Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

June 30, 2011

Wildlife Photography Workshops at Foto Konijnenberg

Filed under: 2011,June — Hennie van Heerden @ 11:23 am

Yay!! I’m going to give three wildlife photography workshops for one of Holland’s biggest Camera stores: Foto Konijnenberg. On  Friday 22 july I will be in Den Ham and Saturday 23rd July in The Hague. I’m very much looking forward to it!!

For more information, please visit Foto Konijnenberg’s website

June 29, 2011

Keeping a cool head

Filed under: 2011,June — Hennie van Heerden @ 8:32 pm
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With 36 degrees C, it’s not easy to keep a cool head. Yesterday, Rufa found a fun solution 🙂


June 25, 2011

“Gladiators” in final judging rounds “Wildlife photographer of the Year” 2011!

I’m biting my nails here!!

Just last may I received an email saying that “Gladiators”, the picture of the fighting Dung Beetles I shot last december in South Africa, was through to the final judging rounds for the world’s most prestigious Wildlife photo contest: the election of Veolia Environnement “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” Competition!

Final judging rounds should be in June, so just about now I guess.
Must admit that I’m really excited! And no matter if it wins a prize or not, I feel that being through to the final rounds is a recognition in itself already!

Please keep your fingers crossed for me!!

June 19, 2011

Wildlife photography workshop

Filed under: 2011,June — Hennie van Heerden @ 10:12 am
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Yesterday I had a group over for a wildlife photography workshop. Despite the rather bad weather it was big fun! Giving a workshop is a win-win situation. The students get motivated by my enthusiasm and in turn, I get motivated by theirs! I know that I have loved learning about photography and improving my skills and I really hope I’ve brought some of that across to yesterday’s students.

We spent the morning with theory, concentrating on all the things I myself learned about wildlife photography over the last four years. Tips and tricks, but also ideal camera settings for different situations. When to use what camera program and how to adjust the camera to your personal wishes. Information on color profiles, exposure (the importance of ‘exposure to the right’ and why, for instance), composition and a lot of practical tips for when the people are out in the field the next time. Despite the fact that this particular group had announced that they’d rather spend as much time possible with actual practising in stead of theory, I think that everyone got really excited when they noticed that we covered a lot of information that they either didn’t know, or could use well next time they would be out in the field shooting.

Especially when after lunch falconer Reinier de Vries  arrived with his magnificent birds, flying them in our forest and over the tall grass in the meadow it got really exciting. It’s not easy to capture a Saker of Gyr Falcon in full flight as they reach speeds up to 250 km/hour when they plunge out of the sky on to the lure.  But everyone did really well judging from the images I saw on their camera displays.

Really special was taking the two Harris Hawks, Emir and Sultan, out on a walk into our forest. Just to be on the safe side I had warned the neighbors to keep their chicken in for the time being 🙂 There was a short moment of total panick when our dogs, who had been locked up in the guesthouse during the bird-of-prey shooting, had discovered how they could open the door from the inside and joined the fun! I think my heart would stop when I saw the three big dogs racing towards the 3 Owls who were modelling at that particular time. But hooray for sweet dogs; they stopped just a few meters in front of the birds, and besides Kookai snatching some food away from the big Eurasian Eagle Owl, nothing happened.

My own favorite was “Kruimeltje”, the little Burrowing Owl (picture to the right) . He’s the most adorable little bird alive!
I think that all of us, students and myself alike, can look back to a day well spent!

June 14, 2011

Our domestic wildlife

Filed under: 2011,June — Hennie van Heerden @ 5:59 am
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4 weeks ago, we got a new dog; a 3 years old German Shepherd lady called Rufa. It sure stirred things up around here! The other 2 dogs, Big Black Beauceron Pandour and gentle Hovawart lady Kookai, were used to be Lord and Ladyship of the house. And Rufa had been alone all her life so was used to being the sole ruler of her non-existing pack. Well, it took some getting used to but I think that after 4 weeks the pecking order is established more or less.

When we took her from the shelter and arrived at our house we first got Pandour out of the house to get acquinted with Rufa. As he’s the biggest and probably the most dominant we expected the biggest clash with him, although it’s a sweetheart. As we expected Pandour was more curious than agressively dominant but Rufa had other ideas and went straight for his throat!! Not a good idea when you weigh 35 kilos and take it up against a 50 kilo male Beauceron. Within 3 seconds she was on her back with Pandour towering above her, whining.. Ok, that pecking order was settled.

Next came Kookai, our 7 years old Hovawart. She is a gentle sweet thing and had recent surgery on her knees so she was still a bit limping. Rufa seemed to sense that and wasn’t as rough with her as with Pandour. But a week later she tried to get second in ranking by attacking Kookai. What a fight! Kookai lost that fight although she tried to stand her ground (with Pandour helping from behind biting Rufa’s rear 🙂 We felt sorry for Kookai but we also understand that they have to establish rankings in the pack.

