Although we have officially begun July, the transition from one winter month to the next was not without its theatrics. What surrounds us expands us, and taking a back seat to the beauty of nature widens our view of the world and beyond.
Not for only the stargazers out there, but for anyone appreciating a rarely seen spectacle, the past few evenings revealed the most impressive conjuction of the 2015 calendar; the longitudinal alignment of two celestial bodies resulting in one appearing to rest atop another. June’s closing nights and July’s curtain raiser saw the closest placement of the two brightest planets in our solar system, Venus and Jupiter, above the setting horizon. Even a basic pair of binoculars allowed for a stunning visual of this “meeting” of distant characters, and a steady hand could reveal several moons of our largest planet.
Down on the ground, though, as much seemed to be occurring. As dryness starts to settle in and dust slowly rises behind any motion, the animal dynamics adapt. Cooler days permit longer activity for the predators, while massive herds of Elephant, Buffalo and Wildebeest separately meander their way through the greater region.
A personal highlight this week was observing an extended duel between two young Hippo bulls in a nearby waterhole, providing for exciting photographing. This, and so much more, reminded me of the electric progress wilderness requires and the fight to maximise one’s potential; to be the best we can be. So, while aiming to achieve your own personal goals, adapt to the changing environment and follow your own driving force; you may even have time to look up to the stars.
A roller coaster week for me that retrospectively is one of magical moments.
Enjoy this week in pictures…
We start the week with a warm and abstract view of a young Elephant cow and her impressively long eye-lashes which I feel often go unnoticed. 1/1250 at f/4.5; ISO 250.
With a Red Data List rating of Vulnerable in Southern Africa, the White-headed Vulture is always an exciting sight. This massive female swept over us while responding with many other species to a nearby carcass; her colours creating whatever beauty a Vulture can offer. 1/3200 at f/2.8; ISO 160.
An evening yawn from one of the Tsalala young males initiates activity and not rest. We had waited ages on the banks of the Sand River for this moment and it was well worth the patience. The remainder of the pride followed suit shortly thereafter. 1/160 at f/5.0; ISO 320.
Not being Canines or Felines, the unique Hyena and its fascinating motion is captured in this moment as a wondering female strides through a clearing. The soft sunset lights her reliable ears and characteristic mane from the background. 1/640 at f/3.5; ISO 320.
The two young Hippo bulls collide in still water, cascading droplets into the evening sky. This gloomy setting created an eerie reflection below the rapid shower of strength. 1/1250 at f/4.0; ISO 1600.
A wider look at the chaos as the two bulls jostle for positioning before colliding once again. The setting sun breaks the gloom momentarily and an emotion is felt. 1/2500 at f/4.0; ISO 1250.
Youthful ambition, or perhaps experimentation? The energetic Ximpalapala 3:3 young female flattens her tail as she stalks a mature Nyala bull, presumably just for practice. She successfully approaches and then lets him wander past, unnoticed. Young cats in the wild may often fine tune their skills through playful means! 1/500 at f/4.0; ISO 800.
A huge Elephant bull in musth takes a minute to himself and rolls onto the sand bank after a drink of water, diminishing the road beside him. In this state of musth, bulls are uncomfortable and frustrated and this one may have just been trying to improve his own mood. 1/1000 at f/4.5; ISO 250.
Looking forward into progress, the ever-stunning Nanga female watches day break. Her determination to hold on to her ideal territory is captivating; what will the Nanga Story read next? 1/1250 at f/2.8; ISO 500.
A motionless pose atop a mirrored pedestal. This African Darter dries his soaked plumage post-fishing in order to fly again. It is always a wonder how they fish underwater so well, all the while avoiding patient crocodiles hiding in the murky waters. 1/1600 at f/2.8; ISO 100.
Breaking the “rules” a little bit with this silhouette photograph by allowing the source light to dominate the image as well as create huge lens flare (here, sprayed into blues, reds and greens). However, I found this trial image so interesting, and the backlighting could almost hide the Mashaba young female’s adolescence as she explores the night. 1/30 at f/4.0; ISO 2000.
A photograph I have been trying to get for a very long time! A seldom seen sight of a Yellow-billed Oxpecker catches our eye while amongst a large herd of Cape Buffalo. These, also Vulnerable listed, birds are a personal favourite of mine to find but never easy to photograph. While after the same thing, this one shares a Buffalo’s coat with a very common Red-billed Oxpecker. 1/320 at f/5.6; ISO 400.
The Tsalala young males are beginning to really fill out into their paws as they approach two years of age. Here, one grooms himself after a long night’s walk while the shade he poorly sought drops dappled light onto his face. 1/400 at f/4.5; ISO 320.
A much darker look at the earlier hippo duel: Late evening light catches the rolling ripples so well and as heavy water is suspended in the instant, a column of effort escapes through the nostrils of a contender; the surface is about to peel away. 1/800 at f/4.0; ISO 1000.
Which captured moments did you enjoy the most? And did anybody else manage to observe the week’s conjunction of Venus of Jupiter, and from where in the world?
Have a phenomenal weekend.
Written and Photographed by Sean Cresswell, Londolozi Ranger.