Category Archives: The Best of…

The Best of March…

I really should get these posts out on time…It’s been a busy few weeks, with me just getting back from a glorious few weeks in South Africa. Aside from my expanding waistline from all the delicious food and wine of the Cape, I did manage to snap a few pic’s in some old stomping grounds as well as some new.

My visit to the renowned Makuleke region of Kruger was as good as the hype and I whole heartily fell in love with the area especially the magnificent Fever Tree forest. My mind admittedly wandered to big grey pachyderms grumbling through the green tinged forests but alas such luck was not be be…although seeing anything in it’s outrageous beauty is truly photographic, I’ll be popping a full trip report up on here soon…

Onto the most popular images I posted in March…

14mm Ele…

14mm-Elephant

Looking at the image one might not appreciate just how close this is at 14mm, I can assure you it VERY close. In fact I was lying under the Kanga Camp deck waiting for this bull to come in and enjoy a drink of the fresh water being pumped from under the deck, as is his habit, so I was quite safe.

Elephant are always such good wide angle subjects and getting a very low P.O.V. tends to exaggerate their grandeur. For me I love the OOF foreground and the diagonal line of the water, the Bulls posture and tail also add to the interest of the image for me, I often try to capture the ears full out as it gives Elephant a more 3D appearance in the frame. Another great example about great experiences creating great photographic opportunities.

Properly Poised…Mangawane-3

A very fortunate scene with this young male leopard in a dead tree, it’s not customary for a Leopard to be out in the open and it often makes them quite uncomfortable. Luckily for me this male being quite sated from a recent meal, and with his sibling and mother occupying other prime trees left him with no choice but to rest up in the open.

The Leopards posture again really makes the image and with some great catch light in the eyes makes for a great portrait. This was shot with the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport so naturally I didn’t have to work hard for a sharp image in the low light.

Brotherly Love…Brotherly-Love

I have a real thing for deep dark conversions of late and just love the interest, contrast and drama they create. As with most conversions they don’t just happen you have to first off have the right image. Then in order to get them where you want them to be they do take a bit of work.

This image was converted using Nik Software Silver Efex Pro using some of the color filters provided and after that I often find that manipulating the tone is best done in Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro. In this situation I used a number of different low key filters that I brushed in or out in various parts of the image to create the contrast required. I then finished off the image with Pro Contrast, Toning and a Vignette both done in Color Efex and some dodging and burning in PS.

Pretty In Pink…Pretty-in-Pink

This image was taken on the Khwai concession in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. It’s shot with the Sigma 150-600mm Sport, a lens that will do nothing but surprise you every time, sharp and reliable!! It was shot surprisingly in some pretty harsh light in the late morning bit luckily the Leopards position was in the shade and the BG was fairly well covered and deep as well and that helped the bokeh.

I played around with manually selecting white balance in this case and ended up some where around 7000k which gave it a very pleasing pink tinge, I like it anyway ūüėČ

The results on the camera’s Auto White Balance was dull and lifeless at 3500k. There is very little done to the image in post, and there was a great deal of contrast and depth in the raw file so aside from sharpening it’s pretty much as is, in so proving all you need is a pretty Leopard on an impossibly sharp termite out in the open mound posing just the right way for long enough to capture it…easy as that!!! haha.

Golden Boy…Golden-BoyShot again with the splinter sharp Sigma 120-300mm Sport, this image was shot early on an autumn morning in the Timbavati. The wonderful thing about this area at that time of year is the Bushwillows as seen in the BG are a wonderful mix of soft pastel colors…which really pushes the image up a notch. I am a big believer in backgrounds being more important than for grounds and for that matter even subjects, a beautiful background will always produce a good image, you just need a cooperative subject to put into them, therein is the real trick!! Again the image is edited fairly basically in Lightroom and finished off in PS using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro with just basic contrast, polarization and a very slight vignette and finally light dodging and burning in PS.

The Best of Febuary…

Well that’s a rap for the month of February 2016 and a busy month for me indeed.

Although it didn’t see me out in the field, much of my month was spent deep in planning of this year’s and next year’s client adventures.

2016/2017 will see some magnificent adventures to Mana Pools, Namib & Skeleton Coast, Ethiopia, Zakouma N.P., Kilimanjaro, Nxai pans, Okavango Delta, Etosha, Kalahari , Serengeti and Volcanoes National Park. An exciting few years ahead!!

Anyway enough of that for now and on to my favourite images posted in Feb….along with some tips and site info.

The Enchanted Forests of Mana Pools…

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sports ISO 500 @ 300mm, f2.8, 1/400 sec

The-Enchanted-Forests

Taken in the gloriously beautiful Apple Ring Albida Forests of Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, a destination renowned for these types of shots. The beauty of Mana Pools is your ability to move around on foot and gain compositions otherwise impossible in other destinations, it also gives you an incredible feeling of immersion into this unreal part of Africa.

