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MxM's solo photographic and birding tour. KTP, Oct/Nov. '13

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Mon Mar 24, 2014 7:21 pm

Day 4 continued...

I turned back at Rooiputs when I noticed, well, nothing, there was nothing to notice. Except there were still lots of tortoises, especially smaller ones, in and near the road.

While covering the last stretch back to my base, TR, I decided, partly out of boredom and partly out of hope of finding an amazing image on my SD card when I get back to camp, to try some different shots. In the end, this one was just different, nothing else. But it does not hurt to try sometimes. In this case, I severely pushed up the exposure bias as there was some reflection from the ground and thought that a more white canvas would make the springbok stand out more. Sadly, the subject was doing too little for this to be interesting. But it is different.
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Here I tried for a backlit bbj with its surroundings telling a story. Well, I tried.
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Another finch that got close to the road while I was stopped for the jackal. As a rule, I do not stop for anything smaller than a dove as I have noticed very little chance of getting in a decent shot (however, if it is a new species, possibly, I will still often stop for a record shot).
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Here is a different that I feel works. I was fiddling around with options while watching a small herd of gemsbok. There is something different about this shot, it shows the detail and beauty of these animals that many seem to ignore while in KTP as they are so common (in KTP). This also marked the end of my photographic day.
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I still searched for that elusive giant eagle-owl in all the trees towards TR, but alack, nothing. Others soon before and after me seemed to have seen it, I, however, could not spot it.

I decided to end my day in the restaurant. Unfortunately, I was a little late to make a booking (and had not booked the previous day as I was not certain that I would want to go to the restaurant, or what time) and when I got there it was really very full. I waited outside and made it clear that I was in no rush understanding that it was my own fault that I did not have a place to sit. After the second time the polite waiting staff asked if all was okay and if they could help, I said that I could, if it suited them, order and take my food as take-away. I placed an order for the venison pie with malva for pudding. I was extremely surprised at the menu, there did not seem to be too much in the way of local style food, but I did not care too much as I love a whack of venison in any form, and pie was a good form. By the time my food was ready a table had opened up so I ordered a grapetiser (the relevance is that this is something I drink on special occasions as it is always priced at a premium - but the special occasion was something between the sadness of leaving TR and excitement of traveling north). As a note, the venison pie with mash and veg (btw, it was a giant piece of pie) was R95 and one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten - thanks Stella from the kitchen who prepared it! The malva, one of my favourite puddings, was sadly so-so, perhaps it was not heated correctly, but the bottom half was really tough, but hey, that pie was soooo good I barely cared. I got up to settle the account at the desk, pushed in my chair, suddenly flung my hand out as I had put it on a beetle, no, wait, ouch, that was no beetle.

My hand began to throb almost immediately and I saw the beesting planted in the webbing between my thumb and index finger. I was prepared for the onslaught of bees at Grootkolk that had been written about on this forum, but not at TR. One of the ladies there helped to remove the sting without squeezing it (I did not have the nails for the job) and before I knew it I was being given an onion. Now this is weird. I at first was not sure what for but the staff told me to put it on the affected area as it would relieve the pain and minimise the swelling. This was the first time I had heard of the remedy, but so as not to offend, and just in case it worked, I kept the juicy open half of the cut onion on the sting area.

Immediately, as the thumb started to swell, I realised that holding and working a camera with my right hand would be very uncomfortable. But oh well, such is life. I paid and left, keeping the onion on for another hour.

Then, wow, would you believe, the swelling was less than it should have been (I used to work with a bee-keeper and know how much that area normally swells) and the pain/itchiness was not present. The next morning the swelling had already subsided that I could easily/comfortably use my cameras, so joy, and lesson - keep onions with you when near bees!

