••• tiff firth photography •••

Monday, August 24, 2015

africa - a pictorial re-cap - issue 2

I've processed a few more images over the last couple of weeks in readiness for my presentation to the Camera Club tonight (Monday Aug 24th).

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Hwange. Zimbabwe. Africa.
I was reliably informed that the water in the rock pool was cold. I took Alistair's word for it. This lodge resides on the slope above the water pool where the elephants and other wildlife come to drink as its the only constant water source away from the Zambia River. The water pool is feed by a waterline to ensure the water is always available. Without water there is nothing. Its liquid gold in this country.

The Marabou Stork reminded me of a grumpy old man with a very bad comb-over. The Marabou Stork defecates upon its legs and feet.The poop has strong antiseptic properties in their whitewash and it helps assist in regulating body temperature. The poop also gives the false appearance that the birds have lovely white legs.
Below Victoria Falls Lodge, Hwange, Zimbabwee. Africa. 2.7.2015

There is vulture feeding daily at 1pm below the Victoria Falls Lodge, Hwange, Zimbabwee, where the bones and off cuts from the restaurant are fed to the birds. I was only 5 metres away from the scrum of feeding vultures and in the thick of their dust. And do they smell?? Oh yes they smell terrible.

There are two kinds of Vultures in this image. The one with its head deep into the meat is the White Backed Vulture. It's a typical vulture, with only down feathers on the head and neck, very broad wings and short tail feathers. It has a white neck ruff. The adult’s whitish back contrasts with the otherwise dark plumage. Juveniles are largely dark. This is a medium-sized vulture; its body mass is 4.2 to 7.2 kilograms (9.3–15.9 lb), it is 78 to 98 cm (31 to 39 in) long and has a 1.96 to 2.25 m (6 to 7 ft) wingspan. (info from Wikipedia)

The pink headed vulture eyeing of the scrap of meat is a Hooded Vulture. It breeds in a stick nest in trees (often palms) in much of Africa south of the Sahara, laying one egg. Birds may form loose colonies. The population is mostly resident. This is one of the smaller vultures of the Old World. They are 62–72 cm (25–28 in) long, have a wingspan of 155–165 cm (61–65 in) and a body weight of 1.5-2.6 kg (3.3-5.7 lbs).

Like other vultures it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals and waste which it finds by soaring over Savannah and around human habitation, including waste tips and abattoirs. It often moves in flocks, and is very abundant. In much of its range, there are always several visible soaring in the sky at almost any time during the day.

This vulture is typically unafraid of humans, and frequently gathers around habitation. It is sometimes referred to as the “garbage collector” by locals. (info from Wikipedia)

Victoria Falls. The defining border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe Border. Africa. 2.7.2015

We were out and on site just before the sun rose on our first morning of our Africa trip. We were first through the gate and the only ones there for at least 90mins. Tourists arrived as we left and they had missed the best part of the day.

As the sun rose, so did the mist from the falls, which caught the beautiful soft light.
We found out later that the scenic flights over the falls don't happen at this very early time due to the rising mist which happens because the air has warmed slightly and the temperature inversion with the mist.

The noise of Victoria Falls can be heard from a distance of 40 kilometers, while the spray and mist from the falling water is rising to a height of over 400 meters and can be seen from a distance of 50 kilometers. No wonder that the local tribes used to call the waterfall Mosi-o-Tunya “The smoke that thunders”.

Fortunately for us the gentle breeze had the mist moving away from us for our early morning walk along the Zimbabwe side of the falls. There is rain forest here due to the constant moisture in the air. The moisture falls as rain, and its always raining somewhere along the falls. We all had black ponchos that reached the ground in case we were going to be rained upon. We were lucky.

Most of the walk suited the afternoon sun, so I didn't take a lot of images, as we had planned on returning during the day. As it turned out, we didn't come back as Dave decided he would bungi jump from the bridge that joins Zimbabwe and Zambia and most of us wanted to watch. Its a 111 metre jump, and I considered doing it until I saw him go, and I thought to myself ' No way, no how, definitely not.'

Victoria Falls is the only waterfall in the world with a length of more than a kilometer and a height of more than hundred meters. It is also considered to be the largest fall in the world.The water level varies throughout the year; it is at its peak in April, at the end of the rainy season when on average 500,000,000 liters of water flow and it is at its lowest level in October and early November.

Interestingly, during the dry season the water level in the Zambezi River drops sharply, and it becomes possible to walk through some parts of the waterfall. However, during the rest of the year Victoria Falls is a roaring machine that strikes anyone with its power
Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe Border. Africa

The area circled in red is Livingstone Island where you can set up camp and sleep right on the very edge of the mighty Victoria Falls. If you look very closely you can see buildings on the island and if you look very very closely on the right side of the island there are 2 kayaks pulled up on the little cove.

