Photographing rhino, in my amateur experience, can be a challenge. Mostly the problem is finding them in the first place, and when you do see them they tend to be just standing around, galumphing great hulks, or snoozing in the shade of a tree, where the light is awful.
If you’re a pro, you wait for the right moment – and waiting can mean a long, long time, before something interesting happens. When you’re not a pro, just someone like me, you’re either driving, with limited time at your disposal, or you’re on a game drive, which means someone else is driving, and there are a whole lot of others with you, who want to look, snap a picture, and get a move on.
So I was really glad to get these two, contrasting images, one somnolent, the other full of energy and movement, and work them up in black and white. They were taken during our visit to the St Lucia Wetlands, but across the road as it were, in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, a mere 45 minutes from the town itself.
It’s worth a visit.
As I have mentioned, there are crocs enough in the St Lucia Wetlands to form a walkway across the water, Crocodile Dundee-style, should anyone want to make so bold. Or be so foolish.
But these images are not from the wild, they are from the Crocodile Centre located in the reserve, instead. We were lucky enough to come across one female, in a state of suspension, trance-like, humped over a shallow hole she had dredged in the sand, and watch as her body periodically arched, while she dropped into the hole one soft, glistening crocodile egg after another.
One of the things about St Lucia that makes things a little tricky for the photographer is the vegetation – dense, lush, green, all too often in the way of a clear shot, especially for the traveling amateur or tourist who does not have the luxury of lying in wait, sometimes for days or weeks, to make that definitive image.
These images are definitely ‘seconds’, not the first quality – but I share them because of the moments they capture: a giraffe, with an ox-pecker or tick bird over one eye, a clutch of zebra resting on one another’s rumps, a zebra seeming to laugh, or bark, or whinny, an impala (perhaps the best shot of the lot, in photographic terms) turning to look back at us.
This young kudu bull, posing beside a tree in the St Lucia Marine Park, seemed almost coquettish as he looked at me looking at him through the lens of my camera.
[In the original version of this post I made the embarrassing error of referring to the bull as female – I fear the coquettishness had me tied up in knots!]
Cape Vidal, within the St Lucia Marine Reserve, offers an expanse of beach facing the Indian Ocean, a pretty curve of bay, holiday accommodation, and what would seem, from the number of people you see wading into the surf with their rods, some pretty good surf fishing.
It was also, when we were there a few years ago, one of those curiously ‘white’ playgrounds, an anomaly in the rural African heartland – an echo, in a sense, albeit unlegislated, of the bad old days of apartheid.
Looking through my photographs of the Cape, I was struck by how the orange sand, deep blue sky, and white frothing surf offered a reminder of the old, unlamented South African flag, the ‘orange-blanje-blou’ of Afrikaner nationalism.
I have played up the effect, a little, in these images.
Without comment, here are six images, as promised, of the hippos of St Lucia.
The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park, up the north coast of KwaZulu Natal towards Mozambique, became South Africa’s first Natural World Heritage Site in 1999. Rob and I visited in December of 2012 – it was one of those rare places where a hippo might wander through your garden at night, where leopards hang about on the edges of town, while crocs are thick enough to form a bridge across the muddy water, if you’re dumb enough to try it.
For one reason and another, I never seemed to have time to really work through the photos from the trip, so here is a project for the next couple of posts – some images from St Lucia. We start in a rather low key way, but will progress to close-ups of hippos, I promise.