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Nothern Namibia - Etosha and beyond, a photographers tale

Namibia ETosha Hoanib River Grootberg Lodge Khowarib Erindi wildlife photography

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#21 Game Warden

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Posted 13 December 2016 - 09:04 AM

@buddy4344 I love the shot of the leopard underneath the directions marker. Not your usual leopard photo.

 

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#22 xelas

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Posted 13 December 2016 - 02:20 PM

@buddy4344

 

What a find! I can only hope that this indeed is a regular hanging spot for that leopard ... about 100 days to check it for myself  :) ! The food is really caffeteria style ... although we have always skipped the lunch part, driving back to the lodge was just not an option.



#23 wilddog

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Posted 13 December 2016 - 05:53 PM

Lovely trip report with so many superb images. The white elephants, the kori bustard in front of the giraffes and that Springbok portrait - just perfect.

 

Thanks for the TR so far.................................



#24 buddy4344

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Posted 15 December 2016 - 02:11 PM

One more image from the morning.  I thought I would share one 'close up' of the big male.  As you can see, the heat and distance made this shot less appealing than the wider image.

Namibia-5406-Edit.jpg

 


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#25 buddy4344

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Posted 15 December 2016 - 02:57 PM

The morning had been quite productive, but we still had not seen what many feel is one of the better viewing holes, Salvadora, with wildlife, so we headed back in that direction.  Just as we arrived there was one vehicle leaving.  The driver pointed downward, just over the hillside from the car park then drove away.  There she was, a lioness getting up. Unfortunately, she was merely getting up to re-position herself and really didn't give us any memorable shots. We did not locate any others of her pride, so we sat with her for awhile; however, clearly, she was waiting for the heat to die down as sunset before she had any action plans.

 

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We moved onward to the nearby tree which had been a background tree in many of our zebra shots.  It had a lovely shape, so we felt it deserved its own landscape treatment. The sky was rather bland except for a few puffy clouds so I attempted to also feature them in the shot.

 

 

Namibia-3450-Edit.jpg

 

In the nearby field were also wildebeest.  My car mate had never photographed wildebeest and the light was pretty good, so that was the next subject. Personally, I’ve never taken an interesting photo of a wildebeest.  I’m sure if they were running or jumping into the Mara River, they are quite a site, but grazing, they just look like black blobs.  To make shooting even more challenging, their eye is dark against a dark hide, so the face really is lost in the images.  Anyway, here was my attempt. At least I chose a moment with the head up.

 

Namibia-3472-Edit.jpg

 

Boring shots like this is why I really don't get excited about going to see the wildebeest migration for the wildebeest.  Yes, I know there are thousands and a crossing is amazing, but my trips to the east would be more for the predators which follow the migration ... but I digress.

 

Moving onward, we came across one of many jackals you will see at Etosha.  This one seemed a little bolder and the scruffy hair made it worth the moment to take a few shots.

 

Namibia-3519-Edit.jpg

 

The sun was beginning to get low so we headed back toward the lodge. Along the way, we spotted a lot of springbok where we didn't stop.  This is a shame.  I came home with so few springbok shots mainly because they were so common and frequent.  I’ve noted the same bland attitude regarding shooting impala or maybe warthogs when in parks near the Kruger. 

 

·         Photo tip #1: Take the time to get great, respectful shots of these animals also! When you get back home, and your looking out your back window as some small brown bird, you will wish you had a herd of springbok to photo. You are in a special place. Use it!

·         Photo trip # 2: Upon editing, those springbok and impala photos are favorites of many who see my wildlife shots.  I think it is because the average person living in America or Europe can relate since they do see deer in their homelands.

 

We did stop to photograph some giraffe.  I don’t think we stopped for these shots because they are special giraffe, but because we were amazed that such a large animal can exist on such barren vegetation.  These plants barely had leaves!