And so ended day 4.
Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Tue Apr 01, 2014 6:33 pm

11.5. Day 5 – Heading north

Distance covered: 198 km
Route travelled: TR-Nossob river-Nossob; scouted CQ
Daily fuel consumption: 8.1 l/100km
Maximum temperature: 38oC
Food: Simba chips, tin of spaghetti and meatballs, nougat, chicken pie
Highlights spotted: cheetah with tortoise
Favourite moment: seeing the actual webcam and its view (this thing is one of 4 escapes I have from the real world, I just love watching them, especially Nossob, and really especially nearing my trip! – when Nossob was offline, it was as if there were no webcams at all).
Birding lifers: none
List of birds for this trip: cattle egret, black-shouldered kite, brown snake-eagle, lark-like bunting

This is perhaps the best example of a typical day. There was a highlight to rival all highlights, a sighting so special that it will remain with me forever, but there was also a lot of dull quiet time. Perhaps I am being unfair, this day had little common game, few birds and was insanely hot, even for me. I ended up driving with the window up and instead of the buzz of the bush I listened to the gentle whoosh of the aircon. However, I was reminded that the next few days were like the old days – there was no cell phone coverage, no lifelines – if there was danger, I would need to use my wits and limited training (some of which was from farm experience, some from BBC documentaries and some from forum advice) to stay alive. The reminder was that I have a family at home and would not be able to do more than shout for help here in the north, so perhaps, I should not get into situations where I might die. Now, while this may sound melodramatic, I mean it only to be normally dramatic, there are dangers and little safety net for the solo traveller in the real wilderness. Changing a tyre would mean keeping one eye on the vast surroundings when a second passenger could rather be scouting while I work; encountering a dangerous animal in the camp could spell disaster if I do not get a shout out in time; injuring myself somehow, somewhere… what then? There are 2 harrowing experiences over the next few days, starting with tonight. Be careful. Be sensible. Be aware.

It was a long hot drive from TR to Nossob. I went up my productive Nossob river side, but today there was little action. The sun was high long before noon and the animals had read the signs of nature earlier than I had and they had the sense to stay indoors. After a little way, although my windows are covered in a film that supposedly keeps out harmful rays, I put on a decent amount of antisun, especially on the window arm, hands and right leg – no sense in pain while I should be enjoying the surroundings; and it worked, no sun damage was noticed that evening. Also, this day had fewer clouds and I blame this for the sun making its mark so early – it was around 35 by 10 already.

As is typical early in a morning's drive, everything, like the first drive in a park, is exciting. Here is a bbj in nice light. The panoramic crop makes me feel like there is more movement with enough space for the jackal to move into. Your thoughts?
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Then, something close to the road, at least I now have a decent(ish) shot of one of the prettiest lbjs - a black-chested prinia.
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The story will come with the next installment, but here are a few images...
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Sorry for the delay in getting the next installment posted, my internet was finished :redface:

John
Moments by Mullineux Photography
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Wed Apr 02, 2014 3:34 pm

Day 5 continued

Although it spoils the story, the short answer is no, the cheetahs did not eat the tortoise - hehe, talk about slow food for fast eaters.
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The younger (or at least slightly fluffier) of the two did have a go at gnawing the poor reptile, but the more experienced fella walking away encouraged the younger gun to leave the idea and follow up the dune.
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I will share a number of images still from this sighting, partly as there is little else to show for this day, but largely also as I would again like to show that it helps to spend some time with a subject, if special photographs are what you are after. Sometimes, only after one has downloaded the images at home and has time to view the files on a proper calibrated screen that is large, can one notice small things like shadows over eye sockets, grass in front of a paw, glints in or not in the eye, small things, but major image makers or breakers... You will also notice that there is not super high detail in these images - that is partly as the sun was getting a little high and when it is hot, over the distances these images were taken, the haziness of the hot air does play a role - I thought this a little exaggerated by others, but no. The other reason is that the images were taken over a long distance with a long lens (910 mm equivalent) so any movement by me or wind on the car or anything can play a role at shutter speeds under 1/3000s. Small lessons I learned as I went along...

I would like a vote: here or in a separate thread? - I have pictures of ALL waterholes (accessible to the public in a non-4x4 vehicle) at both wide view and 100 mm (2x magnification) so that others, and myself, can plan a day's drive more informatively. Given, the images were taken before the rains came, but I am sure they will nonetheless be useful... if only to me.

Until more cheetah images

John
Moments by Mullineux Photography
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:03 pm

Day 5 continued

As warned, here come a number of similar shots. Compositions, facial expressions/angles, poses, leg positions, relative positioning of grass/twigs are different. Which do you like?
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While looking, again note the changes in eye contact and colour within the frame. Personally, partly as it is an exception, I like the pose where the subject is walking side-on and facing straight forward (seems almost voyeurish, I am just looking without him knowing I am there) but certainly prefer the monotone foreground/background; also, the cleaner the foreground, the more impactful the image as it allows for focus on the subject on a plain bg.

