Hello and welcome to my blog where I share my photos and experiences from my travels to the African bush and other wild places.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


The Puku is an antelope found in wet grasslands in southern Democratic Republic of Congo and in Zambia. It stands about 80cm tall at the shoulders and weigh between 70 to 80kg. Puku are sandy brown in colour with the underbelly a few shades lighter. Males have around 50cm long ridge structured horns. Both territorial and alarm calls are a repeated shrill whistle sound. They are beautiful animals! The recent C4 Images Workshop took our guests to Puku Ridge Camp in the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. There are a lot of puku in the park, but we didn't specifically go there to photograph them! Our objective was to find plenty of game and other photographic opportunities. Not only did we find exactly what we were looking for, but we were also blown away by the incredible beauty and variety that the park had to offer!

Puku Portrait
South Luangwa, Zambia
Canon 1D Mark IV | 600mm | 1/1250sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

The South Luangwa National Park is a photographer's dream - wild and remote it's one of Africa's most unspoiled places with enormous spaces, a wide variety of habitats and a high density of game. It is one of Zambia's largest National Parks, covering an area of over 9,000 square kilometers in the Luangwa Valley. The survival of the valley depends on the winding Luangwa River, crowded with hippos, crocodiles and waterfowl, and its numerous tributaries that course through the park. Just before the big summer rains the bushes have wilted and the earth becomes bone dry, so animals assemble along the river and at the remaining waterholes. This is the best time for game viewing.

Leopard Meal
South Luangwa, Zambia
Nikon D3s | 400mm (200-400mm) | 1/160sec at f/4, ISO 1600

The Photographic Workshop was held at Puku Ridge Camp, located in a remote area of the National Park overlooking a floodplain close to the Luangwa River. To reach this camp requires a two hour flight from Johannesburg to Lusaka and then a chartered transfer to Mfuwe Aiport. It's a small intimate camp with seven luxury tents and a communal area with a lounge, bar, dining area and deck, all overlooking a waterhole on the floodplain. As at all Sanctuary Lodges, the food and service are exceptional and we were especially impressed by the quality of the guides. At the waterhole in front of camp there is a constant flow of animals coming to drink during the day, making it an attractive option to skip the afternoon drive to photograph at the waterhole instead, and this from the comfort of the lounge. When we saw a leopard drinking at this waterhole during dinner on our first night, we knew this workshop was going to be special.

Splashing in the Luangwa River
South Luangwa, Zambia
Canon 1D Mark IV | 600mm | 1/500sec at f/4, ISO 800

As a photographic workshop our guests were not just keen to visit one of Africa's world-renowned wildlife havens, but also keen to learn all the genres and techniques of nature photography. Our workshops always attract people that have an appreciation for nature and a passion for photography which by default guarantees the workshop to be a great success. We had great fun teaching everything from light and composition, portrait, action, landscape, slow-shutter panning blur, flash, spotlight-at-night, and HDR photography, to processing photos and managing a large photo library. The theory is put into practice during the morning and afternoon game drives where the photography guides are close by to lend a helping hand.

Carmine Snack
South Luangwa, Zambia
Canon 1D Mark III | 200mm (70-200mm) | 1/2500sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

We were spoiled with excellent sightings of predators and general game, birds and spectacular landscapes. Highlights included three leopards trying to break through the tough skin of a dead young hippo. The cause of death was unsure, but the leopards struggled for hours to get to the meat without success and became very agitated with the whole situation. Later that night we returned to see how four lions eventually chased the leopards off the carcass. Other highlights included photographing at a carmine bee-eater colony, ebony forests, mating lions, elephants walking through the river, pools with hundreds of hippos, and spectacular sunsets and sunrises on the Luangwa River.

Ebony Grove
South Luangwa, Zambia
Canon 1D Mark IV | 16mm (16-35mm) | 1/250sec at f/8, ISO 400

Scaping on the Luangwa River
South Luangwa, Zambia
Canon 5D Mark II | 23mm (16-35mm) | 1/10sec at f/8, ISO 1250

A big thank you to camp managers Don and Suku, our guides Joseph and Malemia, and the staff of Puku Ridge Camp who made this such an awesome experience for us all!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Chiefs Island in the heart of the Okavango Delta is pure wilderness and a land of incredible beauty. Vast open seasonal floodplains with palm tree islands. Herds of animals roaming free and wild exactly like they have for thousands of years. Unspoiled scenic beauty that stretches as far as the eye can see. To experience this and to have it all to yourself to enjoy is pure magic! The recent C4 photographic workshop to Chiefs Camp offered our guests exactly that. This is my favorite destination in Africa.

