Jul 092014

Dave Bristow (author of our African Icons Book), Pat and I headed up to Kruger National Park in the north-eastern part of South Africa for the next leg of our book shoot. One of the “obvious” icons of Africa, Kruger National Park, with an area of just under 2 000 000 Ha or about 4 800 000 acres is vast by any standards. When you look at the so called Greater Kruger, which includes the private game reserves to the west of the National Park and well as the adjacent conservation areas in Mozambique to the east and Zimbabwe to the north, it turns into the world’s greatest animal kingdom.

Riverine scene in the Southern Kruger National Park near Jock Safari Lodge. Mpumalanga. South Africa

Riverine scene in the Southern Kruger National Park near Jock Safari Lodge. Mpumalanga. South Africa

Stories of the Kruger National Park abound and much has been written about it. TV Bulpin’s books are always a great read and cover many aspects of the park and early explorers in the region. Some are funny, others are about heroes and villains. Some though, are “spooky” like the tale about an Englishman who went hunting in the valleys of the northern Lebombo Hills and shot seven elephants for their ivory. It was customary in those times to leave the tusks in the elephant for a few days after the animal had died so that they could be easily removed. After this period had elapsed the hunter went to collect his ivory and never returned. His horse did, riderless, but it died shortly after the incident. The local boers feared entering the forest where the Englishman went missing, thinking that his ghost on a white horse was still there, protecting his ivory.

There are also stories of tragedy and sadness but there is one that Pat and I picked up when we were researching our book called Tuli – Land of Giants. And it’s a tragedy in the same way that it’s a tragedy to discover, when you are very young, that there is no Father Christmas, no fairies in the bottom of the garden, no gnomes, no easter bunny and that it’s your mom and dad that bring the money and not the tooth fairy. Sad but true…

This one involves Jock of the Bushveld, that great hero of the lowveld that had so many adventures with his owner Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick who, was not only a writer but also worked as a store-man, prospector’s assistant, journalist and ox-wagon transport rider. While doing our research for our Tuli Book we cam across a book called Veld Express by Harry Zeederberg, published by Howard Timmins in 1971. The author, a descendant of the famous family of stage coach owners, tells of many stories and adventures experienced by the intrepid transport riders and it’s in a caption to one of the photographs that we came across this rather sad piece of information. I quote the caption in full: “This photograph, taken outside the firm’s offices in Pretoria, is likely to cause a controversy. It shows Percy Fitzpatrick with his dog, and, behind him, Rider Haggard. In the early days, every transport rider had at least two dogs, and none of Fitzpartick’s contemporaries could specifically remember “Jock”, or his unusual qualities. These were certainly never discussed among the transport riders of the period.”

Zeederberg coach with Sir Percy Fitzpatric and Rider Ha

Could it be true? Was Jock perhaps a fictional dog that was created by Fitzpatrick to encompass all the adventures he had with a number of his dogs? What do you think?

This in no way spoilt our visit to Kruger or to the delightful Jock Safari Lodge in the southern part of Kruger National Park. The idea for Jock Safari Lodge was realised by the descendants of the Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and Niven Families. Funds from the trust of Sir Fitzpatrick were used to build the lodge in the area close to where the history of Fitzpatrick & his dog Jock, took place. The southern boundary is the old Voortrekker road, the transport route for supplies from the Delagoa Bay (now Maputo) to the gold fields at Pilgrims Rust. The Jock concession in the park is the same as the side profile of Jock the dog.

We were delighted about spending 5 nights at Jock Safari Lodge and even more so when, soon after Pat and I arrived (Dave was a little late) Ari, the chef and F&B manager approached us to discuss our dinner requirements. He mentioned aubergines. Dave hates aubergines. He hates aubergines in capitals with neon lights and so we briefed Ari. Dinner then became:

  • Starter: Braised aubergine with capers and aubergine pate’, or, aubergine soup
  • Main: Chicken, camembert and bacon stack with aubergine and brandy sauce
  • Sweet: Crispy crystallized aubergines with cinnamon spice.

Dave arrived a little later, full of joie de vivre and looking quite chuffed with himself. Ari presented the dinner menu with a flourish to a now quite green looking David. I must admit that Dave has quite a, er, quaint turn of phrase when he puts his mind to it.