A week later, when Kookai had recovered from her surgery she went for revenge and put Rufa back in her place by attacking her full force. Got her by the head and did not let go. It resulted in Rufa back in third line.

Now, after 4 weeks peace has returned to our house. Rufa is getting more and more at ease and starts to understand that she doesn’t have to fight her way in. We try to acknowledge the ranking by handling the dogs in pecking order; Pandour gets food first, then Kookai, then Rufa. Same with petting, or letting them out of the door etc. It seems to work.

Pandour and Rufa play more and more together. But with dogs this size it looks as if they are in a massive fight! Rest assured, neither of them had so much as a scratch..

June 7, 2011

A dream of a day…

Filed under: 2011,June — Hennie van Heerden @ 3:11 pm
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Last sunday I got up at 4.30 and went to the Veluwezoom, a National Park here in the Eastern Part of Holland. By many people this park is considered the baby sister of ‘De Hoge Veluwe’, a much larger neighboring National Park. But although de Hoge Veluwe is unequalled in Red Deer rutting season – the sightings there are awesome – in all other seasons I prefer de Veluwezoom. It’s got beautiful landscapes and it harbors a lot of animals and birds.

So this morning I was at the Park at 5 in the morning. The sky was dark and threatening and you could see a thunderstorm building up. My expectations were not very high when I arrived but still, after 5 minutes I saw Wild Boar in the dark forest, foraging for food. Not a bad start at all, but impossible to capture as it was way too dark, certainly this deep in the forest. But.. I tried anyway and raised ISO to an incredible 3200 which gave me just enough shutterspeed to capture the little piggies. And with that, all has been said as even in my display I could see that it wasn’t much.

But.. on I went and after just some 500m I spotted another Wild Boar, but this time underneath the bushes, next to an open field. I just parked the car in the middle of the road (there wasn’t anyone else crazy enough to visit the park in this weather anyway :-)) and waited. And out she came, but she wasn’t alone!! To my great excitement she had little piglets with her!! So never mind the high iso…. Shoot!!!! They ran up on the open field and I just knew it would be next to impossible to capture the movement in this kind of light. But one (just one) came out alright. Besides the shot, I was really thrilled to see the little family.

Only 500m further I stopped to see if there would be birds around as this was an area where I had seen lots of Yellowhammers and Linnets before. Nope, no such luck but something else drew my attention. A huge Wild Boar was standing in the bushes just alongside from where I had stopped. So sure, I tried to photograph her. Until I saw movement just next to her and a baby Boar showed (for a second) its cute little head. What a surprise!! So far it had been incredible despite the gathering clouds above my head. The storm was building and you could feel the electric tension in the air. Maybe that’s why all the animals were out, foraging while they still could..

My spirits rose as did my expectations. Often, when a day starts right, it will remain right! So off I went with good hopes. A little further down the road a little bird welcomed the day with a song and I stopped to capture it. From the corner of my eye I all of a sudded saw the bushes alongside the road move.. I looked, and out came the cutest little baby fox I had ever seen!! Which isn’t difficult as I’ve never seen one before in my entire life! I thought my heart would stop just there and then. Quickly pointed the camera and started shooting as if my life depended on it. But the baby wasn’t going to pose as after just a second it got up and walked straight towards me. Way too close for the lens…. Frustration!!!!! Well anyway, I got it and no matter the noise in the shot, I’m ever soooo happy with it! As with the experience of finally seeing my first baby fox!

After I sent several text messages (YAAAAYYYYYY, I got a baby fox) the beebs waking up hubby and some shooting buddies (sorry guys! just couldn’t resist!) I went on, my heart still pounding.. It was only a mile further down the road when I spotted a Roe Deer foe, up to her knees in heather and kind of nervously looking around. I again stopped the car and waited.  When I saw why she was so nervous my heart did another summersalt…. A Baby Deer was jumping high over the heather to get to her. It was just a second later that I realized that there were in fact 2 fawns!! God, what a day…
The little ones had spotted me and ran to mamma; all legs and no brains. Mom stood perfectly still and waited for the little fawns to reach her before she led them out into the field. But she was nervously trotting around while the fawns panicked and jumped all over the place. I figured they wanted to cross the road to reach the safer forest, so no matter how dearly I wanted the shots, I moved the car to make way. When I looked back I saw the three of them running off into the forest.. Couldn’t help it but I actually had tears in my eyes…

I continued my drive but my head was brimming.. When a trio of Red Deer came in sight, I just couldn’t believe my luck anymore….

For the past 2 days I’ve been up at 4.30 again to see if I could get a shot of all of this young life again, but nothing. Absolutely nothing. A Deer here and there, but nothing exciting. But I’ll keep on trying!!

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