Can you imagine the noise, the vibration, the dampness of the mist when the breeze pushes it back over the falls and the sheer thrill of it all by camping right on the edge of the falls. Where else in the world can you do that!!
Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe Border of Zambezi River. Africa. 2.7.2015

Flying in a chopper over the falls was quite an experience. To be able to see the falls in its entirety and experience the sheer drop off on its very lip was breath-taking. 

The bridge spans the Zimbabwe side on the left and the Zambia border on the right. If you closely at the center of it you can see a little hut. That's the jump off point for the bungee, the swing and the zip-line. That's where Dave jumped from.

The bridge spans the Zambezi River which over millennium has carved its way into the landscape. Those cliffs on the right are different points where the falls used to be (apparently). On the very left edge of the falls there is an area of land about to be cut away with the water, creating a new section of the falls and extending its overall length, which is currently over a kilometre long.

That larger island near the edge of the falls is Livingstone Island. People camp there in tents. In fact there was a tent there when we flew over it. During the dry season when the water flow is all but gone, you can walk to that island.

Photographed with a Sigma Fisheye lens to give the curve-of-the-earth horizon.
Victoria Falls. Zambezi River. Africa.

Flying with Batoka Sky in their microlight certainly was a huge thrill. Again TIA as far as time as we were scheduled to be up just after dawn and by the time we were airborne it was more like 9am. Which was actually better as their was more light down into the walls of the canyons. 

Andre was my pilot and I took the extended 30 minute flight to see the wildlife for the first time on my Africa trip, and to see them from the unique bird perspective.

At one point he asked me to stretch my arms out like a bird and close my eyes. I did and then he turned off the motor. And wow, was it quiet. I could hear the thunder of the falls. We glided on the updrafts for about 30 seconds before Andre turned the prop back on. As its a glider construction and in the case of engine failure you just glide to the ground. The landing might be a bit bumpy though wink emoticon
Victoria Falls. Zambia. Africa. 3.7.2015

These little guys were the happiest things out there. When Warthogs trot their little tail pops up like a flag and waves around so merrily. They seemed to be happy no matter where they were. And they trot all day long. And btw.... they taste very yummy. wink emoticon 
Below Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Hwange. Zimbabwe. 3.7.2015

Pangolin Photo Safaris with Charles our guide, and Smart at the helm.

Being on the Chobe River in this craft was such a highlight. Not only for the teeming wildlife, both on and off the river, but also for the way the boat is set up for serious photography. Each of the 8 seats rotated 360 degrees, and had a fully mounted gimble attached to each one for full access to all angles for photography. It's a bit like an army gun mounting.

For those who didn't have the longer telephoto lenses, Pangolin had NikonD7000 cameras teamed up with Sigma 150-500mm lenses available for every single person if needed, or you can choose to use your own rig. They also provided 8gb SD cards to each photographer whether you used their Nikons or not. And if you ripped through one card, no worries, they flicked another one your way.

Charles is a photographer in is own right, and fully understands light with all its nuances. He gave instruction and many helpful tips both with the camera and different ways to photograph the wildlife.

Smart, is exactly that. Very very smart. Any animal or bird was identified on the spot and its resume of details was given as well. He was brilliant at the helm, getting us closer to the wildlife, working with the light and positioning us perfectly to make full use of it.

This is the full Pete DobrĂ© Photography African Safari Crew. L-R Charles, Audrey, Elizabeth, Stephen, me (in the vacant chair), Dave, Cathy, Alistair and Pete.
Chobe River, near Kasane, Botswana. Africa.

Baby elephants are so damn cute. They look so small alongside their Mums. They are just like little kids. They are mischievous and funny. Their little trunks are so full of wriggles that it seems to constantly surprise them. 
Chobe River near Kasane. Botswana. Africa.

Every moment on the Chobe River was camera candy. The elephants pulled up reeds from an island on the river and either bash it around a lot to dislodge the damp earth off the roots and then consume it or throw it around like a toy. Having the birds flying in formation in the background was a huge bonus. Camera Candy bonus! I don't know what birds they are unfortunately.
Chobe River near Kasane. Botswana. Africa.

Remember that video that went viral of the hippo leaping out of the water behind a boat??
That boat was the same one that I was on, and on the same river that I was on. And it only happened a month before I was there.

So any hippos we saw, both on land and water, were given huge and wide berths and lots of respect. The times we did see them in the water with us did make us all extremely nervous. Especially when they disappeared under water as you had no idea where they will come up. They can stay under for up to 30mins. And Hippopotamus's can't swim. They skip on the river bottom on their toes, as dainty as a ballerina. An amazing fact.

They sound a lot like cows except for when they snort. That's their own unique sound like nothing else. And they eat up to 40 kilos of grasses each day.

They fight a lot among themselves. This one has fresh wounds from the huge canine teeth all over its 2 inch thick skin. The Red-billed Oxpecker birds (friends to many African animals) were very busy cleaning out the wounds and searching for other parasites.

Chobe River. Chobe National Park. Near Kasane. Botswana. Africa.