The deck at Jock Safari Lodge. Kruger National Park. Mpumalanga. South Africa

The deck at Jock Safari Lodge. Kruger National Park. Mpumalanga. South Africa

We loved our stay at Jocks. Our guide and ranger, Estiaan Houy was extremely knowledgeable and committed to getting us the finest opportunities for photography, Ari ensured that we gained weight (not good) and the GM, Louis Strauss, made our stay more comfortable than we would have thought possible. Well done to you and your teams and a big thanks.

Follow the progress on Facebook as we put together our African Icons book and read more about it here. Dave also blogs about our adventures here.

May 192014

We are in Namibia to shoot the next two icons for our African Icons book project. The first stop is the delightful Little Kulala Lodge, part of the Wilderness Safaris stable, located in the Sossusvlei Valley near Sesriem. The icon here is the stunningly beautiful Namib Desert, know for its rugged mountainous terrain that gives way to a huge, red, dune field that contains some of the highest dunes in the world.

It is definitely a place for panoramic photographs and as a result have been shooting a bunch on the Nikons as well as these shot on my iPhone. Hope you enjoy them. If you would like to receive our newsletter please drop me an email. We are also on Facebook.

Wide open spaces near Sossusvlei.

Wide open spaces near Sossusvlei.


sossusvlei,desert,Namibia,Sesriem,little kulala,wilderness safaris,panorama,iphone

Some of the rugged terrain of the Namib Desert near Sossusvlei in Namibia.


May 142014

Nikon has announced firmware upgrades for both the D800 and D800E models. Nikon D800As always, it makes sense to run the latest firmware and it’s really easy to install – just be sure to follow the instructions to the letter.

Download the Nikon D800 Firmware upgrade here.

Download the Nikon D800E Firmware upgrade here.

May 082014

We’ve used Adobe Lightroom since it was launched – in fact, we played with a beta version while still using Capture One. My initial reaction to it was rather cool. It grew on me and today it is our go-to program for image editing and for managing our database of wildlife and travel images. Actually, I have no idea how we’d manage without it. So, here are a few tips, suggestions and shortcuts to working with Lightroom.

Adobe Lightroom is a great way to manage your images.

Lightroom operates very well on shortcuts so it makes really good sense to get to know how to use them. My most used shortcuts are: G – for Grid View, D – for Develop Module, E – for Loupe View, F – for Full Screen, R – for Crop Tool, Q – for spot removal, 1 to 5 – Rating Images, 0 – to Remove the Rating and the keyboard arrows to move around the grid view and film strip.

Lightroom enables you to streamline your workflow (have a look at mine) to levels that would not have been possible just a few years ago and to do this with presets. A wonderful concept. The ones I use extensively are Metadata, Develop and Export which means that so much gets done for me. Lets take Metadata presets for example: I have set up presets for the places I go to and so the location name, copyright information, contact information and some keywords are already added while the images are being imported into Lightroom, while we are still on location. The same goes for development presets – all my images have certain things applied to them – Lens Corrections, noise reduction, some sharpening, clarity, vibrance… All these will be tweaked as I go through processing the images but the basics are there. The same applies to export presets: I have them set up for Low Res Images, High Res, Instagram, Facebook, twitter and a lot more. Makes life soooo much easier.

I’ve developed a hierarchical keyword list in Lightroom that enables me to add keywords to images  quickly and easily. All I have to do is click the keyword and it’s applied. and you can automatically include synonyms. Because our images are all added to the Africa Imagery Photo Library, we need to caption and keyword very carefully and extensively. If you are not processing your images to supply an image bank your key wording can be very simple – family names, holiday, safari, birthday etc may be all you need and would take just a few minutes.

The HUGE advantage of captioning and key wording is that you can keep all your images in one folder and then search on keywords, captions, dates, cameras, ISO, lens, well, just about anything you want to search on. Other than the captions and keywords, it’s all there in the exif data in your image files. If you really want your images in categories, it’s a simple matter to set up Smart Collections. And you can have a collection of pretty much anything you want.

Do you like variations on a theme? No problem. Create a Virtual Copy (the actual file is not duplicated – only the Metadata) and then go mad - B&W, cross process, sepia, whatever. Your original files are not changed in anyway. All your edits are applied only to the Metadata and so the original pic remains the same, whether it’s a RAW file, jpg, TIFF, Png, whatever…

Eiffel Tower - variations on a theme.

