Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

November 13, 2010

The return of the Gentle Giants

Filed under: 2010,November — Hennie van Heerden @ 9:39 am

  The Elephants had returned! And how..
Immediately after we went out in the morning it was obvious that the Gentle Giants had sensed that the river was filling up. They were everywhere!
Amazing to see the numbers of them.
For the life of me, I simply cannot understand why people would want to kill these creatures, just to have an ivory ornament on there cabinet, or wear an ivory bracelet. Seriously, during my stay in Botswana and Africa I had a discussion with one of the rangers and I asked why even the old bulls seemed to have smaller tusks that in the old paintings or photographs. The answer was as simple as devastating: “Because the big tusks genes have been shot out by now”.
How sad is that..

We were surrounded by a big herd. Big, small, adults, youngsters and babies. I can’t explain how it feels to find yourself in the midst of these magnificent animals. It’s so enormously humbling. You feel with every nerve in your body that you are only there because they let you. One lash with one of these trunks and even the big Landcruiser would be wrecked like a dinky toy. Every time I am in Africa I get these moments when you realize that the animals you watch from the safety of the car are really wild and you are at their mercy. With Elephants that feeling is there always..
I’ve played around with Black & White, something I don’t normally do as I simply love color. But Elephants just beg for the extra drama that you can express so well in Black & White.

 When I returned into camp for the lunch brake I was still deeply impressed. So I sat down at a bench near the Weaver Island, just sitting quietly.
As if it felt my mood, this gorgeous orange-breasted bushshrike came to visit me. So fantastic as I had seen this bird on previous trips but never had been able to capture it. It made a special day even more special.

The afternoon drive brought more Elephants. In a herd of Elephants there is always that one brave youngster that gives the car a headshake, maybe even a bit of a mock charge. It’s more adorable than dangerous and you can normally see it coming. But this time it wasn’t a youngster that mock charged, but a huge female that apparently had enough. Just when Elvis thought that we’d better move on, she decided that she’d help us on our way.. 🙂 I think the picture to the right is the first shot I managed while an Elephant came at us in full charge 🙂

And then.. the evening ended in the most beautiful way..
We found a young male leopard, resting on a branch in the setting sun.
He made such a perfect picture! I really wanted to capture his beauty as I saw it, but as always with subjects against the setting sun, you either expose the background right, or the subject, but without flash it’s hard to get both. I took several shots, even used bracketing (set the camera to shoot one picture on the standard exposure, one at a stop underexposure and one at a stop overexposure) thinking that maybe I could blend them together. Then I realized that I could take the best shot and open it in the Raw Converter. I opened it once as it was (the leopard correctly exposed) and opened it another time and adjusted the exposure to show the wonderful colors of the setting sun in the background. Added the adjusted exposed version as a layer to the picture and blended the two together. The result was exactly how I saw it and it really touched me that I had been able to show the beauty of this scene.

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