The Dogs of Mana Pools

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On Friday morning I depart for my favourite part of Africa – in . I am hosting a Wild Eye photographic safari to this pristine and ethereal wilderness area, and I am quite excited to return there…

During our maiden voyage to Mana, my buddy Marlon du Toit and I were fortunate to spend some quality time with one of the local packs of African Wild Dogs (also called Cape Hunting Dogs or Painted Wolves). Mana Pools is a stronghold for this species, the most endangered of Africa’s predators (fewer than 4000 remain in the wild).

We located the pack again on our last afternoon of the trip, sunning themselves in a dry riverbed. We decided to venture a bit closer, and to do so meant we had to physically -crawl over the coarse river sand for about 40 painstaking meters, with bare elbows and knees, carrying our cameras equipped with super telephoto lenses in one hand and our beanbags in the other hand. Progress was slow, as the going was tough and we also didn’t want to cause the canines distress. When we were in a good position, still not too close to cause distress, we settled in and spent some time photographing their lazy antics.

Eventually, the alpha male got a whiff of us as the wind direction shifted. He immediately came closer to investigate. It was thrilling to look through the viewfinder as he bore down on us slowly, checking us out.

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | 1.4x teleconverter | f6.3 | 1/320 SS | ISO-7200

When he was too close for my lens to focus, I looked up, and looked him in the eye.

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | 1.4x teleconverter | f6.3 | 1/320 SS | ISO-4000

He walked around us, taking in our scent, and after ascertaining that we were not a threat to his pack, he did the unthinkable – he flopped down a mere 15 meters from where we were still lying motionless.

It was epic. It was a moment that forever changed the way I see wildlife photography (well, that whole Mana Pools trip changed the way I see wildlife photography, to be honest).

Nikon D3s | Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II | f5.6 | 1/400 SS | ISO-2500

To make such a direct connection with our subject was a revelation to myself and to Marlon.
We came back and vowed to share the “Mana Magic” with others.
On Friday I am going back to do just that…and hopefully the Dogs will be obliging again!

If you want to join us on our adventures in Mana Pools in 2015, then check out the details HERE.

Thanks, as always, for reading my ramblings. I’ll catch you on the flipside!

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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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Leigh Lofgren

I loved it when we were there so many years ago and unfortunately, last year in Tanzania, never saw one. Superb images and love the background to them.