I’ve minced no bones about leopards being a nemesis species for me. They are elusive to begin with, but it does seem that when I am in the area, they get a special memo to avoid being seen. This was one such an occasion – I was visiting my friend+Marlon du Toitwhen he was still working at Singita Sabi Sandsin the hope of building up my leopard portfolio (seeing that the Sabi Sands is infamous for its leopard sighting and density).
What do you think happened? The first afternoon, upon my arrival – it started bucketing with rain. Rain which didn’t stop for about 3 days, intermittently. And we saw no leopards! We had a couple of amazing sightings otherwise…but on my last afternoon as I was bound to leave and rejoin my family that night, we got word of a sighting of the Keshane Male, a magnificent and powerful male leopard that roams in the area.
We had to fall into the queue of the paying guests, though, but eventually it was our turn. The entire sighting was spent watching his bum as he moved up the roadways in the bush, marking his territory. Eventually he settled in the grass, and for a fleeting moment (it was literally 10-15 seconds) I could snap some portraits. After this he got up and moved off into a drainage line and we had to leave so I could drive home.
Anyway – this is one of the better photos I took in that brief spurt of eye contact. He has amazing eyes, but the shots where he’s looking my way were all marred by blades of grass obscuring one of his eyes. This one has the eye clear, still with some pesky grass in the way. My personal processing ethic is geared more towards natural-looking photos and zero cloning out of parts of the image. One way I do deal with the grass, is through monochrome conversions – converting in such a way as to negate the effect of the grass by way of filtering out some colours.
Here are 2 versions of this photo. Colour, and monochrome. Which do you prefer? And why?
Drop me a comment and let me know!
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.