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A Photographic Safari and apparently not my last after all...


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@@PCNW thanks so much. I will select one of my Raw photos and follow your instructions. Sadly I don't have one of a leopard but hope to rectify that in Kenya this year! Pen

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Thank you, Patsy, this is one Excellent free of charge lesson! Unfortunatelly way above my pp skills and patience, so I will have to further rely on Zvezda's skills on field.

Edited by xelas
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My first and not very good attempt at slow panning…hopefully I’ll get better at this:







The following morning we set out and found the southern pride, all 18 of them and still looking very hungry, thin and raggedy. We trailed them for quite some time and when they flopped down oddly all of the cubs pounced on just one mom…she would tolerate them for awhile but then being the only adult minding the kids she’d lose her sense of humor and get all pissy, who could blame her?







Floppy Ear, matriarch of the Southern Pride.



Her daughter, VP of Operations and heir apparent.




Eye on the milk jug:
Some lodges require that the tracker get off the front seat and into the vehicle in the presence of predators, Sabi Sabi doesn’t. Here the tracker looking extremely terrified and afraid for his life…..yea….not….and actually at one point he had his hood up and we could see his head swaying…..
Sadly the youngest cub was struggling to keep up and had a bad limp, I suspect his chances of surviving aren’t good. The only thing he had going for him was this female that also had a bad limp too and they brought up the rear together. It almost looked like her right femoral head was dislocated but I don’t think she could have walked at all if that was the case.

For anyone that hasn’t actually been on safari and reading trip reports has given you the idea that the animals are everywhere doing all kinds of fun things here is what is actually more typical….watching a pride of lions sleep….just so you know….


We continued to follow the pride and then the adults saw/sensed something interesting that we couldn’t see. It’s always fun to watch as the lions fan out without any sign of communication to each other and the cubs somehow knowing not to follow. We decided to circle around and try to get a better view and to let Mike and Sydney find a bush….as they did their thing we suddenly heard the stampede of hooves coming our way. I looked back over my shoulder and Mike was looking at me over his shoulder….we both had the same WTF!? look on our face. But that was the end of it, no more sounds, no more animals, no more hunt. They’d missed again.




We called it a morning and headed back to a surprise breakfast set up for us in the bush and in a beautiful location. After sitting down I realized much to our embarrassment that the table had only been set for the two of us and our guide…..but not Sydney, our tracker. That was strange and unfortunate.


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Great lion action. You had to be quick to catch that "eye on the milk jug." So how/where did the tracker eat?

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@@Atravelynn Lynn he turned our invite down probably knowing it was going to involve someone going back for supplies.

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Beautiful photos and excellent post production. Really enjoyable report.

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@@twaffle Thank you for the kind words, really appreciate them.







On this evening drive we found a small herd of zebras just as the sun was setting and then moved on to the wildebeest nearby. But in hindsight we should have just spent the extra 15 minutes with the zebras…there’s no such thing as too many zebra images in your library.





A rework for my daughter of a previous image posted.








We had seen a vehicle go by about 30 min. before and when we cranked our engine to leave a call came in that there was a leopard in a tree…..about 2 min. from where we were sitting. Mike surmised that they had been sitting with the sighting for the last 30 min keeping it to themselves and only called it in when they heard our vehicle and knew we would be on them in a minute.

It would have been nice to photograph him while the sun set but I’ve wanted sightings to myself too and can’t blame them. But we did have a few minutes of the blue hour and then the spot lights came out. I’m not a big fan of photography using the lights…can’t seem to get it right I guess.




We followed the leopard has he jumped down and meandered around but the backlit and side lit images I really want to have didn't turn out very well.




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Peter Connan

Well, I don't know what you are complaining about. That looks perfect to me!


Also really like the vultures in the tree and the Wildies against the setting sun.

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You are a remarkable photographer with a very good technique and flow.

I use a D4S with a 80-400 mm VR II, your pictures show that same camera is perfect with the 70-200 mm f/2,8! Which camera were you using with your 600 mm?

Both camera ou used proved to have high performance when listing shadows, the noise is very low!


