African Photography Blog

Nature

No Comments in Nature

Meet the Primates of Rwanda

Rwanda a small land locked in east Africa is blessed with a number of wildlife species that inhabit the jungles of the major Virunga volcanoes in the northwestern part of the country as well as in the forested areas of Nyungwe and Gishwati Mukura. Some of the unique wildlife species Rwanda has to offer are primates and are animal species a tourist on a Rwanda safari should not miss tracking while on a tour or safari in this beautiful country.

The major primates in Rwanda include the following;

The Chimpanzees

A large population of these can be found in Nyungwe forest located in southwestern Rwanda. Over 98% DNA of these wild animals is similar to humans, which explains why most of their characteristics are almost the same as for humans. They mainly feed on fruits, leaves, shoots and other edibles that the forests provide. Chimpanzees live in groups but are very mobile as they usually move from one place to another in search for food.

Chimpanzees of Nyungwe Forest

To enjoy more of the chimpanzees in Rwanda, just prepare and head for chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe forest national park. Nyungwe forest national park is the only place in Rwanda where tourists can enjoy chimpanzee tracking. There are trails in the forest that tourists under the guidance of guides follow to discover more about their closest relative. The good news is that chimps in Nyungwe forest can be tracked at anytime of the year.

Monkeys

These are very common and easily sighted. Important to note is that there are different categories of monkeys in Rwanda and the major examples include l’hoest monkeys, vervet monkeys, colobus monkeys, golden monkeys, owl faced monkeys and blue tailed monkeys. Most of these can be got in Nyungwe forest national park except for the golden. The golden monkeys inhabit the jungles of volcanoes national park and can be viewed by tourists on mountain gorilla treks. Just like chimpanzees, monkeys can also be tracked at any time of the year and tracking them gives tourists an opportunity to experience the real African jungle.

Monkeys can also be tracked in the newly established national park – Gishwati Mukura also located in the western part of Rwanda.

Baboons

These are other unique primates one can encounter while in the land of a thousand hills. To differ from monkeys, baboons predominantly live on land/ground and have a muzzle similar to that of a dog which is not the case with monkeys. Baboons in Rwanda can be viewed in the major savanna areas especially in Akagera national park that is located in northeastern Rwanda and the only savanna park in the country.

Baboons of Rwanda

Tourists on game drives can see them as they move from one place to another. Just like monkeys, baboons also live in groups and very dangerous incase any predator tries to attack their young ones since they can fight to death. Baboons are very unique and anyone interested in primate tracking in Rwanda should not leave the country before seeing them.

Mountain Gorillas

They are among the rare primate species on earth and are presently remaining in only three countries in the world Rwanda inclusive. Mountain gorillas in Rwanda can be got volcanoes national park located in the northwestern part of Rwanda. They live in the forested mountains of Karisimbi, Mikeno and Bisoke and Rwanda in general has 10 habituated mountain gorilla families however 7 of them are the ones that are usually trekked by tourists.

Rwanda Gorilla

Trekking the mountain gorillas starts very early in the morning and only 8 tourists are allowed to trek one mountain gorilla family a day. Mountain gorilla encounters are very unique and unforgettable which explains why a number of tourists from different parts of the country go to Rwanda to be part of the wonderful experience.

 

No Comments in Nature

The Kalahari is a Nature Photographer’s Paradise

In February 2005, I was privileged enough to go on a photographic safari to the Kalahari. This special place stole my heart in one short week. The photo opportunities were nothing short of magical, and I am already planning my visit in 2006.

If you look at successful wildlife or nature photographers that has visited Southern Africa, you will find that a lot of them have been to the Kalahari, and produced award-winning photographs there. Those photographers operating mostly in Southern Africa have taken a good percentage of their published work here. The photographs of Suricate taken here are world-renowned and everyone marvels at the opportunity to photograph these social little creatures.

All this tells you one thing. If you want good photographs, this should be one of your first choice destinations!

What is the Kalahari? It is an arid semi-desert region that covers the far north of South Africa, big parts of southern and central Botswana and parts of Namibia. In my opinion, the best place for photography in this region is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the first of its kind in Southern Africa.

