This last weekend I had the pleasure of hosting a group of 5 awesome guests who joined me for the popular Wildlife Photography Course. The weekend was a massive success with so many highlights over the 3 days that we spent exploring the art of wildlife photography.
Arriving at the lodge after a 4 hour drive from JHB, we settled down for lunch and chatted about what it was that each person wanted to take away from the weekend. The answers ranged from “getting to know my camera better” to “mastering panning and different compositions”.
Thats the beauty about a course like this, everyone is there for their own specific reasons and a group size of 6 guests allows me to ensure that each person gets the attention that they need to improve their skills and reach their goals.
Here’s a quick video of the weekend if you don’t feel like reading the rest of this post! (Which will definitely not be the case as it gets oh so much better).
After settling into the fabulous tented rooms at the Springbok Lodge, we gathered in the conference facility to run through the basics of photography before heading out on a drive where I focussed on ensuring that the foundations were laid and that everyone was up to speed with the basics of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO.
Our first drive gave us some great sightings of Lion, Buffalo and loads of general game and a handful of bird species. The diversity of game and the changing light conditions meant that the guests were forced to regularly change their camera settings – the perfect start to our weekend!
The next morning saw us heading out on a drive once again, and what started of as excellent light turned into a morning dominated by cloudy conditions, occasionally punctuated by golden light. Once again this was great as the guests were constantly aware of the changing light conditions and were always quick on the draw to compensate with their camera settings.
Their were two sightings that really stood out from this morning drive over and above the white rhino, elephant and general game. The first was a sighting of a large herd of Eland in beautiful golden light which allowed us to work on panning as well as animal in environment shots. The Eland were quite frisky which also gave us the opportunity to capture and freeze movement using fast shutter speeds.
The second highlight was rather unexpected and is another classic example of why you should ALWAYS know what your camera settings are set to. On our drive back to the lodge we were chatting away about various aspects of wildlife photography (as we often do in-between sightings) when our guide pointed out a black rhino, slammed the vehicle into reverse and started to reverse down the hill. The recently introduced Black Rhino was coming straight for us and had more than likely been surprised by our presence. I picked up my camera and started shooting between the canopy and the windscreen of the vehicle…
[gdl_gallery title=”black-rhino-charge” width=”130″ height=”130″ ]
We must have reversed about 150m or so before the rhino hit the front of the vehicle and gave the bull bar a bit of a working over. Everyone was blown away by the experience – which I have to say was handled impeccably by our guide David – and pretty much didn’t stop talking about it until after our breakfast in the middle of the bush was complete. The take home message here is that you should always know what settings you have left your camera on in case you need to pick up and photograph something in a rush. Luckily my settings were correct and I was able to get the shots.
With the mornings excitement behind us we got stuck into more of the theoretical content of the course, looking at composition, animal behaviour and approaches to telling a story before expanding on various other technical aspects such as metering, drive modes, focus modes, Image stabilisation etc etc.
After lunch and a brief bit of down time to process all of the information from the theory session, it was time to get out into the field again.
Unfortunately our afternoon drive was dominated by bad weather but there was great potential for a dramatic sunset. With the wind blowing and most of the game heading for cover in thick bush, we opted to focus on capturing the sunset and working on compositional aspects of photography.
We weren’t disappointed as we enjoyed an incredible sunset on top of the hills of Nambiti.
Our plan was to photograph the night sky after dinner but those pesky clouds hadn’t gone far so we were forced to run through the principles and play around with some light painting in order to practice the basics of being able to photograph the night sky. Even our plan to wake up at 03:00 in the morning didn’t work as the sky was still covered in a blanket of cloud!
Our final game drive started of with a bang as we found a pride of lion right outside the lodge and were able to spend the better part of 30 minutes with them as they moved through the bush and gave a half hearted attempt at stalking some kudu at a nearby dam. From here we ventured right up into the north of the reserve as our guide wanted to show us the waterfalls on the Sunday’s River.
A long drive was well worth it!
Here the guests enjoyed a cup of coffee and were able to play around with slow shutter speeds, creating beautiful images of the water flowing over the rocks. In all honesty, spending 30 minutes with the sounds of the water rushing over the rocks provided the ideal change in pace as we came to the end of the weekend.
This was an incredibly successful weekend with each of the guests having grown in both their understanding of wildlife photography as well as in their photographic skill. What stood out the most was that everyone enjoyed the fact that the theory was placed in context during our practical sessions (game drives) and this made it so much easier to understand and remember in the future.
If you are itching to grow your wildlife photography skills and would like to spend time out in the field with like-minded people, why not join me for the next wildlife photography course – I promise you that it will change the way you see the world!
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