Trip Report: Madikwe Wildlife Photography Workshop October 2014

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The Madikwe Wildlife Photography Workshop is probably one of our most exclusive workshop offerings with just 3 guests being accommodated on a single basis for 3 nights at The Bush House. What sets our workshops apart from a standard safari is that we have a pre-determined objective and series of goals which we work towards during our time in the bush.

After a comfortable 4 hour drive we arrived at the lodge and were greeted by a herd of elephants drinking at the waterhole – the stage was set and a great weekend of photography was about to get underway.

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Each morning would begin with a game drive and our efforts were typically focused around one of the local waterpoints. At this time of year there is very little surface water available and most of the game tend to concentrate their movements around what little water is available.

On our first morning drive we encountered a pack of wild dog who had just taken down an impala in the south of the reserve. These animals are notoriously difficult to photograph and, despite the thick bush and tricky light, my guests managed to capture some great portraits and even some interaction between the wild dogs and an ever-present black backed jackal.

Day two and three morning game drives provided us with some great lion sightings. The first was of an old male who was clearly approaching the end of his reign. The early morning light gave us the perfect opportunity to work with backlighting as the battle scarred male made his way towards a waterhole.

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Anticipating his movements meant that we were able to position ourselves and dial in settings in anticipation of his arrival at the waterhole.

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Our final morning was spent around the same waterhole where a pride of lions were resting in the shade of a marula tree where they were almost able to intercept an approaching herd of zebra. Unfortunately one of the young lions gave away their position when the zebra were about 40m away.

Whilst the morning game drives were great, it was the underground hide located at the lodge waterhole that really made this a memorable and unique workshop. Returning for breakfast were were almost immediately into the hide in anticipation of the procession of game that would be looking to quench their thirst throughout the day.

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Apart from a constant guard of  a variety of birds, the first to approach were usually zebra and impala around 10:00. They were inevitably followed by some young elephant bulls and eventually, around 13:00, a precession of elephant herds.

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Being at ground level not only provides you with an incredible perspective from which to photograph these pachyderms but provides a new found appreciation for their size and strength.

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At one point one of the guests said “I don’t think I can take another picture of an elephant”. This provided the ideal opportunity to start challenging the guests and getting them to think out of the box in terms of finding interesting compositions, abstract representations, creating depth within a scene and of course, capturing the charismatic features of these gentle giants as they drank just meters away from us.

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Throughout the day the unmistakeable chattering of flocks of red-billed quelia were never too far away and it was fantastic to be able to watch them literally roll in like a wave to drink. Again, guests were able to bank their shots and then begin to play around with different compositions and even the use of slow shutter speed to really convey the size and the movement of the flocks.

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As the sun began to sink low on the horizon, flocks of guineafowl, doves and the odd Swainsons spurfowl approached the waterhole.

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Then, shortly after sunset when the floodlight was just starting to warm up the scene, a large group of sandgrouse touched down to drink right in-front of the hide. For me, this was photographic heaven and, judging by the images from the guests, I think they agree!

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As a long day in the hide came to an end we would typically retreat to the lawn to enjoy sundowners.

The learning and photography didn’t stop at night though as  the resident rhino and more herds of elephant visited the now floodlight waterhole. This gave us the perfect opportunity to work on shooting low light and spotlight scenes and, with a couple of tips and tricks in terms of camera settings, the guests were getting some great “studio” type images, showing an understanding of  both light and exposure.

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The best part about the hide is that it is right at the lodge. During the quieter periods of the day we would be working through selecting and processing images whilst still being able to keep an eye on the waterhole, dashing down whenever something approached.

Here is a list of the mammals that we saw and photographed from the hide during the workshop:

  • Elephant
  • White Rhino
  • Kudu
  • Wildebeest
  • Zebra
  • Impala
  • Warthog
  • Brown Hyena
  • Wild Dog


Yip. Wild Dog.

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We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to the trip as breakfast on the last morning was interrupted by the arrival of a pack of wild dogs coming to drink at the waterhole.

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I thoroughly enjoyed sharing and teaching the three guests that joined me and have no doubt that they will not only have some new skills to put into practice, but will have a new approach to the way that they capture scenes and portray stories.

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Here is a small gallery of images from each of the guests along with their feedback on the Madikwe Wildlife Photography Workshop.


The trip was great from a learning and experience point of view. I liked the combination of the Lightroom workshop integrated with the photographic workshop. We covered everything from photographing animals in the various light conditions to star-scapes. Then we spent time with Andrew learning the tricks of making our photos look great with Lightroom.

Fred Madikwe-2

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The Madikwe workshop provided extensive one on one time to advance my photographic abilities. In just three days, Andrew changed my perspective on how and what I photograph. As a beginner, the Wild Eye workshop was the perfect choice to start me off. I am ready for my next adventure!

Pam Madikwe top 10 003

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Wonderful experience.
Andrew very knowledgeable and keen to share his deep understanding of photography with us. Learned a lot.
Would highly recommend Wild-Eye tours and workshops.

Ethem Madikwe-8131

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