My 2012 in Review

My 2012 in Review

Can you believe we are sitting in the year 2013 already? Every year feels like it’s a flyer, but to me personally, 2012 felt like it went by quicker than any previous year. It’s obviously a factor of how busy you are and how much you enjoy every day of your life – if you are discontent in everything you do I am sure the days will seem like they never end.

I’ve not been an avid photographer for very long, but for the past 2 years I compiled a best ofpost at the end of the year. For some it’s a prettyclichething to do, but I don’t really care, as for me it helps me look back over my photography of the past year, and recall some of the amazing memories that went along with tripping the shutter at specific times and in specific places. Often these memories link me to the adventure that was had, the people I shared it with and the total awesomeness of God’s creation that I have the privilege of seeing and photographing.

So, as you can guess from the title, this year I am at it again. I quite like how I did it LAST YEAR, so I will try and follow a similar format, showing my Top 5 landscape photos, my Top 5 avian (bird) photos and my Top 10 wildlife photos (since wildlife make up the majority of my photographic focus). Also take note that these are not necessarily the best photos I took this year (who can determine that anyway??), they are not even necessarily my favourites (I have not even had time to work through all the photos I took this year properly), but they doepitomizethe experiences behind them for me, and that’s what I want to showcase. I am grateful to have shared some of these moments with great friends and fellow-photographers like+Felix Reinders,+Marlon du Toit,+Andrew Aveleyand+Gerry Van der Walt.

Shall we begin??

Bob the Builder (January) – Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | 1.4x teleconverter | f8.0 | 1/2500 SS | ISO-1800

This is a photo I had been wanting for a long time: a Southern Masked Weaver returning to his nest-under-construction with new building material. I captured this photo in the Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa. I had to pre-focus on the nest, dial in enough depth-of-field and keep my non-camera-bound eye open to anticipate his return.

MK landing 1a edit Marievale 2012
Rocket Landing (February) – Marievale Bird Sanctuary, South Africa

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | f8.0 | 1/8000 SS | ISO-4000

Few South African bird species present as much of a photographic challenge as the lightning fast little Malachite Kingfisher. I was fortunate to capture this frame one morning at the Marievale Bird Sanctuary in South Africa.

secretary bird flight 1 KTP 2012
The Secretary – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | 1.4x teleconverter | f5.6 | 1/1600 SS | ISO-640

I posted a Secretary Bird taking off in my selection last year too. This one was taken in the last light of day in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The bird was flying right above the South African border with Botswana, coincidentally, at this point.

black kite landing 1 KTP 2012
Incoming Kite – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | f5.6 | 1/2500 SS | ISO-800

We witnessed a strange phenomenon during our February/March visit to the Kalahari. Hundreds of Yellow-billed and Black Kites had congregated in the Nossob riverbed to feed on some sort of termite or insect spawn brought on by the summer rains. It was a joy to watch and photograph them from the Nossob rest camp hide. This is a Black Kite coming in for a landing.

burchells coucal 1 SSGR 2012
Wet Look (April) – Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | f4.0 | 1/500 SS | ISO-2500 | EV+3

The Burchell’s Coucal is normally a secretive bird, preferring thickets and dense foliage – very often heard and not seen. On a rainy day in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve I found this one looking wet and miserable out in the open. I made sure to overexpose for the bright sky behind the bird, and came away with some interesting high-key photos.

It was REALLY hard to pick only 10 out of this year’s crop of wildlife images. It’s been a great year for me in terms of building my portfolio and getting some very interesting images (at least in my own mind – though I hope you’d agree after this post). Again, I am arranging them chronologically as the year progressed, and not in order of personal preference.

cheetah playing 2 KTP 2012
Speedy Siblings (March) – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | 1.4x teleconverter | f5.6 | 1/800 SS | ISO-1400

I’ve been treated royally by the Kalahari cheetahs on my recent trips to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. On this particular occasion, we followed a cheetah mother and her 3 adolescent cubs as they walked up the Auob riverbed. Suddenly the youngsters got a surge of energy and started frantically chasing each other. I ended up with “too much lens” as they hurtled closer at full speed but came away with some keepers. Those who prefer bird photography to mammal photography often bemoan the static nature of much of the mammal species for much of the day. I must agree that one has to be even more patient and have some luck on your side to get good action photos of mammals.

lions rhino 1 2012
Who’s the king now? (March) – Undisclosed Location

Nikon D7000 | Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II | f8.0 | 1/320 SS | ISO-450

The light may not have been the best, but as a sighting this just rocked. Imagine a coalition of 4 male lions in their prime, kings of their domain, lounging around and surveying their territory. Enter a crash of white rhinos…who smell the lions and come closer for investigation…causing the lions to get up quickly and saunter away disgruntled at having to give up their comfortable resting spot. Moments later the agitated rhino bull chased one of its kids and one of the lions right past us (missing us by meters). Seeing the interaction between these 2 members of the Big 5 was special.

elephant stroll 1 ManaPools 2012
A stroll in the forest (June) – Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | f5.6 | 1/640 SS | ISO-2000

