Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 4 (Podcast 581)

Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 4 (Podcast 581)

This week I’m going to share twelve wildlife images from the Etosha National Park with you, as we near the end of our Complete Namibia Tour Travelogue series.

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We pick up the trail on day eleven of this epic tour, as we arrive at our lodge. For the next two nights, we are in perhaps one of the best lodges in Namibia. I’ve just been able to secure two nights here for the 2018 tour, which I’m really happy about, as our initial plans only included one night here. As we arrived, one of my guests said “roughing it with Martin Bailey”, which I thought was really nice. Tongue-in-cheek of course, as the place and the staff really are super-special.

Lion with Nicked Ear

Lion with Nicked Ear

Etosha

This lodge is actually just outside one of the main gates into Etosha, and have their own private land on which they run safaris, and the entire group decided to take this optional drive some 40 minutes or so after we arrived. Within minutes of leaving the lodge, we had an encounter with a pride of lions, and we’ll kick off today with one of my favorite shots from this drive (right).

I shot this as the lions walked past our open safari vehicle. I was surprised at how little eye contact we had. Apparently, lions don’t really see a vehicle full of people, they just see a vehicle, unless you start jumping around and shouting of course, so they are pretty much oblivious to our presence.

In Capture One Pro I’ve taken brushed in a couple of layers to darken down what was a relatively busy background in along the right and top of this photo. It was out of focus, but much lighter, so I decided to take it down to almost black. 

This is something I often do with black and white images, but I liked the warm color in this image. It was the background I didn’t like, so I got rid of it.

I shot this with my Canon 100-400mm Mark II lens and the 1.4x Extender fitted, for a little extra reach. My focal length was 450mm. I set my aperture to f/9 for a reasonable depth of field, to get the head of these large animals in focus, but as you can see the body is starting to go out of focus here. My shutter speed was 1/640 of a second at ISO 800.

Black Rhino and Giraffe

When we got back to the lodge and went for dinner, there was four black rhino at the waterhole right in front of the lodge. It was already dark, and they were lit by a very orange flood light, so photographically it wasn’t brilliant, but as an experience it was amazing.

Later that night after around half of the guests had turned in, and a few of us were sitting by the fire having a drink, a giraffe ambled cautiously to the waterhole. We were all in awe of this huge animal, as it kept looking around for predators, and after a number of aborted attempts was finally able to gingerly spread its front legs, to get its neck down low enough to take a drink.

Etosha Waterholes

The following morning, we got up bright and early and after a lovely breakfast on the raised deck overlooking the waterhole, and a Brown Hyena taking a drink, we headed out for our first drive into the Etosha National Park. The first waterhole that we visited had a large number of zebra hanging around, and one shot from there that I like was this one, with a bit of a scuffle between two of them (below).

Scuffle

Scuffle

I haven’t done anything to this in post, except adding +15 on the Clarity slider. Although I sometimes work portrait style wildlife photos a bit, like the previous image, most of the time I don’t do much to them. Probably the thing I do the most is to clean out droppings with the heal tool, but I didn’t do that here either. My settings for this were an aperture of f/10, again at 1/640 of a second, this time at ISO 400, with a focal length of 490mm. 

Lens Choice

If you recall that I own a Canon 200-400mm lens with the 1.4X Extender built in, you might be wondering why I didn’t take it on this trip. Although it would have been nice to have in Etosha, the 100-400mm lens alone gave me enough focal length some of the time, and when I needed the extra reach, the 1.4X Extender still works very well to take me out to 580mm when necessary. This, of course, is the same focal length that the 200-400mm gets me to with the Extender engaged.

The benefits of the 200-400mm are that I can engage the Extender with a flick of a switch, rather than taking the lens off, and then fitting the extender. I didn’t get any problems with dust from doing this though, and there weren’t really any times when I lost shots either, so it was a good decision. Of course, I only get autofocus with the center focus point, because the aperture is forced down to f/8, as opposed to f/5.6 with full auto-focus on the 200-400mm. I actually really like being able to easily pull back to between 100 and 200mm with the 100-400mm lens too, which, of course, could not do with the 200-400mm. 

