Complete Namibia 2022 Tour Report #5 (Podcast 784)

Complete Namibia 2022 Tour Report #5 (Podcast 784)


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We pick up the trail in this fifth and final part of my Complete Namibia Tour report for 2022 as we made our way into the Etosha National Park on a day that we’d traverse the entire park from West to East, and shortly after entering the park we noticed this Spotted Hyaena having a morning stroll. It was difficult to catch him as he walked quickly through the park behind the trees, but I managed to grab a frame or two when he was in a good clearing. The sun was behind him, so the lighting not great, but the shadows slider in Capture One Pro helped me to bring out a lot of detail in the Hyaena, so I’m pretty happy with this.

Spotted Hyaena
Spotted Hyaena

A large part of what I teach on my workshops is the importance of keeping your eye on your exposure via the histogram, and this shot shows the importance of that better than most. I almost always expose to the right, which means that I am manually changing my exposure so that the brightest part of the image, represented by the right-most data on the histogram, always falls just before or even just touching the right shoulder of the histogram frame. For many reasons, this will generally give you the best image quality, but in this image, it was key to gaining a well exposed image while giving me enough information in the hyaena to bring out the shadow details.

If I had left it up to the camera, the scene would have been recorded in the middle of the histogram, and the hyaena would have been so dark that the details would not have been recoverable from the shadows. Even as I shot this at my adjusted exposure, the hyaena was almost completely black, in silhouette, but I trusted my process and got a shot I’m happy with.

Shortly after our encounter with the hyaena, we headed to a waterhole where we found some zebra taking a drink, and they had pretty nice reflections, resulting in this image. Zebra are always great subjects, but those dazzling stripes getting doubled up in the reflections make for a striking image, and the sun caught some of their eyes, giving me some lovely catchlights.

Zebra Reflections
Zebra Reflections

The following image is a little bitter-sweet for several reasons. At first, I was really happy to find a leopard out in the open. Until now, I’ve only seen leopards in Namibia obscured by thickets or foliage or for just a few seconds before they took cover again. This leopard was sitting under a tree with what we thought was probably a springbok he’d taken down. The first problem with this, though, was that it was the middle of the day, and he was very far away. That means that even though I could use a 2X extender on my RF 100-500mm lens for a focal length of 1000 millimeters, the shimmering of the air from the heat takes away most of the clarity in the subject. It looks OK-ish when you view the full-frame image, but when you zoom in on the leopard, the image quality just isn’t there.

The second problem you may just be able to make out is that this animal has the wire of a snare wrapped tightly around its upper jaw. You might be able to see that the skin on the snout is pinched downwards between the nose and the eye, and also, the upper lip is pulled up a centimeter or so. Although the leopard was trying to eat, I guess that the snare was so uncomfortable or painful that he was having trouble making a start on his meal. As soon as I returned to Tokyo a few days after this, I sent this photo with GPS coordinates and the name of the nearby waterhole to our travel partner for this tour, and they, in turn, passed this information on to one of the vets that work in the Etosha National Park, so that they could locate, anesthetize and then take the snare off of this beautiful animal. I haven’t heard anything back yet, but hopefully, it won’t take long before we can remove that snare and give this guy a normal life again.

Distressed Leopard
Distressed Leopard

I should add that I was not aware of the snare when I shot this image. I was trying to make the best of the situation, using the tree to augment the landscape and show the leopard in its environment. I only saw the snare later when I zoomed in to check the lack of detail in the leopard.

Many years ago I photographed a Secretary Bird at the Ueno Zoo here in Tokyo and was amazed at how beautiful it was, with its long eyelashes and pristine headdress. I was still working in my old day job and honestly didn’t, at the time, even dream that my efforts as a podcaster and blogger would lead me to become an international tour and workshop leader, so this next photo has a special place in my heart. We came across a Secretary Bird in the wild, strutting through the grasses in the Etosha National Park. At first, it was far away, and the clarity was low due to the mid-day heat haze. This time, our subject continued walking towards us, so I was able to get this beautifully clear shot at 500mm as the bird continued walking, looking for lizards and other small animals, even snakes, to prey upon.

The Secretary Bird
The Secretary Bird

These are magnificent birds, and I feel so humbled that the life I’ve been able to make for myself through the podcast has enabled me to build a working business model that enables me to travel to such wonderful places on what I truly believe are life-changing tours for the guests that are kind enough to travel with me. Not to mention life changing for me too.

A little later in the day, we were in for another treat as we spotted a white rhino heading towards a waterhole. I can’t recall seeing any white rhino wild in the park here, with our sighting usually restricted to the ones at the Ongava Lodge, so I’m hoping this indicates that the poachers are being kept out. The fact that these animals are no longer having their horns removed is also very encouraging and makes for much better photographs.