Now, as a change of pace, here is a still subject, very still, always has been. But read carefully... This is what happens when language is said to be unimportant (as an engineer I constantly fight with technical people on the merits of good language) - who proofread this? Did anyone? Apart from a giant billboard in Vietnam, this must be one of the worst sentences I have seen as it is not even a sentence... Spotted it yet? This was taken at the Dikbaardskolk picnic spot, seriously, someone paid for this and some people have to plant it in the ground - all that sweat...
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Until later

John

Aside, I am being published in the upcoming issue of a major travel magazine (I will rather withhold the name, but if you would like to know which one so that you might sneak a peak a few days ahead at an image I may not share on this forum until mid-May, for contractual reasons, please pm me). So excited, my second magazine comp nomination :dance:
Moments by Mullineux Photography
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Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Fri Apr 04, 2014 2:47 pm

Day 5 continued...

The only image I have between the UDR and Nossob is that of a common resident, a PCG. This one, however, gives a really nice display of the change between young and old plumage. These are some of the birds, much like brown snake-eagles in KNP, that I got to ID at a distance with a mere glance. But still, when near the road, give them a chance to pose.
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I did reach Nossob quite early, around 12 I recall, and knowing check-in was at 1400 I opted to revisit the camp I so fondly remember from some 17 years ago. Somehow I remembered nothing of it, it all seemed so new. But I check the swimming pool which seemed pleasant (not that I used it at all, odd I guess, but I focussed more on pictures than swimming, it anyhow was not that unbearably hot while I was there, well, except this day on the one in TR), the predator centre which while small was informative and interesting for a while, the camping sites were relatively unoccupied (but I watched as a family set up their site – shame the kid, while seemingly happy with his own special tent, would surely turn to biltong in the little tent), there were numerous mongoose (or similar) holes, and then there was the hide.

I made my way to the hide to see the view with my own eyes. It was the same, almost exactly. Too often such mystical amazing things are different or worse than the mind makes them to be, but here, the view in front of me matched the view on my computer. Although surreal, it did feel better, now, when I look at the webcam, I feel the dry openness (even when it is wet, I remember it dry and dusty).

I got the key to my room which was waiting for me. I was really fatigued from the heat, so, after packing out my critical stuff (I was only staying one night so I was only taking out the cameras, laptop and coolbox) I took a long nap. It felt good.

I remember taking a drive to scout CQ, that way I would know what I wanted to do the next day, but there are no images left to prove it, must mean that there was little to see and I deleted them all. Anyhow, I do remember sitting in the hide that late afternoon and evening. While other people came and went from the hide, I sat there for some time. Later a friendly regular visitor joined me. He had a nice spotlight and was extremely good conversation. The thing is, on a solo trip, I can be all to myself and alone and quiet and enjoy it, whenever I want; however, as soon as I want some conversation, a mere lifting of the eyes and a friendlier hello voiced out of more than a mere formality can spark a conversation with nearly anyone (in any SANPark in my experience, but especially valid in KTP). We chatted about anything from cars to what we had seen, our camps over the next few days and how many spring hares we could count. I used the 6D with pushed ISO after dark but the spotlight made not only for better pictures but also for much more fun as we could look out for animals from further away than the fixed light allows. (do not worry, we tried not to shine in the animals' eyes and did not shine for so long at a time that we would significantly change what the animals were doing.)

I have always wanted a decent shot of a drongo. At least, once I have the portrait ones covered, I could be more adventurous. A bit more depth of field here would have been better, then I would have had more detail along the body of the subject, something that I regularly miss out on when doing bird portraits: long lenses, close subjects, camera set up for action shots - all lead to narrow depth of field when doing portraits. The moral, think what you want to achieve and plan/set accordingly. The head angle and eye colour work so nicely, but I spoilt the shot by not thinking. It is times like that where the shot would have been better if I still had been using my film camera: think then click.
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Note how the image of the flying drongo is less strong owing to it looking away, albeit slightly (when going through your images, make an effort to notice this and you will quickly see why some favourite images speak to you more). Also notice how a wider field of view makes the image better as it allows context (the branches and the remaining bird) as well as allowing for space to fly into. The panoramic crop allowed me to give the other bird and lead space without a bunch of wasted area, that way focus (as in of the viewer not the camera) could be maintained on the main subject. The overly plain brown in the bg and brown branches help the otherwise dull/drab/boring black of the ftd to stand out - small difference, big impact. Have a look at some of your favourite images, especially portraits, and notice how many have the subject standing out from the bg by having a plain bg with colours that do not intrude on the subject...
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Until later in the hide...

