Londolozi is well known for the number of leopards they have living within the bounds of the property, and I was lucky enough to see three of them during my visit. They were elusive at first though, and it wasn’t until our third afternoon game drive that we finally saw our first leopard; the lions stole the show for the first half of our visit.
It was around 4:30 when Talley took a call that a leopard had been spotted with a fresh kill, and even though the viewing was not likely to yield great photos, we headed in that direction anyways, since we had yet to see a leopard.
When we found him, he was deep under some bushes with an impala ram. He had already had his fill, but was still working on pulling the fur off of the impala. The view from the vehicle was obstructed by the bushes, while I managed to get a couple shots and a short video clip, mostly I just watched.
We came across this leopard, as well as others, the next morning. The photographic opportunities and the story of that morning viewing were amazing!
I’ve just finished a blog post for Londolozi’s guest blog page, and now it is time to get back to keeping up my own page. Except I’ve got a touch of writer’s block.
I’ve been trying to think of what angle to take, what animal to highlight, and right now, nothing is coming to me at all. But these past few weeks, I have been working on a photo book project with my Mom, so I thought I would post a few of the pictures we have selected to include so far.
This little bird captivated me from my first sighting, but proved to be a difficult photography subject for the first couple of days. Obviously there was the usual scenario – that birds don’t necessarily sit still long enough for photographs. Then I had overcast weather or flat out rain that did not do the colours justice, or fading evening light. But in the end, I managed several lovely shots, one of which is now framed so I can see it every day.
“The Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus) is a member of the roller family of birds. It is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula, preferring open woodland and savanna; it is largely absent from treeless places. Usually found alone or in pairs, it perches conspicuously at the tops of trees, poles or other high vantage points from where it can spot insects, lizards, scorpions, snails, small birds and rodents moving about at ground level.
Nesting takes place in a natural hole in a tree where a clutch of 2–4 eggs is laid, and incubated by both parents, who are extremely aggressive in defence of their nest, taking on raptors and other birds. During the breeding season the male will rise to great heights, descending in swoops and dives, while uttering harsh, discordant cries.
The sexes are alike in coloration. Juveniles do not have the long tail feathers that adults do.
I look forward each week to the Londolozi photo blog. It brings me back to a place I loved and whets my appetite for a return trip. This week James mentioned two things that got me thinking. The first was a computer problem causing photo access issues – a great reminder to hook up my portable harddrive and do another backup (plus a secondary backup in case of a serious meltdown). The second was a photo he included that he noted was a photographic failure, but the story of the sighting was amazing (check out the week in photos #80 on the Londolozi site). Had I not had the explanation, I wouldn’t have gotten the full impact of the photo. Which got me thinking about the lion cubs we saw while at Londolozi.
The photos I have of the cubs include some of the most shockingly poor photos I have taken. Out of focus, odd colour, motion blur when there shouldn’t be, depth of field that was inappropriate for the situation, highly grainy & filled with noise… Honestly without the story behind the photos, people would probably think one of two things:
1) “That is the first time this person held a camera… and it didn’t go well.”
2) “The photographer was drunk.”
I can assure you that this gem was taken by someone, who although is in perpetual learning mode when it comes to photography, has definitely held a camera before, and was also stone cold sober (in fact, I’m quite certain I have managed far more in focus photos than this after a glass or three of wine. (I have no idea how I managed to cut her feet off and make her float.)
So why, out of 98 photos, did only a handful turn out?
The weather was poor when we headed out for our afternoon game drive – the ponchos went on right away, and I actually took my iPhone with me in case I couldn’t get my Nikon out (note to self, I need to get rain gear for my camera for the next trip). We found tracks of a lion pride, and followed them up through the trees and a dried riverbed, and eventually found the pride – with four adults and 7 cubs. As we had been driving, the weather got steadily worse. Lead gray skies, pouring with rain as well as cold and windy. Perhaps Mother Nature just wanted to ensure that the people from BC felt right at home in South Africa! I finally extracted my camera from beneath my poncho and instead of trying to coordinate manual settings, I just put it on auto – and the camera couldn’t focus (the joyous “Subject too dark” message – and wanting to us the flash on a subject 20+ feet away). Back to manual mode, I found that to get a correctly exposed photo,I would need to use an exposure time of around 2 seconds. Long exposures are great – with stationary objects and a tripod. Playful lion cubs? Not so much. So I snapped away using the slowest time I thought I could manage, and mostly just watched. Because when Talley and Freddy started saying things like “This is special – we don’t see this everyday” it was all about the experience. The camera was definitely a secondary consideration, and not something that would take my focus off the scene.
The lion cubs played in the rain on a fallen tree – they climbed, wrestled a bit – they entertained us immensely, and the rain and cold didn’t matter at all. They stayed in the area a good 20-30 minutes before setting off. We were also lucky enough that day to see an old female lion, who has since passed on.
The lions gave us great viewing opportunities at Londolozi, from the mating pair on night one, to the beautiful male I wrote about earlier, to the playful cubs, and rounding out with a male and female stalking impala as we drove off in the transport on route to the airport (actually a male watching a female stalk impala). Not to mention the calls we heard throughout the night each night we spent at Londolozi.
Below are a couple of the shots I managed to salvage. The nice clear shots will have to live on only in my head – unless I’m lucky enough to see such a sight on my next trip, with far more favourable lighting conditions.