Ross Couper is a Field Guide at Singita Kruger National Park and a keen wildlife photographer. As part of our series of favourite photos from our game rangers in the bush, Ross recently shared a stunning photo of a mature and battle-worn female leopard. Today, he sent us this slightly comical shot of a scruffy-looking Bateleur – read on to find out how this photo came about:
This photograph could easily be described as a ‘backbreaker’ as I waited over an hour with my camera focused on this Bateleur in the hope that I would be able to capture the bird in flight. A few puffy white clouds were passing by and I knew that if I had a chance I would be extremely disappointed if a cloud appeared behind the bird as it took off. As we both sat there staring at each other, even the Bateleur started to look at me as if I was crazy and decided to groom himself instead. After preening for several minutes, he ruffled all his feathers – in an attempt to dislodge any unwanted parasites – and I was able to get this shot. I was only able to take one photograph with the pure blue sky behind the bird and it turned out beautifully. The eagle continued to clean himself for a further thirty minutes, never taking off from the bare branch, and all the while oblivious to my desire for that perfect in-flight photo.
This photograph was taken with a Nikon D3s using a 300mm F2.8 lens. To see more wonderful shots of the flora and fauna surrounding the lodges, you can catch up on the monthly Wildlife Reports from all of Singita’s lodges and camps, or read our earlier Field Guide Favourites.
You would be forgiven for assuming that lions, the larger and more ferocious cousins of our domestic cats, weren’t big fans of the water. In actual fact, lions are excellent swimmers and although they aren’t prone to daily dips (unlike tigers who use the water to cool down) they will cross a body of water with ease.
Marlon du Toit, a Field Guide at Singita Sabi Sand is an excellent wildlife photographer whose pictures can regularly be seen on this blog, our Facebook page and across various international websites and publications. He was lucky enough to get this incredible photograph of not only two adult lionesses traversing the Sand River, but with six little lion cubs in tow! As Marlon says, “This is a lifetime of waiting and hoping all in one shot… something very special indeed.”
Our “Field Guide Favourites” is an ongoing series of wildlife photographs from our team in the bush. See more of Marlon’s photographs in previous posts or visit his website for more.
Continuing our series of favourite photographs from our field guides, Dylan Brandt from Singita Sabi Sand gives us some helpful hints on how to capture unusual photos like this one:
Low light can pose a number of challenges to any photographer but it is also the best time of day to get shots that exaggerate movement. When we first spotted this young male leopard, he was mostly concealed by the thick bushes that were camouflaging him. He kept to the relative safety of the undergrowth for a long time before making his move. When he did so, dusk had fallen and it was almost dark, so there was little benefit of using a high shutter speed. Changing to a slow shutter and panning the camera while firing off a series of shots in quick succession increases your chance of getting a clear image. The trick is to have the head of your subject steady and in focus while the rest of the body has a blurred movement to it. The subtle lighting and blurred elements will add mood, while the wild animals do the rest.
Keep an eye on the blog for more special photographs from our field guides and explore the archive for previous posts in this series. Our Facebook page is also updated regularly by the guides themselves with their latest pictures from the bush.
Singita Field Guide, Ross Couper, is an experienced member of the team at Singita Kruger National Park and a keen wildlife photographer. As part of our series of favourite photos from our game rangers in the bush, Ross shares the story of how he happened to cross paths with this stunning leopardess:
My guests departed early for their next destination and, as it promised to be a beautiful day, I decided to head out into the bush on my own to see what was out there. I grabbed my camera and headed east for approximately thirty minutes, before I turned a corner and happened upon this beautiful female leopard. None of the other guides had started their morning game drive and I was the only vehicle out in the bush. Realising that the leopard was on a territorial patrol, I reversed further down the road in order to give her enough space to walk towards me. I angled my vehicle on a low slope, knowing that she was bound to come over and the photograph would look like I was on ground level with the leopard. It’s not often that you can capture such a beautiful subject in pristine winter’s light on eye level. What made the encounter even more special is that this particular female leopard is approximately 18 years of age; well over the average life span of most leopards in the wild. She has undoubtably been in several thousand photographs and as she gracefully walked past my vehicle, it was evident that her beauty was not defined by age.
This photograph was taken with a Nikon D3s using a 600mm F4 lens. To see more wonderful shots of the flora and fauna surrounding the lodges, you can catch up on the monthly Wildlife Reports from all of Singita’s lodges and camps.
Ross Couper is a field guide at Singita Kruger National Park, whose love for animals and the African bush makes him a keen wildlife photographer. Here he shares a stunning shot of one of the continent’s most fascinating and dangerous mammals – the hippopotamus:
The N’wanetsi River flows directly below Singita Lebombo Lodge, which makes the lodge the perfect spot from which to scan for hippos and crocodiles in the water. Some mornings, guests will see the hippos move closer to the man-made weir that allows passage across the river. Originally used by travellers to the Mozambique border post, now it allows for a close and eye-level encounter with one of the most deadly creatures on earth and by far one of the most interesting.
The magical early morning light is fleeting but casts a spell over everything it touches, making for some spectacular photographic opportunities. This particular morning, I waited patiently as the hippos moved under the water, waiting for them to surface briefly for air. Luckily, one appeared in a pool of golden light and every painstaking minute spent focusing through the viewfinder was rewarded.
This photograph was taken with a Nikon D3s using a 600mm F4 lens. You can see more of Ross’ great photos in our Wildlife Reports, where field guides from all of Singita’s lodges and camps keep monthly game-spotting journals.
Second in our series of our field guides’ favourite wildlife photographs is this delightful snap of a baby elephant by Marlon du Toit at Singita Sabi Sand. The Sabi Sand is a privately owned game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park, and together the two areas make up some of South Africa’s most incredible and pristine land.
“All babies are simply adorable and well worth spending time with. Little elephants have great personalities and make for stunning images. This one had huge ears and this unique pose works very well, and the soft light compliments the skin texture.”
Subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss the next installment in this wonderful photography series and get more from our field guides by reading our monthly Wildlife Reports.
Singita’s field guides are required to have a number of skills; the powers of observation, knowledge of various bird calls and animal spoor, good awareness of their surroundings and a passion for the African bush among them. Some of them also happen to be talented photographers and are responsible for many of the wildlife shots you see on this blog.
We will be showcasing some of their favourite photos over the next few weeks, with some words from the field guides themselves about the moment they captured through the lens. First we have Dylan Brandt from Singita Sabi Sand, a regular contributor to our blog and Facebook page:
Light has a wonderful way of creating mood. All it takes is a keen eye and a little patience and the rest will unfold in front of you. We had been following the roars of lion for an hour before we found two lionesses lying on the edge of a barely driven, two-track dirt road. The lionesses started moving and roaring only to attract a coalition of males nearby. It was a misty overcast morning, cool and damp with the sun nowhere to be seen. We spent an hour enjoying the pride hoping for a break in the clouds to cast a bit of sunlight for a quick image or two.
Male lions have a habit of snoozing the day away and opportunities for unusual photographs are few and far between. We were fortunate however to have a wonderful ray of sunlight beam through a thick canopy to light up the head of one of the adults. The rest of the image contrasted in shade made for a great chance to capitalise on light.
A keen eye, a little patience and the rest will unfold in front of you.
Keep an eye on the blog for more special photographs from our field guides and catch up on our monthly Wildlife Reports for more.