 

Namibia-3552-Edit.jpg

 

Back at the Halali Lodge, we grabbed our gear and once more headed to the Moringa waterhole. I didn’t shoot as much this night as I had learned from the prior night that really high ISO was needed to freeze the action and the light color was horrible.  I did shoot some, but let me tell you the stories!

Envision the water hole right in front of you. Beyond the waterhole at 2 o’clock position and on the edge of the bush is the carcass of a dead giraffe.  I suspect this was placed in position by park rangers. One can see numerous lions around the giraffe.  The lions are pretty full, so they come and go to the water to drink.

 

First out from the 4 o’clock position is a black rhino and calf of less than 2 years old. They give the lions a look, which backs off the lions just a little, and begin to drink.  In comes 2 much larger black rhino from about 5 o’clock. They go straight to the waterhole and begin to drink.  This doesn’t seem to satisfy Momma Rhino number 1, so she comes over to the two and challenges them with a guttural bellow that shocked all viewers. There is a face to face stare down. The two big rhinos yield, so Momma starts to chase them.  As she leaves her baby, the lions approach the baby with curiosity. Momma turns and give chase to the lions as the other rhino wanders off in the 8 o’;clock direction.  While Momma is handling the lions, a few hyena emerge from the bush at the 10 o’clock position and head to the water.  The lions, seeing they were having no luck with the baby rhino, break into an all out sprint to chase the hyena. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, the baby rhino gets bored, lays down and takes a nap. In the distant bush for the next 30 minutes we can see the glowing eyes of the hyena and hear their ‘laugh’, but status quo has returned to the water hole as the lions are back on the giraffe carcass and just drinking and momma and baby go back to drinking. 

 

Namibia-3809-Edit.jpg

 

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bardawil-407-4-2.jpg

 

 

But wait, the lions clear out in a panic again! The rhino also look nervous and head into the bush.  What’s up?  Nothing more than a herd of about 30 thirsty elephants.  They crash into the scene from the 12 o’clock position and surround the water hole.  They drink, bath, throw mud and, after about 15 minutes, leave in the 7 o’clock direction.

 

This was all ‘high drama for us’, but reflecting on the sleepy young rhino’s reaction, this is just another day in the bush for the wildlife of Etosha.  Man leads such a boring life.

While this would have been great photo chances in good light, I didn’t shoot much that night primarily because on this occasion, I was perfectly happy to watch the stories unfold.  Another magical night at Halali.

 

We head off to bed, eager for the next Etosha sunrise.

 

 

 


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#26 xelas

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Posted 15 December 2016 - 04:34 PM

@buddy4344

 

Not only Moringa, also other flood-lighted waterholes are a photographer's nightmare. I think when pros are there, they manage to turn off the flood light and use their heavy spotlights and flashguns. Yet your b&w photo is fantastic, and also the colour ones does not show the dreaded impact of floodlight I am seeing on our photos. Good work!

 

Now, what was the "another day at the office" for animals was a "Award Of The Year" for You! Just being there and absorbing the events as they unfold ... priceless! 


Edited by xelas, 15 December 2016 - 04:34 PM.

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#27 offshorebirder

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Posted 15 December 2016 - 06:38 PM

@buddy4344 - I love the Pied Crow sitting on driftwood photos in post #18!


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#28 pault

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Posted 16 December 2016 - 05:53 AM

Great stories from the waterhole .... and your friend''s under the signpost shot. Excellent updates with more lovely photos.

 

Why do you think the park authoriities placed the giraffe carcass? And do you mean they moved it a short distance or that they actually imported it from somewhere? Sorry for picking on the weird stuff again - it just stands out because it seems unusual - everything else is much more wonderful and interesting, but relatively "usual"..


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Waiting again... for the next time again


#29 buddy4344

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Posted 16 December 2016 - 12:09 PM

Why do you think the park authoriities placed the giraffe carcass? And do you mean they moved it a short distance or that they actually imported it from somewhere? Sorry for picking on the weird stuff again - it just stands out because it seems unusual - everything else is much more wonderful and interesting, but relatively "usual"..

