Sixteen Scenes from 2016

Sixteen Scenes from 2016

Hello my friends! Firstly – I want to wish you a very happy and blessed 2019! It’s that time of year, eh? If you follow a plethora of photographers you will no doubt see many of them put out some sort of “best of 2016” image collection.

I’ve outlined in previous posts why I think it’s a good idea, why I find value in glancing back over the year’s work and journey. So this year I am doing it again… As with previous years – this is by no means an exhaustive list of my absolute top keeper photos of the year.

It’s rather a collection of moments captured that captures the year in a kind-of-chronological order. Remember that all these photos are best viewed by clicking on them (which opens them up at the native posting resolution).

1. “Spot the Cat”

The year of 2016 started off on a hot note – both in terms of photographic opportunity and in terms of real-world temperature. Braving the Kalahari during an immense heat-wave, we were able to experience a couple of key moments. First off was no doubt the leopard that took me 7 years to photograph. This is not a unique photograph, but special to me because of the process and journey to get there.

leopard pose 1 KTP 2016
Nikon D4s | Nikkor 400mm f2.8G VR | f4.5 | 1/1250 SS | ISO-640

2. “The Nutcracker Badger”

Then of course the rascal that put up such a good show on the same safari… Honey badgers are just awesome. We found one taking a small leopard tortoise to task in the Kalahari.

Nikon D4s | Nikkor 400mm f2.8G VR | 1.4x teleconverter | f8.0 | 1/400 SS | ISO-2500

3. “Horned”

This image was captured while on a memorable father-and-son photographic safari to Leopard Hills in the Sabi Sand area of South Africa. I could have posted a leopard photo, but I quite liked the abstract nature and the textures of this photo.

buffalo horn 1 BW 2016
Nikon D800 | Nikkor 400mm f2.8G VR | 1.4x teleconverter | f8.0 | 1/400 SS | ISO-2500

4. “Down in the Dust”

Elephants have always formed part of my photography. I am just drawn to them – plus they tend to give me better opportunities than for example big cats! We went on a family camping trip to the far north of the Kruger National Park in the South African winter – and shared some special moments, one of them being this herd of elephants moving down into a dry riverbed, dusting as they go, as the sun set behind them.

elephant dust 1 KNP 2016
Nikon D800 | Nikkor 400mm f2.8G VR | f5.6 | 1/1000 SS | ISO-450

5. “Crocodile Crowd”

Another trademark of our winter foray to the Kruger was the number of Nile Crocodiles we saw basking on the banks of the Levhuvhu river in the Pafuri region every day. On this stretch we counted nearly 60 individual crocodiles just on the opposite (visible) bank! It didn’t make for an amazing photo, but it was an amazing sight and one that my kids duly remember.

crocodile crowd 1 KNP 2016
Nikon D800 | Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 55mm | Circular Polariser | f8.0 | 1/200 SS | ISO-140

6. “Feeding along the Zambezi”

Another elephant! This bull was feeding on the winterthorn trees along the Zambezi riverbank. I was hosting a Wild Eye photographic safari to the wonderful location of Mana Pools, and we were able to really work the scene here on a slightly cloudy morning. If you know my work – you know that I am always on the lookout for a chance to include the landscape in the wildlife photo – this is a prime example.

elephant scape 1 BW ManaPools 2016
Nikon D800 | Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 @ 36mm | Circular Polariser | f8.0 | 1/500 SS | ISO-640

7. “Impala Serenity”

Sticking with Mana Pools – we really spent a lot of time working the light and trying to capture the magic of the forests along the Zambezi floodplains. I am a firm believer that any subject will do if the right mood and light is there…

impala forest 1 ManaPools 2016
Nikon D800 | Nikkor 300mm f2.8 VR-II | f22 | 1/500 SS | ISO-2500

8. “Bloodsport”

Seeing a big cat kill is high on many a photographer’s wishlist. This one was quite unexpected! While watching some mating lions on our Wild Eye Great Migration Safari – the male got up and walked towards a herd of wildebeest in the distance. The herd saw him – except for one individual who was wallowing in the mud. He wallowed a bit too long and the lion was upon him with power before he could escape his quagmire!

