It’s early on a summer morning in Namibia’s Etosha National Park. The first summer rains have just started to fall – so everything looks and smells fresh.
There’s still a lot of cloud cover overhead from last night’s deluge…but there’s a gap for the sun to rise into on the Eastern horizon.
As I drive out of the gate of the Okaukuejo camp with my wife and kids in the back of the SUV (kids still dozing), I head East towards the nearest waterhole, which is called Nebrownii.
As the sun starts peeping over the horizon and through the break in the clouds, I find my first willing subjects – a small group of Plains Zebra.
Stop the car.
Fiddle to grab the nearest camera. Lens too long (500mm).
Switch to the other camera – this one has a better focal length (70-200mm).
Framing a rising sun and plenty of sky with wildlife at the bottom makes for a tricky exposure. This is where using your exposure lock function helps, as well as back-button focus to be able to focus and reframe.
Finally satisfied with my exposure on the D800 and 70-200mm combo, I contemplate swopping the 500mm on the D3s for a shorter lens, but realise the sun will rise behind the clouds in a few moments. So I grab my instamatic wide angle that is always with me (that would be the Apple iPhone 5, folks), switch on the HDR function, and snap a few images that way.
Here’s the DSLR photo…
Which do you prefer?
Sure, the iPhone version doesn’t have the same high resolution quality, and it came out a bit over-the-top when it comes to the HDR effect, but it does make it look quite surreal. The perspective is definitely better for me at this wider focal length. Perhaps I should have switched lenses right away when I got there…but I will have to take that lesson into my next safari.
What’s the old adage? The best camera is the one you have with you…
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.