The main consideration though was weight. I was able to travel with an 18L camera back with space inside for a few other things as well as my two 5Ds R bodies with battery grips, my 11-24mm lens, my 24-105mm lens and my 100-400mm lens. I would have only really used the 200-400mm for the last four days in Etosha, so it really didn’t make much sense carting it around Namibia for the first two weeks just for this. I’m jumping the gun a little by talking about this now, but even after the next three full days of wildlife shooting, I still didn’t regret my decision.

The Second Waterhole

We drove on to the second waterhole which was in a small resort village in the park, so we were able to get out of our safari vehicles and stand behind a wall to photograph the animals. As we approached the waterhole, it was amazing to see so many different species of animals. To capture this I actually shot a number of video clips with my iPhone, and I’ll probably drop some of that footage into a slideshow at some point. Artistically wider angle still photographs didn’t really do it justice. Here’s a photo of a couple of groups of zebras drinking (below). 

Zebras at the Waterhole

Zebras at the Waterhole

The framing can be a bit tricky when there are so many animals. If you go a little wider, you get a springbok in the foreground start to creep into the frame. It’s also sometimes difficult to cut off the back of the foreground zebra here, but if I was to pull back and include the back legs, the composition breaks down. 

If you look at the top right you’ll see that I framed this to just include the head of that right-most zebra, and to the left, obviously, I didn’t want to crop off the head of that left-most zebra either. With the restrictions in place due to the various elements though, I’m relatively happy with the results. I shot this at 560mm, with an aperture of f/11 at ISO 400 for a 1/640 of a second shutter speed.

Run!

Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the animals at the waterhole get panicked and run away. Drinking at a waterhole make these animals very vulnerable to predators, so it probably only takes one twitch in another animal for the reflex escape routine to kick in, as you can see in this photo (below).

Zebras Fleeing Waterhole

Zebras Fleeing Waterhole

It’s more difficult to compose to get the animals cut off at good places when they are all running like this, so I was just trying to be conscious of the heads of the rightmost zebras in this shot. The left-hand side worked out OK, and this is uncropped, so I’m pretty happy with that.

My settings were f/14 for a deeper depth of field to get more animals sharp, but that setting was for static animals drinking, so I’d left my ISO at 400 and dropped my shutter speed to 1/500 of a second. If I’d prepared for this, I’d probably have gone to ISO 800 for a 1/1000 of a second shutter speed, but there are only a few of the zebra that have a little motion blur, and I think that adds to the action, so it wasn’t a huge mistake.

We spent a couple of hours at this second waterhole, and I have photos of Wildebeest, Kudu, Springbok, and Impala etc. as I’m trying to complete this series in five episodes, we’ll move on for now.

Dreamy Zebra

The next image (below) was one of those moments that I shot instinctively. We saw these zebras in the brush, stopped our vehicle and as the young zebra turned its head to look at us, I raised the camera and shot without a lot of thought. Of course, my autopilot was on, so I composed quickly as best as I could, but there was so much in the way, if I’d have stopped to think about this, it wouldn’t have happened.

Zebra Through Long Grass

Zebra Through Long Grass

That look though is all that it took for me to want this image, despite the fact that there is grass over the zebra’s nose and all the twigs in the foreground. I probably zoomed to get this framing without consciously thinking much about it too. This has become one of my favorite shots from the trip though and has been set as my computer’s and iPhone background image since getting home. My settings were f/11 at ISO 400 for a 1/400 of a second at 490mm.

Zebra Brethren

The same goes for this following image as well (below). It was a very quick moment, and I had to ignore some foreground elements to grab the shot while both of these young zebras had their heads in almost exactly the same position. 