I am particularly interested in your workflow. I am a bit lazy and work a lot with Nik Collection today. Viveza, Tonal Contrast and Darken/lighten are fantastic tools, sometimes quicker than the usual PS masking techniques.


Great TR, I really enjoyed the pictures!

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How the heck did you do that with the 'highlighted' leopard. It's beautiful. Pen :)

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Anyone can snap a photo but you elevate them. I especially love the dark photos, the silhouette of the leopard is magnificent. I'd like to print them and put them in my elementary school library for kids to learn to see things differently than they appear at first glance.

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@AmtT Thank you for those kind words and you’re welcome to any photo, I can send it to you.

@@Peter Connan Thanks, a setting sun can do some wonderful things.

@@jeremie I used my D800 on the 600 and the 80-400 with the D4 at the 2nd and 3rd lodge. I posted some info on my workflow in a previous post in case you didn’t see that post. But because I do enjoy it I spend a lot of time editing.

@@penolva. Pen In LR I just darkened the entire image then erased just the highlighted portion. Then took it into PS and cleaned it up some more with the clone tool. Added a little split toning using red and yellow in the highlights.





Hope this helps,


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@PCNW: Thanks!


Do you prefer using the D800 or the D4 with the 600 f/4? How would you compare these two cameras? I would say that if the D4 is more expensive and supports much higher ISO, in favor of the D800 the larger sensor to crop.

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Thanks I will try that out!

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@@jeremie The D4 has 16 MP but shoots at 11 frames/second, the D800 has 36 MP but only shoots 4 FPS so I use the D800 on the 600mm because I’m not likely to need a fast frame rate since the lens is so hard to hand hold and move around. For fast action I need a wider field of view for moving targets like the 70-200 or 80-400 and the D4 gives me the fast frames so it goes on those lenses. I can use a higher ISO on the D4 for faster shutter speeds too.

If I had to take only one body and lens it would be the D4 and 80-400. When at home I shoot a lot of portraits so I use the D800. I don’t need fast frames or high ISO. I have blown up images from that camera to 40 x 60 inches and with 36 MP the resolution is unbelievably good.

Having both bodies and lenses while shooting wildlife is ideal.

We had one last drive on our final morning at Sabi Sabi Earth with a good variety of game starting with hyenas walking towards us in the morning light and then another male leopard.















South African rain frog also known as Grumpy Frog.


With 30 min left our guide had one last surprise…yep another leopard in a tree. I accidentally inserted this leopard in our first sighting in this report but this actually happened on the last drive. I’ve edited it two different ways.



Here I set my camera on the sink and took two exposures, one of the view out our bathroom window and one exposing for the dark bathroom. I combined them in PS. To entertain my kids and grandkids I added a leopard and giraffe into the existing view then one said add the twins then another request for elephants and a final request for a twin riding an elephant…..spent a bunch of time on all of these edit requests, here is one:


We headed back, got showered and packed and went to breakfast. There was a commotion with guests and staff running toward something. I looked out the see lions running toward the lodge. They were hunting and quickly took down a kudu right outside of room two. By the time I gathered my camera everyone was walking back having been told the crowd was stressing the pride. Just missed it!

Sabi Sabi Earth is one of the most unique places I’ve stayed. With so many interesting and lovely common areas that the internet images just don’t do justice to.

Londolozi, our final lodge, up next.

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Peter Connan

Stunning last drive!

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Tanya Kotze, owner of Africa Direct, our travel agency that I’ve used for three SA trips, offered as a gift, to have her partner Mike Karantonis guide us while we were at Londolozi. MK is a very experienced guide and knows the Sabi Sands well. We had heard good things about him from other guides while at Sabi Sabi. MK not only was a good photographer that used Nikon gear but was teamed with the best tracker I’ve ever had, Shedrick.


I continued to be amazed that my memory was of scrubby acacia filled flat woodlands. And there is plenty of that but so many other beautiful locations too.



Our first drive we headed out to find a leopard with her two cubs but the babes were napping and all we saw was mom munching on this impala carcass, oddly she left it on the ground near her cubs. The rest of the drive was reasonably quiet but we did watch a crock fish successfully.



