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Greg du Toit's 2010 Collection
As a photographer, the days seem to just roll into weeks and the weeks into months and the months into years! It seems to be an endless cycle of packing; airplane flights; border stamps; safari drives; downloading memory cards and unpacking! In January of this year, I called a truce and halted my beating about the bush! The intention was to catch up with not only my wife but my editing and fine art printing too, as I was back-logged some 8 months!
Going through my images from 2010, I have been reminded of what an amazing year it was! There were many highlights and thinking back the year started with an excellent trip to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. The highlight in the Serengeti was watching a single cheetah take down a full-grown wildebeest while in the crater we saw a wildebeest calf being born. Visiting Mahale Mountains and photographing Chimpanzee was a special time for me. Mahale is such a wild place and not far from the very spot where Livingstone met Stanley and uttered those famous words 'Dr Livingstone I presume'. The place still feels as wild as it must have then! Going straight from the chimps to London to attend the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards was almost as strange as going straight from the Masai Mara after working for the National Geographic Channel, to exhibiting in New York. A definite highlight was tracking down the famous B&H Photographic Store! Sitting behind a rock next to the Mara River and having wildebeest run past me, so close that I could smell them, was something I will never forget! Thinking back, there are far too many highlights to recount and since a picture speaks a thousand words, let me share with you some of my favourite images from 2010....
The below images are for sale as both paper and canvas prints. 'Wildlife canvas art' or wildlife prints on canvas are becoming increasingly popular as the finished product is fully archival, offering the quality and texture of a painting...
I was photographing a community of Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) in Tanzania's spectacularly wild Mahale Mountains. Just when things were going well and the chimps were out in the open, they all decided that it was siesta time? The entire group lay down and prepared themselves for a siesta! Not sure what to do, I joined my subjects on the ground and as we gazed into each other's eyes, I must admit that I too felt sleepy! Chimpanzees are listed as endangered and suffer from habitat loss, bush meat, pet trade and they also contract human diseases. For this reason, I photographed at a respectable distance and I wore a facemask for the entire shoot.
I awoke early in the morning to find Lake Nakuru in Kenya, covered in mist. Racing to the shore to get there before the sun rose, I came across this surreal scene. With Great White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) in the foreground, the mist and escarpment had blended into a cold blue background. Trying to choose when to trip my shutter proved challenging? That was, until a pelican flew in from the back!
I was traveling up the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania by dhow. Looking up at the Mahale Mountains, I became mesmerized by the contrasting yet complimentary colour combinations. 'This is surely one of the wildest and most beautiful places I have been', I thought as I tripped my shutter button.
Nature is full of surprises! We were on the great plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania when we spotted this cheetah. I immediately scanned the plains for gazelles but alas there were none around. In the distance, there was however a herd of wildebeest but no calves among them? The wildebeest had seen the cheetah and yet carried on grazing as they must have thought, as did I, that a single cheetah would not try to takedown a full grown wildebeest? As it turns out, both the wildebeest and I were wrong! The cheetah, without warning, took off bounding across the plain and grabbed its prey. Tackling the problem head on, the brave cheetah took the proverbial ‘bull by the horns’ and claimed his prize.
(Shot from a vehicle, NikonD3s, Nikkor 200 - 400mm, F8 and 1/2000th, ISO 400, beanbag.)
I live in the countryside just outside the city of Pretoria in South Africa. In January each year, the grassland springs into life and wild flowers abound. This dandelion provided me with many hours of delightful photography. Finding the one frame that could communicate the beauty of this plant was difficult! Finally, by crouching low and opening my aperture, I created this image.
(Shot on foot on the highveld grassland of South Africa using a Nikkor 105mm macro lens.)
In the northern Serengeti National Park of Tanzania, I spotted this Lilac-breasted Roller (Corocia scaudata) trying to kill a grasshopper. Knowing that the bird was preoccupied, I lay on my belly and crept closer. These birds are in my opinion one of Africa’s most beautiful, and they are said to contain seven different feather colourations. My subject eventually swallowed the grasshopper whole before alighting.
(Photographed using a NikonD3s camera and a 200-400mm lens at F4.)
These grasshoppers are, I believe in the family Pygromorphidae. Their bright colouration is a warning to would be predators that they are unpalatable. I found this mating pair deep inside a bush in South Africa's Timbavati Game Reserve. I wanted to portray my subjects in their world so as unobtrusively as possible, I cleared a path into the bush for my macro lens. I then played with my aperture and selected a shallow depth of field to give the image an edge.
Baboons are comical creatures! I love spending time with them as you always end up laughing! On this particular morning, I caught up with the troop just as they were waking from their night’s slumber and descending down the trees. Baboons are early to bed and late to rise! This young one paused momentarily and stared straight at me. As wildlife photographers, either having the wrong light or the wrong background so often stumps us! This time however, both were on my side!
