Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Scatter Cats

Scatter Cats

I got a surprising message from a friend in the George area on Monday afternoon, congratulating me on my winning Image.    ???????

I know that over time, I enter images here and there into various competitions run by certain magazines, but for the life of me did not know what he was speaking about. A few messages later and he informed me that the latest edition of a local magazine, called SA Country Life, had my image awarded with the first prize in their competition called Image Club.
Winning Image as it appears in Magazine
Needless to say I went to the news agency down the road and purchased a copy for my collection. Only then did I see what image it was, and that has led us here, as I fondly remember the sighting as though it was yesterday.

From a Wildlife Photography perspective it was and remains one of the most amazing sightings I have been privileged to photograph.
I say this, not because of the subject matter, but, for the environment in which I was able to capture images on that particular day.
Winning Image

At the Lodge – Frustration

Being the manager of a lodge is great, but the frustration is even greater when you listen to the amazing sightings that the rangers are finding out on drive via the radio glued to your belt, and here you are, stuck with an electrician trying to get plugs working in the lodge kitchen before the guests return expecting a nice hearty breakfast.

This morning was no exception, and I had to grind my teeth listening to the rangers chatting about 2 mating leopards not more than 5 minutes’ drive from the lodge.

Kashane and Hlaba Nkunzi Mating 
In the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, the guides and staff become accustomed to certain animals, as they are territorial, and thus after a while they are named, so as to prevent any confusion regarding the animal’s identities. This also helps in keeping a record of the various bloodlines that are present and develop over the years, which in turn again makes for interesting discussion when animal histories are shared with the guests and other online enthusiasts.

Kashane Male Leopard ( Kashane = Far Away, because he was born over 30km from where he established a territory ) and Hlaba Nkunzi Female Leopard ( Named after a dam around which she grew up and established an initial territory – Hlaba Nkunzi Dam ) were followed for over 2 hours on this perfect morning as they mated at regular intervals.
Hlaba Nkunzi
I was green with envy at not being able to see the action, or capture images in the perfect golden morning light, but knew that I may just pop out after all the rangers had returned from drive later in the morning. This though was of little solace, as the light would not be suitable for Wildlife Photography, and being that late, would be, too harsh.

Destiny would dictate that for some reason the sighting only improved later on.

Once most of the rangers and their guests had had the chance to live the experience, I decided to pop out to the sighting and see what was happening.

My second bite of the tongue, through sheer frustration, came when walking to the car, and hearing the rangers mentioning that the leopards had been disturbed on their honeymoon by 3 lions that had been drawn to the area because of the very vocal mating process the leopards were indulging themselves in.

Inevitably I needed to wait, as was, and is the protocol: to allow rangers with paying guests first rights to the sighting. So I sat, and sat, and eventually switched my radio off, before I sent it flying into the troop of baboons filing past the staff houses at that time.

I was missing it all, and there was nothing I could do about it.
About an hour passed and knowing the chance of the sighting still being active was minimal, I switched channels, and listened to the updates. Incredibly there was still an ongoing chance to view the cats, as 1 ranger had remained with them, whilst the rest got their needed “fix”, and had moved on to whatever next may appear before them.

I loaded up my camera equipment, and jumped into my jalopy of a maintenance vehicle, and drove ( chugged ) towards the area.
My jaw dropped when I saw into which tree Kashane had climbed into to escape the much larger Lions. It was the dream tree, an enormous dead skeleton of a Leadwood Tree. No distracting branches or leaves to obscure the subject, and at that time some of the most incredible blue sky as a back drop.
Kashane In Leadwood Tree

I positioned myself a few times, getting different angles, and at various distances, but could never quite understand why my memory cards were filling up so fast. I snapped a total of 16GB worth of RAW and jpeg images in the hour or so that I spent there, all on my own, barring my wife who was as glued to her camera’s view finder as I was.
Clouds moving in
We not only managed to see Kashane in the dream tree, but also had chances to photograph Hlaba Nkunzi in a Boerbean Tree about 50m away, and the 3 lions between the two trees, looking up longingly at their competition and enemies, safely out of reach in the upper branches of the respective refuge trees.
Fine Art Editing
From Below

The lions eventually tired from the searing heat, and moved off to a dam nearby, and left the leopards, both still too nervous to descend.
Ximungwe Lioness staring at Kashane

Mapogo Male Peering at Hlaba Nkunzi
There were times when the clouds started to build up, but offered little respite from the heat to the very exposed Kashane, but hlaba Nkunzi had managed to fall blissfully asleep in her cool leafy tree.

Work beckoned, and I needed to get back to my duties, so we left the leopards and returned to the lodge, where I waited apprehensively for the images to download from my memory card, to my temperamental laptop.

Fortunately they were all saved and transferred, and today I am able to share some of them with you all.

Artistic Manipulation of Scene

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