White Rhino in Etosha National Park
White Rhino in Etosha National Park

Again, I love the scene that this rhino is in with the beautiful tall yellow grass that simply could not grow for the few years before the pandemic struck due to the drought that lasted seven years, and ended finally with the rains that Namibia got in December and the start of this year. I used my 1.4X Extender on the 100-500mm lens for this shot, giving me a 700mm focal length. I haven’t called out the settings for all of my shots today, but generally, I am aiming to get a shutter speed of around 1/2000 of a second to freeze the motion should an animal be running around, and that requires an ISO of around 1600 at ƒ/11, or as in this case, ƒ/13 because I wanted slightly more depth of field to show the landscape in focus. Also, note that if you click on images on my website, you can see the shooting data in the light box surrounding the images if you are interested.

I was happy with this next photo of a Lilac-breasted Roller bird in flight, until I saw a shot from one of my guests with the wings spread and a beautiful angle showing the top of the bird. Now I’m not so impressed with my own shot, but it’s great to see my guests get incredible work, and it always helps me to stay on my toes as well.

Lilac-Breasted Roller In Flight
Lilac-Breasted Roller In Flight

Again, I’m so impressed with the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, including with Extenders fitted, as it handles really well, and the image quality is out of this world. Being able to get out to 700mm with the 1.4X Extender is amazing, and I’ve gotten used to the fact that you can’t zoom out completely when you have an Extender fitted.

We don’t always need very long focal lengths, though. This beautiful, proud African elephant is pretty much filling the frame at 300mm. If I’m not mistaken, this is the one that shortly after this did a dummy charge at our vehicle as it walked in front of us. He wasn’t comfortable with the distance. He was so close that I’d switched to my iPhone to get some video, which I’ll include in the slideshow that I’m going to put together to showcase the trip after posting this concluding episode of my trip report series.

A Proud African Elephant
A Proud African Elephant

Next, we have a Journey of Giraffes, also shot relatively wide at only 223mm. I cropped this down to a panorama to emphasize the width of the group. We can tell from the pattern in their fur that these are Angolan Giraffe, and I also heard that the darker colored giraffe are the older animals.

A Journey of Giraffes
A Journey of Giraffes

We also saw a lot of scuffles and fighting between the zebra near the waterholes. I’m guessing that this is because the rains have provided more food, and that probably has the female zebra thinking more about having young and that in turn is making the males more likely to fight to find their pecking order within their groups. I returned with lots of shots of the zebra fighting and kicking each other, but this is probably my favorite. However, it is a somewhat brutal attack on the middle zebra, as we can see from the white of his eye as he receives a particularly hard blow from both sides of his neck.

Feuding Zebras
Feuding Zebras

The fiftieth and final image of this five-part series is an attempt at a panning shot. We saw some giraffe that had been frightened by something and started running from the waterhole, so I selected a slow shutter speed of 1/80 of a second and tried to pan with the giraffe to make the background a little blurry. I succeeded to a degree, and feel that probably with this number of animals and the distance to them, this is probably about as much as I can expect to succeed at relatively easily. Next time I think I’ll try around a 1/50 or a 1/40 of a second, as I do for my panning bird shots. Even though the success rate will be lower, if I can pull it off, it will give very beautiful results.

A Fast Journey of Giraffes
A Fast Journey of Giraffes

OK, so that’s about it for the images. We traveled back to Windhoek the following day, and before we all flew home, the group was kind enough to record a few comments for us, which I’ll add into the audio at this point.

<< PLEASE LISTEN TO THE AUDIO TO FIND OUT WHAT PEOPLE SAID >>

They were a wonderful group. Such a pleasure to travel with, and listening to them all again there made me feel as though we were still in Namibia four weeks ago, and in many ways, I wish we were. Life goes on here in Tokyo, though. Having thought about this often over the past six months, I’ve taken up archery since returning. I have joined a local club and enjoying it immensely. I don’t know how it will play into my photography, other than the fact that it’s getting me out and is more physical exercise than I expected it to be, but that is great because I’ve already started to lose a few pounds, so hopefully, this is something that I’ll be able to continue.

As I mentioned a few times during this series of trip reports, I will now set about the task of creating a slideshow to showcase the trip and what can be achieved on my tour. I hope to be able to share that with you in another week or so, alongside some tips on using the latest version of Boinx Software’s FotoMagico.