It was late afternoon and I was again on safari in Kenya, in my favourite old 4x4, a green 1976 Nissan Patrol. A breeding herd of elephants were swiftly on the move but these two young bulls had become preoccupied and engaged in a wrestling match. The yellow grass combined with the blue base of Mount Kilimanjaro and made for a lovely setting.
There is perhaps nothing as exciting as seeing a large wildebeest crossing! The problem is, that the sounds and smells of the scene get lost in translation? Here, in an attempt to illustrate the scale and grandeur of the event, I chose to use a wide-angle lens. Most of wildlife photography centers around isolating your message but here I decided to take a more holistic approach.
Adopting the exact opposite strategy to my previous image, here I chose to zoom into the chaos and to offer my viewer a glimpse into the frenzied pandemonium of a river crossing. Photography is a gift through which we can communicate and I always think about my message carefully. 1,5 million wildebeest make crossings like this each and every year. Even more astounding, wildebeest born in Feb make this crossing a mere five months later!
We were following a pride of lion along a two-track road in Kenya’s Masai Mara. The light levels were ridiculously low and even my Nikon D3s was struggling to cope. This young cub paused ever so briefly and at just 1/8th of second this image was the only sharp one! Good photographs can happen anytime and anywhere! The serendipity attached to my trade is something I find addictive.
A Zebra & Seven Oxpeckers
An African sunset is a wonderful spectacle. It is also a very photographed spectacle! To try and be a little different, I shot this landscape in portrait mode and even then I was not satisfied that the image was unique? Just as the light began fading, seven oxpeckers flew into the scene and landed on my subject. It was a delightful moment!
The Masai Mara in Kenya is home to the most magnificent lions in all of Africa! These regal beasts are however, also always covered in thousands of tiny flies. I spend an incredible amount of time in the wilds of Africa and I have learnt and continue to learn much about life from the wilderness. Even kings are plagued by flies!
Trio of Elephants
Africa is a harsh continent but when the light fades, everything turns soft and magical. Here three elephant march past me as the last rays of the day caress Mount Kilimanjaro. The cattle egrets enjoy it when elephants are on the move as they disturb insects, which are quickly snapped up. One clever bird hitched a ride on the front elephant!
As an artist, I am always looking for new ways to portray the wilderness that I love so much. Zebras are most often photographed on plains and here I was presented with a unique opportunity to capture a zebra in woodland-type environment. Before I even tripped my shutter, I knew that I would convert this image to black and white.
For this scene, I decided to capture my subject in its environment. The great plains of East Africa are vast and freeing. It is such conditions that allow cheetah to thrive there! In this frame, I gave way to this feeling of freedom! As a photographer, I allow my feelings to often dictate both my camera settings and my composition.
Lion are commonly known as the ‘kings of the jungle’ but their lives are quite far removed from this title. I have always said that I would not like to trade places with a male lion! The only relatively easy time of their entire lives, are the first two years, when they are under the care and protection of their mother, Thereafter, they get expelled from the pride and have to flee for their lives before fighting other males for a territory. They are then in their prime for just 2-3 years before being expelled again, to wonder as a nomad until their death. It was therefore, with great pleasure that I photographed this regal male in his prime! These are his heydays and boy is he a spectacular creature!
Elephant Mother and Calf
I chose this frame for the obvious reason of the raised front left legs. Notice the horns off to the right. Kenya is a dry country and for this young elephant fresh water is always a journey away. Thankfully, Elephant are not only wonderfully intelligent creatures that know where to find water; they are also excellent mothers. This calf will follow every step that his mother takes!
Zebra Foals at Play
A mist had covered the vast short grass plains of the Serengeti. These two young zebra foals had been playing and I waited for an intimate moment before tripping my shutter. Stills photography is all about the moment and the greatest challenge for a wildlife photographer comes in the form of recognizing such moments.
As a wildlife photographer, I spend 99% of my time waiting for something spectacular to happen. I spend the other 1% in frantic pandemonium trying to capitalize on the ‘something spectacular’! It was in South Africa’s lowveld and on a cold winters night that this female’s exhaling breathe became visible in my torch. It was a difficult low light scene and I am so grateful I managed to capture this image.
We rounded the bend and there before our eyes, a female lioness was bringing down a warthog! I took a number of frames but I chose this one in the end. The frame is by no means perfect but I like the way the cub in the middle has his claws extended as well! He is learning the art of killing!
Elephants are simply magical creatures! A herd can move so lightly and swiftly that they defy our human hearing. In the twilight, they become ghost like. Lying on the ground and having this breeding herd whisper past me, was a definite highlight of my year!
White Rhino are such peaceful creatures. They are of such shy demeanor and just really want to be left alone. Ironically, man has done anything BUT leave them alone! With rhino poaching on a dramatic incline we cannot let these creatures disappear into extinction. I believe that we will not let this happen and the feeling in my home country of South Africa is that we will protect the rhino!
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