Another option is to visit the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana, but this is a far more destitute reserve and you have to be totally self-sufficient to visit the reserve on a self-drive safari.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park consists of the old Kalahari Gemsbok National Park of South Africa and the old Gemsbok National Park of Botswana. It is a peace park, and there is no physical boundary between the two countries inside the park. We visited the South African side of the park only, and this section of Africa Nature Photography discusses the park itself, the photographic opportunities and the subjects on offer for photographers on safari in this part of the park. A pleasant surprise indeed!

Please follow one of these links:

General Information on the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Photography in the Kalahari
The Carnivores (photos)
Larger Plains Mammals(photos)
The Smaller Mammals(photos)
Birds of Prey (photos)
Landscapes (photos)

Oops! I almost forgot to mention another big attraction of this park. At night in the camps my wife and I got to meet a number of fellow photographers sharing our passion for this wonderful hobby or career of nature photography, and for the beauty of Africa. We want to thank Johan Joubert, Gerhard and Alida Pitout and Helmut and Eva Pum for the valuable information they were so eager to share, and for their warm friendship. We look forward to seeing each of them in again in future!

It was awesome being able to discuss photography around a campfire after a good day in the field. Sipping on a ice cold Windhoek Lager of course!


If you are interested in the region, and would like to learn more about its wildlife, while at the same time reading a very entertaining story, I can recommend Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens.

No Comments in Destinations, Nature

Exploring the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a relatively new park, and as I mentioned earlier, it is the first transfrontier park in Southern Africa.

The park is a combination of the old Kalahari Gemsbok National Park of South Africa and the old Gemsbok National Park of Botswana. Setting up the park was a commendable effort (that surely involved lots of patience, sacrifices and good neighbourliness) by both South Africa and Botswana, and their respective conservation bodies. This is part of the reason why it is known as a peace park.

Time of year to visit

We visited the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in February 2005 and this is a nice time to visit, but it also has some drawbacks. It is a time preferred by photographers for two reasons. Firstly, the chance of getting some thunderstorms is still good and this makes for very dramatic pictures. This year the rains were particularly late and there were some very heavy storms during our visit. Secondly, it is so hot at this time of the year, that the general public tends to stay away. This leads to more opportunities and fewer disturbances for photographers.

That brings us to the main drawback of a February visit, or indeed any summer visit. The maximum temperature while we were in the park was a staggering 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) while the minimum was as high as 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit). Yes, it was VERY hot!

However, I suspect that game viewing inside the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park will be decent all year round. The changing landscapes also offer different opportunities at different times of the year. The widely known red dusty photographs of Springbok or Blue Wildebeest taken in the Kalahari are taken in windy September and October after the cold dry season.

One caution though! We have heard from friends who have been visiting the park for over 27 years, that it gets extremely cold in winter (not nice for camping). They said it was not uncommon to experience temperatures as low as -8 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter months of July and August. However. the day temperatures stay reasonable throughout the year.

Accommodation

Accommodation is available in the form of little chalets or as camping. We always prefer camping, since we are already so nicely set up for this after a few years of regular camping. However, the chalets looked like decent accommodation as well. Most foreigners prefer to stay in chalets.

The big advantage of camping in any of the South African National Parks is the low cost. We paid a mere 595 South African Rands for seven nights. This is almost exactly $100 at current exchange rates. That’s nothing for a week in such a prime photographic destination!

The chalets would have worked out to 2 800 South African Rands ($470) for seven nights.

Transport

A four-wheel drive off-road vehicle is not a prerequisite for driving in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. If you visit from another country, I recommend you rent one of these rather than a small sedan car. If you are resident in Southern Africa, use your four-wheel drive vehicle if you are lucky enough to own one. The roads are pretty bad, “sinkplaat” roads.

For photography, the high four-wheel drive vehicles also offer the advantage of a higher vantage point. This enables you to see more, especially if the grass is high.