Two Juvenile Zebras

Two Juvenile Zebras

I keep zooming in on the image in Capture One Pro and looking at those velvet muzzles, and I just want to cup my hands around them and scrunch them up with my fingers. You know that feeling where you want to squeeze a kitten because they’re so cute? That’s how I feel when I look at this shot. My settings for this were f/11 at ISO 400 for a shutter speed of 1/640 of a second at 560mm.

Not All Zebra Shots

We photographed a lot of zebras, as you may have guessed, but there were, of course, many other species of animals. Here is a female Ostrich (below) that allowed us to get close enough to almost fill the frame at 560mm. Most of the time when we pulled up to photograph Ostrich they would all just run until they reach their safety zone. This one was a little less nervous and posed for us for a while.

Female Ostrich

Female Ostrich

I have another shot with the sole of her foot showing, which is pretty fun to explore visually, but as a photo, this one is a little prettier. With the sun in a position that sometimes threw this side of her face into shadow, I picked my moments when there was a bit of a catchlight in her eye, as that always makes the animal look more alive. I shot this at f/10, ISO 400 for a 1/500 of a second.

Young Springbok

You aren’t allowed to go off road or get out of your vehicle in the Etosha National Park so the angle of the sun and the position from which we can shoot is sometimes a little restricted, but I still found myself with hundreds of shots that I simply couldn’t remove as I whittled down my final selection. This young Springbok (below) was one of these.

Juvenile Springbok in Long Grass

Juvenile Springbok in Long Grass

I was at the full reach of my 100-400mm lens with the 1.4X extender on, but that was fine. I was attracted to this because of that beautiful dry grass, and I wanted to show the Springbok surrounded by it. I was also attracted to this particular animal because of the tiny little horns that are just starting to develop. I would have loved it if the sun was a little bit further in front, with a catchlight in both eyes, but that’s OK. My settings for this image were the same as the last one.

Lion Pride

Shortly after this, we were photographing some zebras again, surprise, surprise, when we got a radio call from the other car, and they’d come across a pride of lions that had just brought down a zebra, so we drove on a little way more to photograph that. Needless to say, we have a whole bunch of images just of this group feeding, but I chose this one to show you as many of the lions are standing up and we can see their faces.

Lions Eating a Zebra

Lions Eating a Zebra

It’s a bit gory to see the blood on their faces, particularly the male to the right, but this is nature. It’s the raw truth about what these animals do to stay alive. We photographed them for quite some time and saw some beautiful moments as a lioness licked the blood from the face of a male. It might seem strange to call that beautiful, but there was an unmistakable sensuality about it. I’ve seen lions feed before, and it also always strikes me when from time to time you can actually hear them purring.

Zebra Crossing – Sorry!

As we drove away from the lions, I couldn’t resist raising my camera and shooting this image (below) through the windshield of our safari vehicle. I know it’s cliche but it’s not every day you get to take a photograph of a zebra crossing, right?

Zebra Crossing

Zebra Crossing

I cloned out some zebra dung from the road, and straightened the horizon a little, as I was shaking around when I shot this, but I was happy that this turned out OK. I like the fact that the road winds off into the distance behind the zebra and that there is a car driving along kicking up a little bit of dust. My settings for this were f/14 for a 1/400 of a second at ISO 640, and a focal length of 230mm.

Filled My SanDisk SSD!

That was the last shot from our first full day in Etosha. I shot almost 2,000 frames on this first day of full on wildlife. That’s almost as many as I’d shot for all of the first eleven days of the tour. Because of this, I actually started to fill my SanDisk Extreme 900 portable SSD drive that I was hoping to store all of my 2017 work on, in addition to my final select images. You can see more about my setup and strategy in Episode 570, “The Mobile Photographer’s Image Management Strategy“. 