Aside: thank you for the interest in the magazine.

Aside 2: thank you for the comments, makes me feel that people are enjoying this read. I enjoy sharing.

John
Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:40 am

Day 5 continued...

I was relieved when I saw the giant tanker that was standing at TR had made its way to Nossob, and was unloading, this meant that I would certainly have enough fuel during my stay in the north. This was an unpresumed concern until a few weeks before I left when there was an issue, nice that it seems this was an isolated incident.

I made my way to the little shop. I say little less about its size more about its feel. It is like a cafe in a small town, you, there near the filling station, no direction needed to it, there is anyhow only 1 cafe in the town. I had mixed feelings about the shop. I was not expecting Sandton mall, but somehow I was slightly disappointed with the stock. Don't get me wrong, I understand that it is far north so transporting anything here is expensive and risky as it needs to be sold. What was nice to see was a big variety of certain key items, like cooldrink (including a suspiciously bright 330 ml bottle of a brand I dont know selling as pine nut or something, but for only R4.70 - this is what I call clever shop management and supply thought - kids, and myself, can get a cheaper option for that "just finished the day's drive and and want a sweet treat that will not cost much" option. I decided to get 2x 2 l as well, even I found the water to be a bit off here in the north (later I handled it better, but just water, without Game powder, not my favourite) - R21.30 a bottle, now, that is a bargain! I did not have space for this extra stuff, and it would be shaken and sucky by the time I got it to Nossob, now I can buy a cold, ready to drink with a little ice, bottle of cold fizzy flavoured water - bargain! But it was the meat that disappointed me. In retrospect, I guess not having power for so long is an issue, and one to be heeded, but I was expecting to buy some game for a braai later in Grootkolk. This I put down to my fault. However, seriously, there were a few packets of beef biltong and droewors from a supplier in Upington - I wanted to buy protein for a few days of a venison variety, the local type of "how much would you like, sir" type, weigh and pay type dried meats, they are traditional on a SANParks trip for me. But I got a pack of the rather pricey and commercial droewors as I had to maintain tradition (plus I felt like it). A positive surprise was the stocking of pies, at like R13 each, commercial type ones you can buy at a supermarket, but hey, if you are looking for something to eat now, a pie is good. I did find the shop had a large variety of basic goods you may want or had forgotten or used up, including dental, ladies hygiene (variety of options which I thought was kind of the supply manager), tins of food, chocolate bars, braai related stuff. Another thing that bothered me, although I am sure it is as a result of shelf space management (guessing there were more option in the past but little movement off the shelves), was memorabilia - ok, there were a number of books, and I did find a really awesome cute little blikbeker for like R23 for my little daughter back home, but I would have thought a few more Nossob specific/branded items would have been nice. What I may understand but find it difficult to stomach is how much of the store was dedicated to drink, although I had a bottle of fine stuff with me, I find it annoying that we are so reliant thereon that a shop like this can sensibly hold such stock (but this is clever from management - a shop needs to make money, so stock what people will buy).

Back to the hide. There was preciously little going on. But I tried to make something happen. At least I got some clear shots of an icon.
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The two were actually fighting, well, sort of. They insisted on keeping really close and eating the same grass, who knows, perhaps siblings. But the fights were more of a "please let me have this patch" variety.
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Then, as the sun vanished, something unusual. I could not really make a photographic option work here, but the memory of a straight line in the sky, from the webcam hide of the desert, well, what is this all about? I assume that otherside the horizon is a light path that channels the light into a line...
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A story I forgot to mention, earlier the day, while sitting in the hide, before I had brought my camera, I heard something odd. It was a bird I did not know. What could it be? I finally saw it on top of a far off tree. I had entered into a pleasant conversation with another young couple, where the wife was a keen birder in the making, a duckling if you will. We spoke about what I had seen, what she had seen, and what we both still wanted to see on the trip. Being so certain of the new species awaiting my, I asked the husband who had his long lens with him to see if he could perhaps just snap the birdy that I might see it for ID. Huh, he obliged, but huh, it was a turtle dove, now, means the interesting sound was coming from somewhere else, but how nice it was to be around like-minded people, friendly people who like birds. Stupid dove.

