged back to the water, behaviour you can predict and get ready for, I tracked along and fired off a sequence of 3 images.  This was the middle frame and I chose this one as it was the image in which the head was the sharpest and the little splash beneath the hippo’s chin enhanced the motion blurred effect in the image.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife & Nature Photography

Shutter Speed: 1/125

For this image I had to find a happy shutter speed balance that would create streaks from the raindrops and render the baboon nice and sharp.  I fired off a few frames to check the required shutter speed for the rain drops and then waited for the baboon to play along.

As it often happens in wildlife photography you need your subject to play along to get the shot so I waited, camera braced on a bean bag on the side of our photographic boat, for the baboon to stand still before clicking the shutter.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife & Nature Photography

Shutter Speed: 1/50

To nail motion blur images you often need your subject to run the same path again and again.  With wildlife being unpredictable you normally don’t get this chance but this particular kudu gave us plenty of opportunities to track and fire.

The goal with panning, motion blur images images is to get the head and / or shoulders of your subject sharp and in focus.  That being said, even if you don’t get it 100% sharp and in focus the image could still stand up, and stand out, as the motion blur will add a lot of creative impact to the image.  With photography being a craft, an art, don’t be afraid to bend and break the rules of what is and what isn’t allowed.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife & Nature Photography

Shutter Speed: 1/30

When you go to the Chobe you will see elephants.  Lots of elephants.  This either means getting all the shots you want and then sitting back to enjoy the moment or you can keep on playing around with your photography and keep on trying different things.  Creative things.

After photographing two large males having a drink at the river with a wide angle I moved back to my 600mm lens to look for some motion blur opportunities.  Being so tight on the subject made it quite tough but when they started walking off I got quite a few shots I envisioned before hand.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife & Nature Photography

Shutter Speed:  1/8

One of the great things about out Chobe Photographic Safaris is that we can stay out on the water well past sunset and later than all the other operators.  This makes for amazing photography as the sunsets in this part of Africa is truly awe-inspiring but also gives you the opportunity to have the river to yourself.

As we head back to out houseboat on the last evening the sun was setting, we had the river all to ourselves and all the guys were kicking back and just soaking up the privilege of being able to do what we do.  Bracing my camera against on of the roof-poles of the boats I shot this frame which, to me, captures the magical moment we shared on the river.

Special times.

Even though you will shoot a lot frames that you can toss out immediately slow shutter speed photography is a great tool to use when you are out in the field.

It will make you look at your subjects differently, it will challenge you to think about your photography – a very good thing –  and it will give you the opportunity and tools to create unique images that no one will be able to copy exactly.

Slow shutter speeds.  Gotta love it!

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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  1. Pingback: The Chobe River Experience: From a non-photogrpahic perspective

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