If I’d have continued to shoot at the same pace, I’d have filled the drive by the end of the following day, but luckily that didn’t happen. I actually shot just under 1,000 photos per day for the next two full days in the park, and with just a few images from our final day as we drove out of the park, I went home with about 3GB of space on the 1.92TB drive. 

With my Morocco Tour coming up at the end of October, and of course all of the other shooting for the rest of the year to put on this drive, I ended up buying a second drive the same as the first, and I’ve now moved my Finals folders and catalog to that. I should now fit all of 2017 on the first of these drives, and the second will last me many years as only my final selects from each year will be added to the second SSD.

Two of the Big Five in 40 Mins!

That’s not to say that the following two days were uneventful though. The reason we shot less was that the waterhole we’d shot so much at on the first day in Etosha wasn’t as lively when we swung by on the second day. That was because we were a little later than the first day because we literally had two of the African Big Five game animals and a giraffe to photograph in the first 40 minutes of entering the park. 

One was a Black Rhino, although he was quite a distance away, so we’ll look at another Rhino which was closer next week. Here though is a shot from a beautiful encounter with an Elephant, as he walked alongside our vehicle for quite a way before crossing the road and disappearing into the bush. 

Elephant in Long Grass

Elephant in Long Grass

This was a beautiful animal, and an absolute thrill to photograph. After getting a lot of still photos that I knew I would be happy with, I grabbed my iPhone Plus, and with the zoom feature, I was able to shoot some slow motion video of him walking that is absolutely amazing, even though I say it myself. The slow motion feature really lends itself to large animals walking, and the zoom on the iPhone Plus meant that he wasn’t much smaller in the frame that you see here. I shot this at f/13 for a 1/500 of a second at ISO 500, with a focal length of 263mm.

Weary Lions

On this day, we were shooting while driving through the park to get to a new lodge over by the salt-plains, where we’d spend the next two nights. On our way, we came across a pride of lions that weren’t anywhere near as healthy as the group we’d seen the previous day that had taken down a zebra. The large male that you can see standing in this photo (below) was scarred and thin. The three young males sitting down here were a little bit better, but not much.

Weary Lions

Weary Lions

The single female in the pride was sitting on top of a small hill to the left of this scene, probably looking out for some prey, but from the look of her, she was probably living on small mammals or large birds, which she would not be sharing with the males. None of the five lions in this group looked like they had the strength to bring down a zebra. My settings for this shot were f/11 for a 1/500 of a second at ISO 400, 560mm.

We’ll wrap it up there for today, and pick up the trail next week with a few more images of this pride of lions before a variety of species and some more elephant shots to round off this series next week.

Complete Namibia Tour 2018

If you might like to join me in Namibia on my 2018 tour, please do check out the details and you can book from the tour page at https://mbp.ac/namibia. For another culturally rich tour, you might also consider my Morocco trip from the end of October 2017, which you can find at https://mbp.ac/morocco. We now need just one more person to sign-up to make this trip a go.

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2018

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2018


Show Notes

Check out details of my 2018 Namibia Tour here: https://mbp.ac/namibia

And my Morocco Tour details can be found here: https://mbp.ac/morocco

Music by Martin Bailey


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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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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.


Namibia 2013 Travelogue Part 3 (Podcast 374)

Namibia 2013 Travelogue Part 3 (Podcast 374)

Continuing our travelogue style account of my recent trip to Namibia, I’ve selected the next ten favorites to take a look at today, and I’ll include a little background and my thought process while shooting. We pick up the trail on the morning of May 14, as we started to drive away from the Sossusvlei area.

As we crossed the riverbed, dry from lack of rain this year, the sun was almost on the horizon, and we stopped for one last sunrise in this beautiful area. If you follow my work, you’ll know that I’m not much of a sunrise person. Not because they’re early, I’m usually out and about while it’s still dark when on tours like this, but they just don’t do a lot for me unless there is something of interest that I can put in the foreground, and for this shot, I really liked the silhouette of this large tree by the river.