The “sinkplaat” condition in and around the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park causes everything in the car to vibrate badly, even at modest speeds. It is as if the road consists of continuous mini speed bumps. This condition is aggravated by driving two-wheel drive cars and by having too high tyre pressures. It is therefore recommended to switch to four-wheel drive if possible and to deflate tyres to 1.6 bar as you enter the park. When you leave, remember to inflate your tyres again before leaving.

How long to visit

We were there for a week only, and this is a very short time in which to try and observe all the Kalahari has to offer. However, we were lucky in terms of sightings.

“The Kalahari only reveals itself to those who seek with a true heart” – Unknown.

We had very special lion sightings, one being a whole family feeding off an Oryx kill at first light one morning (for pictures, see Kalahari Carnivores). I did not see Cheetahs or Leopards in my time in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, but felt that if I had another two weeks to “seek with a true heart”, I would have been unlucky to still not have seen the Cheetahs at least.

Maybe visiting such a special place and wanting to see everything in one week is not to “seek with a true heart” . Our next visit will be two or three weeks.

You have to put in a lot of hard driving for good sightings and this is not always nice. Spending four hours in your car and not seeing anything special can be frustrating to say the least! However, it is patience that separates mediocre photographers from special ones. On some days, the Kalahari will definitely help turn you into a patient photographer.


If you are interested in the region, and would like to learn more about its wildlife, while at the same time reading a very entertaining story, I can recommend Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens.

This book does not give detailed information on the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Exploring Bwindi Forest: Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees & the Batwa

Have you ever heard about the origins of the mighty King Kong? These fearsome great apes are only found in the Bwindi and Virunga mountains of Africa. The largest population of the mountain gorillas lives in Bwindi Impenetrable national park, a national park in South Western Uganda, a small country in East Africa.

Today Bwindi is one of the most popular safari parks to visit in East Africa. Located a few kilometres from the Virungas, Bwindi Forest is an amazing home to the mountain gorillas. According to the 2012 Gorilla Census,  there are over 400 mountain gorillas living within the impenetrable Forest.

Bwindi is the most popular place for gorilla trekking expeditions in Africa. The park attracts thousands of travelers who visit Africa to see the endangered mountain gorillas. Over the past 20 years, many tourists have traveled to East Africa to see these amazing creatures surviving only in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Though most renowned for mountain gorillas, the Bwindi Forest has also got other wildlife species which include; forest elephants, lions, monkeys, bird species and many more.

Bwindi Forest

Many tourists who come for gorilla safaris to Uganda opt for different trips ranging from 3 Days to 3 Weeks adventures that include several adventures including game viewing in Uganda’s savanna parks, chimpanzee tracking, golden monkey tracking, bird watching, nature trekking etc. If you are looking for a trip that involves multiple gorilla tracking, a 4 Days Bwindi Gorilla Safari or a 5 Days Gorilla Safari is the best trip for you!

If you are on budget or with less time,  enjoy the 3 days Bwindi Gorilla Safari into the impenetrable rain forest.

How a Gorilla Trek is Organised

Day one is always involved with a long drive to Bwindi Forest. Tourists are picked from Entebbe Airport and transferred to Bwindi impenetrable national park via Masaka – Mbarara Highway. You will enjoy the scenic drive as you traverse the forests and the vegetation zones along the way. Along the way have a stopover at the Equator in order to enjoy the photos and the experiments. You will also buy some crafts since they are displayed everywhere. The guide will drive take you to an African restaurant where you will enjoy lunch with many different types of food. Later on you will proceed to the park where you will arrive in the evening. Check in at the lodge where you will have your dinner and overnight as you prepare for gorilla tracking the next day.

