Behind the lens

My Photo
A Dentist. Conservationist. Wildlife photographer. It all started when I was very young playing with point-and-shoot cameras at home. We were travelling a lot, and I captured moments on camera and the love for photography became a passion - especially wildlife photography. My drive is conservation, to use photography as a tool. Hope you enjoy the images!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Kgalagadi Splendor!

For the first time in 18 years I had the privilege to visit one of Southern Africa's most beautiful, yet arid, game parks, the majestic 38000 square kilometer Kgalagadi Transfrontier park that cross borders South Africa and Botswana.  This desert landscape is colored by large red dunes and two ancient river beds, the Nossob - and Aub river. These rivers might flow once every hundred years.  The river beds are wonderful in shape and size, covered with sparse vegetation and camelthorn trees.


*Random pictures will follow*



The weather can be very extreme, reaching 45 degrees celcius in summer and -12 in winter has been recorded.  On our trip in Nov 2015, we had temperatures reaching 44 degrees Celcius for four consecutive days.





Our accommodation was at Twee Rivieren Rest camp. Twee Rivieren is situated at the main gate in the south and is fully equipped with fuel, a small shop and a swimming pool.  We stayed in a fully equipped chalet with air conditioner.  This is ideal for families or people with small children, such as in our case.  The facilities are wonderful and the infrastructure well maintained.  (Besides great camp sites, the Kgalagadi houses two other great lodging sites: Mata Mata to the west and Nossob in the central part.) 















The main reason for the trip was WILDLIFE! I was very unsure what to expect after my 18 year absence.  This is what I found....

Because of some cold weather and some rain just before we arrived, a lot of the animals, and predators, headed into the dunes away from the river beds where the main sightings occur.  During the first two days I was anxious because of the few sightings.  Popular sightings were Springbok, Eland, Ostrich, Goshawk, Black backed jackal, Oryx and Blue wildebeest.  





During the third day the sightings increased and the type of sightings grew ever more interesting.  I came across a badger foraging and accompanied by a pale chanting goshawk and black backed jackal, stealing from the badger whatever he may find.  The juvenile goshawks also hunted red mongoose which made for great fun with camera in hand.





Red hartebeest also made a quick appearance.  The smaller animals also included yellow mongoose, suricate, steenbok, Cape fox (a large den at Gemsbokplein five meters from the road), pygmy mice running across the road twice, ground squirrels, Cape hare and porcupine.





The larger predatory species and predators really surprised with great sightings.  (Even though I unfortunately did not see leopard, but heard about a lot of sightings in the Aub river bed near Batulama and Montrose water holes.  Leopards were found here five days in a row, including a kill 40 meters from the vehicles.)






Lions and cheetah really did not disappoint.  In total I witnessed three cheetah kills and two lion kills in the time I was there.Pictures will follow.





I came across two large male lions at Kij Kij water hole, a pride of eight that stayed around Leeudril/Rooiputs region and a third pride I came across the last day, also with a large male. On the very last morning, I drove 800 meters from the Twee Rivieren gate and came across this pride with a kill.  This was a great experience I could photograph in wonderful Kalahari morning light.





The cheetah always traveled as a pack of three, apparently three siblings.  On the second last day, they killed an Oryx.  On the last day, they hunted with their mother. She killed a springbok about 300 meters from the vehicle, which is a bit far and the light was very harsh.





Besides these wonderful sightings and animal interaction, I also came across African wild cat up in the trees during the day, as well as Giant eagle owls.

The experience was unbelievable and I would recommend it to any nature lover, nature/wildlife photographer.  Not only great for photography, but you can also have a great time with your family.





When to go?

This obviously depends on what you are looking for...migrant birds? Wildlife? Landscapes?
For wildlife, action is great throughout the year, but after a lot of research I came to the conclusion that November/December can be the best months regarding animal sightings.  This was after talking to people visiting the park for more than fifteen years.  It is  dry and warm, but sightings great.  During February, sightings are also very good, with the additional element of greener vegetation.  June/July is much better for day temperatures, but bring along the warm blankets, for it can easily drop below freezing temperatures!

Go check out the SANPARKS page for Kgalagadi here.













Thank you very much for taking the time to browse my work!

Until next time...

Cheers!

Jaco

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Error code 36 while transferring photos to Desktop on Imac.

I recently came across my very first error on my iMac while transferring files from my CF card to my Desktop.  I was stunned, since I have never before struggled with workflow due to errors or glitches on any Apple device.  I realized that I am not the only one struggling with this particular error.Apparently this error do occur on some Apple iMacs or MacBooks while transferring files.. 

What is error 36?  

