Join wildlife photographer and 8th generation African, Greg du Toit as he takes you on a journey beyond the dynamic chaos and into the strange serenity that has drawn explorers and adventures to Africa’s shores for centuries….

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Ngorongoro Crater

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‘The Ngorongoro Crater lies in northern Tanzania and forms part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. The crater is unique in that it is completely surrounded by steep volcanic walls. This is indeed nature’s own self-contained ecosystem and the view from the crater rim is hard to describe; it is even harder to photograph. I stood on the edge and tried my best to open a window to this marvelous panoramic spectacle…’

Black Wildebeest

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‘Ironically, wildlife photographers are often cooped up in vehicles or sitting motionless in blinds. For this image however, I was on foot and stalked my subject, keeping low to the ground. Photographing a wild animal unobtrusively is the purest form of wildlife photography and for me also the most rewarding…’

African Waterhole

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‘The zebra herds in the southern rift valley of Kenya were far too wild and shy to photograph from a vehicle; so I dug a hole in the ground and parked my vehicle out of sight. The herd approached tentatively, with the lead stallion to the front and left. These beasts roam the floor of the rift valley wild and free as all creatures in Africa once did…’
 

Lion Cub Sneeze

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‘I was sitting patiently with a pride of lion in the predawn light, waiting for the sun to rise. Just then, one of the cubs sneezed and the resultant water vapour became visible through the beam of a torch. Both cubs stared with intrigue as the sneeze dispersed into the African darkness. Switching my flash off and using a slow shutter speed I was able to capture the precious moment. Natural subjects in the wild often present fascinating opportunities of serendipity. For me as a wildlife photographer, the challenge is to experience as many of these moments as possible and to capture each on camera so that I might share the mystery and intrigue of God’s creation with others.’

Black Rhino Forest

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‘For many years now, I have been trying to capture an image of the critically endangered Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis), inside its forest habitat. These prehistoric beasts are not only globally threatened but are also of shy demeanor. I recently planned a photographic expedition, which I aptly titled Operation Bicornis and my hopes were indeed high to start. On the first day however, my lens fell to the ground and I lost both the zoom and vibration reducing functionalities. To make matters worse, my prehistoric subject managed to successfully elude me for the entire trip! Feeling rather dejected, with my camp packed and on my way home in the early morning, I decided to take one last turn through the ancient Fever tree forests. It was a magical scene; mist lingered in the predawn glow of the equatorial sun and the forests resembled something out of a childrens’ storybook. Just then, I spotted my photographic nemesis deep inside the forest interior and browsing on a fallen tree. I became so excited that I began shaking, a problem reticent of my younger years as a wildlife photographer. My shaking hands were a slight problem as my VR (vibration reduction) was not working and the forest interior was so dark that my shutter speed sank to 1/50thof a second. Snuggling my lens deep into my trusty old beanbag; I tripped my shutter in the hope that I had managed to capture the surreal atmosphere of the black rhino forest …’


 

Bearing Fangs

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‘Of all the subjects that I regularly photograph, lion are by far the laziest! They spend about 18 hours out of every 24 hour period fast asleep. Subsequently, I have spent countless hours waiting for lions to wake up! This particular lion, we had already spent two hours with, patiently waiting for him to stir. Finally, in the late afternoon he began to show signs of life! While waking, lion fancy grooming themselves, enjoying a series of mighty yawns in the process…’

(For this exposure, I framed my subject with sufficient space left in the top of the frame, in anticipation of the lion yawning. So much of wildlife photography hinges on knowing your subject’s behaviour. A shutter speed of 1/1600th of a second was more than sufficient to freeze the action while a moderate aperture of F5,6 allowed me to blur the background)

Ruaha Wilderness

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‘Reverting back to analogue film, I embarked on what I thought would be a simple frame to capture but one that surprisingly took months to achieve. I wanted to time the exposure in such a way, that the already set sun would wash the scene with a warm orange glow. Standing in the pitch dark, having lost my cable release in previous attempts; fumbling with elastic bands and pebbles; trying to paint with a torch whose batteries were running flat and second-guessing my timing soon became all too familiar irritations. Having to leave my camera in the wilderness, often times stumbling across breeding herds of elephant in black of the night, only added to my woes. Furthermore, the rains were on their way and clouds parading under the cover of darkness were ruining dozens of frames, causing me to miss the new moon period and having to wait another twenty-eight days before my next attempt. I felt like an artist who had lost control of his brushes! Finally, when I believed I had the frame, I then had to wait a further three months before being able to return to a city for development. Years later and in hindsight, the undertaking was pure pleasure…’

 

Kalahari Squirrels

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‘Frustrated in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert by the fact that I was not allowed to alight from my vehicle and with only two roads to traverse, I decided to return to camp. There I joined two of the camp’s resident squirrels in their world and rolling around in the dirt for three hours, I suddenly felt alive again…’