The second day, is always the day to track the endangered mountain gorillas within an allocated gorilla group. After an early morning breakfast leave the lodge with packed lunch and later proceed to the forest were you will start your search for the rare and endangered mountain gorillas. The trek normally takes a period ranging from 30 minutes to a full day hike looking for the gorillas. Be prepared and physically fit given that  the search for the mountain gorillas within the forest takes you up through various hills and valleys. Once these primates are found, you will be given one hour to watch these unique gorillas. You have the chance to take photographs! During the hike, you have a chance to see other animals that include; elephants, monkeys birds,. You will later return to the lodge for a late lunch or take a community walk where you will visit the neighbouring local communities in Bwindi. The Batwa Experience is one of the most popular community tour taking you into the community of the Batwa people, short pygmy people who used to live with the gorillas in the impanetrable forest. You will enjoy their traditional dances and cultures during this tour! In the evening, you will return to the lodge for dinner and an overnight.

On this third day after breakfast , you will check out from the lodge, you will transfer with your packed lunch. During the drive back, enjoy the scenic views as you travel. You can have a stopover at Mpambire drum makers where you will have some experiments about the making of the drums. Later proceed to Kampala where you will be taken to the airport for your departure flight or transferred to the hotel for your overnight and dinner.

Exploring Nyungwe Primates Forest

The popular Nyungwe Forest is a true rain forest in South Western Rwanda. It is most famous for hosting chimpanzees, our closest cousins. This tropical rain forest occupies 1,015 sq. kilometers and adjoins the Kibira National Park of Burundi forming a large contagious forest.

The park typically receives an excess of 2, 000 mm of precipitation annually.

Nyungwe Forest is a prime destination for primate safaris in Africa. The park protects 13 primate species that can be easily seen within the park. Chimpanzees are the most sought after animals in the park and the park hosts about 500 – 1000 individuals.  The monkey population is also high including the acrobatic Rwenzori colobus and the localized L’Hoest’s monkey. Nyungwe also a suitable destination to birders, botanists and walkers with about 130km walking trails as well as boasting as the region’s only suspended canopy walk area.

Chimpanzee Tracking

This renowned tropical rain forest is one of the few places where you can see chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Chimpanzees can easily be tracked at any time.

Nyungwe Chimpanzee

Located in South Rwanda, this is one of the oldest forests in Africa, which is one of the reason it boasts such a high level of diversity. Scientific opinion is that Nyungwe, along with other forests of the Albertine Rift, was largely unaffected by the drying up of the lowland areas during the last ice age, and thus become a refuge for forest plants and animals which have subsequently recolonised areas such as the Congo Basin.

One of the central planks in ORTPN’s tourism – diversification programme is Nyungwe National Park, 980 square kilometers of hilly jungle cloaked terrain in the country’s South – West, o the boarder with Burundi and the DRC, and surely one of the undiscovered gems of African environmental tourism.

Nyugwe Canopy Walk

Ranging between 1,600 and 2,950 meters in altitude, the park is contiguous with Kibira National Park in Burundi, together with the two protected areas form the largest block of forest in East Africa. Nyungwe was originally set aside as a reserve in 1933, which although relatively effective, still saw it lose about 20 per cent as its area by 1984, when a coordinated forest-protection plan was implemented. It was elevated to national park status in March 2004 and is famously known now for primates trekking in Rwanda.

No Comments in Nature

Photographing the African Landscape – Africa Through the Lens

Africa is by far one of the most diverse landscapes in the world and much of it is still undiscovered by the lens. Many photographers would trade a limb to have access to the African landscape yet a great majority of South African photographers seem intent on travelling around the world to photograph landscapes that have been well covered by other photographers, all the while a treasure chest of images lies right under their noses.

Africa holds a treasure chest of landscape photography opportunities. Commercial Fine Art Photography South Africa.

“Mercury Down II” The sun sets and the mercury indicator starts to drop after a very hot day in Namibia – Copyright Mitchell Krog / Living Canvas Photography. All Rights Reserved.

For the budding and professional landscape photographer there is virtually endless landscape photographic opportunities in Africa and Southern Africa. South African photographer Mitchell Krog is no stranger to the African landscape and spends many months a year exploring, discovering and capturing breathtaking images of the beautiful African landscapes. Mitchell chooses to completely avoid re-capturing images which have been captured a million times or more, “I just don’t see the point in photographing things that have are captured 100 times a day when there is just so much that has NOT even been photographed yet” he says.