This problem usually starts from the 'dot-underscore- files that OSX creates at the time of transfer.  The copying process usually gets interrupted by a message: 'The Finder cannot complete the operation because some data in <> could not be read or written (Error code -36)'  Error 36 is an input/output error but can also be caused by file corruption.

How to fix error 36:

Because you usually don't know the exact reason for this error initially, a few steps can be followed to get to the bottom of this error:


  1. Check permissions and sharing options by clicking on the file, selecting 'Get info', and check the permissions tab at the bottom; it should be readable and writable.  
  2. Check hard drive permissions:  Head over to Finder -> Applications -> Utilities ->Disc utility.  Here you can Verify and Fix permissions of your hard drive.
  3. Repair the dot-underscore by going to Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal.  In terminal type the following, followed by a SPACE: dot_clean.  Now simply drag the source folder into the terminal window, the path will be visible automatically afterwards.  Now simply press Enter. Even though it may seem nothing happened, you can now try to copy the files again and it should work perfectly.  Repeat the process for any folders that won't copy. I also received this link from the guys at Sandisc.
I hope this helped guys.  Please feel free to add your thoughts/tips in fixing this error.

Thanks again for the support!

All the best,

Jaco

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Never just a portrait...

Today I want to share a photograph I took of a lone male leopard early one morning at Mashatu game reserve, Botswana.  

As I was shooting this beautiful cat in golden light, I realised how much weight a portrait can carry.  No fancy moments, no predator/prey action, just a single subject and good background.  

I think the light was the hero in this frame, but the simplicity of the image helped me to understand the value of a single subject image with proper composition and light.


Have a good week guys, hope it's a great one!

Keep shooting!

Jaco

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Using light and dust

It's true that any sighting of elephant or one of the big cats are beautiful....but sometimes the elements around the main subject can make the pictures so much stronger.  

I just returned from a very enjoyable trip to Mashatu game reserve in the Northern Tuli, Botswana.

Even though I had more or less very similar sightings to my previous visit, this time it was all about the elements: sun, dust, shade, trees, dry river beds etc.  These elements helped me to create different images from the norm, helping me to add some substance to the photographs.


A herd of elephant crossing a river bed with light penetrating the dust created some atmosphere.

I had so much fun photographing this young elephant.  The sun was rising straight ahead and the herd kicked up a lot of dust.  The sun illuminated the dust isolating the dark elephant baby.

On our last day, we drove back to camp and came across this cheetah emerging from a truly beautiful orange sunset.  Besides the beautiful light, the tree added some texture.

Well I hoped you could see how the elements can help in creating an image different from the normal wildlife image.  In this case it would make sense to say: "GOOD LIGHT!"

Jaco


Monday, 29 June 2015

Africa the colour palette...

It was another wonderful and I planned my day with certain stops and certain shots I had in mind.  African skimmers in action, elephants playing in the water etc...this was what I was looking forward too!  All photographed from an aluminum boat on water level.

This is Chobe naturally.  Chobe river in Northern Botswana.  A haven for multitudes of wildlife and bird life.  

But nothing happened.

The day was as quiet as a post-nuclear strike.  Nothing.  

As late afternoon approached, I had a handful of average wildlife shots and my mood was down in the dumps, but I enjoyed being outdoors and loved the fresh air.

I decided to switch of the boat off...drifting alongside the soft turns and passing small hippo herds floating in the water.  

Right in front of me I saw a glorious sunset and a lone yellow billed stork...strolling on the banks.  I picked up my camera and took two shots before the bird flew into the distance.  I was surprised with the result.  A solid sunset and a spectacular backlit stork! I loved the colours and just loved the calm, warm tones.




I learned a lesson this day:  Enjoy every moment, even if the sightings are few.  Eventually you will be rewarded at the most unexpected time.   
Africa is an ever changing colour palette. If you spend enough time in the bush, She will reward you (:

Until next time folks! 

Jaco

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Less is 95% more...

A topic as old as photography: how much subject matter should I include in my frame to make a powerful picture?  

It cannot be emphasised enough: Too much is too much!  As simple as that.  

For me personally about 5% of wildlife pictures work well with a lot of elements, depending on the composition and subject.  In 95% of cases one wants to be focused on subject as seen below,  or a moment (Like a predator-prey scene).  This helps the viewer to find what's important and to get the message in the photograph without hassle.

A wild dog, water, ground.  Three elements.  
The focus stays on the dog and there is no distractions taking 
away from the main subject. Taken at Zimanga game reserve in South Africa.

There you go.  A short post with, to me personally, an important rule of thumb. 

Please feel free to comment and share your opinion!

All the best,

Jaco



Thursday, 28 May 2015

How I started my journey as a wildlife photographer, six lessons I learned...

