We were here before, little over a year ago. It was so absolutely fabulous that we had to come again, come and share it with friends. So we booked a photo workshop with C4 images, hoping to learn a little more and improve our photography, and we did ! Plus we made some new friends, had a great time, fantastic wildlife sightings and a very enjoyable stay at Mashatu Tented Camp.
First game drive in very cold and cloudy weather. We expected nothing, and got it all ! The cheetah mum with her four cubs was the absolute highlight of this trip. The little ones are so adorable , we don’t really want to go see anything else. But as other jeeps want to see them too we leave. We find a very sleepy leopard in a tree followed by a spectacular sighting of three big male lions. Kyle explains they are Kalahari lions, they are a greyish colour and their manes are bleached blond by the Kalahari sun, they look absolutely stunning and not like any lion I’ve seen before. Unfortunately we don’t see them again.
Kyle is a great help, gives tips on settings and composition and knows a lot about the wildlife. Cloudy weather is not so bad after all, you have to work with what you’ve got, and at least we now have nice and soft light, no shadows, great for portraits, and we learn to pan ( do moving images ). This was such a fabulous first game drive, if only it wasn’t so cold ….!
Next morning the wake up call at 05:30, shit, that’s early. Never mind, once you are awake and on the jeep you don’t care about the getting up anymore. Unfortunately it’s still cloudy, should get better by this afternoon, let’s hope so ! We drive by a hyena den, nothing moving there so we move on. Goms, our tracker, sees a big group of impala racing off, let’s see what they are running from. The cheetah family ! We spend most of the morning with them, the cubs are so cute, they run around, climb every tree they see, jump, skid and slide.
Poor mum, she must have nerves like steel wire keeping so calm around four of these little whirlwinds. We get lots of lovely shots despite the weather, or maybe because of the weather, in the heat of day they wouldn’t be so active. The elephants seem to have vanished from Mashatu, we don’t see a single one. We do enjoy a spectacular sunset, just a small strip of light at the end of a dark, threatening sky. With the right exposure the photos look totally dramatic !
Day three starts with sunshine, at last. Now nothing can go wrong anymore. We stop a white fronted bee-eater colony. The little birds are hard to get on camera, they are so fast, and you never know when they will land, or come out of the nest again. Kyle again is a great help, settings are difficult : fast birds, bright light, very light riverbank as a background. After deleting about 50%, consisting of empty riverbank shots, and 40% which are out of focus or “decapitated” birds, we do have a few cool shots left ! Right round the next corner we find the lioness with her cubs, and on the way to camp a very pretty leopard in a beautiful Mashatu tree. I could sit on this jeep forever, too bad we have to go back to camp for brunch. After lunch we all show 3 of our best shots and get comments and advice from the pro’s and our fellow photographers. A good way to learn.
In the afternoon we see the cheetahs again. At last she has made a kill. I’m really happy for her, it can’t be easy raising and feeding these four cubs and it’s certainly not optimal to go hunting with 3 jeeps on your heels… She looks really fat now , has eaten her belly full that’s for sure ! The cubs are gnawing away at the impala,I don’t think their teeth are strong enough to bite anything off, but they try very hard to look fierce and dangerous, and don’t succeed at all.
Our last whole day we start at the hide. After yesterdays photo tuition we now know what to set, how to compose. Still no elephants to be seen, so Andre tells us to watch out for the guinea fowls. They fight and make a hell of a noise, jump, run and throw up lots of dust. Andre is a fan of moving images, we slowly check what he is talking about ! This is fun !
For the lack of wildlife we leave the hide rather early and spend time with the lion pride. That afternoon we see the same pride, new chance at composing, and shooting them backlit, then front lit and finally in golden light. One of my favourite images of the whole day is when we do a backlit photo of a flock of tiny quillas taking off, it looks surreal. The lioness looks great too.
This evening we do a night shot, stars and the milky way. We never get to see so many stars in Europe, too much light pollution, this is so amazing. There is even time to do a time-lapse shot, shutter speed at 20 minutes leaves us with enough time to have a very late sundowner.
I would like to thank Andre and Kyle very much for all their help, guiding and patience. Dan and Commando for the great driving and tracking. We learnt a lot, especially about exposure compensation and back lighting and of course about shooting under not very optimal light conditions. Thanks also to all the other participants, we had a great time and will go home with lots of good and happy memories, and full memory cards !
More photos on our webpage : www.bluemelphoto.ch
Astrid & Juerg Bluemel, Sept.2014