Saturday, 22 June 2013

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is one of those classic colonial outposts that, to this day, retains a decent chunk of its former olde world charm.  In fact it's a town built around tourism.  You can bungee jump off the bridge built between Zimbabwe and Zambia (no need for a passport), take a heli ride around the falls, glide up the Zambezi river on a sundowner cruise or just relax in the immaculately manicured gardens of the Victoria Falls Hotel. Here are some shots of the town and the hotel.

Warthog lawn trimmers in action at the A Zambezi Hotel, Vic Falls. Ironically the hotel does a really nice warthog baguette...

Warthog family out for a stroll in town.
Because of the spray at this time of year, the falls are hard to shoot! A plastic supermarket bag, attached to the lens with a strong rubber band around the filter gives some protection. Cut the plastic off the front of the lens (i.e. round the filter) and you'll find that the AF system works fine. We all carried special dry bags which were used to hold the camera when not shooting. In some parts of the Falls near Danger Point, the 'spray' was a tropical downpour. Real GoPro conditions.
Zimbabwe in the foreground and Zambia to the right of the bridge and the distant bank
The Vic Falls hotel is one of the best preserved of the world's grand old colonial hotels
Classic olde world drawing room in the fabulous Victoria Falls Hotel

You get a great view of the falls (the smoke that thunders) in the distance from the hotel gardens
Flame trees in the 'centre' of Vic Falls town
Another aerial view of the falls from the BellRanger helicopter - $140 for 15 mins was good value and a great opportunity to get some neat bird's eye views that you'd otherwise miss. Shooting from a helicopter requires a clean window, a wide-angle lens and a fast shutter speed (i.e. 1/1000s+) to counter the aircraft vibration and airspeed. Some shots are wasted with too many internal reflections while others were near perfect in their clarity.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Walking with Lions

What an amazing way to sign off on this Academy Travel Photo Tour - a walk with young female lions through the bush at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Trevor being friendly with a young female lion at the ALERT lion centre, Vic Falls

Alan patting a new friend. Hands are not allowed near the pointy end!
Just in case. Man standing guard with his Remington .458 elephant gun

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Over the Border into Zim

Today we left Deception Valley lodge but were able to squeeze a two-hour game drive before flying up to Kasane in Northern Botswana. Six of us set of and within 40 mins the tracker had found sign of a large pride. He leapt off the vehicle and disappeared into the bush, returning five mins later with good news. A pride with three cubs was close. We spent a hairy 20 mins crashing through quite dense bush following the tracker who eventually found up to nine lions including the cubs who were playing tag amongst the bushes. It was a thrilling experience - we followed them for 30 mins - photography was hard as the bush was thick and the lions always seemed to be just behind a bush at the moment the shutter was pressed. But it was certainly a fantastic experience, both to watch a San tracker at work , to crash  through the bush and to then follow the lions. Here are a few of my snaps hurriedly downloaded. I know some of the others on the trip got better shots than me - these will be uploaded next time. Watch this space...

One of the young lion cubs seen this morning
A good example of how hard it is to get a good, uninterrupted view of the kalahari lions - this is typical terrain.
Boarding the Mack Air flight to Kasane in Northern Botswana
Dusty take-off from Deception Valley. The three owners of DV had to physically make the airstrip before they could open the lodge..
Over Northern Botswana
Over Northern Botswana
Over Northern Botswana
Ground Hornbill spotted on the roadside enroute to the 'A Zambezi Lodge in Victoria Falls. A family of warthogs wandered through the Botswana/Zim customs post while we were waiting for clearance - and further on, we had to stop on the road to let a group of elephants cross..
Civiisation at last! KFC is Africa's most popular fast food chain. At the A Zambezi Lodge we were warned not to touch the wildlife that wanders through the beautiful grounds. We have already seen warthogs round the pool area and baboons appear when you least expect it. I am told hippos occasionally wander through the hotel as well. Should be an exciting three days...

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Into Africa: Academy Photo Tour Portraits

Out of Africa? Tour groupies: Trevor, Tamara, Kerrie, Maija, Caralyn, Alan and Phil
And the rest: Kerrie, Lauretta, Liz, Mary, Kay, Jim and Paul
Portrait by moonlight and iPhone: Braam, Xhise, Thamai (from Deception Valley lodge), Trevor, Kerrie, Alan, Caralyn, Maija and Tamara...

Monday, 17 June 2013

Tracking Lions in the Kalahari

Flying into the central Kalahari desert on a small Mack Air Airvan. It took three planes to get us there on a 60 min flight. Perfect visibility and great for aerial shots of the countryside. First night we went off looking for lion. After dark one of the local San trackers found sign - then the lions themselves. Three females.  Shooting them using only a searchlight for illumination is hard - these lions were shot at ISO 10,000 [on my EOS 5DIII] at [ExpComp] minus 2 stops (to counter the centre hotspot such a powerful light creates). Tungsten White Balance sort of helps reduce the intense red WB but a Custom one is better (but then there's no time to test once the lions are found as they move into the bunch after a few minutes. We managed to get within three metres before they loped off into the blackness.

Mack Air - Maun-based air taxis for getting around Botswana's game lodges
Large female Kalahari on Deception Lodge reserve after dark.  Intense light makes it tricky to get a decent exposure. A tripod or, in our case, a monopod keeps things sharp.
After about ten to fifteen minutes of being spotlighted, they move off into the bush

The Kalahari lions at Deception lodge are very large and in excellent condition
Here's one from the same pride the next day
HDR of our trusty Landcruiser while we enjoy a well-earned sundowner...
Lipsmakin' good.  Finishing off a meal of kudu
Cub at play with one of the adults

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Xakanaxa Lodge, Okavango, Botswana

Garbage muncher hippo by Phil Young
Here are a few [awesome] images from our photo group with Academy Travel - most are from the Okavango Delta, Xakanaxa camp, 30 mins flight from Maun in central Botswana...

View from the top of Table Mountain by Alan Taylor
African penguin, Boulders beach,  by Mary Barnes
Elephants by Carolyn Taylor.

Statue in Kirstenbosch gardens, Cape Town, Kay Grimsley

Local Capetonian by Kerrie Murphy

African Starling by Kerrie Dixon
Impala by Maija Clarke
Boschendal Estate by Paul Grimsley
Hippo yawn by Jim Stace
Large owl at night by Robin Nichols
Female lion [in Kruger] by Lauretta Stace
In the Malay Quarter, Cape Town by Tamara Kitson