Photographing the African Landscape, South African Photographer Mitchell Krog is regularly exploring, discovering and capturing breathtaking images of the African landscape. This image from the mountainous Drakensberg area of South Africa captures a beautiful sunrise over the beautiful landscape of this area of Kwazulu Natal.

“Drakensberg Sunrise” – The sun rises over the beautiful and majestic mountainous region of the Drakensberg of South Africa. Copyright Mitchell Krog / Living Canvas Photography. All Rights Reserved.

The greatest parts of the undiscovered African landscape are only accessible via foot and often many kilometers of walking can be involved simply to capture one image. As Mitchell Krog says, “This is the game unfortunately and quite simply if you’re not willing to go the extra “mile”, excuse the pun, you will not return home with any new or unique images that have not been captured already. The Drakensberg region of South Africa, of which the greatest area lies within the province of Kwazulu Natal, is a good example. Photographers seeking to cover this area really need to go many extra miles to get to unique locations and in the Drakensberg there literally is endless locations on offer. The Drakensberg is so diverse and the landscape is ever changing, the light is so dramatic that you could sit and photograph the same scene every day for 365 days and not one image would be the same, it is for this very reason that I can say the landscape opportunities of the Drakensberg are endless.”

Cape Town and the Western Cape of South Africa offer many landscape photography opportunities. A great majority of the Cape has been well covered by photographers but much like the Drakensberg, the Cape is mountainous and the light is dramatic and there are still many opportunities awaiting the photographer. This panorama of Table mountain and the Cape peninsula taken by South African photographer Mitchell Krog.

“Table Mountain at Dusk” – One of the most photographed mountains in the world, Table Mountain. Copyright Mitchell Krog / Living Canvas Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Similarly the Western Cape region of South Africa is also very mountainous and has some very dramatic landscapes. The Cape weather is rather unpredictable but this coupled with dramatic light seems to make for a good recipe for excellent landscape photography opportunities. The Cape is one of the most photographically covered regions of South Africa but this does ot mean that there is not still many landscape photography opportunities in store for the visiting photographer. No doubt South Africa will see many international photographers visiting our shores as the World Cup Soccer draws closer and it will be interesting to see how fresh eyes portray our beautiful landscapes.
Copyright – Living Canvas Photography / African Photography Blog – Duplication in part or whole is expressly forbidden. All images and photographs are copyright to Mitchell Krog & Living Canvas photography and may not be used without prior permissions. All images are available in limited and regular edition print series on archival quality papers and canvas through the web site www.livingcanvas.co.za – You may syndicate articles from this blog using our RSS feeds but all syndicated articles must link back to the original content on this site. Please see the Copyright page for more information.

No Comments in Nature

Chasing The Storm – Lightning Photography

Lightning Storms are one of the most incredible forces of nature. The sheer force of a lightning strike is enough to power a city for months on end but man has not yet learned to harness and store this incredible energy source provided free of charge by nature. As Summer approaches in South Africa, the first rains and electrical storms for the season are already brewing and we’ll soon see what kind of storm activity nature has in store for use this season. Acclaimed South African Lightning and Storm Photographer Mitchell Krog shares some of his images, views and experiences with lightning photography.

Danger Written In The Sky

Multiple Lightning Strikes Light Up The Summer Night Sky. If Only Man Could Learn To Harness This Energy. For many years SA photographer Mitchell Krog has watched and studied electrical storms and to this day still stands in utter amazement at this incredible force of nature. In recent years he acquired the equipment and skills to finally capture them on film and he has produced an endless array of breathtaking images. For Mitchell it is not about simply capturing a lightning strike on film but more importantly capturing the entire scene and telling a story through his images. “With any form of photography if you can captivate a viewers attention, draw them into an image, tell them a story and have them study it for more than just a few seconds you have imprinted an ever lasting memory” says Mitchell. Lightning photography can be a very lonely passtime, only those with enough dedication, patience and endurance to be out at strange hours of the night will stand a chance of capturing unique, sometimes once in a lifetime images.

