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!

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.



















Why going on an African safari will do more than just improve your photography

Here are five reasons why an African photographic safari is a must. If this is not on your bucket list, go add it as soon as you have the time!



1)  Experience African wilderness:
Africa’s open savannah. The great migration. Up to ten million straw coloured fruit bats converge upon Kasanka national park. Thousands of sardines darken the east coast of South Africa. Elephant rise on their hind legs reaching for the high leaves in the famous Mana pools in Zimbabwe. Oryx and brown hyena kick up sand as they traverse the sand dunes of the mighty old Namib desert in Namibia. The jewels of Africa are endless. The landscapes are vast. The people rich in cultural heritage. This is where it all started.
Africa is rich in wildlife and raw untouched beauty. A photographic safari to Africa will leave you mesmerized and wanting more. Be it the northern parts showcasing Ethiopia and Egypt, be it eastern Africa with Kenya and Tanzania, maybe Silverback gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda. All the way to the southern parts where lion and leopard roam the free land. Not to mention the great rivers of Africa, Zambezi, Chobe and the great Nile, where the sound of the fish eagle greets you and sets you of for a once in a lifetime adventure.
In the end, photographer is general are deep rooted conservationists and can all appreciate what we have in a beautiful continent like Africa.



2)  Help conservation efforts:
This is of utmost importance in these times we live in, looking at poaching stats, more than a 1000 rhino’s killed in 2014 by illegal killing and trading rhino horn. The African elephant faces the same dilemma every day and eco-tourism can become a crucial part for future generations.
By supporting organisations such as the David Sheldrick Wildlife trust, you can help save Kenya’s elephants. By supporting the Great Plains conservation effort (Duba plains for instance), you can help save lions of Botswana and beyond.



3)  Improve your photographic skills:

Because of the diverse fauna and flora on the African continent, this is the perfect place to improve your technical skills and experience. This goes for both landscape and wildlife photography.
While visiting Amboseli national park, you can photograph the biggest elephant in Africa with mount Kilimanjaro as a backdrop…
While driving in the Sabi Sands game reserve in the greater Kruger park, you can photograph 5 to 10 different leopard on a 5 day stay…
While on a landscape photography trip to Namibrand in Namibia, you even see springbok grazing the open plains of the savannah…
While visiting the Chobe river to photograph this 460+ bird specie paradise, you come across hippo’s fighting and lion drinking from the shallows in the background…
This is why Africa is such a popular destination. This is why people visit Africa from all four corners of the world: to explore a rugged beauty. To experience what Sir David Livingstone spoke about when exploring Africa from east to west and hearing Africa’s soul in the Smoke-that-thunders, the Victoria Falls.



4)  Explore a multitude of cultures:

Whilst so many people come to Africa to photograph the landscape and animal encounters, there is a rich cultural heritage just waiting to be explored. This includes tribes like the San: one of the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa, the Maasai farmers/warriors from East Africa, the Taureg people of the Sahara desert, the Berber people who lived on this continent since 3000 BC. These are only to name a few of the rich heritage shared by so many on this marvelous and diverse land.




5)  Remember Africa:

Even though so many come to Africa every year, how often do we forget the Africa outside the five star lodging, an Africa in need of so many basic supplies like water, food, education etc. If people can remember Africa as they return to their destinations, if people can talk about Africa, if they can portray the true Africa to their friends and family, this is a great starting point for future input into this beautiful, yet fragile land. A continent where people and animals alike fight a daily battle for survival, on ground they love, deep-rooted as they traverse the dust path, the desert sand, the muddy swamps and the streets of African cities.
In the end, it’s easy to see why Africa will always be a gem as a photographic destination, where photographers realize they are part of something bigger as they set foot on the Dark continent.
I sincerely hope you will have an opportunity to be welcomed in old Africa once in your life, to share in an African sunrise in a sapphire sky and be put to sleep by the majestic roar of lion in the distance.





Philosophy:

My main philosophy to photographers would first be to appreciate before shooting. By appreciating the natural elements, you get to see things you never saw before, and therefore shoot things you never shot before, and ultimately this would influence your composition, colour and feeling you carry over to the viewer.

What gear I use:


Photography website : 
Twitter:               @jphmarx
500px:                 www.500px.com/jacomarx
1x:                       www.1x.com/member/deftone

Thank you for taking the time browsing my work!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The reason behind Black and White

“The most colorful thing in the world is black and white, it contains all colors and at the same time excludes all.”  - Unknown


Why black and white monochrome images in wildlife photography?  
Why not only colour photography?  
Why not stick o the original scene as seen with your own eyes?

Monochrome photography has been around for ages.  For me, it is a beautiful way to use in combination with wildlife photography.  Here are a few point on this subject:


  • It tells the same story in a different language.  Two pictures can be next to each other, and they can tell two totally different stories, evoking two different emotions.  In the two examples (leopard portraits) below, one can see the prominent difference in message:
         
                                      


       


  • It removes distractions of colour...leaving you with a raw image, leaving it naked to be seen for what it really is.  In the example below, the wild dog is clear without any colour variations around the main subject: the wild dog.

  • Monochrome conversions are a great way to create nuance and mood to a photograph.  To create a tangible atmosphere.  In order to do this, light and tones are used creatively.  In the zebra portrait below, the mood was created with dust and reflection.  This strong effect would never have been possible with colour.  

  • The eye doesn’t search the image for anything else but the subject matter.  The main subject/message can be conveyed very effective in a well structured monochrome image.

  • Black and white keeps you focused on the actual composition and texture of the photo. It allows you to focus on shapes, light and shadows, lines and perspective. That is why some photos look more convincing in black and white.  As seen in the two examples (elephant drinking) below, textures, light, shadows and tonal range are much more prominent and visible, making monochrome images a very effective and strong tool in photography.  