I am a huge fan incorporating dawn and dusk colours into my images and with that comes the question of exposure. ¬†Capturing deep rich dawn and dusk colours is a matter of sliding scales of exposure and white balance.The brighter your exposure the shallower your colours the darker the deeper your colours (to a point of course ;)). The same goes for white balance the cooler your in camera White Balance the less rich your colours in reference to the dawn dusk colours…again to a point!! I often focus on mixing up both of these elements (White Balance/Exposure) to get the result I’m looking for.

I am very much for bucking the rules as they are often stated, saying you can and can’t do something…staying within your Auto White Balance setting will for sure ¬†give you decent results but breaking out of that mould and manually selecting WB will expand your creative approach to capturing colour.

Personally I don’t by into the concept of photographic trends and generally I hate debates on the topic i feel it really limits our creative ability. If we buck these trends we are far more open to experimenting and creating as apposed to what the rules or other people say…capture what you want you feel!!!

A Monochrome Marvel…

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 150-600mm Sports ISO 1000 @ 600mm, f6.3, 1/320 sec

Heartbeat

Contrast, Leading Lines & Clean Backgrounds…

Leading lines play such and important role in the drawing of our eyes to our intended subjects, in this case what a beautiful subject it is!

In converting images to monochrome I feel that your monochrome image has to surpass your colour version to work…it has to offer something that the colour version cannot. Added to that an essential part to good Black&White imagery is in my view contrast. Without contrast monochrome images are flat and frankly boring.

One can create additional contrast by applying colour filters to the image to accentuate certain colour tones and it can be pushed even further by selective dodging and burning (Darkening the Darks/ Lightening the lights) as I did here with the trunk of the tree in order to draw attention into the subject.

Slow Motion Dust Bath…

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sports ISO 400 @ 200mm, f5.6, 1/40 sec

Crossed-Paths

Slower Shutter speeds creating interest. As shown above this image was taken at 1/40 sec which was slow enough to blur the dust spray enough to create an interesting effect. What would have been even cooler was if I could have caught the trunk in motion blur!! Of course this was made possible by the Elephant standing dead still while taking his late afternoon dust bath. ¬†Again the contrast in the image created by the dark folds in the Ele’s skin after recently having had a mud bath, created the great conversion opportunity. As before the contrast was enhanced by selective dodging and burning emphasising the mid tone of the Ele. while darkening around him and deepening the dark tone in his skin folds.

Using a portrait orientation also serves to accentuate the Elephants heigh much as it does when photographing Giraffes in the same way.

Timbavati’s Golden Glory…

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sports ISO 2000 @ 240mm, f7.1, 1/3200 sec

Rockfig's-Light

Golden light is the thing of our dreams and catching an active Leopard in a tree for those 10 mins of exceptional light is every photographers dream. Golden light however can sometimes be a handful to deal with…sometimes the light is so damn good that it sends your camera sensor into a full blown nervous breakdown.

Auto White Balance in this situation sent the sensor into crazy mode and the result was that the temperature was very difficult to get back the way it actually looked. Once again when faced with these situations with our heart rates through the roof and the frame rate to boot…it is vitally important to take a breath and analyse your images back of camera and adjust accordingly!

Walking into the Sun…

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 300-800mm f5.6 Sports ISO 400 @ 800mm, f8, 1/160 secStrolling-into-Sunset

Captivating Chobe!!…who doesn’t love a good cliche’?

Taken on a photographic boat on the Chobe River, Botswana on a fairly hazy day that cut down the strength of the sun as it was setting through winter dust. Again by manipulating the White Balance in Camera I was able to produce an appealing warmth to the image. The compression of the 800mm also goes a long way to producing an image like this of course.

As you can see the shutter speed is way down at 1/160 sec so any movement would have been tough to get sharp…which leads to a very big point that I am very clear in making…

Sharpness is not everything!!!

Although sharpness can be seen as a critical component to most images the obsession with sharpness has lead us down a path where we value it above all else…this is a major mistake! Composition, Contrast, Emotion, Feeling, Subject, Interest and Light are far more important it in most instances.

When you look at an image…how that image makes you feel is the one thing that will keep drawing you back to that image…not the fact that each eyelash is crispy sharp.

When we create images these things should be in the forefront of our minds and not how incredibly sharp our image is….

The Best of January…

Se’ La Vie’….

So the first month of 2016 has come to pass so here is a recap of my personal favourite images of the month, along with my thoughts on the lens used and some background info on the images.

Adorable-Mono

Seeking Protection…

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sports ISO 800 @ 300mm, f5.6, 1/400 sec

Creating emotion in my images is always at the fore-front of my mind when shooting, and this scene provided just that. This shot was taken in the early afternoon and as such the light on the little Elephant was quite harsh. I compensated by underexposing the image slightly giving the raw file a nice contrast, essential for creating interesting monochrome imagery. I often stop up to f5.6 or 6.3 when shooting Elephant so to try an get more of the head in focus, As always the Sigma 120-300mm Sport is pin sharp and never disappoints.

The image was converted to black & white using Nik Software Silver Efex and a number of colour filters were used to create a more low key effect along with some dodging and burning to accentuate the little guys face.