The last part of the day, to follow, has science and fear... Stay tuned.

John
Moments by Mullineux Photography
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Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Mon Apr 14, 2014 10:21 pm

Day 5 continued

Now, as if I wanted to bore you, here is some science. Yes, indeed I am trained in the field, sort of. While sitting in the fantastic opportunity that is the Nossob hide, while there was little to see, I tried something different (and then tried it again a few times). I put my camera on manual, rested it on the hide and looked at what 50 Hz (frequency of the electricity - i.e. 50 flashes per second) looks like. I had no idea that the result would make such pleasing desktop backgrounds! The moths flew in front of the spotlight (which had a yellow tint to start) and voila. There is minimal cropping, all in camera settings.
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Then there was some fun as a jackal arrived. Having shot with a crop sensor for most of my extremely short career (only had a DSLR for around 2 years) I was more than a little skittish at pushing the ISO. However, the 6D (full frame) allowed me to go to what I felt was insane, above 10k ISO!
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Using the spotlight we did spot a barn owl (unfortunately it was a once-off fly-by so no shot of it for me), a nightjar (dont ask which, it was miles away), a variety of springhare eyes, some springbok and the recurring jackal. So, back to the science idea. Note how different the three shots are, see, takes a variety of images on different time and aperture settings, vary your zoom, vary your angle - with these shots, unless you are going back for the same thing again, you never know what you might get! Btw, the last one is my favourite - your feelings?
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So, as the end of the night approached, and with another early morning to be followed by a lengthy drive beckoning, I went back to my chalet. I have not mentioned much about the chalet. I had the 3 sleeper. I found it well placed as it was near the shop, walking trails, hide and generally quiet. The inside was unreasonably large with a giant kitchen and the bathroom was big enough to host an amateur tango competition (I mean this literally for hyperbole, nothing else - just in case). There was even a thought table in the middle of the bedroom areas - well, I call it that as that is where I had my bird books and crosswords. There was no aircon, so I slept on top of the bed on top of a wet towel - I know, but dont knock it until you have felt it: more science (water is special in its ability to remain as water and at a given temperature unless there is significant heat added, hence the power and time required to merely boil a kettle; the technical words here are specific heat of capacity and heat of vapourisation - hehe, go and impress someone, somehow, or dont, no wait, science isnt cool to those who are not in that field, scrap this parenthesis, have a large cup of coffee and feel smart without science, and dont think about this while boiling the kettle). Wow, that was a ramble, forgive me, it is late. Anyhow, the fan worked well although it was a little noisy, not that it mattered, it added to the Nossob feel. What was odd was the power going off at 10 - the fan stops! Now the towel does its thing. Without a fan you can survive, but without a torch, at night, in the desert, umm, no - keep it handy for in case there is an arachnid attack between you and the commode. What was annoying (but later charming) was the Nossob wake-up alarm - the fridge and fan kick into life when the power returns early in the morning! As much as printers hate me at work, I guess doors in KTP are the same. My bedroom door could not close tightly, so I placed a chair at an angle against it and that kept it shut at night. In short, a Nossob 3 bed hut must be the most underpriced accommodation in RSA!

