In the month of March, Londolozi is showcasing some of our best photography and photographers alike. This five part blog series will take readers behind some stunning imagery and discuss how the shot came to be. The episodes will delve into the stories behind images and the photographers who capture them. In this series we’ll be highlighting some tips and tricks that we hope will inspire you when capturing imagery of your own.
Chris Kane-Berman (Stoff)
Episode 2 of the series focuses on Chris Kane-Berman, more commonly known as Stoff. He always loved animals and wild spaces and knew that this was his calling. Chris’ love affair with Londolozi dates back 30 years. He has made his way from ranger to head ranger, general manager and is now our managing director. A father figure in our Londolozi family, he is central to the brilliance and character that is the Londolozi experience.
Stoff takes us way back to 1992 to the first leopard cub that he saw and photographed at Londolozi. Thirty years on he has amassed a wealth of imagery. He’s experienced multiple generations of leopard come and go whilst raising two children of his own. His understanding and love for Londolozi are unmatched and his perspective of the space is about as holistic as it gets.
In the beginning there was the mighty Tugwaan Female, mother to the very beloved 3:4 Female (Stoff was there!)
Stories of the Tugwaan Female are about as legendary as they come. Her reputation at Londolozi could be compared to that of Genghis Khan as she was fierce and often came exploding out of a bush. A ranger would be driving along and the Tugwaan Female would break out of cover in full charge at the vehicle, not batting an eyelid at the fact that it was a loud moving metal target. She was a daughter of the Mother Leopard and the mother of the 3:4 Female.
In August of 1992, one dry winter afternoon, we were out on a drive and out of nowhere a leopard let out a roar and came barreling out of a thicket.
She did a quick charge then did something she had never done before, as she neared the vehicle she spun around, ran about 50 meters away and lay down.
We knew straight away who she was, the Tugwaan Female was not to be messed with and I wanted to get out of the area as soon as possible.
A daughter of the original Mother Leopard, the Tugwaan female was born in April of 1984.
Wisdom of the Tracker
But my tracker, Erence Inyati advised we give it a minute or two.
Let her calm down, Erence said
I sat quivering, wondering if we were being brave or just plain silly, whilst Erence perched on the tracker seat, scoured the area with his binoculars.
As a 19 year old, starting as a ranger at Londolozi, I was lucky enough to be paired with Erence. We had a lot of fun together and became good friends, he was one of the best trackers I’ve encountered in the industry.
As my shaking hands began to quell and I began to settle down, Erence calmly pointed out two small cubs hiding behind her in the grass. She didn’t move and I began to photograph her. This was the first time I was able to capture her (the Tugwaan Female), usually she’d be growling at the vehicle so you couldn’t get a shot.
It was also the first time I saw and photographed a leopard cub at Londolozi. It was quite far away and not a spectacular shot but for me it’s always been about that moment and the memory attached.
Over the next 17 years Stoff witnessed the life of that incredible leopard cub that was to become know as the 3:4 Female.
Unlike her mother she was not aggressive, she was an incredible leopard to view and worked her way into the hearts of all who visited. She took up territory in the centre of Londolozi, virtually the same area that was inhabited by her grandmother, The Mother Leopard and continued the royal lineage with three successful cubs.
Born to the Tugwaan female in August 1992, this leopard would redefine the relationship between man and wild cat.
Stoff’s perspective on photography
The photographs captured by Stoff are nothing short of sheer brilliance. But he brought everything down to earth when discussing his perspective inside and outside of photography. His humble and genuine nature weaves its way into the fibre of this perspective. If there is someone who has “seen and done it”, it’s Stoff. However, he stands by the fact that his journey is a collection of the incredible people along the way. Whether it’s his incredible wife and family, or a special friend and tracker, or any number of mentors. His ears are always open to the new ideas and developments of the people around him. And its this uncanny ability that makes him an outstanding photographer and leader of our Londolozi family.
Over my 30 years working with the Varty’s I’ve been able to experience so much. I’d attend meetings in London and New York and the next day be meeting with local, rural farmers to establish a chicken farm. It has been a privilege to do so with camera in hand. It took me a while to get into photography, and I was lucky to have good mentors.
Understanding photography changed the way I took game drives. We were selling a photographic safari so to be a better ranger I needed to understand photography. And then I grew to love it.
For me, a great shot is about capturing a single moment. The history and relationship that developed over 17 years with the 3:4 Female. And for every moment I’ve been able to share with animals in these wild spaces. Now I have those interactions cemented in time, it’s special. I’ve never aspired to be a professional photographer, I’ve always done it as a hobby, to keep those memories and moments alive.
Stoff’s photography gadgets
Stoff has developed his photographic perspective alongside rapidly developing technology. His knowledge of gadgets and how they have developed really rounds his understanding of what he can do with cameras. It is incredible to see the development of the images he has captured. From being a 19 year old ranger and capturing his first leopard cub on a film camera in 1992. To today capturing all manner of species in the most incredible detail on all sorts of the latest technology.
Gadgets have always helped me do what I love. From a technology point of view, if there is development, something better, I want to get it as it’ll make me better.
When I started we used slide film, and you couldn’t choose your ISO. So you bought the film and you had 36 shots. You couldn’t change those settings, as soon as new cameras came I was the first to put my hand up and buy it. And if an iPhone comes out I want to get it cause the camera is better than the last model.
I’ve always liked gadgets, and liked exploring with them. With rapidly developing tech, there is so much we could do to enhance the wildlife experience. If we get into the sound of the animals or night vision binoculars we could follow hunting lions at night with the lights turned off. The opportunities are endless!
Londolozi’s photographic studio has a 600mm f4 and 800 mm f5.6 lens which I take birding whenever possible. Both are in a class of their own, the detail in that imagery is incredible!
I tend use my phone a lot, more and more with every new model coming out. It is incredible how the technology has developed. The phone is brilliant for videoing especially in low light or when something is happening quickly.
And finally the big debate and discussion that centres around mirrorless cameras, I haven’t gone there yet and still debating making the move but what is coming out now on the mirrorless front is amazing!
This draws to an end the photographic series episode 2 with Stoff Kane-Berman. A stalwart in the Londolozi family, a photographic genius who has lived the photographic evolution and of course Londolozi’s very own gadget guy. He has grown alongside Londolozi for 30 years and we cant wait to see what he does in this ever changing space!
Next up in the series we’ll look at people in nature, through the lens of marketing manager Amanda Ritchie. Amanda is a photography enthusiast and life coach, her understanding of people lies in a league of its own. She brings people into our wild spaces and captures incredible imagery where they meet. I look forward to continuing our photographic journey next week!
Learn more about Photographic Safari
At Londolozi, wildlife photography holds an important place. We use it as a way to reconnect with nature, with the animals that inhabit the Game Reserve with us. This is why this article isn’t the only one we written in this photography series. If ever you want to learn more about wildlife photography, please feel free to consult:
- Photography Series episode 1: The Ranger’s eye
- Photography series episode 3: People in nature
- Photography Series Episode 4 – Country and Critters
- Photography Series Episode 5: Londolozi’s Eye
If you want to know what wildlife photography is at Londolozi, check out our Photographic Safari experience page! Or find our what our ranger Nick Simms had to say about his experiences in photography