Phinda Exclusive Photo safari

25th September 2014
I hosted Rod from the USA at Phinda on a 4 day photographic Safari, it is the third time I have guided Rod and it was great to see him again. After checking in we discussed the plan for the next 4 days and then I set up his cameras to get the best results for Wildlife Photography, I also did a Focus Calibration adjustment on all the cameras and lenses to ensure crisp and sharp images, we were now set to start.
The plan was to photograph Lion and Cheetah, to try and shoot some silhouette images and also do some star photography and star trails, we would also of course photograph any opportunity that came our way.

The first afternoon we set off and headed into the north of Phinda, a beautiful open plain at the end of the drive through the forest area, a Lioness had caught a Wildebeest that same morning and we went to go and find her, the Lioness and her three cubs were lying in the grass with full bellies, we got ourselves into position and took some images as the Lions moved around feeding and every now again greeted each other, we got some lovely portraits of the Lioness as she peered over the grass at us.

We spent most of the first afternoon with the Lioness and her cubs and when the sun had gone down we watched as the Lions got more active in the cool of the early evening, one cub was feeding on the kill and his mom came over to feed as well, the cub spun around and bit his mom on her cheek defending his space at the kill, we managed to capture a few images of this brief bit of interaction between the Lions, I was amazed at how tolerant the female was of her unruly cub.

We left the lions and made our way home and on the way we saw a White Tailed Mongoose, it sat on the side of the road and watched us as we stopped next to it and even then it did not run off, instead it groomed itself, yawned and sat and watched us as we photographed it, more often than not the White tailed mongoose will scamper off so it was a great opportunity to photograph it.

Back at Vlei Lodge we sat on the deck having our dinner and a Large Spotted Genet appeared, it watched as we ate and after a few minutes we decided that we may just be able to take some pictures of it before it disappeared into the bush, Rod and I quickly grabbed our cameras and I used my torch for some light, the Genet sat watching as we photographed it totally un fussed by us as we moved around trying to get the best possible angle, after about 10 minutes the Genet lazily walked off and disappeared into the surrounding bush, we were elated to have gotten some good images of this beautiful animal.

The following morning we set off to see if we could get the Lions again at their Wildebeest kill, we were hoping to photograph them with the rising sun in the background, unfortunately the clouds had moved in and it was a bit gloomy but we stuck to our plan. We easily found the Lions and got into a good position waiting for the sun to rise, we set up our cameras and used fill flash to illuminate the Lions, eventually the sun started to rise and the Lions got up to feed, with a beautiful pink and blue sky in the background we furiously photographed as the Lioness called her cubs around her providing us with some great images.

Later on in the morning after the Lions had gone to sleep we turned our attention to a Cheetah and her two cubs that had been found nearby, the female was watching a herd of Impala as her cubs chased and played behind her, we photographed the cubs as they chased and jumped on each other, it was great fun to watch them play, eventually Mom lost interest in the Impalas and the family lay to rest in the shade of a small Acacia tree.

It was time for us to head back to the Lodge for Breakfast and some work in Lightroom.
After lunch we again set off to the North to see if we could find the female Cheetah and her cubs, unfortunately they had moved off and we were unable to find them, we did see a White Rhino cow and calf as they had finished their late afternoon drink, as they moved off they briefly stopped on the dam wall allowing us to get our first silhouette images of the trip, and what spectacular ones they were.

We again went to see what the Lions were up to but by this stage their bellies were extremely full and they were all sleeping soundly in the tall grass so we decided to head back home, at the lodge we remembered the Genet that had come to visit the night before so we kept our cameras and torch handy just in case it returned, half way through dinner the Genet was back again, we quickly grabbed our cameras and asked the ranger to backlight the Genet, the Genet lay watching us as we once again photographed it, this time with some side light and backlight provided by Wayne our ranger.

The following morning we again set off before dawn, the clouds were still hanging around so we used the opportunity to go and find some silhouette photographic opportunities, we were in luck and we manged to find a herd of Buffalo and a herd of Impala feeding on a open plain, we positioned ourselves below them and got great silhouette images of the Buffalo and Impalas as they grazed with the sun shining through the cloud cover behind them.

Once the sun got too high we left the Buffalo and Impalas to go and search for the Female Cheetah and her two cubs, after some time we managed to find them resting nearby, we waited patiently for the Cheetahs to start moving and eventually they did, Mom would walk from termite mound to Termite mound scanning the surrounding area for a potential meal while her cubs would obediently follow along behind, there was a brief period of play and the Mom Cheetah got involved and chased her cubs through the grass, after a eventful morning we headed off for some breakfast and on the way home we photographed some Nyala having a morning drink.

That afternoon we decided to go and find a suitable spot for our star photography as the clouds had disappeared and it was a beautiful clear afternoon, we drove through Phinda making a note of suitable places to photograph the stars, on the way we saw Hippo, Rhino, Mountain reedbuck, Impalas,a beautiful Giraffe and of course the ever present Nyalas. Eventually we found a beautiful tree and spot up on the mountainside where we waited until dark to photograph the stars, we had great success and even did a star trail image after which we headed back to the lodge for dinner.

The following morning it was time to say goodbye as Rod had a early checkout to continue his journey through Africa, Phinda was great and we had managed to get some great images in a wonderful reserve.

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