Posts tagged ‘elephant’
22 January 2012:
After a few days of living the life of a professional photographer, I was getting used to it; I was up and ready before 5:00 a.m.We had our breakfast then set out for our last game drive before flying to Cape Town in the evening.
We caught sight of some impalas and various types of birds, such as the Lilac Breasted Roller Bird, one of South Africa’s most colored birds. At one point, I saw everyone stop to examine… a pile of elephant dung! That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for a photo subject but things got more interesting when I took a closer look: there was a dung beetle digging its way into the pile. This may sound like nothing, but I had never seen a live dung beetle before so I lay with my belly on the floor next to Jason and intently watched that little guy form its ball of dung and roll it away towards its burrow for food storage.
A bit further down the road, we stopped to take some macro shots of orb weaver spiders and I was amazed by their size. Time was flying by and we still wanted to visit a nearby village before our 7-hour drive to Johannesburg’s airport.
On the way back, I realized that so far I had come across 3 animals of South Africa’s Big Fives: I had seen a lion, an elephant and a buffalo – all that was left were the leopard and the rhinoceros. Not bad! Then Guts said that I missed the Small Five! I found out these were the elephant shrew, the lion ant, the red-billed buffalo weaver, the leopard tortoise and the rhino beetle.
We arrived at Shalati Pre-School in the Mnisi community where we were welcomed by a few students and the only teacher there. Shalati provides support to children and prepares them for the transition into primary school. The kids were fun; I took some photos of them and showed them how they looked in the picture, then it wasn’t long before they were posing and making funny faces. After that, I grabbed my notebook and started drawing while they watched then tried their hand at sketches too. As we were making to leave, I gave my pen to a very shy kid and joined the team while the kids were shouting to us “Chup Chup, Chup Chup”, which means “everything is alright” in Xhosa, a South African language.
As we drove towards the airport, we stopped repeatedly to take photos of the beautiful landscapes along the way. It was raining a lot and we had to hurry to catch our flight to Cape Town. I felt we were going to miss it; I think we all did and were cool about it. We finally arrived there only 15 minutes before departure and Jason grabbed our passports for the check-in, while we unloaded the ton of material we were carrying. We went in loaded like pack mules only to find out that we had missed our flight!
Oh well, we spent the night at a guesthouse owned by Guts’ family sipping Amarula and wine, laughing as we recounted the adventures of the day.
20 Jan 2012
A Chilling Roar After Midnight:
A loud banging at my door finally got me out of bed at 5:00 a.m. I don’t know how Jason does it, but a mere 3-4 hours of sleep mean I’ll be dozing off behind the shutter while waiting for a good shot. Still, I know that photography’s Golden Hours are paramount. We made it to the park around sunrise and we soon faced a diversity of animals: a wildebeest uninterruptedly grazing; a kudu breastfeeding its calf; zebras staring at us with bewildered eyes; and storks stretching their wings close to a small pond. A pregnant giraffe also stood in our path to show off its majestic height and beauty, as if modeling for us; I made sure she had her share of shots, and we got good footage of animal behavior.
We continued our trip through a narrow road leading down to the other side of the reserve and stopped as Jason caught sight of a narrow stream running down the hill. I was impressed by Jason’s photographic vision, his eagle eye capable of scanning every scene and finding a frame – that comes with experience, I guess. This side of the park offered beautiful landscapes but limited wildlife except for lazy hippos swimming in the pond; the elusive cheetah that we knew to be around was nowhere to be “spotted”!
After 5 hours, the sun was getting hotter so we returned to the lodge for a late brunch and some rest before the evening drive. We talked about arranging an evening helicopter to take some aerial shots and headed back to the park, all the way to Namboomspruit Golf Course but unfortunately it was getting late and Jason thought we’d better postpone until the following morning as the weather was a bit cloudy.
We continued driving around the park for the next 3 hours. We didn’t spot anything new, until we finally came across a herd of elephants in a field of tall grass. It was close to sunset. Accompanied by “Guts” and an armed tracker, Jason decided to follow the herd on foot. Dan and I saw his bulky figure disappearing in the field and we were supposed to meet up with them at the other side of the road but after 15 minutes there was still no sign of them and it was getting dark. We remained cool and I helped our driver hold the spotlight and direct it all over the place. I admit I was worried and I didn’t know whether I was on the lookout for more wildlife or Jason’s trampled body! We finally saw him and his party walking towards us safe and sound.
It was almost midnight, and we were still on the search, I was cold, tired and disappointed. Lions, hyenas, cheetahs and other wild animals were not around! I think I began dozing off a bit in the back seat when – out of the blue – the driver spotted a lion walking past our vehicle; that was enough to wake me up from my lethargy. Finally! There he was, the king of the jungle, the famous hunter and largest of the wild cats, walking his land freely and proudly. We approached him slowly and noticed he was limping as if from a recent fight. We tried not to bother him much while he rested. As I was shooting a few pictures from the vehicle, I heard Jason say something about stepping out and taking a ground photo at a closer distance. Yeah, right! But he wasn’t joking! He actually climbed down the vehicle to get closer to the lion. Our sights were locked on the lion resting with its eyes closed while Jason was taking his shots. Suddenly glimpsing Jason, the lion moved his brown hairy mane; his piercing eyes glittered in the spotlight’s beam and he quickly stood up stretching his tasseled tail then growled with an eardrum-bursting roar. I was close to wetting my pants as Jason sprinted back to the vehicle. Jason’s eyes told me that if the lion hadn’t been tired, his advice to other photographers would be to think twice before trying such a stunt. We left the lion in peace and went back to the lodge. On the way, I dozed off for a few minutes but I woke up just in time to foil Dan and Jason’s plot to film me snoring. I dragged myself after 19 hours of wildlife tracking to my lodge for just two and a half hours of rest before the next day.