Tag Archives: Starfield

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Coming Soon

After running my Canon EOS 5D Mark II for over seven years, I have finally taken the plunge and ordered a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

I am looking forward to experiencing the significant feature additions and improvements the latest model offers over the substantially old (2008 model) Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

I am very keen to experiment with more low-light photography and take advantage of the low-light performance it offers.

While I rarely shoot beyond ISO 400, I have needed to shoot some images at ISO 3,200, and frankly on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, ISO 3,200 is noisy.  The starfield images I shot in the African wilderness look great at small-to-medium sizes; but at much larger sizes the noise is very evident.  I am interested to see how the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV performs at the same ISO rating.

The in-built GPS receiver is a very appealing feature, as for years I have been recording the GPS coordinates of my shooting locations by using a smartphone app.  Now, the camera will do that automatically and embed the GPS coordinates within the metadata, which makes it fuss-free.

Being able to control the camera via Canon‘s app is also very appealing.  I have not yet checked whether my remote release (Canon TC-80N3) is compatible with the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, but either way, I may not need it.

This is a big upgrade for me, as I am generally not inclined to change cameras very often (this will be my fifth EOS camera in 17 years); but it is now time for me to take advantage of the technology available in current-generation cameras.

Whether this new camera will change the way I shoot, or whether it will provide my images with an obvious improvement in image quality is yet to be seen, but bring it on.

Big Nigrescens: Revisiting the African Night Sky

Last weekend, I re-visited some of my unprocessed and/or unpublished images from our epic African trip in 2012, and dragged out from the archives another image of the stunning night sky over Africa.

This is Big Nigrescens, a spot in the Timbavati region of South Africa, through which we had passed during a morning game drive.

Big Nigrescens

Big Nigrescens

I wanted to capture stunning silhouettes of jagged, dead trees against the magnificent night sky over Africa.

After some fantastic wildlife spotting and photography, including pursuit of a leopardess on a stalk some thirty minutes earlier, we returned to Big Nigrescens where I shot this image and a few others in the pitch blackness of a warm African night.

 

Snowy Mountains by Night

Dave, Lea, Xenedette and myself headed away to the Snowy Mountains of NSW for a two-day sojourn and photography expedition.

Having visited Charlotte Pass and nearby Spencers Creek on the first day, we decided to return later in the evening for some starfield photography by the creek.

It was exceedingly dark, and very difficult to compose, both due to lack of visibility, and soft, grassy ground on which our tripods were resting.

This image is the result of the best of what I shot on the night.

Snowy Mountains by Night

Snowy Mountains by Night

Unusual for my style, it is shot at a relatively high ISO setting, hence the lack of ‘clean’ presentation.

I hope viewers like the image.

While the trip wasn’t terribly fruitful in photographic sense, it was nice to get away for a few days and see a place we hadn’t seen before.

The orange glow in those distant clouds is not the rising or setting sun, but the soon-to-rise moon, which peeked over the ridge not long after this image was shot.

Africa: Day 3 – Wildlife Abundance and a Magical Sunset and Night Sky

Our third day in Africa was the second day of our photographic safari in the Motswari Private Game Reserve in greater Kruger Park.

It started with an early rise, some time before 5am.  We were heading out on our first morning game drive, during which we’d encounter lots of wildlife, and another special surprise.

The morning was quite cloudy, which on the one hand was bleak and gloomy, but which on the other hand made photography much easier due to the lower contrast.

Chad and Petros whisked us off nice and early, first encountering a few zebra in the scrub, before stopping for a landscape shot a short while afterwards.  Unfortunately the zebra weren’t out in the open, so landing a clean shot was difficult if not impossible.  Photographic woes aside, just to see a bunch of zebra in the wilderness was pleasant in its own right.

Our next photographic stop was for a wildebeest and some impala, followed shortly after by a lone spotted hyena who was hot on the trail of… something.  A few minutes later we encountered another lone hyena who was lazing on the ground, unfussed by our appearance.

Some twenty minutes later, magic awaited us: another leopard!

Not only was it a leopard, but it was a different leopard.  The night before, we had encountered Makepisi, a male leopard; but this morning, we had the pleasure of the company of Rockfig Jr, a female leopard who inhabits the southern part of Motswari Private Game Reserve.

What a magnificent leopard she was.

Here she is in her glory:

The Leopard Rests

The Leopard Rests

I landed a very pleasing selection of high-quality images in very soft light, and Rockfig Jr was quite the model.

Here’s a close view of her profile:

Profile of Rockfig Jr

Profile of Rockfig Jr

During the time we spent with Rockfig Jr, at one point she got up, walked right behind the vehicle, and headed over to a vantage point from which she keenly watched a warthog which was grazing in open sight in the not-too-far distance.  When Rockfig Jr passed behind the open-top vehicle, I was closest to her, and I estimated her to have been only three metres away from me.