The Big Detour

A passenger aircraft destined for Lanseria airport bypasses a massive storm cell. Missing dinner and spending many lonesome hours outside comes with the job of photographing lightning storms. From Mitchell Krog’s Lightning Photography Portfolio. (Copyright Mitchell Krog – All Rights Reserved)

As with any form of photography, timing is of the essence. If you are unprepared, unwilling or unable to drop whatever you are doing at a moments notice you will miss opportunities. “I cannot tell you how many evenings I have rushed out of the house just minutes before dinner was ready only to return home several hours later, but nature waits for no man and if you are quick to seize the opportunity you will reap the rewards” says Mitchell. Mitchell’s Fire and Ice series, capturing a grassland fire which was started by lightning strikes was one such occasion. He explains – “I was cooking dinner when I heard thunder approaching, I took a quick look outside and saw the sky glowing red from a grass fire, I dropped everything, rushed outside and managed to capture a few frames of this scene before the storm extinguished the fire it had started. This entire window of opportunity lasted a mere 20-30 minutes and was at it’s best stage for around 5-10 minutes.”

Fire and Ice

An early Spring lightning storm starts a grass fire and is capture here with strikes falling around and into the fire. Minutes later the storm extinguishes the fire it started and the moment is gone. From Mitchell Krog’s Fire and Ice Lightning Photography Series.

Safety is an important part of watching and photographing lightning storms. Finding a safe location with a good view is of the essence, you need to be able to see the storm approaching and be able to determine if you are in any way in the path of danger. “If your view is in any way blocked a storm can sneak up right behind you so a 360 degree view is preferable, you also need somewhere safe to escape to. I’ve often been watching a storm in one direction when right behind me another one is brewing, so I always keep a watch all around me. Standing outside with a metal tripod and an electrically charged camera when strikes are falling too close is asking for trouble” says Mitchell. Mitchell insists that climbing on the roof of your house or any metal structure is a big no-no and could quickly cost you your life and he always promotes safe lightning photography. “There is just no image worth losing your life over” he adds.

Killer Storm


Credits to Mitchell Frog (2007)

On the 23rd of November 2007 this mammoth supercell emitting lightning strikes up and out of it’s core was captured by Mitchell Krog. The strikes emanating from the centre of this storm cell were kilometres in length and streaked across the night sky. This same evening several massive storm cells circulated through Gauteng and claimed lives in their path.

Credits to Mitchell Krog  – You can buy his lightning photos here

No Comments in Nature

Magaliesburg Photographer Trump’s Lunar Eclipse Photos

The Lunar Eclipse Over South Africa on 15 June 2011 captured as never before by South African Photographer Mitchell Krog
South African Photographer Mitchell Krog, based in the beautiful Magaliesburg region has once again pulled something magical out of his photographic hat. Mitchell, a multi award winning photographer, is no stranger to the night skies and has spent much of the last 5 years photographing them. On Wednesday evening the 15th June 2011 a lunar eclipse event occured over much of the Southern Hemisphere and had sky watchers all over the world outside to witness this magical event.

In South Africa it is currently winter and up on the highveld in the Magaliesburg region it gets especially cold at night. Braving the cold weather, Mitchell headed out to capture his 4th lunar eclipse and decided to try something different. Instead of just focusing on close up images of the moon, Mitchell decided to go much wider and set up one of his camera’s with an extreme wide angle lens.

What came out of his camera was nothing short of amazing and has certainly trumped a plethora of lunar eclipse images all over the web. Mitchell describes this effect, “A combination of heavy dew fall and misting from the very cold weather is probably what caused the camera to capture this, it is an amazing optical effect like I’ve never seen before and I’ve spent hundreds of nights out photographing the night skies. What I find amazing about this image is that, optical effect or not, it clearly shows the moon sitting in shadow surrounded by the blue glow of Earth’s light. It’s easy for people to jump out and say it’s manipulated but it most certainly is not, this is direct from camera to screen but I’m so accustomed to critics and competitors trying any avenue to demoralize or discredit.”
All we can say is we’re amazed with this image and it already seems to be circulating all over the web and being very much WOW’d.