Well, underpriced perhaps, but there is a price to pay. DEATH. As I was coming from the hide to my lonely but quietly charming abode for a night, my neighbour (I was all talked out for the night and not really in the mood to chat with the neighbours) called me over. There was some excitement in his voice. I said that I would just like to put my gear down and then I would come over, but he insisted I come immediately. WOW. Now that is a scary sight - a sight that made me realise I am not in the fairytale version of the dangerous wild, no, I am in the real wild where there are not only dangerous creatures but they come in snuggle distance. Innocent was my neighbour when he arose from his verandah seat to start the braai. He had made a decent fire and was returning to his not-standing-position place. Then he stopped. Short. Never to go ahead. Or the old man would die. The dead kind. He threw coals at it (visible in the one image), waved at it, but no, his seat was annexed by the slitheren powers. I asked the braai master to keep his torch on the scaly fiend while I bent for some shots, stood up for others and generally tried to get a shot or two. This is one of my most disappointing moments of the trip - these are the only 2 near decent shots I got. If I had merely bothered to work the scene with a little more enthusiasm and patience and thought, much more would have been able to come from a calm puff adder lying near a braai, there was a subject and a scene and dark lighting, all dramatic, but no, I was tired. Silly boy I was!
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The point of the first snake shot is to see the actual chair that my neighbour very nearly returned to and would have suffered severely for. From here on, with one exception, I was even more careful, especially traveling alone, to whom do I shout if I go bump in the night? KTP can be dangerous - I had seen both scorpions and snakes, and survived (although the assassin wasp nearly killed me by heart attack), but please, if you go, keep an eye out, keep your shoes off the ground in a sealed packet when you are not wearing them, come home alive. Best is, the scariest encounter is yet to come...

And so ends day 5, wow, already so much has happened. As I found on this trip, so much happening that is worth remembering is the beauty of this place!

Btw, if you have not tried, give the Birds ID and Birding school for ducklings threads a go and learn some new birdies - thanks to these threads I can at least more easily ID a family now, even for the little guys!

Until later

John
Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:54 am

Thanks all for following this Illiad-level-epic report as well as making such kind comments.

ghostdogg, to take such images, you need enough light and a long enough shutter. To improve my hit rate, I preferred a shorter focal length, say 70-100. I increased the shutter speed to anything between 0.5 and 3 seconds. I varied the aperture between 2.8 (can be effective by getting few flight paths in focus, but then you still need to have at least 1 or 2 good paths focussed, so this was frustrating) and 11 I think. The closer to light, the more light. ISO I cannot remember, but I would have used this to balance the exposure with my preference around 200 if memory serves. I certainly remember using manual exposure for this as well as manual focus - this is easy with the shorter focal lenghts and smaller apertures - plus, the insects fly so randomly, you only need to be near on focus to get something somewhere. Also, I varied the colour saturation and white balance settings, for different effects. Basically, use anything and see what happens, might be magic!

John
Moments by Mullineux Photography
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Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:48 pm

11.6. Day 6 – Into the wilderness

Distance covered: 207 km
Route travelled: Nossob-Union’s end-Grootkolk
Daily fuel consumption: 8.1 l/100km
Maximum temperature: 36oC (sommer early already!)
Food: Ghost Pops; Jungle Oats bar; nougat bar (hmmm, yummy at a special place)
Highlights spotted: Lions, Union’s end, honey badger
Favourite moment: Reaching Grootkolk
Birding lifers: Burchell’s sandgrouse, barn owl
List of birds for this trip: Lappet-faced vulture, Burchell’s sandgrouse, barn owl

I had long been waiting for the chance to get to a wilderness camp. I was slightly scared of being so isolated, for safety, but I remember climbing Karoo mountains long before cell phones, and there were snakes there then, so hey, it was going to be fine. Grootkolk was always alluring to me owing to it being very north where I thought I would get some special birds and some interesting game. Also, this was the first rest, sort of, part of the trip. Although I planned (and did) get up before sunrise each day of the trip, not having to drive would be a bonus. I also planned on sleeping or doing crosswords during the hot hours, just to regain some strength before I continued on the rest of the journey.

I don’t that that I would have been happy leaving Nossob if it were not for Grootkolk.

When I got up I realised that I had forgotten to get a clean change of clothes for the day out the bag the previous night. With only 1 night stopover I did not unpack everything, only the cameras, laptop and coolbox. Oh well, I was travelling alone so I just kept on what I had – who was going to care, not as if I would need to pop into Spar on my way where someone might see a dirty shirt, so really, it was fine.

This day got hot early, and felt hot. I remember actually suing the aircon that day, with the windows up. But even on this hot day, setting 2 of 10 was sufficient to keep me comfortable.

I did notice that I was getting much better fuel usage than on the dune road – soft sand is really a killer, budget that in if it is a tight call on taking a trip!

The road north of the UDR is bad, really bad in places and shocking in others. North of Nossob it started to get to me, perhaps the lack of many sightings was the issue (there were some good ones in between, but few) but the bumpy corrugated roads started to churn my curry and I got almost angry at the road. Stupid, but it happens. Past Grootkolk, though, I found the roads better.