So, give Adobe Lightroom a try. And no, I’m not part of an affiliate program, nor do I receive any remuneration from Adobe. (Mmmmm, maybe I should look into that… ;-) ) They also have a wonderful deal with Lightroom and Photoshop as part of creative cloud.

Apr 252014

Wikipedia describes POV photography or Point of View Photography as a photograph or  a short film that shows what a character (the subject) is looking at (represented through the camera). So, what you are looking for in a POV shot is some part of the photographer or subject and what they are seeing… It can be quite fun shooting POV images, both in movies and stills and quite often I shoot mine with my GoPro Here 3 Black action camera but also use Nikon’s D7100  with the 10.5mm fisheye lens very effectively.

POV images create a wonderful perspective to photographs and make the viewer feel part of the action.

POV images create a wonderful perspective to photographs and make the viewer feel part of the action.

Let’s look at how I shot this pic: I attached a Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp to the right hand leg of my Mountain Bike fork and fitted it with a Manfrotto 492 Micro Ball Head that has been adapted to the Gopro mounting system. As I don’t have a viewing screen attached to my GoPro, sighting is a bit hit and miss but the lens is so wide that I usually get it pointing pretty much in the right direction. One of the very useful features on the GoPro is the ability to shoot 12 Mp stills every 0,5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 and 60 seconds and I have found that shooting a pic every second on a ride like this is about right. Back in the studio, I import all the images into Adobe Lightroom and do a rough batch edit on them. Having all these pix enables you to create a time-lapse movie out of them as well and some pretty awesome stills. For this pic I did the usual corrections to exposure, noise reduction, saturation etc before opening the image, from Lightroom, in onOne Perfect Suite 8 and playing around with their “Monday Cool” Grunge preset filter. Then its back to Lightroom for some final tweaks to fine tune the pic.

I will be posting some pix shot with the Nikon D7100 and 10.5mm fisheye next week so watch this space.

Apr 182014

We are shooting more and more video clips these days and this is a short little movie we cobbled together after our trip to the Serengeti in Tanzania to shoot photographs for our new book about African Icons:

Please have a look at our new web site for the book project.

Apr 162014

Peter Chadwick is one of the contributing photographers to our image bank, Africa Imagery. We go back a long time together do Peter and I, to when we both worked at Natal Parks Board, now Kzn Wildlife, the conservation agency for KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. Peter specialises in wildlife and conservation photography, particularly of the coastal areas. Thanks for the post Peter.

People often ask me what my favorite wildlife photographic experience has been and then expect me to mention something like the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti or watching a pride of lions pulling down a large Cape buffalo bull – the stuff that Africa is made of! Invariably, my response gets a few strange looks as I mention that it is photographing on Malgas Island at the entrance of Saldahna Bay in the West Coast National Park. This small rocky stack of approximately 8 ha is home to 20 000 breeding pairs of Cape Gannets, as well as healthy populations of African Black Oystercatchers.

Peter Chadwick on Malgas Island

The island is extremely smelly from all the guano that is constantly being delivered and often rained from the sky as the gannets fly overhead, showering your gear and yourself in a not so delightful smelly white smear. It is so extremely noisy with the squawking of thousands and thousands of birds that it makes clear thinking difficult. Wind and sun often play havoc with you and your gear, wearing you down so that after four or five days photographing, you are totally and utterly exhausted! And with so many subjects around, you would think that the photography is easy – Think again! It is very difficult to create order out of the chaos of the masses and you really need to concentrate hard in order to find something memorable and eye-catching! But despite all of these hardships, I absolutely love the place and am extremely privileged to have worked there on several occasions.

Cape Gannet perched on a rock as numerous others fly around it, Malgas Island, Western Cape, South Africa

Malgas Island needs special permission to visit and permits are required from both the Department of Environmental Affairs and SANParks. This is rightly so as disturbance of the birds needs to be limited. I have been working on a photographic project with both of these organizations to collect iconic images that will promote and garner support for our country’s marine protected areas.  Most of my photographic work focuses around conservation photography and photojournalism and as such I have formed African Conservation Photography .