 

@pault, Thanks for asking. I've been on safari many times and I know of kills that conveniently occurred right next to the lodge, however, I've also known of cases where rangers have re positioned carcasses to allow better experience for guests. On this trip, two different times dead prey animals 'just happened to be next to the lodge waterholes'. This could totally be coincidence. In this case, the young giraffe was in a location that was perfect in that it attracted predators, but wasn't at a place where spectators were forced to see too much gore. It could have been luck, I'm just suspicious.


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#30 Peter Connan

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 03:35 AM

These last waterhole photos are fantastic given the difficulty.

I would appreciate any tips, as i will be trying this for the first time in April.
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Ek oefen skelm.

#31 Antee

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 05:09 AM

Fantastic pictures and a great report! 
Really need to get my ass back to Etosha one day. 


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#32 buddy4344

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 03:51 PM

@Peter Connan, a couple of tips from my limited experience. 

  • Tripod is a must
  • Cable release is needed to miminize camera shake, but you can also use the camera timer or wireless cable release
  • Expect to shoot high ISO (from 1600 up to 6400, but 3200 to 5000 seemed common for us). 
  • Keep bumping up ISO until you can get AT LEAST 1/15 sec and preferable 1/30 sec or faster.  For drinking rhino, etc. 1/15 was okay if you have good technique.  For lions, you need faster as their tongue is lapping up water and the head seems to often lift up to look around. I'd say 1/30 is minimum on them.
  • Make sure lens image stabilization is OFF.  This setting when on will 'fight' the tripod and long shutter speeds.
  • As soon as you get set up, shoot a photo of something you think is medium gray (a rock, a rhino, etc) and something you think is really black. This can be very deep shadow of animal or similar. If you see something that would be white in daylight, even better, but that's a challenge. This will allow you to color adjust better when you get home.
  • I liked shooting in the 'live view' mode on my back screen.  that way I could zoom in on an area to see that focus was looking sharp. If not sharp, switch the lens to manual and focus, then shoot. My camera focused okay, but some folks had challenges.
  • If your camera has 'highlight alert' option for the review screen, make sure this is enables to look for 'blinkies' of over exposed areas of image.
  • Check the histogram on back screen to make sure you are not overexposing any whites and to try and get the curve as for right as possible.
  • Get Lucky

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#33 buddy4344

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 05:10 PM

From Halali to Okaukuejo

 

As noted, we really enjoyed the Goas waterhole on the previous day, so for this morning, we decided to start with a return to that waterhole. About a kilometer before we got to the waterhole, we saw dust flying to our left.  We slammed to a quick stop and pulled out the cameras.  A couple of zebra were not getting along together very well.  There was kicking and biting.  Great action to watch and photograph.  Several got ‘great shots’.  I got a few shots worth keeping, but they were a little far away for my lens.

 

Namibia-4003-Edit.jpg

 

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Moving along, we got to Goas and, as yesterday, there were plenty of zebra at the waterhole. I shot for a few minutes.

 

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I then remembered I had brought along on the trip a 6-stop neutral density filter. Getting long shutter times in daylight is usually a challenge and this would decrease light to the sensor and allow those longer shutter speeds.  My plan coming to Etosha was that I wanted some longer exposure shots of animals at waterholes with the hope one or two animals would remain motionless, while other animals moved around, creating a mix of motion and static animals. Than plan worked fairly well, however, I had not considered a few factors: I was in a vehicle with another person and I was on a beanbag with a super-telephoto lens. Any motion by my fellow photographer in the vehicle ruined shots. Any motion by me while shooting long ruined the shots. I quickly learned that the idea has great potential, but technique requires practice and patience.  I will try this again in the future.

 

Namibia-4300-Edit.jpg

 

While I had the 6-stop ND on the camera, I also shot pan shots of the zebra as they came and went from the waterhole. While the keeper rate is always low on this type shot, I was moderately successful as this method did not depend on the driver or me staying still.  This technique depends on some part of the moving animal not bobbing up and down as you pan.