Nikon D800 | Nikkor 400mm f2.8G VR | f5.6 | 1/1250 SS | ISO-2200

9. “Chaos at the River”

We saw quite a number of dramatic wildebeest crossings during this year’s safari to the Mara Triangle. This is but one moment that I liked in terms of framing, light and mood. This is also the first image I processed with the MacPhun Tonality software suite, and I am thoroughly enjoying working with their apps.

wildebeest chaos 1 BW Mara 2016
Nikon D800 | Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II @ 185mm | f7.1 | 1/800 SS | ISO-160

10. “Giraffe Echo”

These iconic animals have recently been downgraded to “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species once it became clear how devastating the drop in their overall numbers really are. I was fortunate to capture a couple of nice image of giraffes on our family safari to Etosha late in 2016.

giraffe mirror 1 Etosha 2016
Nikon D800 | Nikkor 400mm f2.8G VR | f7.1 | 1/1250 SS | ISO-400

11. “Lord of the Land”

There were a couple of photos I’d not had the chance to capture on previous visits to Etosha. The one was a chance to get close to the famous “white” elephant bulls, which I was able to (read the blog post HERE). The second was of a male lion against the backdrop of the desolate Etosha pan. Here is one such photo that I was happy with!

lion scape 2 Etosha 2016
Nikon D800 | Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II @ 70mm | f5.6 | 1/400 SS | ISO-720

12. “Fallen Quiver”

Our trip through Namibia took us to many of the iconic destinations I have desperately wanted to photograph since taking up this art. The quiver tree forests near Keetmanshoop provided some interesting compositions to explore. This fallen quiver tree grabbed my attention.

quiver trees sunset 2 2016
Nikon D800 | Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 14mm | f22 | 1/15 SS | ISO-200

13. “Namib Rand Nightscape”

The place that grabbed my soul the most during the trip through Namibia was the isolated, beautiful Namib Rand Reserve. Over 200,000 hectares of wilderness in an arid land, with more stars than you could ever imagine to fathom. The glory of God was on full display, and the silence seeped into your being. This photo was taken when a storm had passed through one night, with some moonlight still bathing the landscape.

namibrand nightscape 1 2016
Nikon D800 | Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 14mm | f2.8 | 25 seconds | ISO-3200

14. “Towering Tentacles”

I recently wrote here on my blog about the personal challenge I found it to photograph the infamous Dead Vlei for the first time. I tried to express some compositions that I had not really seen before, but I am as yet unconvinced that I succeeded entirely (which means I will need to go back someday). I did like this one – and felt it could be included in this selection. What do you think?

deadvlei vertical 1 2016
Nikon D800 | Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 @ 15mm | f16 | 1/15 SS | ISO-200

15. “Camp Craze”

I have stayed in some luxurious lodging in various part of Africa, but nothing beats camping on your own. Having to fend for yourself, exposed to the elements, hearing every sound of the night, and being alone with family and friends in a special piece of wilderness, is a feeling that no luxury lodging can compare to or attain. This is our camp at the famous Spitzkoppe in Namibia.

spitzkoppe camp1

16. “Sharing the Experience”

I feel very privileged to have been able to take my wife and our children to the wilderness as often as I have. My kids have grown up with an immense love for nature, wildlife and the outdoors as a result of this (they have been to the Kalahari more than they’ve been to the seaside). This is a family portrait we took in Dead Vlei – and yes my kids hiked it out there and loved every second of it.

family deadvlei 1

There you have it, folks. Like I say upfront on every post of this nature – it’s a timeline, memoir if you will, through my year. Yes there may be “better” photos in the archives where I extracted these from, but these caught my eye or have specific significance in terms of memories and moments. The year 2017 will see me travel a lot less for photography, for reasons I will divulge soon.

That does not mean I will put the camera down or not use any opportunity I can to capture more images, though! I trust you have enjoyed these musings and images. I also trust that you look forward to your own journey in 2017, and where it may take you.

Thanks so much for following along on mine! God bless you…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!

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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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