Cape Gannet pair bonding through preening, Malgas Island, West Coast National Park, Western Cape, South Africa

Although I make use of the full range of my Nikon lenses and Nikon D3s camera body, on Malgas, I try and concentrate on using my Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens. On one side of the island, bachelor birds congregate on the large granite boulders to preen and socialize. By me lying still on these domes for several hours, the birds soon carry on with their activities, totally ignoring me and allowing unique images to be taken that showcase a portion of the gannet’s daily lives.

Cape Gannets at their nest sites during the night and as a cold front passes overhead, Malgas Island, West Coast National Park, Western Cape, South Africa

Through spending so much time on the island, incredible and often heart-wrenching battles for survival often play out before my eyes. On one occasion, I watched a juvenile gannet attempt its first flight. The clumsy youngster launched into the air only to plop down on to the sea where powerful west coast ocean waves pounded the shoreline. Over and over again the gannet got absolutely smashed by the waves, never giving up and eventually after about twenty minutes made it through to backline only to be grabbed and killed by a hungry Cape Fur Seal!

A juvenile Cape Gannet gets tumbled by powerful waves during its maiden swim, Malgas Island, West Coast National Park, Western Cape, South Africa

Cape Gannet numbers are declining at 1% per annum, meaning that we have lost 50% of the global population in just 50 years. This is largely as a result of human induced pressures and in particular, the overfishing of our oceans. It has saddened me immensely to notice the declines in nesting gannets on an annual basis and see the many empty nests. We have a responsibility to change our endless exploitation of the oceans, not only for the gannet’s sake but also eventually for our own well-being! Make a difference and support BirdLife South Africa’s Seabird Programme.

If you would like to see more of Peter’s work or if you have a need for conservation photography, please drop me a line.

Apr 122014

Excellent outdoor photography, particularly when you have little control over your subject and lighting conditions (which is the case in wildlife and outdoor photography) can be very difficult and unpredictable. This is where stock photography comes in… We do a lot of it, predominantly in the wildlife, conservation, travel, scenic fields and in order to get our thousands of photographs into some sort of usable, retrievable order we created Africa Imagery Photo Library or Image bank. Initially the images were ours only, but then we added those from Nigel Denis, Phillip and Ingrid van der Berg, Heinrich van der berg, Jone Hone, Neil Austen, Ariadne van Zandbergen, Mario Moreno, Tony Phelps and Peter Chadwick – all wonderful photographers, all adding some unique aspect to our portfolio of stock images.

Wildlife images are usually not shot on commission because of the time it takes to shoot them. Stock imagery is the answer here.

Wildlife images are usually not shot on commission because of the time it takes to shoot them. Stock imagery is the answer here.

What is stock photography and what is an image bank or photo library? Stock photography is different to commissioned photography (which we do for specific clients for specific projects. Have a look here: http://goo.gl/l7bJ0G) in that it is about shooting images that you keep on file (in stock) in case someone needs them. It’s a bit of a shotgun approach in that you shoot a whole bunch of photographs in the hope that when someone needs a image of an elephant with huge tusks, a female, with calf, in the Serengeti, when it’s raining, with the herd behind her, in a panoramic format, you’ll have just this on hand and able to send it to them in minutes. Of course this could apply to just about any genre or category but we specifically deal with travel, wildlife, conservation, scenery, culture and some outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, canoeing etc. An Image bank or Photo Library is simply a business dealing with stock photography.

So, do I use a stock photograph or commission someone? Good question. If you have a very specific need, of a specific place (for example, lodge photography and product photography) then it makes sense to commission someone to do it. However sometimes getting the photograph is virtually impossible to achieve in a reasonable amount of time and cost – like the image above. We happen to have that particular image on file but to try to go out and shoot it on commission would be very costly and it could take a huge amount of time.

If your requirements are more of a general nature, (you are doing a brochure for your lodge and need some images of birds, animals, reptiles and flowers to complement  the commissioned images of the establishment) then using stock photography makes an awful amount of sense. Remember, the images in a good stock photography portfolio have been assembled over many years, in ideal lighting conditions, all carefully selected from (literally) hundreds of thousands of images.

We shot this image of a holiday maker waiting for a dhow in Vilanculos, Mozambique, specifically for Bahia Mar Club for there brochure and advertising material.

We shot this image of a holiday maker waiting for a dhow in Vilanculos, Mozambique, specifically for Bahia Mar Club for their brochure and advertising material.