 

Namibia-5491-6StopND.jpg

 

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Today we needed to transfer from the Halali Lodge to the Okaukuejo Lodge, so we headed west with plans to stop at a few holes along the way. We shot some birds, a few springbok, but the most in transit fun was when we got to the Nebrownii Waterhole. This is where we had seen the ‘white ghost’ bull elephants and, sure enough, they were once more headed to the water hole.

 

Namibia-4819-Edit.jpg

 

There were several vehicles and a bus at the waterhole, so positioning our vehicles was a problem. I shot theses brutes from a great distance and has considerable problems getting shape images due to the heat thermals.

I also shot a photo of this scruffy little bird at the waterhole.  It seemed to epitomize the harsh existence animals have in this environment. I'm sure some of the forum's birders can identify this small bird, but I don't know the species.

 

Namibia-5340-Edit.jpg

 

We arrived at Okaukuejo at about lunchtime. During the mid-day, the options are a buffet similar to the one we had eaten at Halali or a few grilled items like sausage, hot dogs or hamburgers.  I went with the hamburger, but had immediate regrets as I saw the lady put the pre-cooked burger on a bun into a microwave.  Thank goodness, I also ordered chips (French fries) as they were acceptable once covered in salt and tomato sauce (ketchup). 

 

STay with me, MORE TO COME. Next: Okaukuejo Waterhole - fist impressions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#34 Bush dog

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 05:53 PM

@buddy4344

 

The small bird looks like a rufous-napped lark.


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#35 buddy4344

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 07:15 PM

@Bush dog, thanks, I knew I could depend on the forum for identification.


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#36 Peter Connan

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 03:26 AM

Thanks for the tips @buddy4344!

Some of your motion blur shkts really worked very well!
Ek oefen skelm.

#37 Dave Williams

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 03:03 PM

I'm enjoying the read and the very useful tips and as a result I have decided for my trip in February to add a night at Halali Camp if I can get in, knocking one off elsewhere instead. I will be staying 2 nights Dolomite,2 in Okaukuejo then 1 in Halali.

What camera gear did you take and mostly use?

Dave



#38 xelas

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 04:04 PM

And many thanks also from my side, @buddy4344 ! I have had a ND filter on my Etosha visit but no idea how to use it  :wacko: . Now there is a task to burn some images on :) . It looks like between me (= Zvezda) and @Peter Connan there might be some good photos to be published next June.


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#39 buddy4344

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 05:06 PM

@Dave Williams, two of us on the trip shot Nikon and two of us shot Canon.  I shoot Canon. I primarily used the 1Dx MkII and the Canon 100-400mm verII.  I also shot my 7D MkII and I also used a 1.4x teleconverter. I actually own two copies of the 100-400, so I kept one on each camera depending on how far away the subject was.  This also allowed me to keep the 6-stop ND on one camera while having the other camera free for normal shooting when I tried that technique.

 

My landscapes and at Okaukuejo I used a 24-105mm lens. Later in this blog, you will see that I did use a 17-40 wide angle, but only in special settings. The Nikon shooters shot a mix of 80-400, 600mm f4 and a 300  f2.8 prime. 

 

For our time of year (Oct.), the thermals from the ground were pretty strong, so my general advice in these conditions it to primarily shoot subjects less than 100 meters away unless you are shooting across a waterhole (water is cooler, so thermals from the ground have little/no effect on images).

 

I'm a proponent of not taking too many lenses. From my experience, when you take too much glass, you are constantly second guessing yourself or switching lenses.  Focus on working with the equipment you have.

 

I'm also a proponent on have different focal lengths on two bodies. This allows you to swap cameras when subjects are at different distances, etc. and also minimizes chances of getting dust on the sensor.


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#40 The_Norwegian

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 09:45 PM

wow, truly amazing! Now i don`t know if i ever dare to update my tripreport with pictures from etosha, mine seems so mediocre compared to yours now :-O Great job!! 


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