Balloon Sunrise

Balloon Sunrise

As I adjusted my composition, placing the sun in the space there on the left, framed by the branches of the tree, I noticed the balloon in the distance, probably the same balloon that I was due to be riding in the previous morning, before I changed my plans to go back to Deadvlei. I gave the balloon a second or two to be in a nice position framed by the trees to the right, then shot a few more frames, of which this is my favorite.

In my normal life, I am not up before dawn, and when long evening meals keep me out of my bed for longer than I’d usually like, I often don’t relish the thought of getting up at 4am or whatever while traveling either, but once I’m up, and when I look back on the fruits of a tour like this, I am always happy and feel fortunate to have watched the sun rise as we do. There’s something very special about watching a day start, and then using every hour to the full, until the sun goes down again.

A note on exposure before we move on, when shooting the sun, at sunrise or sunset, I generally expose so that the sun’s disk is just over-exposed but the area around it is not. The sun is so bright that if you adjust your exposure to the point that the sun is also well exposed, it looks a little unnatural. We can’t look directly at the sun with our naked eyes, without damaging them that is, so for a silhouette like this, I think overexposing the sun a little is fine. If I needed foreground detail, I might consider an HDR, but that doesn’t really appeal to me either. When I’m looking into a sun like this, I am just not able to study all the foreground detail without shielding my eyes from the sun, so I leave my photos like that too.

Another thing to note is that I generally use Live View too, rather than looking through the viewfinder. The sun is magnified through the lens, and can seriously damage your eyes if you look at it directly, so although I’ve done this, and will glance quickly if necessary, it’s always best to use Live View, to protect your eyes, and using Live View helps with composition etc. anyway, so it’s always nice to use.

A few hours into our long drive to Cape Cross on the Skeleton Coast, we saw a small group of Springbok at the side of the road, and as we stopped our car, one of them started to pronk, which is when they jump and hang in the air for a while. They do this in self-defense when they feel threatened apparently, so they’re usually running away from you when the do it, but I was happy to catch this springbok in the center of the frame here at full pronk.

Springbok at Full Pronk

Springbok at Full Pronk

Luckily I’d already got my 300mm lens with the 1.4X Extender fitted and ready, and I’d also been setting exposure so that when something like this happened, I’d be ready, so although this was a split second shot, I was ready for it, and it worked out.

After a long drive, as we passed through the town of Walvis Bay, we had a brief stop at a flamingo colony. I put the 2X Extender on the 300mm, and jumped straight into bird photographer mode. I was desperate to get something that I liked in the short time we had, and was happy to see that there were a lot of small groups of flamingo flying in and out of the area.

Flamingo Flyby

Flamingo Flyby

In this shot, I captured two of them as they flew right in front of me with the flock in the background, which I thought was quite effective. I also got a few others in small groups against the white overcast sky, which are OK, but this is by far my favorite. There was actually a third flamingo just coming into the frame at the bottom, but he was too close to include fully, so I cropped this to a 16:9 aspect ratio to get rid of him.

We still had some ground to cover though, so it was back to the cars, and we made our way, stopping just once more in the last few minutes of light to capture this shipwreck, maybe 40km outside of Cape Cross. I love doing long exposures of the sea, and it always works well if you have a static object to anchor the image visually, like this.

Shipwreck

Shipwreck

This was shot with the 70-200mm at 115mm, f/11 for a 60 second exposure. Because my Canon cameras only go to 30 seconds in Manual, I switched to Bulb mode and used my Remote Time cable release to time the 60 seconds. Because I usually work in Live View for landscape and still life shots, I often use the 2 second timer instead of mirror lockup, because you’re basically in mirror lockup anyway when using Live View, so I generally just set my remote timer to two seconds longer than I need the exposure. Here it was at 62 seconds, giving me the 60 second exposure I needed. Of course I use the two seconds to get my hands away from the camera, to allow any camera shake that I might introduce die down before the exposure starts.

