Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Finding Rhino Man
Please Help me Find Rhino Man
I was fortunate enough this past weekend to attend the running of the annual Comrades Ultra Marathon, which takes place between the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban. This year the race was, what has become known as the “Down Run”, starting in Pietermaritzburg, and finishing in Durban.

I am by no means an athlete, and after seeing the torture that so many individuals put themselves through, one can only stand back and admire the sheer determination and dedication these individuals show to their cause, in an attempt to complete what must rank as the ultimate endurance event on the running calendar in South Africa.


At the start of the race, I stared disbelieving at a man, who had donned an over sized Rhino Suit, as his appropriate running apparel. This was in stark contrast to the thousands of other runners who wore the bare minimum; flimsy light shorts and paper thin running vests.
I was certain that he would discard the costume in time, as it would become a self-imposed prison of death if he were to contemplate running the entire distance with his closed, heavy, ungainly suit that would restrict his movement, let alone prevent the sun from evaporating many litres of perspiration that would be tapping off his skin in the hours to come.

Our first stop as a support team, was at the top of a hill known as Polly Shorts, around 10km from the start, and Mr. Rhino Man came trundling past in good spirits, still fully clothed in his costume.

Cato Ridge was the next opportunity to see him, along with a multitude of other colourful characters. Looking at my wrist, keeping a watch on the clock, it was then that I noticed my two Rhino Awareness trinkets; A RHINO FORCE bead bracelet, and another black band, much like the Livestrong Foundation bracelet, but this was for RHINO REVOLUTION. I have had these 2 bracelets for the past 5 years, in which time I can honestly say that neither has left my wrist once.

Our Rhino Populations are fading away, and will soon just be a distant memory.

It was a no-brainer that if anyone was going to create some awareness for the plight of the rhinos that are being slaughtered at an alarming rate, it would be the Rhino Man. I slipped the bracelets from my wrists, and they were presented to him to adorn his own wrists, which he did with the greatest enthusiasm, even stopping, turning back, and asking to hug my wife who had run alongside him to help him get them onto his wrists.

That such a small action could cause so much emotion in Rhino Man goes beyond human understanding, but suffice to say, both me and my wife were very emotional, thinking of the nightmare faced by the Rhino population in Africa, especially South Africa at present, and the sacrifices, pain and torture that Rhino Man was willing to put himself through to highlight this plight, caused a welling up of tears in both our eyes.

At the bottom of Cowies ( Pinetown ) we got our last look at Rhino Man, and things were looking less sprightly than they had 9 hours earlier at the start of the race. But at this stage Rhino Man had already completed 70km of the race. I may just have lasted 2km.

Whether Rhino Man completed the race or not, to me remains a mystery, but in the same breath, remains immaterial to the accomplishment already achieved 10 times over, by his presence over the 70km that I know of.

Mr Rhino Man, I take my hat off to you, as should every other conservation minded individual that walks the earth, along with every one of the almost 18 000 participants of the race, who are better equipped to understand the suffering that you were willing to put yourself through, to bring to the forefront, the message you wished to convey on Sunday.

2m x 1m Canvas that adorns the wall in my own office at home

I am a simple man, one without expendable cash, but what I do have is a wish to somehow reward you, and thank you for the effort that you put in. As an enthusiastic wildlife photographer, I have had relative success in selling a few images over the years, and a very popular photo of mine I want to donate to you. I would like to gift to you a Signed Limited Edition mounted Canvas, or Print.

You may be humble and wish to donate the said Image ( Seen above and below ),to the organization of your choice, or to the one that you were representing, and I will honour this wish, but I would want you to have a keepsake, and a reminder that your efforts were appreciated on Sunday, and thus I will be willing to give 2 of the mentioned photographs.

Rhino - Which Way

One I would be honoured to have you hang in your house, and the other can be donated to your choice of charity or registered reputable organization. It could be auctioned off, or raffled, which would ensure some much needed funding to assist in the protection of our very fragile Rhino Populations in South Africa.

