Michaela writes: I took this photo at sunset in Moremi Game Reserve. It was winter and there was mist coming off the ground; probably the result of the temperature of the Okavango Delta dropping as night approached. These impalas appeared out of nowhere, dancing across the foreground as I snapped a shot of the sunset. Africa is truly a place of surprises!
Toast says: Photography is an endless search for the perfect moment; that fraction of a second in which everything comes together. You need good light and composition, but also the X-factor. The X-factor in Michaela’s photo is the herd of impalas, which bounded through the otherwise quiet scene. That leaping impala ewe, in particular, makes her photo our winner this month. It looks like the antelope is leaping over a ball of light. The “ball” is actually lens flare, which happens when you shoot directly into the sun, or at right angles to it. Lens flare is not always desirable, but in certain situations it can add atmosphere to your shot. In this case, it works! Well done Michaela, you win a Stevenson-Hamilton leather hat.
Nikon D7000 Nikon 70 – 300 mm lens
Toast says: In March this year, Mariet and her husband Nollie (see his red-billed firefinch photo below) did our Mpafa photography tour of Botswana and the Zambezi Region in Namibia. I was also on the tour as the pro photographer. The tour usually kicks off at Kubu Island, but the Makgadikgadi Pans were too wet so the start point was moved to Tiaan’s Camp next to the Boteti River. The next morning tour leader Douwe Vlok adjusted the itinerary and the group travelled through the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, across the river from Tiaan’s Camp. This lesser-known park is full of surprises – we saw large herds of elephant and at least 40 giraffe at a waterhole deep in the veld. Everyone clicked away trying to get the perfect shot, hoping their vehicle was in the best position. Mariet nailed it. I like the reflections in the water and the way the cheeky giraffe on the far left is sticking out its tongue!
Nikon D7100 Sigma 150 – 600 mm lens
Toast says: Nollie took lots of great pictures on the Botswana tour. He’s probably wondering why I chose this one! My reasoning? It gives you a new appreciation for a bird that most photographers tend to overlook because they’re too busy scanning the veld for lions and leopards. On the go! and Mpafa photo tour, you don’t spend every day in a nature reserve. Some days are set aside for travelling from Point A to Point B, or for relaxing in the campsite. There are birds everywhere, even right next to your tent, which is where Nollie snapped this red-billed firefinch. Photography is not about where you are, but about what you see. You can drive around the Kruger Park for a week and take hundreds of photos without capturing anything special. Or you can walk around your campsite one afternoon and find something unusual because you see the world differently. Thanks Nollie, for showing us the beauty right under our noses.
Canon EOS 60D Tamron 18 – 400 mm lens
Toast says: One of our favourite stops on the photo tour is Drifters Maun Lodge, east of Maun on the banks of the Boteti River. The tour group usually gathers on this jetty to take photos at sunset. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a man in a mokoro will pole past… Marietjie’s photo is different. This is the kind of holiday snap I like. It shows how you can transform yourself – and start to relax – by doing something as simple as kicking off your shoes and feeling the grass, the sand and the jetty beneath your feet. Indeed, the go! and Mpafa photo tour offers plenty of time for relaxation. As we travel, we’ll teach you how to take better photos, whether you use a cellphone, a point-and-shoot or a D-SLR.
Nikon D5600 Nikon 70 – 300 mm lens
Toast says: Todd is an American who joined the go! tour earlier this year, thanks to his South African friend Carel Pretorius. Todd was an entertaining travel companion because he found everything interesting. He often asked Carel to pull over so he could take photos of donkeys, potholes, women carrying firewood, Nguni cattle… All the things we South Africans take for granted. Travel photography is an art. People often get stuck taking photos of landscapes and wildlife and they miss the other details that breathe life into a region, like fruit sellers on the roadside or a herder and his goats making their way home. This is the ferry at Mohembo – at the northern part of the Okavango Panhandle where Botswana meets Namibia. It won’t be operational for much longer because the government is busy building a bridge. For that reason alone, it’s special that Todd managed to capture this scene – soon it will be part of Botswana’s history. Have you been on the Mohembo ferry? Pay it a visit before the landscape is tamed…
Jacques de Jongh
Canon EOS 6D
Sigma 150 – 600 mm lens
Jacques writes: We were in the Mabuasehube section of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Between Mpayathutlwa Pan and Bosobogolo Pan, we came across these two lions in the road. The male stood up and sniffed the female. She walked away in a huff before turning around to put him in his place. This was his reaction. Mabuasehube is an amazing destination for wildlife photography because it’s not as busy as the South African side of the Kgalagadi – you always have a ringside seat to the action. You hardly even have to leave your campsite – we saw a leopard drinking water in the shower! The animals are also less skittish.
Toast says: This action-packed shot has lots to look at: dust, teeth, claws, mane… Jacques’s Sigma zoom lens is one of the best value-for-money options on the market. It performs best in the middle of the day, when the light is bright. Jacques’s shutter speed was 1/250 second, which is a bit slow for an action shot using such a long zoom. (Notice how the male’s face is a bit blurry.) When you’re shooting a fast-moving subject, try to use the fastest shutter speed possible. Use the following guideline: If you’re using a 150 – 600 mm lens and you’ve zoomed to 400 mm, use a shutter speed of at least 2x the focal length, i.e. 1/800 second. If you’re zoomed to 600 mm, use at least 1/1200 second. The closer you zoom, the greater the risk of camera shake. The only way to combat this is to support yourself while you’re taking the shot: Rest your elbows on something, use a monopod or a tripod, or balance your camera on a beanbag on the windowsill of your car. And use a fast shutter speed! Good work, Jacques.
Nikon D3100 Nikon 70 – 300 mm lens
Marie writes: In February this year, we camped for seven days at Mpayathutlwa (stand 2) in the Mabuasehube section of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Lions roared at dawn every day – maybe they wanted to make sure we were aware of their presence. One morning we were treated to another special sighting: This female leopard came to drink water at a tap about 12 m from our campsite! We’ve been camping in Mabuasehube for many years and this was the first time we’d seen a leopard come to drink during the day. The next morning, about eight lions came running towards us across the pan – what a sight! They spent the day lolling in the shade of the A-frame unit in the campsite. It was 38° C and they got up often to drink water. Fortunately they left to hunt as night-time approached.
Toast says: Mabuasehube belongs to the lions and the leopards. Bear that in mind before you pay a visit. You have to look over your shoulder all the time, even if you’re just heading to the bathroom. Creatures with sharp teeth lurk everywhere. But it’s this proximity to big predators that lures hard-core nature lovers to Mabua in the first place. (That’s you, readers!) Marie did a good job with her leopard photo. The light was bright so every detail is clear, the background of yellow duwweltjie flowers is unusual, and the leopard is making direct eye contact with the camera. Eek! It’s a sighting you will remember forever.