2018-01-15: Monochrome Monday

And another week begins!  I don’t know about all of you, but the weekend flew by in a flash for me (which is the exact opposite of how this leopard sighting turned out).  We came across this gorgeous male leopard early into our afternoon game drive, and tracked him for a short while along with another vehicle.  He went into a thicket and the other vehicle gave up, but our guide Albert predicted where he would come out of the bush, and we reconnected with him and then got to spend time with him when he climbed this tree and the sun set.  That other vehicle certainly missed out on a great sighting!

Wishing you a fantastic week ahead.

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2017-10-08: Before and After – Lion Cub

I’ve had a lot going on recently on the editing side for my images and have been experimenting with new workflows and combinations of software.  I’ve recently made the move from Lightroom over to On1 Photo Raw, and while it is a big learning curve, I am definitely enjoying the process.  I had downloaded the trial of On1 after reading reviews that suggested it might be a better option than Lightroom for Fuji X raw files (I’m in the process of making the jump from Nikon to Fuji; new camera and new software all at once).  What impressed me the most with the On1 software, and the reason I took the plunge with it, was I opened up some raw files both from my Nikon cameras and my Panasonic camera, and found they appeared much sharper just from the initial work of the raw processing engine, without me doing anything to the files.

I had flagged this photo to work on, and it is definitely a challenging image.  It was shot at 1/250sec, f5.6, ISO 25,600 at 5:15 in the evening and the lion cub was in a deep, heavily shaded thicket.  Whether the steps I took are the ones I would do again, I don’t know, but I am pleased with the end result for this one.

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The starting point.

I knew I wanted to use Topaz Denoise for my noise reduction, so I moved the image from On1 Photo Raw into Photoshop to do my editing work.  Other than the initial raw processing with lens corrections, I didn’t do any editing work on this image in On1 Photo Raw.

I ran Topaz Denoise 6 as a filter from Photoshop, and selected the Nikon D800 ISO 25600 preset, as they don’t have presets for the D600 or D610, and I found the results for the D800 gave me the best image quality.

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Image at 200% as shot, to show the noise.
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Image at 200% after running Denoise 6.
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Full image after running Topaz Denoise6.

After Denoise was complete, I could have gone back into On1 to do further work on the image, but I decided to stay within Photoshop and instead played around with the new Topaz Studio that I downloaded earlier this week (I’ve been using the Topaz suite for some time as filters from Photoshop, but they haven’t been go-to’s in my workflow).

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In Topaz Studio, I selected the preset “Light sharpen contrast under the basic panel as my starting point.  I adjusted the colour temperature slightly and added a subtle vignette to the image.

Sharpening was my final step, which is a little tricky when you have an image that is really noisy.  I stayed within Topaz Studio and went to Detail to see what could be done.

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Using Topaz Detail within Studio, I selected the micro contrast enhancement 1 preset to add a bit of sharpening to the image, without adding back a lot of the noise I got rid of in step one.
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The final result.

There are dozens of different ways to work on this image.  I’m sure I could have done everything in Photoshop, Lightroom, On1 Photo Raw or Topaz Studio, or using a combinations of plugins like MacPhun’s Intensify and Focus or the GoogleNik filters.  This was just the way I decided to work on this image, as I look to see how the new resources I have work and how to make them work together.  Right now, I am doing my raw processing in On1 and using Photoshop when I want to use other filters and plugins, but I can’t say I have any real sort of workflow using these new tools.  It’s all a work in progress 🙂

Let me know if you like the Before and After posts; I’ve done one previously also working on a seriously noisy image.  You can find that here if you are interested (and I must say, looking back at that image, the workflow I used here yielded much better results!)

 

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and

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2017-08-28: Monochrome Monday

A gorgeous leopard to start the week.  Enjoy!

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The Flat Rock male leopard yawning in the grass.  We spent time with him and the Piva male, who were in the midst of a territory battle.  The Piva male was recently killed by lions; I can only imagine how interesting the leopard dynamics will now be on the reserve.

Please visit:
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and

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2017-07-09: Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia

I am so excited to finally begin sharing some stories and photos from my recent adventure in Southern Africa! It’s taken quite a while to go through my catalogue of images and work out which ones are worthy of further review, but I am finally in a spot where I can begin the fun part of editing.  I have decided to create posts highlighting some of the experiences at each of the areas I spent time in, and since starting at the beginning of the journey makes sense to my brain, that’s what I am going to do.

The first stop we had was at the Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, a beautiful and very remote location in north western Namibia. I had anticipated amazing landscapes, and the area delivered that and then some, but I honestly didn’t anticipate the abundance of wildlife that we saw. We were lucky to arrive in Africa after a wet season that had provided much more rain than expected, and even in the desert, there was water to be found and amazing pockets of lush greenery amongst the sand and the rocks.

