I recently had the pleasure of hosting husband and wife couple, Jos and Evette von Bommel from van Brommel safaris on a photographic safari at Londolozi. Greetings were made and lunch was served as we discussed their main objectives and what they were looking for from their photographic experience. Flash photography, together with back and side lighting were the order of the day.
After the vehicle and camera setup was done, we departed from the lodge on the afternoon drive and came across our first leopard, nestled amongst some shady vegetation which provided a great opportunity to practice our fill flash photography. Quick lighting and camera adjustments were made to focus on the subject within a frame of dense foliage. We used the thick vegetation to our advantage and framed the leopard within it.
That evening after snacks and sundowners, we came across a resident pride of lions which enabled us to test our side and back lighting photographic skills. Again, due to the nighttime conditions – camera settings were re-adjusted and we got ourselves into position for some back lighting.
First out and an early misty morning, just as the sun was rising set the scene for us to focus on some technical aspects of photography. A subject was needed and we soon came across a lone wildebeest on the plains in the mist, the perfect silhouette. We had a second chance to play around with the settings with a pair of impala males and produced some great moody pictures.
Once the sun emerged and day presented itself, we bumped into a female leopard on the move across the plains. We followed her for a distance but she moved across boundaries and we turned our focus towards a pride of lions that had been sighted earlier that morning. Sunning lazily in a dry riverbed, the females and their cubs presented some picturesque shots, playfully engrossed in one another. Moving away, we adjusted camera settings and had the chance to hone our panning skills as we focused on some impala in the open plains on our way back to the lodge.
After breakfast we moved to the Creative Studio and focused on the post-production of the images until lunch. On the afternoon game drive we found a female rhino and her young calf. A short while later a large male leopard had been found so we made our way into the area. It was the Camp Pan male, we spent some time getting a few side light pictures as the sun went down. The male leopard had positioned himself on a termite mound, and we were able to get more technical with fill flash photography, and bring out the detail in his headshots.
Upon our return that evening, the sun had dipped and in the distance some giraffes were caught silhouetted against the horizon. What a perfect ending to a full day of exquisite sightings.
An early morning start lead us to a surprising sighting of a female leopard, known as Tamboti who had taken up in a fallen tree positioned in the shade. She seemed very relaxed and settled down on the log, unperturbed by the vehicle. The overhead foliage had created long dark shadows and we quickly adjusted our cameras for some full flash photography. We decided to spend some time with her playing with various photographic techniques as the sun rose and the shadows moved. She eventually got bored with all the attention and moved off into a neighbouring property.
On our way back to lodge for lunch, we had the opportunity to photograph some lone male impalas. The open plain area set the scene for some special panning shots before the sun was too high. After a few minutes we decided to move on before our rumbling tummies scared all chance of sighting another animal.
After a much needed lunch and full bellies all around, we once again headed out after a leopard kill had been spotted. We searched the area for a few hours until she made an appearance at the kill in the late afternoon. That crepuscular time of the evening provided some beautiful backdrop pictures and highlighted the leopard in the tree. We were able to use some full flash photography and got fantastic silhouette shots of her standing on the overhead branch over the kill.
Nearing the end of our safari, day four started off with a bang and a pride of lions were spotted just outside the lodge. Upon arrival we could see that the lions were nervous and followed their line of sight to find that they had chased a leopard up a tree as they were passing by. The pride were skittish and eventually moved off to retire for the day in the shade nearby.
With every good photographic session, I sat down with Jos and Yvette over lunch and did some post processing and discussed their pictures and if they felt their objectives had been met. After lunch we headed out to a hyena den with pups. They were very playful and did not mind the attention as they moved closer, ever inquisitive and curious. They gave us some wonderful shots.
Later that evening we were lucky enough to bump into a pride of lions again. Camera’s out and ready, it was time to test some side and back lighting with the help of an accompanying safari vehicle. Some amazing silhouette stills were taken and everyone was pleased with their results as we headed on home for some much need rest after a long day.
The final day of the safari was upon us and we were delighted to hear that wild dog had been sighted. We quickly tracked them down and casually followed the moving pack of wild dogs as they began stalking and getting into hunting mode. Some impala had peeked their interest and before we knew it, they had split and began hunting the impala with an ever increasing pace. We lost them for a short while and by the time we managed to make contact again, they had made a kill and were eagerly feeding. There was a slight feeding frenzy as hierarchy within this feeding pack came into play, and we spent some time watching and obviously snapping away at the various dogs with intrigue.
There is always a highlight to each trip and for the Von Bommel couple, Jos and Evette both agreed that whilst the leopard sightings were a sight to behold, nothing came close to the energy and adrenalin felt with a hunting pack of wild dog. They have the pictures to prove it.
Written and Photographed by: Hilton Kotze of Africa Photographic Services
Blog post originally found here.