Note too that here I left the edge of the shoreline along the bottom of the frame, to anchor the image. It might have worked without this, but I think it adds to the story to let the viewer see that this ship is aground not far from the shore. I did a couple of other shots straight after this, but the light faded so fast that the following shots, even doubling the exposure, really weren’t as nice as the first, so this is the one I went with.

The following morning, we spent a few hours at the seal colony at Cape Cross, but although I included a couple of seal portraits in my final selection of images, they didn’t do much for me, especially compared to the seals I’ve shot in Antarctica, so we’ll skip them today. By the afternoon, we’d made our way to northern Damaraland and to the Palmwag Lodge, where we’d spend three nights, and get to visit the Himba people, which was one of the highlights of the tour.

More to show you the terrain than the wildlife, this shot of a small group of zebras shows the basalt rock that evenly covered pretty much all of the open ground in this area. We’d do game drives out here a number of times, and sometimes we’d see zebra and oryx running on this stuff, which never failed to amaze me.

Zebras and Euphorbia Bush

Zebras and Euphorbia Bush

Something else to note here is that the Euphorbia bush that we see behind the zebra here is apparently quite poisonous. The sap causes blisters on contact with the skin, and if it gets into your nervous system can kill you, so whenever we drove close enough for this stuff to brush against the side of the car, and possibly rupture, we closed the windows. It’s one of the favorite foods of the Rhino though. Apparently are able to digest the poison without any problems.

There were a few shots that I would have loved to get on this trip, including a closeup of an ostrich, which never happened, despite us seeing many of them. The other was a pair of zebra close enough to just get an almost abstract shot of their black and white stripes, but with their being no waterholes due to the lack of rain this year, the animals were usually just grazing, and never preoccupied enough to stop them from running away as soon as they saw us.

Curious Zebra

Curious Zebra

One of the few times when a zebra did take more than a few seconds to bolt off, was this one that regarded our vehicle for a while, before turning around and walking down behind the hill on which he was standing. This was from the following morning, May 16, and I actually quite like this, with the zebra in the shade, but with the background in full sun, providing a nice bright backdrop, but without the harsh light hitting the main subject.

This was also shot with the 300mm f/2.8 and the 2X Extender. If you are wondering about image quality with this combination, I can tell you that it works great with the 1D X, but not so good with the 5D Mark III, because the 5D is higher resolution, and basically out-resolves the glass. Lenses, or lens and extender combinations can only resolve light down to a finite point, often called the circle of confusion, and if the size of that point of light is the same or smaller than the size of the pixels or photodiodes on the sensor, the image will be sharp. If that point of light is larger than the photodiodes, which it is on the 5D Mark III, the image starts to look soft because the light spills over into the surrounding pixels. For this reason, whenever I needed to use the 300mm with the 2X Extender, I made sure I used it with the 1D X instead of the 5D.

We’d been tracking Lions that we wouldn’t see, but later that morning, as we were about as far as we could go before we had to go back to the lodge for lunch, we came across a large group of Chacma Baboons. They were on the other side of a gorge, which provided enough distance and security that a few of them came over to the edge and just sat looking at us, like this one, in an incredibly human pose.

Sitting Chacma Baboon

Sitting Chacma Baboon

I never cease to be amazed at how much like us monkeys are, and this is no exception. He just walked up, and sat down almost like he was about to have a cigarette, or even pull out a cell phone and start to call a friend or check his email. The light was harsh at this point, shortly after 11am, so I used the adjustment brush in Lightroom to just brush in an extra two stops of Exposure around the eyes here. Otherwise they would just be dark pits, and you couldn’t see the eyes at all.

Because I shoot to the right though, meaning that the data in the histogram is almost touching the right shoulder, I can increase by around two stops without introduce any grain. Had I exposed this according to the camera’s meter, it would have been much darker and I’d have gotten a lot of grain around the eyes as I tried to brighten them. I may not have even been able to brighten them if the dark detail was totally lost in the shadows.