The-Essense-of-Zakouma

The Essence of Zakouma…

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 150-600mm f5- 6.3 Sports ISO 640 @600mm, f6.3, 1/200 sec

This image was taken on my recent trip to Zakouma National Park in Chad, apart from being one of the last few true wildernesses on the planet it’s also a breathtaking and eye opening new safari destination.

The image was taken at first light on one of Zakouma’s famous floodplains and with the haze present from dust blown in from the Sahara it creates a almost dreamy pink backlighting that I have never seen anywhere else.

I love the depth and drama backlighting gives images and with the amount of birds around I just had to wait until a flock flew by this Saddle Billed Stork to give the image some more interest.

I often play around with over and under exposing backlight images by 2/3 of a stop or so just to achieve the result I’m looking for in this case the haze allowed for over exposure and the result turned out great. It was also shot at 7000k white balance as I find a warmer white balance works very well at first light.

I have utmost confidence in using the Sigma 150-600mm in backlit conditions, I have often been amazed at it’s focusing ability in situations where lenses battle to lock on to focus.

The image again was edited in Lightroom and Photoshop using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro, Contrast, Detail Enhancement and Polarisation filters were added.

Keep an eye¬†out my full blog on my Zakouma adventure in the next week or so…


Quintessence

Quintessence…

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 150-600mm f5- 6.3 Sports ISO 1000 @600mm, f6.3, 1/320 sec

This shot was taken in the glorious Khwai community concession in the Okavango Delta. We were spoilt with this young male Leopard who has an apparent love of climbing up and into tree trunks. We spent the majority of the a cloudy, overcast morning with him as he treated us to some superb shots.

I enjoyed the leading line of the Camel Thorn trunk leading you into his face as well as the deep background giving a nice out of focus bokeh. The colour of the grass in the background really lifted the image.

This was shot with the 150-600mm Sport at 600mm f6.3 and as you can see the result was pin pin sharp, something that has amazed me to say the least!!

The Raw file was edited in Lightroom and then finished in Photoshop using Nik Software Color Efex Pro using just the Pro Contrast, Polarisation and Brilliance and Warmth Filters along with the usual Dodging and Burning.


Rim-Lit-Defassa

Rim Lit Defassa…

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 150-600mm f5- 6.3 Sports ISO 1250 @600mm, f6.3, 1/1250 sec

It’s pretty much impossible for me to ignore a gorgeous backlit scene, and when you combine that with Waterbuck their furry coats allowing for that so sought after rim light effect, it has me closing the shutter every time.

This shot of these two Defassa Waterbuck was again taken in the captivating Zakouma National Park at sunrise. Here I tried under-exposing the image in an attempt to allow for the full effect of the rim light on the Waterbuck. Again the Sigma 150-600mm didn’t miss a beat and focussed without hassle.

The image was edited in the raw using Lightroom and finished in Photoshop using Nik Software Color Efex Pro.


Nook-MonoSleepy Hollow…

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sports ISO 1600 @ 300mm, f 2.8, 1/80 sec

Monochrome images are certainly not about converting images that don’t work in colour, quality mono images have to first be quality images. This image was taken in the Greater Kruger on a very overcast day. I love the bokeh created by the light coming through the canopy of branches. Light coming from behind the subject often provides this type of pleasing bokeh.

The image was shot with the Sigma 120-300mm which is without doubt the sharpest lens I have ever had the pleasure of using. Even with a relatively slow shutter speed it gives incredible results.

Again I used Nik Software’s Silver Efex to convert the image and using a number of colour filters brushed in using Photoshop to create the effect.


Brenizier-Leopard

Bokeh Panorama…

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 150-600mm f5- 6.3 Sports ISO 1250 @600mm, f6.3, 1/320 sec, 32 frames stitched in PS

I spend a lot of time exploring and investigating other genres of photography in the hope of finding techniques that may transfer to wildlife photography. In this case I believe I found one.

This technique is called the Brenizer Effect or Bokeh Panorama. It require the use of a long, fast lens to create a very OOF background. The principal is to create the effect of a wide angle lens using a longer zoom lens replicating a bokeh created by something like a 50mm f1.4.

In total this images is made up of 32 close up images stitched together using Photoshop. The detail and IQ in this image is incredible and has over 40 000 pixels on the long end.

It’s a fairly tough thing to pull off and i’m looking forward to exploring the possibilities of this technique in future.


Apocalypse

Apocalypse

Canon 5D Mrk 111 Sigma 150-600mm f5- 6.3 Sports ISO 1600 @558mm, f6.3, 1/320 sec

One of my favourite and more memorable moments was this shot taken in the Kalahari. This image was shot as one of the biggest storm cells I have ever seen descended on the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

I drove around frantically looking for a subject to place in front of these clouds. As the sun was setting the massive clouds slowly turned pink. I sky I wont soon forget. Luckily I found a herd of Oryx on a dune ridge as things started to look amazing.

I shot a lot of shots from this scene and it was a tough one to capture with the correct White Balance and Exposure. In post I added some clarity to the clouds and dodged and burned to get the most out of the Oryx in the foreground.

The 150-600mm variable zoom was an absolute saving grace in this situation as I was able to capture both a wider and tighter POV without having to change lenses in the heat of the moment.