One of the members of the local photography group I’m in recently posted a prompt asking people to pick one word that describes themselves as a photographer or their photographic style, and why. I spent some time thinking about it recently, and I think the best word for me is fortunate. It’s a great descriptor not only of my photography, but of my life in general.
Over the relatively short time I have been practicing photography, the absolute best wildlife sightings, and photographs I have captured, have been when I have gone out without expectation of seeing anything specific (or anything at all). Conversely, the times I have set out looking for a certain bird or a specific type of photo, I have almost always come back empty handed. In all aspects of my life, I am trying to be more open and allowing of things to unfold… I think I practice this with the most consistency within my photographic work.
Day to day, I take my camera along when out walking the dog; somedays there will be a beautiful sunrise, or perhaps some interesting birds in the area I am walking. If I can capture a photo of it – great! If not, I’ve still seen something that has made my day brighter. And on those days when I don’t see anything at all, I still have had the chance to get some fresh air with my best buddy. Last summer, I never could have planned to watch the result of eagles robbing an osprey nest (see the post here if you missed it https://jennifersawicky.com/2014/08/10/bald-eagles-versus-an-osprey/) or sharing a walk with half a dozen northern flickers. I don’t always get great photos of these sightings, but that really doesn’t matter to me.
On my first trip to South Africa, our guide asked us the first afternoon what we were hoping to see, and we all said “Everything!”. I was so in awe of the place, so amazed to be in a place that I had dreamt of for years, that every plant, tree, bird and mammal was, and still is, thrilling. Not only does having this relaxed attitude while out on a game drive takes the pressure off the guides, it allows you to enjoy whatever mother nature has in store for you that day. Again, some of the most amazing things that I have seen were completely unplanned. I had hoped to one day see a leopard in a tree; I never expected to see that in the middle of the Okavango Delta, twice in two days! I had hoped that one day I would be fortunate enough to see a pangolin, but I knew the chances were very slim. When the call came in that a pangolin had been spotted on my last night on safari, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. https://jennifersawicky.com/2015/07/02/pangolin/
I think of myself as fortunate not only because I am happy to take advantage of photographic opportunities when they happen, rather than planning and trying to force things, but also because I have the opportunity to get out and practice something I love, sometimes even traveling to places that fill me with joy to do so.
I know this is much wordier than most of my posts, so I’ll sign off on the chatter now, and share with you some photos of wildlife encounters that I consider fortunate, whether they resulted in great pictures or not.
We were heading out for afternoon drive, and not far from camp, a group of elephants turned onto the road, and started heading towards us. Not in any way threatening, the road was the easiest route, and they wanted to head in our direction. We kept reversing to give them enough space. The really special thing about watching this group of elephants was the tiny baby that was part of the herd. Our ranger explained normally ellie moms are very protective, and would hide a baby that tiny, but instead she let him play in full view. He put on quite a show for everyone, waving his trunk around, flapping his ears, and doing multiple face plants into the sand, sometimes eating dirt. Even if I hadn’t gotten a single photo, it would still be one of the best moments I’ve had on safari.
1/640sec, f9.0, ISO5000
Phinda, April 2015
These zebras took turns having dust baths in the brilliant early morning light of the Okavango Delta.
1/1250sec, f8.0, ISO640
While on a helicopter tour of the Okavango Delta, we watched a hippo running through the water, and at one point, launch out of the water. Here’s one on the way up.
And on the way back down again.
1/1000sec, f9.0, ISO 900
We were heading back for breakfast at Kalahari Plains, when we spotted a black backed jackal and stopped to take a few photos and hear a little about the jackal’s behaviour. Out of nowhere, an African Wildcat streaked by. It happened so quickly I snapped what I could. With the direction of the light, we didn’t even get a very good look, but it certainly proved that you never know what you might see while out in the bush. Later int he trip, we had a similar experience with a serval, but I didn’t even have time to snap a photo of that one.
1/500sec, f9.0, ISO 180
After being separated for some time, a pair of leopard cubs run and play with one another. Mama was close by.
Ngala, May 2015
1/800sec, f10, ISO 900
My very first game drive featured mating lions, my second trip to South Africa featured mating giraffes, and this past trip, back to the lions. It was quite a soap opera, as two males were vying for the females attention for a couple days; she chose the older, more distinguished fella!
1/400sec, f8.0, ISO 500
Sani Sands, May 2015
A CRAPPY photo, but an AMAZING moment. I had left my camera on interval timer, hoping for photos to create a star trail (no joy with that). I heard some noise outside and went to the patio door, and found 4 or 5 elephants drinking from the plunge pool on the deck! Our ranger had warned us that elephants like shiny things and will take things to “play” with if left out (like cameras), and I was sure my camera was gone. But the ladies were interested only in having a drink. I stood mesmerized watching for as long as they stayed. This is the closest I have to a photo of that moment – when they crossed in front of the camera that was clicking away at the stars (the grey shapes at the very bottom of the image).
Our last morning at Phinda, it was just my Dad and me heading out, so we took a leisurely drive to a different area of the reserve. We stopped to look at a raptor far in the distance. Our ranger was incredibly excited, as the raptor was a southern banded snake eagle, a bird that is listed as near threatened (I believe our ranger mentioned there was less than 2 dozen breeding pairs in South Africa, but I could be a little off on that number). With the distance and poor light, this was the best I could do for a photo. It’s wonderful to be a part of a sighting that the ranger gets really excited about though – you know it’s something out of the ordinary 🙂
1/200sec, f5.6, ISO 200
Someone call the firemen; there’s a kitty stuck in a tree!
This lion cub climbed up in a fit of playfulness, and soon realized the error in his ways. Thankfully he didn’t crash land.
1/60sec, f5.6, ISO 6400
Phinda, April 2015
A group of cheetah cubs wrestle behind mom’s back.
1/1000sec, f6.3, ISO1250
Phinda, April 2015
Over two days, I spent about two hours with two different leopards in trees in the Okavango Delta. They are wonderful to watch, and the agility moving about a tree is amazing. I was so lucky to click the shutter at the right moment to capture this one heading out of the tree.
1/2000sec, f8.0, ISO1000
I’ve had some good success getting photographs of hares in South Africa. This one just tugs at my heart though. To witness such a tender moment, with the young one suckling, was so unexpected. I saw this while we were heading back to camp; we only kept the light on for a really quick photo, so as not to draw attention to the area. Sabi Sands, May 2015
1/200sec, f5.6, ISO 6400