Partridge in a pear tree….I’m pretty sure…..




Tawny eagle?…my best guess….Peter? D800 at my upper limit of 6400 ISO.


The underrated impala 2nd only to the waterbuck in my mind.




Because Londolozi spreads their vehicles around so not everyone is looking for the same things MK liked to head out about 15 minutes before everyone so he can have what he wants to find during that drive. Our mission on this morning was the mating pair of leopards…and there they were…but the tall grass meant not too many great photo ops of them.





We spent a long time with them until something got their attention…..a huge herd of elephants were quietly moving through and we were surrounded on three sides.





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I'm glad that @@xelas alerted me to your TR. Spectacular will be an understatement. Your Morocco report was equally fascinating.

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@@Chakra. Thanks for the encouraging comments.....welcome aboard.

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MK and Shedrick with his magic stick that protects him from leopards and spiders.




Continuing on:




….. and we were surrounded on three sides. We quickly backed out of the situation to let them pass then returned to the mating pair of leopards feeling like a bunch of voyeurs.






The female is a hussy and the male, at times, acted like he was watching the NBA finals and couldn’t be bothered.




Oh please no, not again.


At one point the female moved right beside us and in her agitated state MK read something in her body language and asked us to break our eye contact with her for a few minutes.



With enough of watching that episode we decided to leave the lovebirds to it and go follow the herd of 40ish elephants as they made their way to the river.


We moved gently behind them as they fanned out at the river bed, such a quiet, serene scene.



I could have sat for hours and watched the dynamics of this herd.


But as we reached the edge of the crossing point Shedrick noticed a HUGE male that we had seen earlier in the morning and he was coming in hot, as they say, from our rear. We were pinned in….the river and herd in front, rocks and trees left and right. Under his breath MK said….”it doesn’t get any worse than this….” We were all craning our necks searching for an escape route that wasn’t there.

When I put a camera in front of my face I lose my fear of most everything except an elephant flipping my vehicle and here we were boxed in by The Incredible Hulk. MK decided our best option was to take our chances with the girls and very slowly and very, very gently pushed them forward.


The matriarch sensed the commotion and moved to the rear to be between us and her congregation.


We made it across the river, took a hard left and got the hell out of Dodge to view the rest of the parade from a safer distance.



Not for the faint hearted….the barrier less water covered crossing point with crocs waiting by the edge for a careless driver. And this one boldly flipped around and got into a better position when he saw us stop.



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Peter Connan

Eish! Glad you made it out.

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On our morning drive we set out to find a male lion that had been seen in the kopjes the previous day and low and behold without too much trouble be found him. But getting that David Lloyd male lion portrait that he does so well and that I wanted was a little harder…..


No not this….


Nope, please look this way…..


OMG come on, cooperate……


That’s a good boy.




Next up was checking on the leopard den to see if the babes were on the playground….bingo…got lucky there too.







I’m still amazed that on two previous visits to the Sabi Sands I somehow didn’t appreciate some of the beautiful locations like this spot that we stopped and enjoyed our hot chocolate with Amarula.


This had to hurt.


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Peter Connan

I somehow prefer the profile shot, but all the lion portraits are excellent.


Cream of this crop though is that first photo of the baby leopard! Lovely shot.

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Getting that close to a male lion, my hands would shake too much for even a half-decent shot. And I agree with Peter, the baby leopard is so adorable and innocent looking.


On leopard photo #5, was that the tail of the baby or of another adult ??


Nasty scars on zebra, however wound will heal ... and they do kick back with a vengeance!

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@@xelas I was using a 600 mm lens so not that close and he was being lazy so not scary. But what is...well not scary but thrilling, is having him walking right towards us and then stopping right by the side of the vehicle at night while roaring. My husband wasn't sure about that although he filmed it but I don't know how to upload video.


The baby leopard was playing with his mom's tail..the only toy they have.


@@Peter Connan I'm going to give that profile another look....and thank you for the kind comments.



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