Show Notes

Check out our tours here: https://mbp.ac/tours

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Namibia Slideshow 4K Video (Podcast 522)

Namibia Slideshow 4K Video (Podcast 522)

This week I share a slideshow of photographs from my first two visits to Namibia with Jeremy Woodhouse, which contains around 80 photographs and a number of short videos to depict this beautiful land and her amazing people.

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This episode is a little late because I got caught up in creating the music for this slideshow. I got tired of fighting copyright claims for music that I have paid a license fee for, first with YouTube and now also on Vimeo, so I’m trying to create my own music when possible, but it’s time-consuming, and this one ran away with me for a few extra days.

Anyway, it’s ready now, in glorious 4K video, so grab a coffee, kick up your feet, and have a watch when you have 8 minutes to spare. The music still isn’t perfect, but it’ll have to do for now, as I’m out of time to work on it anymore. Don’t forget to click that little full-screen button either (the four little arrows pointing outwards, between HD and Vimeo below) to enjoy this in full resolution.

 

 

To build the slideshow I used Boinx Software’s FotoMagico 5 Pro, which has just been updated to version 5 and now fully supports 4K video, and I think this is probably the most stable new release of FotoMagico that I’ve used so far, so it was an absolute pleasure to work with. You can buy FotoMagico from the Boinx Software web site or the Apple App Store.

I’ll do a video on using FotoMagico 5 Pro either next week or shortly after, so stay tuned for that if you are interested. For now, I hope you enjoy the slideshow.

If you enjoy the photography and see yourself shooting in Namibia, I’m running a 17-day tour and workshop in Namibia in June 2017, and there are a few places left if you’d like to join us. Visit https://mbp.ac/namibia for details and to book your place.

Complete Namibia Tour 2017

 


Show Notes

Visit https://mbp.ac/namibia for details of my 2017 tour & workshop.

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Namibia 2013 Travelogue Part 5 (Podcast 376)

Namibia 2013 Travelogue Part 5 (Podcast 376)

Today we conclude what turned out to be a five part travelogue style account of my recent trip to Namibia. I’ve selected my last ten favorites to take a look at, and I’ll include a little background about my thought process while shooting. We pick up the trail on the evening of May 20 at Okonjima.

I think of all the accommodation we stayed at, the Kulala Desert Lodge and the last lodge at Okonjima were my favorites. Kulala was were we stayed when shooting the incredible red sand dunes and the Camel Thorn trees at Deadvlei, which we looked at in episode 373, part two of this series. It’s also where the staff sang to us every other night, which is the music I’ve been playing us in and out with for these episodes. The rooms at both lodges were incredible, the people were warm and welcoming, and the food was great. I could literally go back to either lodge and just spend a couple of weeks just hanging out, though that would be a bit of a waste with such great photography to be done on their doorsteps.

We’d driven a few hundred kilometers through the morning, and after settling into our rooms, we met our guide for the afternoon, who’s name was Previous! How cool is that!? Previous used a receiver to track the signal of a tracking device attached to some of the cheetahs in their reserve. The Okonjima reserve is actually the home of the AfriCat Foundation, which is involved in the research and rehabilitation of Namibia’s threatened wild cat population, which is why they have some of the cat’s tagged, but this does of course make it easier to find and photograph them.

Honestly though, the tagged cheetahs were very difficult to photograph in a position where the huge tracking device and collar was not spoiling the shot. As I shot this first image, their were three cheetahs sleeping on the ground not far behind me, but I gave up on waiting for the right moment in preference of getting a shot of this giraffe with the warm light of the sunset on its face and neck, and with the wildebeest in the background.

Giraffe & Wildebeest

Giraffe & Wildebeest

I ran this through Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro to bring out the texture a little, and this also gives the slightly out of focus background an almost primal feel, probably because I associate wildebeest with cave paintings, which I’ll talk about even more later, as we look at an image that almost is a cave painting. We went on to shoot the giraffe here against the setting sun, but I was a little underwhelmed with my resulting images. The sun was too harsh, and the silhouettes didn’t really work, but the memory was incredible. Previous kept telling us that no-one gets this close to the giraffes, and we were damned close. They were towering over us almost like dinosaurs, and the experience will stay with me forever.

Two Giraffes

Two Giraffes

Giraffe Pair

Giraffe Pair

A somewhat similar shot (above), here’s another photo looking back towards where the cheetah were, probably just out of the left of the frame here. I wanted to mention this shot more to talk about a technique that I often use when shooting with long lenses.