What’s the quickest way to get a photograph? It so often happens that we get people wanting an image urgently. Sure, they could easily pop out and shoot a pic of, for example, the Cape Town waterfront but that could take them a couple of hours, particularly if it needs to be shot a dawn or sunset (usually the best time to shoot these images anyway). We can get a selection of low resolution images to them to look at within a few minutes and then follow this up with the high resolution photo virtually as soon as they have made their selection. And, depending on the use, we could probably do it at a lower cost as well.

This panoramic view from Signal Hill of Cape Town Soccer Stadium, V&A Waterfront and Robin Island in the background is one of our more popular stock images.

This panoramic view from Signal Hill of Cape Town Soccer Stadium, V&A Waterfront and Robben Island in the background is one of our more popular stock images.

Do I buy the image? Not usually. What normally happens is that you buy the usage rights to the images with the usage costs depending on the use and the size the image will be used. Usually editorial rates are the lowest and advertising the highest. Having said that, everything has its price and so if a client wants to buy the image outright we are more than happy to negotiate a suitable rate.

Do you need stock photography or commissioned photography? We do both. We have thousands of carefully selected stock images of Africa, it’s people and wildlife in our online image database. Alternatively, if you need some photography done for a specific purpose, we’d love to hear from you.

Apr 042014

Some years ago we did a story for a travel magazine about the Serengeti National Park. We were hosted by a large safari group and visited a number of their camps, following the wildebeest migration that so much has been written about. To say that Pat and I were underwelmed would be pretty accurate. The area was dry, dusty and hazy. Our wildlife sighting were okay rather than amazing and, well, quite frankly we had been on much better safaris in Southern Africa – Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia.

This has changed. We’ve recently come back from the first of 2 trips to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park to shoot pix for our new book – African Icons – 21 must-see places and things in Africa. What an astounding experience!  We are working with Wild Frontiers on this Icon (The Serengeti and Wildebeest Migration) and  they handled the whole thing – flights, transfers, Arusha accommodation, mobile camps – the whole 9 yards. What we saw, blew our minds…

It is very difficult to show the extent of the wildebeest migration photographically. Using a panoramic format does help though.

It is very difficult to show the extent of the wildebeest migration photographically. Using a panoramic format does help though.

The Serengeti ecosystem is a huge tract of land in central-east Africa that spans some 30 000 square kilometres (about 12 000 square miles) and is managed by both Tanzania and Kenya (It’s called the Maasai Mara in Kenya). In the south eastern corner of these vast  plains that make up much of the Serengeti are some massive ancient volcanos - Lemagrut, Sadiman, Oldeani, Olmoti, Sirua, Lolmalasin and Empakaai and the most famous of all, Ngorongoro. It is understood that Ngorongoro was once about the same size as Kilimanjaro but collapsed in on itself leaving the caldera that we see today. The extensive quantities of ash produced by these volcanoes formed the fertile soils so ideal for crop production outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and the rich savanna grasslands that support the largest ungulate herds in the world. This was the reason for our visit!

We spent the night at the Outpost in Arusha dining on fabulous curry and chatting to Wild Frontiers MD John Addison about the forthcoming safari. It sounded amazing. Bahati Martin, a Maasai, our guide, driver, font of knowledge and generally nice guy was there to meet us bright and early the next morning. Everything loaded into the stretch Land Cruiser (this is similar to a stretch limo but without the comfort, luxury, power and sophistication), we headed out through Arusha’s crowed streets. Trucks, buses, cars and “millions” of motorbikes spewed exhaust smoke over pedestrians, cyclists, hand-drawn carts and, actually, everything. Maasai men and women abounded, their startling scarlet robes contrasting with the drab early morning streets. I grabbed shots as we went, Nikon’s 16-85mm on the D7100 providing a nice angle of view and I pushed up the ISO to keep things sharp.

The streets of Arusha are nothing if not bustling and noisy.

The streets of Arusha are nothing if not bustling and noisy.

We bumped our way past the roadworks on the outskirts of the town and were soon cruising along, Mt Meru , quite spectacular between the clouds to the north. Small towns popped up and disappeared, the ever-present Maasai brightening the landscapes. At Mto Wa Mvu, Bahati called a halt alongside some woman selling bananas. Not just a bunch or two… thousands of them. Yellow ones, green, red, big, small straight (?), sweet, sour and my favourite, tiny yellow ones, the flavour beyond any banana I’d eaten before.

