There is a common misconception that once the sun has set over the lowveld it is time to pack away the cameras and take in the sounds and smells of the bush alone. We decided to disprove that theory and try our hands at a few images taken after dark. Next time you are somewhere and its too dark for conventional photography I hope you too will try test that aperture of yours in creating very moody and beautiful images.

This first image is an example of back lighting, we found the Sparta Pride lying in the clearing and experimented with different lighting techniques. In this particular image an additional vehicle was approaching the sighting and the head lights of the vehicle framed this isolated member of the pride in a beautifully rich, golden light.

Back lit lion

1/125sec, f5.6, ISO 2000 – Jacqui Hemphill

f/4.0, 1/100 sec, ISO 2000 Shot with a Canon 7D, 70-200mm f2.8 - Kate Neill

f/4.0, 1/100 sec, ISO 2000 Shot with a Canon 7D, 70-200mm f2.8 – Kate Neill

In this case we were very fortunate to have the whole pride lying out in the open away from any usual distracting elements such as tall grass or shrubs.

The next few images are a completely different approach to photography for us at Londolozi as there are no animals in sight! However we set out one clear evening when all the stars were out to find an area with an array of old dead leadwood trees. We wanted to capture an image of the milky way with a lead wood tree as the focal point for the foreground.


Portrait image of the milky way

30sec, f4, ISO4000 – Jacqui Hemphill

We experimented with both portrait as well as landscape images, in this case I think I prefer the portrait one.

f4.0, 30 Seconds, ISO 5000

f4.0, 30 Seconds, ISO 5000 – Kate Neill

Landscape milky way

30sec, f4, ISO 3200 – Jacqui Hemphill


f4.0, 30 Seconds, ISO 5000 - Kate Neill

Adding a new dimension to the shot, we lit up the tree with a flash light for a few seconds of the exposure. f4.0, 30 Seconds, ISO 5000 – Kate Neill

It is also important to note that you must find a place with as little light from the cities as possible in order to get the full compliment of stars above you into the frame. I know this is often easier said than done but will be well worth the wait when you finally find the right spot!

Milky way2

30sec, f4, ISO 3200 – Jacqui Hemphill

The Londolozi Family is passionate about photography and we want to ensure that each and every photographer who joins us on safari comes away from their experience with wildlife photographs to be proud of.  To help photographers of all experience levels we put together a brand new eBook to guide you through the joy of wildlife photography.  Chapter 8 has more tips and tricks on night time & star photography…

A Guide to Wildlife Photography - now available on the Apple iBookstore

A Guide to Wildlife Photography – now available on the Apple iBookstore
A Guide to Wildlife Photography - Richard Laburn

Written by Jacqui Hemphill
Photographed by Jacqui Hemphill and Kate Neill

Filed under Photography

About the Author

Jacqui Marais

Head of Sales

Jacqui joined the Londolozi team in December 2007 as a camp manager, a role which she more than ably filled for the next 3 years, before departing for Johannesburg in 2010. Little did she know that over a decade after joining the organization, ...

View Jacqui's profile


on Night Photography

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Henry Smith

Very nice, particularly the shots of the lead wood tree and stars!

Jacqui Marais

Thank you Henry! Always appreciate your kind comments…

Carol Robinson

Fabulous! Thanks for an interesting blog – cant wait to have a go myself when next beneath the African sky. Great to see your photos, Kate.

Jacqui Marais

Hi Carol

Thank you for reading and enjoying the blog!
I highly recommend trying night photography out yourself the night sky makes for some beautiful images!


Rich Laburn

Great set of photographs Jax, really nice to see the possibilities of photographing wildlife at night. rich

Jacqui Marais

Thanks for the support Rich! Appreciate it

Mike Sutherland

What an exciting week of night photography it was Jax! thank you for the great images! And the settings and tips for all the readers! Mike

Jacqui Marais

It was an awesome few days. Thanks for the comments Mike!

Janice Rudenauer

Mesmerizing! Nothing compares to the African sky and you captured it. I have never seen a shot quite like the profile of the lioness, gorgeous! Thank you — Janice

Jacqui Marais

Thank you Janice, so glad you like them!


Jax’s those night sky’s are AMAZING wow!
very cool stuff

Jacqui Marais

Thanks so much Bron, can’t wait for more time in the bush


Now you should try and do star trails, when you leave your shutter open for “hours” and the movement of the stars etc leave trails across the photo! Got to be done at new moon otherwise you get too much light in! Lovely shots and great effects done, well done

Jacqui Marais

Hi Kirsten,

Thank you for the kind message.
I have tried star tracking before (probably not the best first attempt) but take a look here
I had promised to try again so thank you for reminding me, hopefully I will post my next attempt here sometime very soon.


Terri Klauber

Missing those magical star filled nights!! And each and everyone of ((YOU)) at
Londolozi!! Love you Manana

Great shots!!

Jacqui Marais

Thanks Terri, it was wonderful having you to stay!
Looking forward to seeing you again soon we hope.


Wendy Hawkins

Well done Jacqui & Kate, really beautiful, there are no favourites here, they are all stunning, especially the tree & the stars! Oh to see a sky like that again! Thank you both for sharing

Jacqui Marais

Thank you Wendy, I have to agree with you the African sky is one of the most breath taking sights…

michelle wolff

The photos coming out of Londolozi from you two and Mike S are incredible. The lioness facing right by Kate on this page: Kate do you license these for artists to use once as photo references? I could do that one on black paper in pastel 😉 my website is and and my email is I am guessing that the more widespread these photos become the more requests you may get about this topic. I’d really love to know what the terms are for drawing these?

Jacqui Marais

HI Michelle,

I must apologise for the delay in responding to you.
I have just taken a look at your work it is beautiful!!
Kate is on leave at the moment so i will make sure she responds to you on her return to the bush.

Thank you so much for your support, we all really appreciate the kind words of encouragement.



AMAZING. Truly wonderful shots, what a experience.
Well done Jax, Kate and Mike


Jacqui Marais

Thanks Cands!!

John Wilson

When I first saw these shots they blew me away. I asked for the settings and got a lesson, thanks to all off you for sharing. Hope to meet Mike in October.

Jacqui Marais

HI John,

I am glad to hear you got a lesson! Thank you for the comments!
Looking forward to having you to stay in October.


Howard Lowenthal

Howzit J.
Please email your contact details in JHB as I didn’t get your card before Rael and I left.

Please share that we had a STUPENDOUS week end at Londolozi-a fitting treat for Rael who just got 8 Distinctions in matric.

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