Here I was shooting with the 70-200mm lens with the 1.4X Extender fitted, and I’d pulled back as far as I could go, giving me a focal length of 98mm. The scene though was wider than I could zoom out, so I shot two photographs, and stitched them together in Photoshop. The result is a 16:9 aspect ration photo, so it will view perfectly on a widescreen display or TV. The thing to note here though is that even with wildlife, don’t rule out stitching images together if you don’t have the time to change lenses or remove an extender etc.

The next photo (right) is a closeup of two giraffe’s heads, which I thought worked better in sepia. The sun was down now, and the light so low that I had to increase the ISO to 3200 for this shot, at f/8. I needed to stay stopped down to f/8 so that the second giraffe was still acceptably sharp. You can see that it’s just starting to go soft, but it’s sharp enough for this to work, and it leaves no ambiguity as to which of the two giraffes is the main subject. Obviously the one that is looking straight at the camera is the star of the show here.

I shot this with my 300mm f/2.8 lens with the 1.4X Extender fitted. I was in wildlife shooting mode, so was using my Black Rapid Double Strap, with the 1D X and 300mm on one side, and the 5D Mark III with the 70-200mm on the other side. This makes switching lenses very easy, which broadens your shooting horizons in locations like this. With just one camera, I’d have lost shots while changing lenses here, without doubt.

That evening after dinner, we had the option to do a night game drive. I was totally whacked, but knew I’d regret not going, so I signed up for it. Straight out of the gate we saw this Spotted Eagle Owl. Initially he was in a different tree, with messier branches, but then he flew to a second tree, which is where I shot this. As you can see, we were shooting by the light from a spot light that the guide was shining on the animals. Because of this, the light would move around a lot, and we were also shooting at varying distances, so this was one of the rare occasions when I switched to Aperture Priority mode. When I use Aperture Priority I now also use Auto-ISO as this gives the camera more wiggle room. The ISO ended up at 16000 for this shot at f/4, but there is virtually no grain. Another tribute to the amazing technology we have these days.

Spotted Eagle Owl

Spotted Eagle Owl

The thing I don’t like about the automatic shooting modes is that I have to start to mess around with Exposure Compensation, and here I was down to -2 stops, because there was so much black in the frame, and I needed to stop the owl from being over-exposed, but because the light was changing as the driver wiggled the spot light around, I had to live with that. I left my White Balance on my default Daylight Preset, but then I changed this to Auto in Lightroom, and the results were quite neutral, so I went with that.

After the owl shot, we saw very little that would make a decent photograph, and we were out much later than we’d initially been told, so I was actually regretting going on this excursion, but then just before we started to head back, I got this shot of a heard of wildebeest as they ran to escape the spot light. There is a lot of subject movement here, but with the light shining in the wildebeest’s eyes, and the natural vignette, this is the photo that I mentioned earlier reminds me of a cave painting, so I quite like it.

Wildebeest Cave Painting

Wildebeest Cave Painting

With my fixation on sharpness, I sometimes have a hard job letting go, but I think this is one of those times that the artistic merit of the image is greater than the requirement for critical sharpness. I sometimes find this with panning shots too. I love to nail the sharpness on the head, but sometimes the slight softness can even add to the overall ethereal feel of the image, and therefore should never be ruled out without thinking of the artistic over technical accuracy.

The next day, we had another morning game drive, but the highlight of the day was late in the afternoon, when the guides took us to a corner of the reserve to photograph Wahoo, their old captive leopard. We were due to leave the following morning, and I get the distinct feeling that they’d kept this to the end of the last day, but that was OK. Wahoo was worth it.

We were lead into a hide with seats along a counter to rest our lenses on, and once we were all sat down and ready, the shutter was winched up, and almost like a circus peep show, Wahoo was released. After pausing for a second, he jumped up onto a strategically placed tree, to feast on the raw meat that had been placed on the branch on which we see him here. There were initially two pieces of meat, so as he ate the first, the second one just sitting there was so obviously just placed there, that I only shot a few frames until he’d finished the first bit. This shot was actually as he’d finished the second bit of meat and was considering jumping down.

Wahoo the Leopard [C]

Wahoo the Leopard [C]

Jeremy Woodhouse, the tour leader and I talked about this afterwards and we agreed that not only would one piece of meat have been better, it would be great if they could just stick an impala leg or something up there. Of course, that would take a long time to eat so may not be practical, but they are probably feeding him game anyway, so not that far-fetched an idea. Still, I like this shot. I had purposefully cropped in very tightly here, and you can also see how I placed the curvy branch along the bottom of the frame to anchor and frame the image.

I had a wider lens on my other camera, which I used for this next photo, where I pulled back a little, and included Wahoo’s tail. The sun had stopped shining directly on this beautiful leopard, so you can see the difference between the warm tones in the first image, and the cooler tones in this image. I adjusted my exposure accordingly, changing from f/5 for a 1/500 of a second at ISO 500, to f/5.6 for 1/320 of a second at ISO 1600.