This Leopardess was coming down from the tree where she had stashed her Impala kill. Watching her quietly leap from branch to branch on her way down was mesmerizing.
Moremi Wildlife Reserve. Khwai River. Okavango Delta. Botswana.

I know I promised I wouldn't post any other images from when the African Dogs were successful with their 'kill' of a young Kudu, but I found this image of when the Spotted Hyenas became involved too hard to not show.

The 2 female Spotted Hyenas worked as a team to ambush the African Dogs and make off with the carcass. One Hyena just bullied her way onto the Kudu while the second one was the decoy by challenging the Dogs to fight her. While the fight was on, the first Hyena made off safely with the carcass. The dust and noise from the fight was intense, and the yipping of the Hyena will always stay with me. Three of the four dogs had the Hyena backed into the pool of water which gave me this awesome reflection image.

The agility of both the Dogs and the Hyena was impressive. No one had a serious hold on the other with their teeth as they were all just too quick and moved out of the way.

Now I know why the Dogs had their fill of the Kudu so quickly. They consume only soft organs and bones as their jaws can't snap the larger bones. So when the Hyenas came in the Dogs didn't fight very long for what was left as they already had the best of it.

Circle of Life.
Notten's Bush Camp. Sabi Sands Game Reserve. South Africa.

Ever wondered how a Rhinoceros calf suckled? To be honest I hadn't. But how does it get low enough to reach the teats and gets its horn out of the way? By sitting down of course. 

I learnt so much on my African Safaris just by watching, listening and asking our guide in our jeep a lot of quiet questions.
-The gestation period for Rhinoceros is 15-16 months.
- The horn is made of keratin, the same protein as your fingernails and hair are made of.
- They have 3 toes on each foot and can run up to 60 kms per hour.
- The name Rhinoceros comes from the Greek words Rhino (nose) and ceros (horn)
Notten's Bush Camp. Sabi Sands Game Reserve. South Africa.

I didn't know there were three kinds of Zebras. There are the Plains Zebra, the Mountain Zebra and the Grevy's Zebra. These ones are the Plains Zebras. Their stripes tend to fade out to white on the legs. The stripes on the legs of the Grevy's Zebras are bold right down to the hoof.

So are Zebras white with black stripes or black with white stripes?? I've yet to find an answer to that all important question.
Notten's Bush Camp. Sabi Sands Game Reserve. South Africa.
. 13.7.2015

What's a group of 3 or more zebras called?? If they are with a stallion its a Harem. Or the group can be called a Dazzle of Zebras. I learnt that from our guide in Sabi Sands. I learnt so many things about zebras. When a Dazzle of Zebras walk as a group, the stallion always brings up the rear. These are the Plains Zebras. Their stripes fade as they travel down their legs. And there tends to be a brownish stripe between the black and white stripes.
Notten's Bush Camp. Sabi Sands Game Reserve. South Africa. 12.7.2015

I went into this trip with very little research so I could experience it from my own fresh point of view. I expected to see the Savannah plains on my African Safari trip and I didn't expect to see the bush. So I learnt that the wide Savannah plains are eastern and central Africa. The southern area of the continent is bush. Up in Botswana the bush is thinner and sparser. The bush in Sabi Sands Game Reserve is thicker and denser.

I've been asked a few times was it green when I was there in July? What was the weather like? Were there flies? Mozzies?

Well I can say, no it wasn't green. The winter is the dry season. The water holes are shrinking and there's more wildlife around them as a result. The leaves have dropped off the trees so it's easier to see through the branches, and the dry grasses are shorter and much thinner, all making it much easier to spot the wildlife and birds. The temperature in July is much like our Spring temps, between 25-30 degrees. Certainly shirt, hat and sunblock weather.

This shot gives you an idea of the colour and the landscape at Nottens Bush Camp, Sabi Sands Wildlife Reserve. South Africa.

Looking over Cape Town and Tabletop Mountain from Lions Head.
I had taken a series of shots and had the camera put away. And then the sun popped out, so I rushed back into the back to set up the camera with the ND grads to capture all that sky in its glorious detail.

The hill on the left is Signal Hill where the canon is still fired every day at the dot of noon. Back in the days of sail, the canon was fired at noon for the navigators on the ships in the harbor to set their sextants by.

The walking trail on the right comes up from Maiden's Cove to where I was on the summit of Lion's Head.
Cape Town. South Africa. 20.7.2015

Maiden's Cove. Behind Tabletop Mountain is the very beautiful Maiden's Cove with its picturesque view of the 12 Apostles Mountain Range.

The water sea is on the Atlantic seaboard and as a result the temperature is cold all year round. In July its a chilly average of around 15 degrees C.

While I was photographing here a bus load on young Springbok Rugby players ran down the rocks to this little beach and a few brave souls heading out into the water. They were pretty quick to trot back in to shore to put a jumper on. Very brass monkey cold with the breeze that day.
Maiden's Cove. Cape Town. South Africa.

Beautiful Maiden's Cove.

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