Where else but Motswari can you find yourself three metres from a wild leopard?  It was spectacular.

Rockfig Jr kept her eyes on the potential prey she spotted a relatively short distance away, but evidently elected not to pursue it.

Way too soon, it was time for us to leave.  We had coffee and biscuits at Hide Dam, and then headed off, whereby we soon encountered a few wildebeest, followed by lots of impala.

Throughout the safari, we’d encounter many impala; so common were they, that we didn’t bother to stop on each sighting; but early into the safari as this game drive was, we did stop and watch them for a while, during which time I captured this image of two males sparring:

Locking Horns

Locking Horns

Our next sightings included giraffes and more impala, before we headed back to the lodge for a well-earned breakfast.

We sat down to a fantastic buffet, and cooked-to-order eggs, with a variety of juices, fruits and other food available.

After breakfast, we had quite a few hours or recreation and lunch before our next game drive, which would commence at 3:30pm and see us returning for dinner after sunset.  Lunch was announced by the beating of drums and the African songs sung by the Motswari staff who brought the food.

Our afternoon drive commenced, and there were sightings aplenty, with lilac-breasted rollers, giraffes, kudus, more giraffes, our first hippo, more impala, and then finally, another surprise, and another member of the Big Five.

Chat and Petros had led us to three white rhinos: a male, a female and a calf.  Our timing was unfortunate, as the rhinos had just indulged in a mud bath, and decided to wander off.

The rhino mother and calf were heading to the river bed, which they’d cross before heading up the bank and into the scrub.  We followed them and had some nice photo opportunities in the dry river bed before they soon meandered along.

Apologies for the lack of images; I’ve not yet published any of the shots I took during this particular rhino sighting; but they are coming in the near future.

As it was late in the afternoon, we headed off, and soon stopped for a quick sunset silhouette, and an image which captured the feel of Africa:

Sunset on the African Savannah

Sunset on the African Savannah

All this image needed was a leopard perched in the tree.  Not so lucky, I’m afraid.

Shortly after capturing this beautiful sunset, we stopped for a sundowner before making our way onwards.

The next encounter was unexpected; the trackers had located yet another leopard.  This would be our third leopard sighting in barely more than 24 hours.  Not only was it our third leopard sighting, but it was the third unique leopard.  So far we had seen Makepisi and Rockfig Jr on consecutive drives.

This time we encountered Nthombi, a female leopard, who Chad had earlier heard roaring in the north of the reserve.  We found her in thick bush, and using the spotlight, our Land Rover plus two others trudged through the bush, relatively closely following her.  It soon became apparent that Nthombi was stalking a steenbuck, so we had to back off and leave her to do her thing in peace.

During our short time with Nthombi, I did snap one shot of her stalking her prey, but it wasn’t a usable shot.  Not to worry; merely being in the presence of another leopard, and watching her on the hunt, was more than enough of a reward.  Alas, it was time to depart.

Early during our morning drive, I had told Chad that I was keen to photograph a silhouette image of a dead tree against the Milky Way after darkness had fallen.  Chad showed us a particular tree at Big Nigrescens, and said we’d aim to head back there on one of our night drives.

After the excitement of chasing Nthombi through the bush, Chad drove us back to Big Nigrescens, where I exited the Land Rover and set up my gear for a long exposure.

Here was the winning image I landed:

Afrika se Nag Lug

Afrika se Nag Lug

After a few long exposures, we headed back to the lodge, where a pre-dinner drink and a delicious meal awaited us.

After dinner and discussion, we were escorted back to our rondavel and we prepared for bed, as an absolutely huge day awaited us, starting even earlier in the morning, as we had all agreed to depart at 5:30am rather than 6:00am, at which time all of the other safari parties would also be embarking on their morning drives.

Day two of our Motswari safari experience had been a fantastic experience, but the best was yet to come.

Stay tuned for the next installment, in which it will be revealed that Xenedette would receive an absolutely awesome birthday present.

Afrika se Nag Lug

One of the images I wanted to create during a four-day safari in Kruger Park, South Africa, was ironically not an image of the stunning wildlife, but a landscape image.

The Timbavati region of Kruger Park is a very diverse territory, with lush green foliage, as well as many dead or dead-like trees.

During a game drive, our ranger-driver Chad, knowing I wanted to shoot a long-exposure starfield image, pointed out this tree.

After an afternoon of spotting and photographing giraffes, white rhino (etc.) and chasing a leopard through the bush after sunset, we returned to the tree in the darkness, and I proceeded to create the image I had in my mind.

This is it.

Afrika se Nag Lug

Afrika se Nag Lug

The title, Afrika se Nag Lug, means “African Night Sky” in Afrikaans.