Well finally had some time to sleep in, I was getting to the point of being pretty run down. On a FAM (familiarization) trip, one is go go go the whole time. There were lodges to look at and we also needed to get the best photos to help with marketing tours for Shutter Tours. This requires getting up early as the sun rises, eating a box lunch out in the bush and pushing ourselves to go until the sun sets.
Thankfully this was the morning where we decided that 8:30 AM was going to be a good starting time and I had a great night rest so was ready to start the day. Our first stop was a hippo pool with loads of hippos, this is something that is great to see because you can have close to 100 hippos in the same area in the river, though you’ll smell them before you see them. They make a lot of noise and on my trip I brought an audio recorder so I could remember the sounds. Click on the sound file below to hear the sound they make.
After we left the hippo pool, Gabriel was on a mission to find a Leopard before the end of the trip. We had only seen two but it was late in the evening and they were so far off that I couldn’t get a good photo. The one important thing about going to Africa, if you have a good guide it makes a world of difference. We saw many guides get impatient and move on and after they did, this is where the patience for us paid off because we would see things that others missed.
The only challenge for seeing a leopard at this point in the day was it was after 10 AM and they usually hunt in the evening and are more active then. But Gabriel pushed on as we took lots of twist and turns and moved throughout a forested area. We had just dropped into a small gully and were coming up a small hill when Gabriel stops and says “Leopard on our Left” quickly I grab my camera and get a few shots off and then it disappeared into the woods. It was probably 30-40 yards away and moved out of our sight into the thick underbrush. Well I did get a couple of good photos, but not the ones I wanted, I thought to myself.
Gabby pointed to a tree and thought maybe it was going in that direction. We all had a rush of excitement when it jumped up the base of the tree and started to climb. Quickly I wanted to get some photos off just in case he jumped back down but I was having some camera challenges. My first full day in Africa I was getting some great photos of Baboons, Giraffe’s, Elephants etc. At the end of the day I hurriedly put my camera down on a nightstand to use the washroom, when I heard a loud thump. My camera had fallen off the nightstand. Crestfallen I grabbed the camera to make sure everything was ok and did a test shot. thankfully the 70-300 mm lens was working. The next day however, I was trying to get my first shots of the day and at 300mm everything was blurry and my camera wouldn’t focus. After about 5 minutes I realized I must have damaged a collar inside my lens and the lens was flopping around in the barrel. If I held the end of the lens just right, I could get an image in focus, but it took some work and was very frustrating. It seemed to work better at 200mm, but I needed to reach out and get longer shots. Thankfully by the time this leopard presented itself I was getting pretty good at getting a decent shot. So I took my time and bumped up the ISO a bit to reduce any blur and shake.
As it climbed the tree, I saw that my shots were working. When presented with once in a lifetime shots as a photographer, you don’t want to blow the shot or make excuses, you have to get the job done. Thankfully my hand was steady and we had a beautiful subject to photograph. Eventually I just put my camera down to enjoy the scene that was unfolding in front of me. At this point there was only three of us here and no other vehicles around so we had this scene all to ourselves. He would probably be here for the rest of the day, so it was time for us to move on from this great experience.
More images below to tell the rest of the story.