You’ll inevitably see a few images from this trip in this selection. It was a defining part in my photographic year and one that moved the iconic location of Mana Pools to the top of my list of favourite safari destinations in Africa. Marlon du Toit and I spent an entire day following these elephant bulls on foot as they went about their business. The light and forest setting makes this magical and has etched this moment in my mind for a long time to come.

elephant reach 11a ManaPools 2012
A Fine Balance – Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | f5.6 | 1/500 SS | ISO-1250

There’s a good chance you’ve seen this one shared on social media this year. It also got some nice publicity through news syndication as a news story. I captured this on the same morning as the previous photo. Some elephant bulls in the Lower Zambezi valley have learned how to reach the juiciest, most succulent leaves in the massive trees. Remember that you can join us on safari in Mana Pools in July 2013. You can find more details HERE.

wilddog stretch 1 mono ManaPools 2012
Lazy Dog – Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | 1.4x teleconverter | f5.6 | 1/400 SS | ISO-1800

We also spent 2 afternoons in Mana Pools flat on our bellies in a sandy riverbed with a pack of highly endangered African Wild Dogs. Prior to this year I had just about zero usable photos of this species in my portfolio. With fewer than 5,000 individuals estimated to survive in the wild, this species is on the brink of a disaster…and it’s a shame as they are fascinating mammals. You can find out more about this species and the conservation efforts in Zimbabwe at

wilddog approach 2 ManaPools 2012
The Approach – Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | 1.4x teleconverter | f6.3 | 1/320 SS | ISO-5600

Not only did we spend some time observing this pack of canines from a safe distance, taking some nice photos…the Alpha Male decided to take a closer look at us on the 2nd afternoon…and came to within 10 meters from us, before plopping down and lying next to us for a few minutes. A totallyexhilaratingexperience that I shall not soon forget! This image is not cropped – it’s shot full frame in portrait mode!

lion male KijKij 1 KTP 2012
King of the Kalahari – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | f8.0 | 1/1250 SS | ISO-450

The next few posts are all about the lions. Though the Kalahari is traditionally a great place for viewing lions, I’ve mostly had average photographic opportunities of them during previous trips. Not during our November trip (which was an unplanned one), which was lion-infested! This is the most regal, majestic and beautiful male lion I have ever seen in the wild. We found him on 3 occasions, and on this morning he was patrolling his territory with a confident stride, roaring loudly with a blood-covered face from the previous night’s feed. Look at that specimen! I have seen many many lions in my lifetime…and none of them come close to this guy.

lioness stalk 6 KTP 2012
Eyes on the Prize – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | f5.6 | 1/800 SS | ISO-3200

During our recent Kalahari safari I was privy to witnessing (and photographing) an entire lion kill from planning to mealtime. I will do a proper blog post about this sighting soon! This frame was pre-visualised and executed at the only moment that it could be achieved. It’s not often that I am able to really capture a whole story and so much context into one shot. The tensely poised huntress, the dawn breaking in the background, the open setting, the seemingly blind eland antelope, the anticipation of what’s to come.

If I had to choose an absolute favourite for the year, I think this photo would be it…

lioness hunt 1 KTP 2012
Lion in Flight – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | f5.6 | 1/800 SS | ISO-2500

This frame was taken shortly after the previous one. The chase started in a frenzy and I was able to track the leading lioness for quite a few seconds, getting a number of sharp shots. This was my favourite pose, with her running through the dust kicked up by her prey. It’s sad to think that these magnificent and iconic cats face a dire future, with their numbers plummeting to a mere 30,000 odd left in the wild. Please check out www.lionaid.organd for more info on the lion epidemic and how to get involved.

rhino crash 1 BW 2012
Crashing – Undisclosed location

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | f8.0 | 1/640 SS | ISO-1800

In the light of the recent Rhino Poaching crisis (well, it’s not that recent anymore, is it?) I felt compelled to include an image showing these docile giants. A staggering 633 rhinos were illegally poached in 2012 (as at 19 December – stats HERE), almost 200 rhinos more than 2011 and 300 more than in 2010, bringing the total poaching figure since the end of 2009 to a mind-boggling 1414. At the moment it doesn’t seem like there is much that can be done to curb this alarming trend, fueled by a newly wealthy Asian market that falsely believes that the horn has medicinal properties. For more info, check out the SAVE THE RHINO and STOP RHINO POACHING campaigns.

ground squirrels 1 KTP 2012
Kiss me Please (bonus image) – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | f8.0 | 1/1000 SS | ISO-360

I’m including this one as a bonus because it’s a fun moment and to show you that I don’t just focus on the large and iconic African species. If you look at last year’s post you’ll see bigger specie-variety, this year just panned out to be a great year for me in terms of the larger and more “typically African” mammals.

There you have it, friends. I would love for you to tell me which was your favourite of this selection – and why! Drop me a comment on this post and let me know. I hope 2013 holds great light and great sightings for you all. Keep well, and keep shooting!

Morkel Erasmus

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Morkel Erasmus

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!


Morkel Erasmus

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.

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