We stopped to buy some bananas in Mto Wa Mvu. Never knew there were so many different ones.

We stopped to buy some bananas in Mto Wa Mvu. Never knew there were so many different ones.

Our limo, er, Land Cruiser ground its way up the Rift Valley Escarpment. In the lowlands, a spectacular Lake Manyara provided a home to thousands of  baboons, hippos, impalas, elephants and, at the right time, flamingos. Bahati cleared us through the Park gates at Ngorongoro and after passing through the forested slopes arrived at the view site overlooking the crater. Astounding! We were lucky – a clear day and we gazed down on one of the most magnificent sights in Africa. Try as we might we just couldn’t come to grips with the idea that at one time, in the very distant past, another Kiliminjaro stood here, snow capped no doubt. The shear size and volume of things, were difficult to comprehend.

Beautiful, beyond words - Ngorongoro Crater on a clear day.

Beautiful, beyond words – Ngorongoro Crater on a clear day.

Lake Ndutu is a little off the beaten track to the west of the main road through the National Park and I must admit it was great to get away from the madding crowds. There were times we drove for hours without seeing another vehicle. Actually we sometimes drove for miles without seeing anything at all except the grass and the stunning view of Lemagrut peak in the distance, despite both John and Bahati raving about the millions of wildebeest. Confused, I decided to remain quiet, thinking that I really must pop in to have a cup of tea with my optometrist on our return to South Africa. It was a while before I figured it – thousands of tiny little black dots on the horizon, moving in long lines as they trudged their way across the grasslands. When we caught up which them: Wow! And the noise! Every one seemed to be going nnnnggge, nnnnngge… endlessly!

Wild Frontiers’ Ndutu Wilderness Camp is situated on a ridge a short distance from Lake Ndutu amongst some lovely Acacia tortillas trees. There are 10 large safari tents, all with en suite bathrooms (I use this term in its broadest sense you understand) and comfortable beds, a mess tent and a “chill” tent. All very accommodating and eco friendly. Hot water for showers is available on request and the flush toilets are adequate. They have a very interesting eco flush mechanism that makes their use an interesting experience. Actually, for a temporary camp in the middle of nowhere they are incredible.

Ndutu Camp set amongst the tortillas trees.

Ndutu Camp set amongst the tortillas trees.

Bahati never ceased to amaze in his ability to spot game. “Look, a cheetah with 5 cubs” (not kidding here) “Where?” we chorus. “There…. next to that small green bush” There are thousands of of small green bushes… We drive for kilometres and then there she is: A beautiful female with 5 tiny cubs, still with their white “mantles” that are supposed to make them look like honey badgers and frighten predators. Our days were filled with early morning drives, breakfasts on the plains and than back to camp to download the images and movie clips before heading out again in the afternoon. Sightings of game were generally excellent and only once or twice did we meet up with other vehicles, usually on a predator sighting.

Elephants having a "chat"

Elephants having a “chat”

The trip to their camp in the central part of the Serengeti at Seronera took all day but what a journey it was. Lions, herds of elephant, Thomson’s gazelle, cheetah, more wildebeest and zebra than you could shake a stick at, more lions, giraffe, kori bustards strutting around looking for girls and much more. The camp is very similar to the one at Ndutu and we were welcomed with a beautiful sighting of a pair of Von der Decken’s hornbills on the wash basin at the entrance to the camp.

Von der Decken's hornbills preening and generally doing bird things in front of a mirror

Von der Decken’s hornbills preening and generally doing bird things in front of a mirror

It was at this time that the weather changed. The long rains were early and never before have we experienced storms of this magnitude. Because it’s so open you can see them building in the distance. Massive, black storm heads that simply grow and grow, the rains and wind hitting with a force and violence that leaves you stunned. And, it turns the roads into chocolate mousse. Bahati’s abilities at the wheel of the stretch Cruiser were amazing. The last thing you want to do is slide into the ruts on the edge of the road, once there it could take hours to get out. We came across a vehicle one morning as we were heading back to camp that had been stuck since dawn – about 4 hours. Their vehicle, the occupants, tents everything was covered in the sticky goo that once was a road. We pulled them out with a very long rope so that we didn’t go anywhere near the muddy patch.