Please could all the people that have taken 5 minutes out of their day to read this post, take another 2 minutes, and share this as widely as possible, that in some manner, Mr Rhino Man may become aware of my search for him, and make contact with me. 2 Minutes of your time is nothing when compared to the 12 hours of suffering and sacrifice that Mr Rhino Man endured.

Thank You

Rudi Hulshof

Monday, January 20, 2014

Success with Time

Success with Time

Sigma Wildlife Photo Competition Winner

Entering photographic competitions can be a very intimidating matter, to say the least. The failure to place or get awarded, far outnumber the accomplishments of receiving praise and accolades of competition success.

Too many times we tend to judge our own abilities by the outcome of a competition, and this leads to despondency, and often anger and disappointment when comparing our own obvious “winning” image with that of the true victor.

I have been fortunate enough to have placed well in a few competitions, ranging from getting to the final stages of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year a few times, being awarded as a Highly Honoured Recipient in Natures Best Wildlife Photographer of the Year, reaching the finals of the Mazda Wildlife Photographer competition numerous times, and getting highly commended certificates in the Getaway Fujifilm Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

I never managed to win a competition though, but perseverance and sheer will and self-belief allows a person to brush off the disappointments, and continue bumping your head in the hope that one day your vision with a particular image may be interpreted in a similar manner by the judges.

This morning my luck and fortune changed, and I eventually managed to secure a much needed, and morale boosting WIN, in the Sigma South Africa Wildlife Photography Competition.

After many disappointments, a photograph that I had earmarked as a possible winner in some form, just never seemed to make the cut. The lesson I learnt, was that; as much patience as was needed to get the eventual shot, in the same way, patience is needed when entering those images into competitions. I persevered, and eventually got the reward.

My first reaction when told I had won, was actually one of guilt, a strange sensation to experience when it should be one of unbridled joy. My heart goes out to all of the entrants that are left dejected and disappointed, that they did not win. This is a feeling we all know too well, and I really do feel that at any stage, any image can be judged a winner over another. With a different judge, I may not have been so lucky, and may have yet again been faced with a rant at the useless judges.

My only advice to everyone planning to enter competitions is that you really do need to keep believing in your photography, and continue trying. At some point your luck will change, and you will get the reward for all the hard work put in over the years. Gary Player said it best: “The Harder I Practice, the Luckier I Get”

Thank You to all fans and friends for always believing in me, it is the motivation and appreciation from you all that help keep me focused on the end goal.

Below is a short description of how and where the winning photo was taken, with a few more images from the same sighting.

I was conducting a guided safari one morning in the Western Section of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park with an Australian group.

We had heard about 2 female leopards fighting in the area, and started heading in that direction. Soon thereafter a male was found close by, and it became obvious that the females were fighting for the male’s attention.

Resting Between Mating

Once the fighting subsided, which I unfortunately missed, the victorious female linked up with the male, and the process of mating was initiated.

Action from behind

Dismount from behind

We observed them mating over a period of about 45 minutes, but they were always facing away, or were side on. Moving the vehicle into a more suitable position was not an option, as the female was very nervous, and would move away whenever an engine started.

Nervous female in the background

Just before Winning Image was taken
After a long wait, the female initiated mating, by seducing the male, presenting herself to him, and eventually this time they were facing us, at which point I got excited for the possible shot to be captured. Understanding the behaviour I waited while the mating was taking place, and prepared to fire off some images as the male dismounted the female. I was resting the camera and lens on a bean bag on the edge of my land rover door, and took continuous shots hoping to capture the action depicted in the frame.

Side on Aggression

Side on Dismount

Who is the Boss?

Needless to say I was overjoyed with the resulting image.

I pushed the ISO up to 400, so that the shutter speed could be fast enough to freeze the action, at the biggest aperture that I had available – f5.6, at 400mm zoom. This aperture was chosen to try and have defined subjects ( Leopards ) against a background that was as blurred as possible, trying my hardest to have a shallow Depth of Field view. I was fortunate that I had time to adjust the settings of the camera, predicting the action to come beforehand, and then even luckier having the leopards oblige by moving into a position suitable for the image I had hoped to get.

Resting before next bout of copulation

Happy Mommy to be!

Please remember to click on the image to see a larger version!