On the 1st June we were greeted at the Londolozi airstrip by a lovely, warm, friendly smile of our guide Don and our tracker Lucky and immediately felt that we had known them for years.  We knew that the next seven days was going to be another memorable stay at Londolozi.

We arrived at the Private Granite Suites to another friendly smile from the manager Graeme who made us feel so welcome and at home and set the tone for every other staff. Nothing was too much trouble. In fact this was the greeting we received from everyone at Londolozi.

My lovely husband had bought me a Canon 5Ds with all the lenses, however as soon as I read the guide, I tried with a few different settings and the photos came out either blurred, dark or bright, I thought “Too hard”, and immediately went back to ‘Auto’.

“What would you like to see the most”, Don asked?  Leopards, lions and cheetah I replied, certainly not expecting to see all three. I explained that I also wanted to learn how to use my camera which is why we hired a private vehicle. Don’s eyes lit up. “Great”, he said, “I will teach you”, and my journey started immediately.

I don’t think Don realized quite what he was taking on as he had to start right from the beginning, explaining the exposure triangle and giving me a cheat sheet that I could refer to. There were quite a few occasions on which by the time I had worked out my camera settings even the animals had got fed up waiting and disappeared. Oh how we laughed. I gradually started to work out my settings and with the help of my teacher my photos started to improve and I eagerly uploaded them onto my iPad as soon as I got back to camp.

We had some incredible sightings and thanks to my teacher I was able to move from the Auto setting, getting photos that were either blurred, too dark or too bright, to AV/M modes, getting clear focused photos.
My journey has been such fun and I am looking forward to returning to Londolozi for the next level in my photography journey, so my heartfelt thanks go out to Don.

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Leopards are opportunistic, and will take advantage of any food source they encounter, including scraps of skin or old carcasses.

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A female leopard drags a large impala carcass into thicker bush.

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A lioness, the blood on her face evidence of the kill she had been feeding on, walks down into a riverbed.

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We had some incredible sightings with Don, and all three big cats (lion, leopard, cheetah) were seen.

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One of the Tsalala cubs rests after feeding on a kill.

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Rival male leopards square off. A very rare sight to see.

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The Mashaba female, one of Londolozi’s iconic leopards.

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Using a spotlight can bring out extra detail when the ambient light is low.

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TheTamboti young female reclines in a marula tree.

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The Ndzanzeni female leopard was robbed by this hyena before she had a chance to hoist her kill.

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Starry, starry night.

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The impressive Makhotini male.

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The Makhotini male leaps from his marula tree vantage point.

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A disinterested look from one of the Matimba males.

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An incredible sighting as a cheetah goes one-on-one with an impala ram.

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The cheetah administers the final killing bite.

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With the impala finally subdues, the cheetah can pause to get its breath back.

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Knowing the different modes on your camera enables you to get night-time shots that are next to impossible when shooting on Auto mode.

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Spot metering in Aperture mode or just shooting on manual mode itself can get you images like this.

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Don Heyneke was a fantastic photographic guide as well as ranger.

Written and Photographed by Vivien Jones, Londolozi Guest

Filed under Wildlife

4 Comments

on My journey from Auto to AV//M with Don Heyneke
    Jill Larone says:

    You captured some beautiful pictures Vivien! Thank you for sharing.

    Jan Riley, Australia says:

    Fantastic shots Vivien. Particularly the shot of the vertical descent of the leopard from the tree. It should be a poster.

    Vivien Jones says:

    Thank you for your wonderful comments Jan, I still have a lot to learn but Don has given me a fantastic start on this journey. Now I am on the journey with Lightroom but thats another story……

    Vivien Jones says:

    Thank you for your lovely comments Jill, I am still blown away that the photos would even be good enough for the Londolozi Blog. Am looking forward to learning a lot more and improving on my photography. Thank you for your encouragement.

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