What I was not expecting was the quality of the landscape, it was eerie, sort of desert, but there was a quality about it that was somewhere between nightmare and BBC documentary on how pretty our planet is – go and see for yourself – the open landscape, the scattered or huddled dead trees, the open flat surfaces, the sand, the sand, the sandy open spaces, the heat waves, the dark shadows, it was surreal meets trepidation.

Well, let's get into the pics.

Leaving Nossob early allows for some interesting landscapes on the right if you are heading north. I was in a rush to get to cubitjie quap, but as there were only a few people out this morning and nobody heading in my direction, I could spare a moment to capture a moment. Although the foreground is dark, you will notice that it is not black, there is still some detail there - this is key. A black foreground is rarely effective, unless the other areas of the images are such that you do not want any distractions from a subject, but here, the tree details and general sand and bush and horizon dark line of trees all work together to add a feel (I think so anyhow; also preferred to say feel than emotion, tonight, as I write, I feel the word emotion is overused in image descriptions). It feels early and exciting, a new day dawning with anticipation of what sightings will follow... The clouds made for interest, not only as something in the sky, but also they allowed to catch some sunrise colours and gave the sun streaks as they broke the path of the early light.
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(BTW, have your new WILD magazine? See the cover? Read Peter Chadwick's article? Watch this report for the same sighting from a different angle - how weird! Just got my copy today and first checked for copyright issues until I noticed the angle was different - great work Mr Chadwick!)

Until later

(PS - think of me, I am on standby through the weekend and thus will be at work each day by 0630)

John
Moments by Mullineux Photography
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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Sun May 04, 2014 5:20 pm

Day 6 continued

Sorry for the delay, between standby (2 weeks) and a short family breakaway to Dullstroom, I have not had much time here. Also leaving for my annual leave later next week, so let's see what we can fit in before then.

Having left Nossob, on my way to CQ, while there were no cars behind me, I quickly pulled over when I saw a raptor. Not certain what it was, I peered through my viewfinder for an ID. Although a new bird for me, I already had it on this trip. But, only later when I reviewed my images at home did I see that the brown-chested snake-eagle was eating a, well, snake. This just goes to show that, while out in the bush, don't focus too hard on what you want to photograph (in my case, the jackal at CQ), but rather let nature show you what you should see. I should have worked this sighting a little more. In my defense, the sun was not really there yet so I would have had to wait a while to get something good. But the lesson stands.
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While at CQ, having taken in the spot I assume most people prefer (although I only used it this morning and preferred a further vantage point on other days), just south of the CQ sign, I noted this fella in the bushes. At least I now have a decent Marico flycatcher shot for my archives.
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There was not much happening at the waterhole. I was almost alone with only 2 cars coming and going after short glances at the general area. So, I looked for other targets, like these Namaqua doves which I also now feel can go as proper shots into my archives (I first spotted this species near Lutzville on the West Coast, but the images were less than good being from such a distance). The technique used here is called backlighting or rimlighting. Basically, alter your exposure with either manual settings or upping the exposure bias to +1 or +2 to correctly expose for details on the subject and as a bonus you get the special rim of golden light around the subject. Biasing exposure to the negative will allow for silhouttes.
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Having given up and not being sure just how long it would take me to get to Grootkolk, I started moving northwards. Not far from CQ I saw a typical trio of bandits. Unfortunately they were always just a little far into the bush making the line of sight always disrupted by something, a branch or grass. But the sighting ignited my day and made the slow CQ unimportant. See, nature's pace with nature's notes. SImply converting from colour to monochrome can make a subject stand out. Typically something light with a dark background (or the opposite) works. In this case, there was so much clutter that I feel the lack of colours allows the special badger to stand out a little better.
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And then, as I moved further north, the landscape began to change. Lonely trees coupled with fun clouds made for some dramatic views from the seat of my car. So, here and there, I stopped to capture what I saw.
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Last edited by MxM on Sat May 24, 2014 11:01 am, edited 2 times in total.
Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Fri May 23, 2014 10:04 pm

Day 6 continued

Sorry for the interlude, been having some family time.