Leopard and Cub
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Nikon D3s | 400mm (200-400mm) | 1/640sec at f/5, ISO 1600

New Life in Gold
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Nikon D3s | 290mm (200-400mm) | 1/60sec at f/16, ISO 800

Our photographic workshop was a great success, especially because we're such like-minded people, having a lot of laughs together, and enjoying the good photography and nature experience that this wilderness had to offer. Game viewing was fantastic with great sightings of the general Delta game, the big five, and a rare glimpse of a leopard carrying a week old cub. This leopard is close to camp and very accommodating towards photographers, a beautiful poser. We are looking forward to seeing her more during the upcoming safaris to Chiefs Island. Although we didn't do serious birding, we unofficially tallied more than 130 species for the trip. This included numerous lifers for most of the guests.

Okavango Delta, Botswana
Nikon D3s | 200-400mmf/4 | 1/640sec at f/5, ISO 1600

Chiefs Camp is tucked between beautiful big Jackalberry, Sausage and Apple-leaf trees on the edge of the actual island, overlooking a seasonal floodplain. The camp has recently been renovated and the accommodation, food and comfort that the camp offers are exceptional. It's easy to see why this camp has been voted the best lodge in Botswana for three years in a row now!

Rufous-naped Lark Display
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Canon 1D Mark IV | 600mm | 1/2500sec at f/4, ISO 320

As a photographic safari our objective was to get top wildlife photos as much as it was to experience this untamed wilderness. Chiefs Island delivered superbly in both categories. Apart from the good photography, we also extended our experience into the air with a flip in a helicopter over the Delta, and an afternoon's mokoro experience on one of the main channels in the Delta.

Okavango Delta Helicopter Experience
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Canon 1D Mark IV | 16mm (16-35mm) | 1/1000sec at f/8, ISO 400

Elephants from the Air
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Canon 5D Mark II | 78mm (70-200mm) | 1/2500sec at f/8, ISO 1000

Thanks to all our guests, my co-host Albie Venter, our drivers Ishmael and Sky, and all the staff at the camp who made this such a memorable experience for all of us!

Monday, November 1, 2010


How long will it take you to count two million wildebeest given that it takes you one second to count one wildebeest and that you can count for eight hours per day? This is the question that one of our guests had during the recent Masai Mara Photographic Safari with C4 Images and Safaris.

Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Nikon D3s | 200-400mmf/4 | 1/1000 sec at f/8, ISO 320

The fact is that two million wildebeest is a lot of animals, and it is just as Shem warned people before the trip - it's a lot to take in. The sheer number of animals is overwhelming and as a natural history experience it's one of the spectacles everyone should see at least once in their lifetime!

Two brothers
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Nikon D3s | 200-400mmf/4 | 1/500 sec at f/8, ISO 450

The photography during our safari was brilliant - it really put wildlife photography in a new light. The sightings in the Mara is so good that we would often just drive past inactive predators because we knew that we were going to see better action somewhere else. Everyone was keen on the classic Mara shots - cheetah on an anthill, lions on a kill, vultures on a wildebeest carcass, wildebeest crossing, and the lone tree with big sky scene to name a few. We were fortunate that we had the opportunity to cover all those shots in the first few game drives which forced us to chase better sightings and more creative shots. Apart from the wonderful wildlife photography that the Masai Mara has to offer, the other highlight of the trip was the good coffee that Kenya is known for - strong, smooth and aromatic!

Open spaces
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Canon 5D Mark II | 16-35mmf/2.8 | 1/320 sec at f/8, ISO 200

The tent camp on the Mara river with it's bush feel was a hit with everyone. We were treated to all sorts of animal calls at night, and even leopard calls every morning. One morning during coffee we managed to spot a leopard as he walked past our camp only a few hundred meters away from us. The week before, our guests from the previous photo safari hit the jackpot when they saw one of the most dramatic wildebeest crossings right in front of camp.

Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Canon 1D Mark IV | 600mmf/4 | 1/400 sec at f/4.5, ISO 800

With camp located inside the reserve and having five safari vehicles to our disposal we made great work of first morning light. Early morning landscape shots were at the order of the day. Each vehicle had the option of having a packed breakfast out in the veld or to have breakfast back at camp, but we all wanted to stay out photographing as long as we could. The vehicles we use are very photographer-friendly, with the option of photographing through the top hatch or through the side windows. Each photographer also had a whole row of seats available to him/herself which added to the comfort of the ride.

Day awakens
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Canon 1D Mark III | 16-35mmf/2.8 | 1/10 sec at f/11, ISO 500

From all the Safaris I've ever hosted, this was the trip where memory cards got filled to capacity the fastest! Thank you Lexy and the staff for a wonderful trip!

Sunrise over the plains
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Canon 1D Mark IV | 600mmf/4 | 1/500 sec at f/4, ISO 100

Taking flight
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Nikon D3s | 200-400mmf/4 | 1/2500 sec at f/5.6, ISO 900

So how long will it take you to count two million wildebeest? The answer is ... more than three months!!

Playing hyenas
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Nikon D3s | 200-400mmf/4 | 1/800 sec at f/4, ISO 2000

Secretary bird
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Nikon D3s | 200-400mmf/4 | 1/2000 sec at f/5.6, ISO 640