Wahoo the Leopard [C]

Wahoo the Leopard [C]

Leopard Profile {C}

Leopard Profile {C}

I really just don’t think twice about increasing my ISO to this level any more, and as you’ve seen, even when you really push it now, there isn’t a lot to worry about, especially if you shoot to the right, with the data on the right side of the histogram, so that you record the image with the best use of the data distribution in the file. In a nutshell, more bits of data are allocated to the brighter end of the histogram, so the darker you allow the image to get, the more grain you’ll see.

Here’s one last shot of Wahoo before we move on. Once the blind was lifted, we were able to move around, so I’d been up and the hide a few times, and as Wahoo settled on the grass right in front of us, I kept him in the frame, capturing a few expressions, but my favorite by far is this profile, where we can see his deep head, beautiful facial markings and huge teeth, as he continued to chew on the last of the meat in his mouth.

If you are wondering about my ethical stance with regards to photographing captive animals, you might have already guessed that it doesn’t really both me at all, but that is based on the understanding that there is a good reason for the captivity. Wahoo is a rescued animal, and not able to fend for himself in the semi-wild larger enclosure at Okonjima. He has to be in this small enclosure, and so it would be a waste not to make him available for photography like this. One thing I like to do though, is mark images of captive animals with a {C} as you can see here.

After the Wahoo shoot, we went out to the vehicles, and the guides pulled out some cooler boxes, and made us drinks. Another one of those magical memories, I remember watching the sunset wrap the surrounding trees and distant hills with beautiful warm light as I sipped my deliciously over-strong gin and tonic.

The following day, the morning of May 22, was our last few hours of shooting before we had to start our drive to Windhoek airport and then fly back to Johannesburg to end the tour. Fighting the urge to just have a lie-in, we got up before sunrise one last time, and headed out for what would be really just a 90 minute shoot, hoping to see some cheetahs without the tracking devices around their necks.

Once again, I got the feeling that this had been held back until this last morning, but we were driven into a relatively small enclosure, where there were a number of young, un-collared cheetahs. They were relatively easy to find, here we see one of them just bathing in the warm sunrise light.

Sleepy Cheetah

Sleepy Cheetah

The light was still not that bright, so I was at ISO 800 for a 1/200 of a second exposure at f/8 for this shot. Within a few minutes, the color of the light had changed, and my exposure was set at 1/500 of a second at f/5.6, ISO 1000 for this last shot, which is literally the last image that I’ve chosen of the fifty that we’ve talked about over the last five episodes. There was just a few minutes left before we had to rush back to the lodge only to skip breakfast and shoot off to the airport.

Stalking Cheetah

Stalking Cheetah

The funny thing is though, a moment before this shot, a warthog decided it would be a good idea to go for a stroll through the grasses, and caught the cheetah’s attention. This was just as the cheetah saw the warthog, then in an instant he had two of them running after him at full sprint. Warthogs can move too of course, and although the trees soon obscured our view robbing us of the possibility of a shot, we saw that the warthog got away. I couldn’t help laughing though, wondering what must have gone through the warthog’s mind as he ran off. The poor guy looked like he was just going for a morning stroll when the chase started.

He must have wondered if he’d gotten out of the wrong side of his den as he found himself instinctively running for his life from two of the fastest predators on the planet. What’s even funnier is that we’d also seen warthog sneaking in to this relatively small compound through a hole they’d dug under the electric fence. It’s no wonder they’re one of the cheetahs favorite snacks if they are stupid enough to risk electrocution so that they can burrow into their arch enemy’s back yard.

Anyway, that’s it! That concludes what turned out to be a five part series covering my trip to Namibia. We’ve looked at fifty photos, and there are more in my portfolio here if you’d like to take a look at the full set.

Those of you that have followed me for a while may remember that when we found that pesky brain tumor exactly two years ago now, the first time I shed a tear was when I realized that I had not yet been to Africa. The fear of death was very real, but literally, the first thought that brought me to tears was the possibility of dying before I’d looked out across this beautiful land. The trip lived up to and surpassed everything I’d ever dreamed of with regards to Africa, so to finish, I’d like to thank my friend Jeremy Woodhouse from the bottom of my heart for making this possible. You rock Jeremy, and I can’t wait to work with you again.


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Show Notes

Martin’s 100 Namibia Impressions: https://martinbaileyphotography.com/portfolio/namibia/

Music used with kind permission from the staff of the Kulala Desert Lodge.


Audio

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