Thought I would start again with a vista, something that I wish I could see right now. Missing the sand and open spaces. If all goes according to plan, next year, I will take my little one with me and we can spot birds together. This picture makes me long for that time. Technically, here I think of the power of the clouds - even a simple piece of earth can look more dramatic if there is some god sky available, and this does not imply sunset only, anytime there are good clouds and some soft light.
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Driving along I was stopped by some friendly people. They told me of where to look for some lions. I was excited as I was told they are close to the road. Unfortunately, when I got there they were sternly busy with doing nothing. At least this guy picked up his head. On second thoughts, this guys was only seen later in the day after some other lions, oops, time settings on the different cameras is not lined up correctly, anyhow, I was not at this sighting for that long as the sun was highish and the action not even pending. The other lions did get a lot of my attention though.
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Well, here comes the big lion sighting. As you can see below I was focused on the lions. Okay, these lions were dead boring too, but there was a drawcard. In between I looked further and saw this wonderful animal. Amazingly, even at the very end of this trip, I still enjoyed spotting a gemsbok.
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Now, this is why I sat at a quiet lion sighting for more than an hour. They really were this close. Lying around in the parking lot.
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Moments by Mullineux Photography
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Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Sat May 24, 2014 2:45 pm

Day 6 continued

One of my favourite images from the trip is this one. There is something that screams desert, thirst, hardship.
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Well, focusing on the lions again, here they are, lying.
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Another of my personal favourites is the monochrome one. I call it cuddle time. There is something quiet and calm about it, which is odd given the characters. Here I feel that the lack of colour works better. You? This lot were really keeping lazy. Only after I review the images did I notice the blood on some of them - note to self, pay more attention in the field. These two were different though, while the rest were annoyed if a friend came closer, they seemed to take turns in keeping each other company.
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Well, until later.
Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Wed Jun 04, 2014 9:52 pm

Day 6 continued

And now for something completely different, but same same. While watching my lion friends, I occasionally still looked around. Here follows a series of image, in the sequence they were taken that tells the KTP story best for me. There are simple things and mainstreamly targeted things. Sometimes you can see both at the same time. However, unless there, there is no way that you could feel both scenes within the same stage like you can in KTP. First though is one of my favourite images. It in itself tells the story of suffering that abounds in KTP while being beautiful at the same time. I have made a series of motivational type posters and the caption I added to this is: Loneliness - There is no greater challenge than suffering alone.

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Btw, the monochrome lionesses has been dubbed, "Cuddly kitties".

Until later (which hopefully will not be as long between episodes).

John of MxM
Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Fri Jun 06, 2014 8:19 pm

Day 6 continued

It may seem here that this guy got really thirsty and dashed for the water, but rather he decided to chase another guy away. Wasting energy with the sun out like that, lions lying around, not so smart.
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I then left the scene of little happening prettily and moved further north. I stopped at a picnic site, no good reason, but am glad to report that the facilities were well kept and well maintained, even if the cistern's water takes a while to refill. There were a few friends around my car.
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I was feeling tired this day, not sure really why, just was. However, I was eagerly awaiting reaching Grootkolk. This was not a dream from a long way away but one that had grown really strong and deep over a year before I booked. I really wanted to stay there. So I started to move on up again.
Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember

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MxM
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Re: KTP - a solo photographic and birding tour

Unread post by MxM » Tue Jun 10, 2014 7:30 am

Day 6 continued...

And now for something completely different.

Here are two really not good photographs that tell a story of the contradictory and odd world that is KTP. The first is the only eland I saw the entire time I was in the park.
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The second is the size of water obstacles that existed on this stretch of road owing to the rains. Now, the rain is wonderful, but I had to maintain good speed with my road biased tyres and no diff to make sure I got through these deep, and I mean deep, dams that others may term puddles. On my way back down from Grootkolk these same puddles were there, but at least then there had been enough people through them that there was indication of line preferred, but, today, on this lonely piece of road very north in the park, I had to guess how to make it through some desert rain remainder.
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Actually, having inspected the photo again as I copied it in, this is the shot I took on the way back, so three days later, this was the puddle. See, there are some deeper parts and you can see where the water was. Anyhow, it is this contrast that makes this desert speak to me.

John
Moments by Mullineux Photography
Photographer, nature lover, birder

Follow my solo KTP photographic and birding TRAVEL TALE

Photograph all moments of beauty not to forget, but treasure them in your heart to remember


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