The eyes have it, they say. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. Whoever they are, they said it.
On our recent short visit to Singita in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa, we were fortunate to spend some quality time with an old male leopard called the “Camp Pan Male”.
He is estimated to be around 16 years old, which is very old for a male leopard (especially considering the amount of other males he’s had to run into over the years).
Have a look at this photo. What does it “speak” to you? Think about it for a few seconds before reading on.
There’s a very compelling story to this image – it was taken at the end of a very emotional sighting of him trying his best to feed on a kill he’d stolen from another leopard. His legs were wobbly, his hips looked cripple, and his teeth were worn down. He couldn’t get into the very small tree that the kill was hoisted in.
I will make the entire story the subject of a different post, because there’s some good video footage that my wife caught of the event that would give you an idea of what went down. Anyway, here he was lying in the grass after exerting all his energy to grab a bite or two…and as he longingly looked up at the kill he was unable to wrest free from the branch it was snuggled into, he looked forlorn…defeated.
I was looking into the eyes of a dying leopard. He knew it. I knew it.We were probably some of the last people to see this leopard alive…and that makes this image special to me.
I used to relish writing these kinds of “bio” pieces and would flaunt the odd impressive word and use dashing grammar to make it sound like I am a boundary-shifting photographer. These days I prefer stating it in much simpler ways, much more relatable ways, much more believable ways…
The fact of the matter is this: I love Africa. I love its people, its wild places and its wildlife. I love being immersed in these places, observing and photographing the fall of light on the land and the daily lives of the creatures that call it home, and presenting the results to whoever will take a look.
To me, nature photography is all about being in the moment, and capturing that moment in a way that can relate to someone who didn’t have the privilege of being there with me. Sometimes I am able to capture a unique vision of the scene before me, and sometimes I just capture it the way most folks would according to classical photographic guidelines. Yet I always enjoy sharing the images and experiences and imparting the knowledge I have, both in-the-field and later online or in presentations, workshops and courses. I also just simply enjoy capturing and sharing the beauty of God's creation!
The greatest thing I’ve found about wildlife and nature photography in Southern Africa is the unity and familiarity of the community of people that share this passion. We come from all walks of life and all cultures and backgrounds, yet our passion for our natural heritage and our dream to see it preserved for future generations binds strangers together and fuels conversations around campfires long after other people have run out of conversation and energy.
Join me on a WildEye adventure to experience this sharing community spirit and learn to anticipate that fleeting moment and be ready for it, learn to immerse yourself in the experience without losing focus of your photographic goals…and above all, learn to see Africa anew… because there are none as blind as those who look but do not see!
Since picking up a DSLR camera for the first time, a little over 3 years ago, Morkel has been invigorated with an unbridled passion for the photographic art form. He has grown at a tremendous pace and put immense energy into the creation of his images.
He absolutely loves spending time in the wild places of his native Southern Africa. From a young age he has been visiting legendary wildlife and outdoor locations, including the Kruger Park National Park and the Drakensberg Mountains, with his family. Now that he has found a way to share the natural beauty of his homeland with the rest of the world he is regularly out on photography trips.
An Industrial Engineer by profession, and an accomplished artist in genres like music and poetry, Morkel has always enjoyed whatever allows him to express his creativity to the fullest. Photography turned out to be the perfect "marriage" between his engineering brain and artistic soul.
"I hope that in some way I can raise awareness through my imagery of the plight of not only our wildlife but also the fragility of the last remaining wilderness areas that they call home.”
Morkel was recently honoured for his commitment to his craft by receiving a "Highly Commended" for one of his images in the 2010 BBC Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. He is based in Mpumalanga, South Africa and even though he prefers going on safari with his family and friends, Morkel also leads the odd photographic safari and has recently begun presenting workshops in post-processing techniques.