  • Monochrome images have a more artistic feel to them...being timeless, relevant in all eras.  They can applied to any genre of photography.  In the panning photograph below, the viewer is looking at a painting-like photograph.  This long exposure photograph (wildebeest running) effect is enhanced by viewing it in black and white.  Suddenly wildlife photography becomes art.

Thank you again for browsing my work, I appreciate every comment.

Until next time,

J

Monday, 23 February 2015

My personal tips on getting my shots

There are hundreds and thousands of articles on "Getting the perfect wildlife shot" out there, or maybe "Top tips from the professionals"...




Today I want to share a few personal yet practical tips I adhere to when going on a photo safari.


1.  The best photographs start before going on safari


  • I always do quite a bit of reading and scanning the internet for the best spots and times for visiting my destination.  This also includes the kind of equipment to take and travelling off the beaten track.



2.  Charged, packed and backed up

  • Backups, backups, backups...My camera/flash batteries are always 100% charged and my memory cards downloaded with a backup, in other words formatted and ready for anything.  I always carry at least four 32 gig 90mb/sec with me.  One never knows what can happen.  A second camera body is crucial, not only if one body fails for some reason, but to have two different lens options is a quick way to switch in a jiffy.  



3.  Have patience

  • For wildlife photography, this is one thing I have learned early...to have more patience than you would ever think...that's if you want the great shots.  Having patience is very important, it gives you ample time to think about your current situation and have your camera settings correct as you progress.


4.  Think outside of the box 

  • If you ever come in a situation where you might think you have no proper shot, think laterally and enlarge your creativity.  Be an artist in the field.  


5.  Backgrounds and Angles

  • A friend of mine from Zimanga game reserve in South Africa, hammered on two important points: background and angles.  The more I thought about this, the more I cemented in my memory.  Without a good background, a brilliant scene can disappear between a clutter and a busy backdrop.  And to shoot a once in a lifetime shot from a bad angle can drown the image in an ocean of lameness.  



6.  Inject emotion

  • To do this you need to use you light well.  Either shoot into the sun and maybe get some moody silhouettes, or use the dust around the animals to create an tangible atmosphere.



7.   Mark to go back

  • In post processing using Adobe Lightroom 5, I always flag images with potential; only to return to them a few times, getting new ideas on processing before exporting.  
Hope this helped you guys to add some value to your next trip.  

Have a great day!

J



Wednesday, 7 January 2015

My Top 10 Monochromes images for 2014

It's always a good idea to sit back, relax and ponder about the past year.  The things you succeeded in, the things you could have done better perhaps and maybe a few lessons to take home.

The same goes for your photography goals...

My goal was to improve and take more images for monochrome.  

  • With this mindset and fondness for the 'Black and White', I got out and decided to take pictures for monochrome, while in the field.


  • I also did some reading on proper monochrome conversion, since this is crucial to make an image look captivating, natural and convey a message with atmosphere.  


Below are my Top 10 monochrome images for 2014:




1.  Elephant Sunrays (Zimanga, South Africa)


2.  Leopard going Down (Mashatu, Botswana)

3.  Wildebeest Dust (Mashatu, Botswana)


4.  Leopard Rest (Mashatu, Botswana)


5.  Painted Dog Stalk (Zimanga, South Africa)


6.  Dragon Breath (Zimanga, South Africa)


7.  Double Trouble (Zimanga, South Africa)


8.  Guineafowl feast (Mashatu, Botswana)


9.  Mom and me (Mashatu, Botswana)


10.  Majestic (Mashatu, Botswana)


Thank you for checking in and browsing my work!

Please note that all images are for sale on different mediums, for more info, please go to the official Marxphoto website.

Until next time!

Jaco

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

An Epic chase

There will never be a moment where one can grow tired observing animal interaction in the African bush!  

 I recently returned from a private photographic safari to Mashatu game reserve in Botswana.  During our stay we had unbelievable sightings and were treated with quite the surprise on our last day.

We came across a pride of lion resting underneath a thicket in the distance.  As we approached, we saw two lionesses and three cubs.  They made a relatively fresh eland kill and were filled to the brim.


All around the lion, vultures gathered as the clock ticked by.  At one stage I counted about 15 vultures around the kill, all keeping their distance.


Suddenly I saw the lionesses alert and staring into the distance.  At this stage we couldn't see anything in this direction.  Clearly something was brewing.


After about five minutes, a lone hyena approached the scene with the smell of a kill in the air.  The hyena was cautious yet curious.


About five minuted later, a second hyena approached and smelled the air.  We literally had the kill on the one side of the vehicle and the two hyenas on the other side, about twenty meters apart.


Suddenly the one lioness flew to her feet and walked closer, observing the behaviour of the two hyena.


From nowhere she exploded into action and ran towards the younger hyena...


As she ran, dust was kicked up by thumping and breathing...


The chase continued...


Lucky for the hyena, the lioness just ate herself to the limit and her speed let her down on this day.  Even though male lions tend to kill hyenas,  lionesses can either seriously injure hyena and in some cases cause fatalities.  

 

Just as the action died, the second lioness got up and burst into running towards the older hyena...


She was fast, really fast, and at one stage I was certain the hyena will be taken down at any stage...but luck was on the hyena's side...by the hair on its skin...


As the hyena strolled away, even a jackal stood its ground and barked with warning.


The chase was over.  The lionesses returned to their kill and cubs.  They rested after another successful and exciting day on the African savannah.

Until next time guys, hope you enjoyed this experience with me.  Please let me know what you think and you are welcome to comment!

All the best, 

J