African Eden

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‘The stage is always set on the great plains of Africa, and all that is needed is patience. The triangular shape of the tree in the foreground, repeated again by the shape of the grove, is what drew me to this particular landscape. I waited for a herd of zebra to pass by, trying desperately to compose a frame. The last equine in the herd paused for a moment and glanced back across the plain. If animals are a part of the landscape then I always try to include them…’

King of the Plains

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‘There are few subjects as stately as a male lion. We had photographed this superb specimen up close and he was indeed impressive. Equally impressive however, were the vast grass plains that surrounded him on every side. Choosing to zoom out, I wanted to capture my subject in context. Just then, a breeze picked up from the east, blowing his mane slightly west. Tripping my shutter, I knew that this was the image I had been after…’

Tarangire Dawn

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‘Tarangire National Park lies in northern Tanzania and is home to vast numbers of elephant. In the predawn glow we followed this individual and by placing the rising sun behind my subject, I was able to create this silhouette. I like shooting silhouettes as they allow me to simplify the natural world into mere shapes and colours. As a wildlife photographer, I often find myself trying to extract the bear essentials out of a scene. The old adage of ‘less is more’, holds true to my work…’

Young Elephant Bull

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This young Elephant bull was enjoying splashing about in the water when suddenly he turned and gave us a mock charge. Young bulls are prone to do this as they practice flexing their muscles for future years. In such instances, wildlife photographers must have an intimate understanding of their subject’s behaviour, and must remain composed. Most importantly; a photographer, in such moments, must remember to always keep shooting! To start the vehicle would only have aggravated the situation…’

Pachyderm Procession

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‘In Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, the elephants journey each morning across the dry dusty lake bed, after having spent the night foraging in the surrounding bushlands. The purpose of their journey is to quench their desperate thirsts in the freshwater swamps located at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. My intention here was to place my subjects in context; to dwarf the largest land mammal on the planet at the base of the largest freestanding mountain in the world…’


 

Zebra Soul

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‘It is not often that I travel to a location with one absolute definitive frame in mind, but the success of my safari to Zululand hinged on this one single, yet simple frame. The exhilaration of staring deep into the eye of such an incredible creature, and transcending the all too familiar barrier that separates man and beast, will remain a definitive moment for me…’

Lake Natron Reflections

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‘Every visit to Lake Natron in northern Tanzania is different. On this particular afternoon a storm swept in from the east, lifting dust and exciting a thin band of flamingoes on the distant horizon. Black volcanic rock strewn in the foreground bears witness to the surrounding hills once being virulent volcanoes. In the distance, Mount Shompole…’

Great Plains

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‘There is nothing quite like an African thunderstorm! The sky darkens almost in an instant and cool refreshing winds gust across the plains. The mood fast becomes pensive and the light eerie. The beasts of the field fall silent almost as if listening to the distant thunderous rumblings. If one stands on the great plains before such a storm, you can smell the rain and hear the gigantic raindrops pelting the African earth long before the storm arrives. On this particular afternoon, the storm looked especially fierce and while everyone headed back to our tented camp in Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve, I drove purposely onto the great plains and again felt alive…’

Stork at Dawn

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‘My favourite time of year in Tanzania’s Rauha National Park is September; when the Great Ruaha River is reduced to a trickle and isolated hippo pools inadvertently trap shoals of unsuspecting fish. Waiting patiently in the pre-dawn light, the sound of crocodile jaws smacking the water furiously in an attempt to snap up fish, can be heard echoing down the river. When the first rays of dawn pierce the horizon, the Yellow-billed Storks begin frantically trawling for fish. This individual succeeded in catching a catfish and proceeded to swallow its sashimi meal whole…’

Nomads of Masai-land

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‘In the months prior to this frame, this lioness and her cubs had stubbornly refused to drink in the daylight hours. I had patiently waited in my blind until dusk for them on numerous occasions and twice, upon walking back to camp, I met all eight on foot! I never carried a rifle as my arms were full of camera gear, and both meetings were rather surreal. The cubs always tentatively inquisitive, running forward with their ears pricked while mom kept a beady eye on my every movement! I like to think that through such experiences, I gain a greater understanding of my own niche in the ecosystem but some say my years of bush living have made me blasé ?’

Zebras in the Wilderness

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‘I discovered an ancient wilderness in southern Tanzania; a place where the bush is rank and the trees tall. A place where the animals are shy and the tsetse flies bold. A place that had never before been photographed and that demanded patience. One early morning I surprised a herd of zebra in a clearing just as a shaft of light penetrated the dark wilderness…’

African Dawn

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‘The obvious shot was to position in front of the lion with the light coming from behind. I chose to rather shoot into the rising sun, in an attempt to shoot a familiar subject in an unfamiliar way. As the lion stared at the rising sun, I could not help but wonder what was going through his mind…’

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The End


By Greg du Toit

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All images © by Greg du Toit

The post Africa appeared first on ODP Magazine.