As we got close to the lodge on the way back for lunch, we found some elephant droppings and tracked them to an elephant eating some fresh grass just behind our lodge. We got really close, but he was so busy eating that he just didn’t look up enough for us to get a decent photo. Then, after lunch, I was amazed to find a second elephant feeding and drinking at the waterhole right behind my room at the lodge, as we can see in this photo.

Elephant at Waterhole

Elephant at Waterhole

This was still shot at 420mm, the 300mm with a 1.4X extender fitted, but he was close enough for me to have to walk back a few paces to get him in the frame like this. In hind-sight, I wish I’d take the extender off, and show him in his environment a little more, as it was a beautiful waterhole. Sometimes the surrounds are as important as the subject, but when confronted with a beautiful animal like this, it’s difficult to pull back. I learned from this though, and fixed it later in the trip. Of course, sometimes I love to get in really close too, and just fill the frame with a part of the animal, but I didn’t have the lens power to do that on this trip.

I had wanted to avoid making sepia toned images on this trip, because I didn’t want to appear to be copying the beautiful work of Nick Brandt, which I of course don’t even come close to, but as much as I tried to like the straight black and white shots of elephants that I was processing, I just couldn’t live with them. I found the dull coloring of elephants was easily outshone by bright greenery around them, so wanted to convert to monotone, but I ended up giving in and working in sepia for all but one of my elephant shots and a couple of black rhino shots that we’ll look at probably next week or the week after. I only left one elephant shot in color, because it felt better than monotone.

Another incredible animal that I’d see in the flesh for the first time on this day was the Giraffe. We’d see more, and get really close to some of them later in the trip, but my first view of a giraffe in the wild was magical. It almost felt like the scene in Jurassic Park as brontosaurus and other dinosaurs roamed across a plain. These animals are mostly really composed, and walk so slowly and deliberately, towering over much of the vegetation, that the hair on the back of my head stood up as I framed and photographed this beautiful animal.

Giraffe Profile

Giraffe Profile

I’d get more giraffe shots as I say, but this is one of my favorites, as it gives a bit of a sense of scale, and also shows the surroundings. I was conscious not to crop that tree in the top right too, as I felt that needed to be there to balance the top part of the image. It would have felt awkward if that was cropped partway. It’s often difficult when faced with something as magnificent as this though. Like with the last elephant shot, it’s all too easy to just get caught up in the excitement of the moment, and forget about composition etc. but allowing that to happen all the time would leave you with nothing to show, despite all of your amazing experiences. I had to pinch myself many times on this trip, especially now we were seeing more wildlife.

Himba Children

Himba Children

On the morning of May 17 though, we’d break from the wildlife, for a highly cultural experience as we visited the Himba people. To close with though, here is a taste of that visit, with one of my first shots of some small children in the village.

We arrived shortly after dawn, and started to break off into small groups, to pose and work with the people of the village. Some shots were more posed than others, and although I’d rounded a few kids up for this one, the really small children couldn’t really be controlled, so I started to shoot what I could as they walked around.

As you can see in their eyes, this small one was a little bit bewildered, and couldn’t quite figure out what was going on, but the larger child was having a bit of fun with it. I just love this little one’s beautiful big eyes though, which as you might expect, contain the reflection of a large daunting photographer and the blue sky behind him.

In the most part, we had the subjects to move into the shade, because even at 7:30am, the sunlight was already very harsh and contrasty. I used my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for the whole morning, and really did have a wonderful time with these people.

We’ll look at more photos next week, as I try to wrap this up with the last ten shots, although it might run into a five part series, because there’s still a lot to show you. Remember though, I do have my favorite Impressions of Namibia posted on my Portfolios web site, if you’d like to take a look at that rather than waiting for the last episode or two.


Show Notes

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

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


Audio
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