My third contribution in the 5 Days Black-and-White Challenge is an animal that is part of Africa’s notorious ‘ugly five’. I’m not sure if I would have posted this Warthog in colour, although we’ve got fond memories of her as the residential lawnmower of Mpila in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi. What stands out in this monochrome version is the incredible high contrasting texture of her hairy coat. And then those eyelashes – isn’t she pretty??! If there is anyone who could learn us more about black and White photography it has to be Leanne Cole in my opinion. Leanne is a professional photographer based in Melbourne with a wonderful blog that is absolutely worth visiting – don’t miss her Monochrome Madness episodes.
A few days ago we were honoured with an invitation from our dear friends at De Wets Wild to participate in the 5 Day Black-and-White Photo Challenge. If anyone has ever read their reports on South Africa’s incredible parks and wildlife it’s easy to understand we were absolutely delighted by their invite – which we eagerly accepted. Regarding our own blog I personally believe it’s more about storytelling than anything else, and although you might like some of our shots we never had any technical photography training whatsoever. To do something different than usual is therefore the real challenge, however, I believe there are a few simple rules or tricks to master black and white photography. The most important of course is the subject, which has to be suitable for print in black and white. And what other animal than the zebra could that be? Although so common in any game reserve it’s often overlooked after the first few encounters, I’ll always be fascinated by their unique stripy coat that offers camouflage to the zebra …
The past week showed some rather erratic spring weather – glorious sunny days with temperatures in the high thirties immediately followed by unusually cool days. Especially the cloudy ones didn’t help me much in the search of my next wildlife-fix: the Ornate Dragon (Ctenophorus ornatus). This colourful lizard lives in and around the numerous granite outcrops near our tree hut, and with their extremely flattened body it shelters in ridiculously narrow crevices. On about every sunny day I expect them to be out there basking on some boulder, but for almost one year now I have been looking in vain. It’s frustrating although I know that patience and perseverance are the key words here. However, sometimes nature provides us with wildlife effortlessly – just by being at the right place at the right time we are able to witness the most memorable spectacles. This made me think of an encounter with a Southern Tree Agama (Acanthocercus atricollis). This arboreal African dragon was sitting unhurriedly in a tree right next to our bungalow in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi’s Mpila camp …
The northern part of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game reserve is set amidst the rugged evergreen hills of Zululand, forming a dramatic backdrop to the prolific wildlife in this area. Although the terrain makes up-close game viewing difficult, as opposed to the more open grasslands around the iMfolozi rivers, the mountains can add an interesting perspective to the composition of your photos. We spotted this giraffe struggling with a steep slope near Hilltop Camp, pausing on the ridge to scan the surroundings that made him look so small.
Out of the numerous fascinating features of the Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) I find its eyes most intriguing. As a predator hunting by vision rather than scent a cheetah’s eyesight is truly amazing, being able to spot their prey from as far as 5 kilometres away. To protect its eyes from the harsh daylight – unlike other big cats their night vision is so poor they mainly hunt in the morning and afternoon – a tear stain mark runs from each eye to their mouth. These marks are clearly visible in the pictures of this young male taking a late-afternoon rest. He obviously focused on an object in the far distance that we were not able to see, staring right past us and adding an almost condescending air to its handsome appearance. We could only guess what he was looking at.
Mpila is a place that will stay in our memories forever. Perched on one of the numerous hilltops in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Park, this camp offers stupendous views of its surroundings. The rich wildlife is the main drawcard though, wandering about freely as there are no fences to protect the nature-loving visitor. On our first night hyenas checked out the braai with the roar of a distant lion enhancing the overall wilderness experience. At dawn we were woken up by the chorus of the birds foraging in front of our bungalow, with mixed parties of Black-bellied starlings, Burchell’s coucals, Bush-shrikes, Crested-Barnets and African Hoopoes, followed by some late-morning entertainment of the inevitable gang of Vervet monkeys, ready to snatch about everything lying around unattended. After lunch our lawn was cut by a family of warthogs, and with the occasional herd of Kudu and Impala close-by, we felt no urge to go on a game-drive. The highlight of this relaxing day was a personal encounter with this lone Nyala male, his horns covered in mud to show his prowess to the ladies nearby. As the real king of Mpila he grazed undisturbed, looked back to inspect the surroundings before continuing his way.
“A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart” – Hal Borland