The camp was absolutely beautiful, and we were thrilled when we were told our guide would be Chris, and then realized that we had met him during our previous trip to Namibia, in Damaraland. During 3 nights at the camp, we had the opportunity to take a day trip to the coast and see the dunes and the seal colony, we spent time with the desert adapted elephants and we saw one of the few desert lions on a giraffe kill (amongst lots of other things!).

I hope you enjoy these first images from my time in Namibia. There will definitely be more of them to share in the future.

Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead.

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A sandstorm blowing through an area near the camp.  The days we were there, we had foggy mornings (that cleared very quickly), heat that built throughout the day, and then windy afternoons which brought up sandstorms.  It made for some surreal and beautiful photo conditions.
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Desert-adapted elephants graze on devil’s thorn; a plant in bountiful supply after the rain the region experienced.
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A steenbok pauses with some rather barren looking desert in the background.  But despite appearances, even in these areas, there is a lot of life to be found.
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On an early morning drive, I spotted this wild cat in the drive river bed.  Given how far we were away, I was rather impressed with my spotting abilities.
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A pair of oryx graze on devil’s thorn alongside the road.
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Due to the heavy rains prior to our arrival, the normal driving route to the coast was closed, and we ended up taking a 20 minute flight to get there instead of driving.  The landscape from the air is absolutely stunning.
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A small part of the seal colony along the atlantic coast.  The smell in the area was pretty overwhelming, so we were all taking photos through the closed windows of the vehicle.
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We stopped for a photo op at the top of a large dune; mist from the ocean can be seen in the distance.  I’m pretty sure my Dad and Chris were discussing something to do with the engine or 4-wheel drive capabilities of the vehicle.
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The desert provided the clear skies and unobstructed views necessary to try a bit of astro photography.  I didn’t return home with many more night sky images, as most of the camps were in lush places without a clear view to the sky.
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Elephants heading out of the riverbed after a drink and a mud bath.
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Morning drama on a game drive.  After spending a half hour or so following lion tracks through the desert, our guide Chris spotted a giraffe acting rather odd, walking in circles around a clump of bushes.  When we drove closer, we could see the drag marks into the bushes, and a lioness feeding on a baby giraffe.  From the tracks surrounding the bushes, the mother giraffe had attempted to charge the lioness several times, but it was too late to be of an help to her baby, which we found out was only a few days old.
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It is easy to feel badly for the mother giraffe in this situation, but the lions in the desert are in rather dire circumstances, and I was thankful even to have the opportunity to see one, let alone one on a kill.  Several desert lions were shot or poisoned by a farmer in the last year, in retaliation for livestock being taken.  Human-wildlife conflict is a complex subject, but it is especially tough to hear about animals, who’s populations have already dwindled substantially, taking a hit like that.
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A lovely sunset from a hilltop sundowner drinks stop.  The wind was gusting incredibly, but I managed to get this shot while holding a glass of wine in one hand, camera in the other, all while being pelted by blowing sand.  A rather fun evening!

 

Please visit:
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and

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2017-06-19: Monochrome Monday

I wish I had an extra couple hours in each day; then I would have the free time to figure out how to extract the audio from some clips I have of this lion and his brother roaring into the night.  Our vehicle was parked between the two, and being amongst lions roaring in surround sound is a heart-stopping experience.  Even the cubs playing nearby stopped in their tracks!  But alas, video isn’t something I’ve invested time in, so you’ll just have to make due with an image instead.  But it’s a pretty nice image, if I do say so myself.

Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead.

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Please visit:
www.jennifersawickyphotography.com for wildlife, landscape and nature inspired artwork.

and

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2017-02-17: WPC Against the Odds

On my first trip to Africa, we spent a very rainy afternoon game drive with a pride of lions, and at one point, all the little ones climbed up onto a fallen tree and were playing with each other.  While I did my best to capture the moment, the photos turned out awful.  Don’t believe me?  You can go into the way back machine and see the post about that first sighting here.

On my most recent trip to Africa, during my time in the Masai Mara I was fortunate enough to spend time with two different lionesses with cubs (including two of the tiniest cubs I have ever seen).  On an afternoon game drive, we first viewed the mother with the tiny cubs, and when they retreated into a thicket we turned our attention to the older cubs and the pride males that were snoozing nearby.  My guide Wilson thought that the males would soon start rousing themselves, so we had a sundowner drink and waited to see what would happen.

And much to my delight, while mama  and the boys lounged nearby, the two cubs climbed up onto a dead tree and began playing with each other.   And while it was growing dark, the camera I was using was  better equipped to deal with it (as was the camera operator!), and I managed to come away with a few usable shots.  And if you checked out that old post, you’ll notice I did say maybe this will happen again someday… You never know what you might find when you’re out on a game drive 🙂

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Please visit:
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and

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WPC: Against the Odds