Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SOUTH LUANGWA - LIGHT CHALLENGES


Before we have everyone wondering if I have become a heathen who worships the sun god Ra ......let me explain. It started at Easter in 2009 on a trip to Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana on one of our photographic expeditions when the skies simply opened and we had a flash flood tear through the Mashatu Tented Camp. (cf. AFRICA IS NOT FOR SISSIES post of February). Since then the rain has relentlessly followed me on almost every break I have taken to the bush bar my visit to the Serengeti which was thankfully, rain free. My friends have dubbed me Modjaji (the African rain goddess for those of you who don’t know) and so it was to be that when we arrived at Chichele Presidential Lodge in South Luangwa that another conglomeration of cloud had followed me there.

There is nothing as sad as seeing a bunch of enthusiastic photographers on the back of a safari vehicle at the break of dawn – and dawn fails to break. The optimist will of course declare that this is a CHALLENGE! Defy the non-existent light they will loudly proclaim and stretch your camera to its utmost. Of course, they forget that a camera really requires contrast in order to produce great images and during sad, rainy, grey days there is so little contrast that animals simply blend into the landscape and the poor camera is sadly lacking.

Our first drive in the South Luangwa Reserve starts off in the dark. Four aspirant photographers, one expert photographer and the camera ghillie with Prince the expert guide. We head straight for the buffalo kill we had had a glimpse of the night before in the hope that when the sun rises we will be witness to some fine action. We are undaunted by the lack of visible stars in the heavens. We approach the scene, and to our delight we find two young male lions and a female still standing guard over the rotting carcass. The vultures are hovering in the background just waiting for the opportunity to present itself for them to move in. However, they still hang back as the lioness is particularly aggressive in her defence of the putrid heap of flesh and bones. We are even given the evil eye as we wait patiently for the light.

In desperation we attempt to light up the scene with a spotlight. There are several photographers who visit, especially the Kruger Park, who have made a speciality of capturing animals by spotlight and they make for very evocative photographs. However, with the (non) breaking dawn the contrast of light and dark is simply a wishy washy scene and most dissatisfactory. No golden light for us I’m afraid. 


We spend the first two days disconsolately moving from scene to scene and the mutterings on the vehicle about the rain, my influence on its appearance and the lack of light are heard regularly. Then on the third day our hopes are raised and in the afternoon we are treated to a golden shower of light at a waterhole where first we are treated to some Buffalo quenching their thirst followed by a good sized herd of elephants and suddenly the birds start to sing and the mechanical birds on the vehicle create their own symphony of sound albeit an abrupt stutter.

Day four has everyone up extra early as we head out in total darkness. The drive takes us down to the river and we manage to catch the glorious rays of golden light dancing on the grass and off the backs of the Puku who continue to graze unperturbed by our appearance.


The rest of the day we revel in the sunlight and have to fight off the glare of the midday sun as we are reluctant to head back to the Lodge.

Day five and it is time to go, but not before we head off determined to make use of that glorious orb’s rays. Once again we head down to the river and we are treated to a gentle sunrise that flicks its tentacles across the river. Out come the LEE filters and the homage to the chocolate box begins.





For the rest of the morning we are treated to sharp focus photos with oodles of light and we can head off home safe in the knowledge that we have at least chased and captured some of the light.



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