As a university student starting my studies in 2001, I came across a book in the library.  This book was titled "A Shadow Falls" by Nick Brandt.  The photography blew my socks off and something lit up inside of me that's still burning today.  I was amazed by the emotion these pictures can evoke, as well as the strong conservation message being conveyed to the viewer.  

Since then it was my mission to be like Nick Brandt (:  I quickly realised this was not as easy as it looked. So I learned my first lesson:

LESSON ONE:  Be your own photographer and your own identity.  What do you want to achieve with your wildlife photography?  I realised that I was never good enough to be Nick Brandt, but a certain style of photography emerged from within me as time ticked by.  A style unique to me.  So what I did was, I gathered as much info as possible and became a self-taught wildlife photographer developing my own style and identity.

I bought my first camera: Canon EOS 350 D and a Sigma 300mm lens from a local retailer and was stoked!  They became my most valuable items.  With them I travelled Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, capturing moments and memories.  The pictures were....let's just say...honest...but not the best of wildlife snaps.

At this stage, the only post processing software I had was Adobe Lightroom elements.  It helped me to understand the flow and feel of Lightroom.

In 2003, I became frustrated.  I learned another lesson.






Above is a photo taken with my Canon EOS 350D back in the days.  On closer inspection, the image lacked a lot of sharpness and was very low res, even more after cropping.  Yet I was amazed at the results I got from my first post processing software: Adobe Lightroom Elements!

LESSON TWO:  Patience.  I had to learn that to become better and more artistic with a higher standard of work, one needs to be patient with regards to developing your style and getting the results you want.  Wildlife photography can be very challenging.  It can cause a photography break down where the majority of photographers stop pursuing their dream.  You reach a stage where no pictures work, post processing is a nightmare and you don't know where to go.  A dead end.  And this can cause the break down.  And as I have observed friends of mine and fellow photographers...if you can break through this dead-end phase in your journey and keep on pushing forward, you reach a place where you can see and feel a massive improvement in your overall position as a photographer.  Keep on learning, keep on shooting wildlife, train yourself, get to know the equipment and post processing techniques.  I learned the most while on safari, talking and asking questions in the field.  

Eventually I felt left behind with my photography and limited to capability.  I needed an upgrade.  I needed an upgrade bad.  I decided to get me a Canon EOS 7D with its launch and a 100-400mm zoom lens to get better quality images.  I also downloaded Adobe Lightroom and NIK Software and did some training in it.  I learned my third lesson:

LESSON THREE:  At some stage you need to get super organised, the sooner the better.  This relates to your equipment and your physical post processing on your photographs.  I got the best equipment I could afford and got the best software for processing wildlife images.  I was pumped.  My photography reached another level.  Every image imported was labeled and sorted according to date and place.  Keywords were set.  Desktop organised.  Organisation helped me to reach higher standards in photography.  I felt polished.  

Yet there were brilliant photographers out there, so one should never stop learning. Always developing and moving forward.  Trying new genres like monochrome wildlife photography and how to do it properly.  So I learned my fourth lesson:

LESSON FOUR:  As the first few years passed, I managed to lift the standard of photography, but got stuck in a narrow minded view of photography based on a few peoples' views.  But after getting to know more wildlife photographers, I realised to think outside the box and never to get stuck in one mindset.  People like Frans Lanting, Chris Dodds, Michael Poliza and Greg du Toit truly inspired me to be creative.  I vowed never to be single minded again.

As my journey continued I realised I needed some feedback from more than just my everyday mentors, I needed to know what the world out there think about my photography, be it the man on the street as well as professional wildlife photographers.  So I decided to tackle a new mission:

LESSON FIVE:  Making your stand in the social world of networking.  This included Facebook, Twitter, Google plus and of course 500px (:  This gave me an opportunity to see what people think about my work, as well as to receive critique.  This social presence established a sphere of interaction and learning the same time.  This presence also helped quite a bit with increasing my prints and getting people to appreciate and enjoy African wildlife with me.  

LESSON SIX:  I was thrilled to see so many people reacting to my pictures with messages of caring, conservation and preserving the wildlife we have.  This was my goal: to get people to appreciate this wonderful planet and her beautiful animals.  And I would love to see every wildlife-, or even landscape photographer spreading the word, getting involved or physically contributing to the conservation of this planet.  It's under severe pressure and we need to be protective and aggressively caring towards her well-being.  

Eventually my journey in the present is a story of lessons learned and friends met along the way.  Today I shoot with a Canon EOS 1Dx and Canon EOS 5D Mark 3, Canon 500mm f/4.0 IS USM, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8.  

My journey is not over yet.  I will keep on absorbing new techniques,  keep my feet on the ground and be true to myself as a photographer, only leaving footprints and spread a message of conservation as far as my photos can carry me.