My recent Wild-Eye trip to the Kruger with Marlon du Toit
The trip was:
Amazing, astonishing, awesome, extraordinary, exciting, incredible, life-changing, magical, magnificent, phenomenal, spectacular, stunning, surprising, wondrous … in fact I could just list another hundred superlatives and it wouldn’t be enough.
Why this safari?
I have travelled with Wild-Eye once before – I love the way Wild-Eye runs trips and its whole ethos – so looking elsewhere didn’t get much of a look-in. I love the streamline “Change the way you see the world” because that’s exactly what happens. Being with other photographers you have the time and space to really look and experience without rushing anywhere. I had been following Marlon on social media for a while and feel a strong emotional connection when I look at many of his photographs, so I was looking forward to meeting him and spending time with him and learning, out there in the wild with our cameras.
What I learnt
I learnt so much in this trip, a huge amount about the behaviour of the wildlife, the area and also some new settings on my camera. As a group, in the downtimes of the day while wildlife sleeps in the intense heat, we had sessions on Lightroom and technical discussions on how the camera actually works, which I found really helpful and invaluable when out on the drives. I’d also always been confused and a bit daunted by ‘back button focus’ and no-one has ever been able to explain it to me in simple terms, but Marlon simply took my camera and set it up for me to have a go. I looked on a bit afraid and feeling dubious that I’d never get it back to ‘normal’ and something exciting would happen out in the bush and I wouldn’t be able to get the shots due to fumbling about and the shutter and focus not working! He calmly said ‘you’ll never need to set it back’ and actually, it was one of the best camera discoveries I’ve ever made and I took to it like a duck to water and have never since wanted to revert back to the old and restrictive ways, i.e. it freed up my composition skills in whole new ways I’d not experienced as possible before.
What I wanted
I’ve been on safaris before, and know that there are already millions of photos out there of the big five and I decided I didn’t want to come home with just more of the same – boring wildlife photography – so I vowed to put the camera down more often, to seek out special moments, notice interactions between animals, notice the shapes of nature, enjoy interesting and beautiful colours, find subtle things like a single blade of grass in the rich sunlight, to listen, (and I can now do a mean hippo impersonation!) to experience it all and just see what happens with my images.
I understand completely that when on safari the wildlife does not owe me anything – my presence does not guarantee a sighting, for everything is a bonus when you’re on a safari. However, when you’re based in one of the best corners of the Kruger, sitting on the jeep with the best of the best of photographic guides – Marlon – who also has exquisite knowledge of the local wildlife and of the area, when you’re staying in a great tented lodge on the waterfront and have a wonderful, helpful driver who knows his patch and all that lives in it intimately, one who wants to share his back garden with you… this is when the magic really starts to happen.
I couldn’t possible begin to explain all that happened, but here I’d like to share with you – through my eyes – a little bit of what we saw in those 8 cherished days.