We pretty much got the images we wanted for this leg of the shoot. We are due to go back at the end of August in the hope that we will be able to shoot the river crossings up in the north to complete the Serengeti section for our new book about African Icons. If you would like to follow what we are doing and where, please link up on Facebook as we are posting images and movies there. Our web site will tell you more about the project.

Also read what to do about Tsetse flies and our new book.

Photographic Equipment

There are a couple of things that are important on a shoot such as this: You need excellent, reliable cameras and lenses that are light and portable. So, to this end we took along the following (There is more about the equipment we use here):

  • Nikon D800 X 1 (Such a useful and versatile camera)
  • Nikon D7100 X 2 (Nikon, a wonderful little camera but, Nikon, a buffer size of 6 RAW images? Really?)
  • Nikkor AF-S 80 – 400mm zoom (Oh, yes! Light and quick to use. Excellent results)
  • Nikkor 70 – 200 f2.8 VR II (Too beautiful!)
  • Nikkor 24 – 70 f2.8 (My go-to travel lens)
  • Nikkor 16 – 85 (As above but for the D7100)
  • Nikkor 10’5mm fisheye (Wonderful when you need one)
  • Nikon SB910 flash
  • Pocket Wizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 (So easy to use)
  • GoPro Hero 3 Black (Very useful)
  • Gitzo Traveller GT1542T Carbon Fibre Tripod (Very light and so stable)
  • Gitzo GM2541 Carbon Fibre Monopod (Also light and sturdy. Great for camera support in the vehicle)
  • Spare batteries, chargers, filters etc
  • Lowe Pro Pro Runner 350AW bags (We each carried one. Held all the kit. Easily)

Mar 302014

I’ve become allergic to the bites of Tsetse flies which, besides the health considerations and having to carry antihistamines and adrenaline pens, is a damn nuisance. It seems such a ridiculous thing to be allergic to – their bites are not particularly sore and initially there is some itching but a little later things start to go pear-shaped. The trick is not to get bitten in the first place of course and in this regard we have learn’t a few things, reinforced recently when we spent some time in the Serengeti working on our new book.

Firstly, a little about Tsetse flies: Tsetse flies (sometimes spelled Tzetze) are large flies that inhabit much of the central region of Africa. They feed on the blood of animals and are the primary African carriers of trypanosomes which causes human sleeping sickness in people and animal trypanosomiasis or nagana in animals. They are particularly interesting in that the female tsetse fly fertilises only one egg at a time and keeps each egg within her uterus to have the offspring develop internally during the first larval stage. During this time, the female feeds the developing offspring with a milky substance secreted by a modified gland in the uterus – the only insect to do such a thing.

Tsetses (meaning flies in Tswana) can be very irritating and are tough little, er, critters (we have used other words but they are NSFW) recovering easily and often from a casual swat. And the usual insect repellants seem to have absolutely no effect on them at all.

We have found the following to be helpful in dealing with Tsetse flies:

  • Here’s the big thing. Tsetse flies are attracted to blue and black so DO NOT wear these colours when in Tsetse country. Here’s what the insecticide impregnated fly traps look like. You do not want to be a mobile Tsetse fly trap!

Tsetse Flies are attracted to blue and black so the traps are made of appropriately coloured material impregnated with insecticide. Avoid these colours when in a Tsetse area.

  • Conventional insect repellants don’t seem to work at all – at least not in our experience, What does seem to work is a strong solution (about 25%) of Dettol and water. Spray on liberally. You’ll smell like the inside of a hospital but it should keep the little, ummm, critters at bay. (There we go again..)
  • If you can, travel in a closed vehicle and if you stop for sundowners or a coffee break, avoid the areas around the tyres. They are black and a notorious place for Tsetses. If you happen to be in an open vehicle, try not to sit on the back seat – Tsetse’s seem to fly along in the draught of the vehicle,
  • If you do get bitten and start reacting to the bites, we found that Celestamine tablets work a treat.
  • Wear long sleeve shirts and long trousers that cover your ankles and light coloured socks. Tetses seem to be able to bite through armour plating but if you can keep them away from your skin it does help. We use Columbia Sportswear Omni and Techlite clothing that is light, cool, baggy and dries easily and quickly.

Disclaimer: We are not medical experts. We have found that the above has been useful for us. Please consult you doctor before taking, or applying any of the above mentioned products.