wildlife photography

Playing at Kruger Park

What do you like to do with overseas visitors? We love to enjoy African wildlife together. So when our Swiss cousin Kevin recently popped out to SA with his family for a holiday, Naomi and I arranged a trip to Ngwenya Lodge at the Kruger National Park.

I deliberately took along only the essentials to take a couple of pics and probably no video. Yeah, right 😉 Kevin’s wife Anne had earned a reputation for finding big cats on her first trip to SA, when we saw 4 different Leopard sightings in 3 days! That was also at Kruger, many years ago, and if you know anything about the bush, you’ll know it’s incredibly rare. 2017 was right up there.

Anne was on form, and the family saw the Big Five in no time at all, including leopard. As we relaxed and shifted from Joburg mode into Bush mode, the trigger finger started itching and I really enjoyed shooting the wildlife we came across. A highlight was two Tawny Eagles (pictured above) battling it out in the sky overhead, which is tricky to capture because everything happens so fast.

I made the beginners mistake of not checking that I had spare batteries with me, assuming they would be in the camera bag. Wrong! They had been left behind on the desk in my studio. Plan B. Battery flat, great shots in the bag, so I capitulated and took one of our video cameras on the last evening/night drive just in case we saw anything special. Wow, we were spoilt for choice.

A pack of hyena hunting, hyena cubs in and around their den and lions mating right next to the game vehicles got our full attention. It was fun to see the reactions of the children and some Spanish folk we had met. They could barely believe their luck, but then I pointed out that we had “Annie find the Predators” with us, which contributed to much laughter and animated story telling.

To see some more photos, view our FB album: Kruger Park – July 2017, and here’s a short video of exciting highlights:

Early the next morning Naomi and I hit the road back to the ‘Big Smoke’ to do a shoot that we’d scheduled, leaving our cousins to enjoy a few more days in the bush. In true style, Anne spotted a leopard which posed proudly, allowing Kevin a chance to get some lovely pics of this magnificent, elusive predator for their holiday album. Pity we missed it, but there’s always a next time.

This trip reminded me of how important it is to get away sometimes with family and friends to places that feed the soul and allow us to truly relax and appreciate nature. I hope you feel inspired to take a trip somewhere special with your loved ones and recharge your batteries. Oh, on that note, don’t forget to take spare batteries for your cameras 😉

Olive Thrush Chicks photographed by Dave Estment

Patience is Rewarded

I recently noticed that there was an Olive Thrush painstakingly building a nest in the fork of a tree in our garden. My interest grew, watching as this hard-working bird carried in twigs, wet grass and even tissue paper to help line the bowl-shaped nest, followed by a thin layer of mud to smooth things off. What was interesting was that the female did all the work while the male just watched on.

A couple of days later I noticed that two light blue eggs with brown speckles had been laid in the nest. The male and female shared incubating duties until I pulled my cameras out as I noticed two tiny, pink chicks had hatched, their hearts beating wildly. I captured some of this special footage as they shuffled around trying to find a comfortable place to rest and grow, as the female brought in copious amounts of earthworms and insects to nourish them. I was astonished by the rate at which the chicks grew and started sprouting feather splines which quickly turned into proper feathers. Their wings seemed to take shape at an incredible rate of knots.

Each week for three weeks I filmed the chicks, until they were so big that there was no room left for them in the nest. Then something surprising happened. As I was filming them fighting for real estate in their cramped environment, one of them stood up and launched itself up and out of the nest and landed in the foliage below. Our Golden Retriever, Storm, darted into the undergrowth and gently picked up the half grown chick in his mouth and brought it to me. It was amazing to see his natural instincts kick in, handing me the little chick as gently as he had plucked it from the undergrowth.

I tried putting the chick back into the nest a couple of times, to no avail, before both chicks decided they had had enough and jumped out of the nest onto the nearest part of the tree fork, clinging on with their well developed, clawed feet. That’s when I learned something fascinating. This is the typical way that Olive Thrush chicks behave. Even though they have wing feathers and short tail feathers, they remain perched on the available branches in a tree for a month or so, while the mother continues to feed them until they are big enough to fly and start feeding themselves. It was the first time I had observed this behaviour in any bird.

Here’s the short video that I created so you can see some of this action for yourself:

All ended well as we now have four resident Olive Thrushes in our garden. Another interesting thing is the similarity of species such as the Olive, Karoo and Kurrichane Thrush. It was an enlightening experience right here at home as opposed to the many dramatic sightings we have enjoyed in the South African bushveld, as well as the Central Kalahari desert, Okavango Delta and the Masai Mara in Kenya. Enjoy the video and please share a comment below to let us know if you’ve seen something fascinating in your garden!

Nikon Camera Gear

Occasionally, Less is More

We have plenty of cutting edge camera gear that enables us to get the best out of any given circumstance, with a view to creating world class video and photographic galleries for our clients. Buying this equipment is a rather expensive exercise, but well worth it in the long run because it is more durable, has all the manual controls one requires for professional results, and the components like lens glass and focus mechanisms are the best in the business. Continue reading “Occasionally, Less is More”

Cheetah Close Up

Wildlife Video – for Fun?

I had an interesting experience recently when my brother Mike and his lovely wife Lisa kindly gave Naomi and me the use of their 5 star lodge at Welgevonden Private Game Reserve in the Waterberg Mountains, for 5 days of fun. This meant that we could invite some great friends on an amazing safari getaway on one of the most sought after reserves in Southern Africa. Continue reading “Wildlife Video — for Fun?”

Kalahari Springbuck Leaping

How to Shoot Wildlife Action

I am often asked what the key factors are in capturing high-speed action of wildlife with either a stills or video camera. The logic to both is very similar, as we’ve experienced through the privilege of enjoying many safari adventures over the last 20 years or more in remote locations varying from the Masai Mara in Kenya and the iconic Okavango Delta, to the unpredictable beauty of the Central Kalahari Desert, pictured above. Continue reading “How to Shoot Wildlife Action”

World's View Bath at Ant's Hill

Dream Promo Video

Does your spirit stir to the sound of adventure and wide-open spaces within Africa’s spectacular wilderness? If you fancy being treated to a tailor-made, activity-filled safari of a lifetime for yourself as an individual, with your family or a group of your friends, then be transported by the short promo video that we’ve created for Ant and Tessa Baber, who own and run Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill bush homes in the Waterberg, South Africa: Continue reading “Dream Promo Video”