We were coming back to camp in Kruger National Park with friends from Johannesburg. It was getting late when this female leopard stepped onto the road and stared at us briefly before crossing into bushes on the other side. Surprisingly, she sat down calmly before disappearing. I had little time to think for this shot so I quickly supported my Nikon D4 and 200-400mm lens on the window ledge and began to shoot. At that moment I whispered to myself as I so often do with wildlife: “Turn your head, turn your head!” And she did. The moment was spellbinding.
I found this moulin while exploring under a glacier. Checking PhotoPills showed that the moving stars would match the sweep of the moulin perfectly so I came back on a clear night for the shot. After getting my exposure set for the stars I locked my shutter release open so it would shoot one image after another until the battery died. I sat outside the cave for safety (in case it collapsed during the 2.5 hour shoot) and to make sure I didn’t accidentally shine my headlamp and ruin the image.
This image was captured in late afternoon in early December, 2018. As the sun was setting I saw the light happening through the trees. I set up for this composition, captured several frames to adjust for the desired exposure and told myself that, if I could capture a couple of cranes flying between the trees, that would be ideal. The cranes were foraging through the grasses and would occasionally fly. These 2 provided just what I had pre-visualized and I captured the frame.
After years of annual winter visits to Yellowstone, this rare opportunity to photograph wolves near the road occurred. The large Wapiti Lake wolf pack had been taking down bison in the general area. Late one afternoon we saw an injured bison along the Madison River. Overnight the bison was taken by the wolves and early the next morning we saw the mostly eaten carcass near the road with wolves nearby. I stood on the road for hours and had the chance to see the wolves’ behavior and hear them howling, a thrilling experience.
What I Used
I used a Canon 1Dx MKII camera with Canon 600mm f/4 MKII lens + 1.4x III extender at 840mm focal length. I chose camera settings of 1/1600 sec at f/8, ISO 2500, +2 EV. Using a sturdy tripod with a gimbal I was relying on this steady support in low light to get crisp images from a great distance away. The bison carcass was close but the wolves were coming and going at various distances away.
I am an enthusiastic hobbyist and been photographing nature and wildlife for 15 years. My favorite location to go for wildlife would have to be Africa where there are just so many locations with opportunities to observe and photograph animal behavior. All of my trips to Africa included photography on the Chobe River, Botswana, a very productive location.
My Photographic Journey
I started out photographing landscapes, then became interested in wildlife and birds in flight. What keeps me interested is watching animal behavior, photographing them in their habitat, and learning about the ability of animals to adapt and survive; I could watch them all day. One winter we stood on the road in Yellowstone watching a red fox sleep for 5 hours waiting for it to move! CNP Safaris in Africa has been critical to improving my photography and training me how to get the best images possible. With expert guidance I would say you just don’t stop learning and improving.
NANPA and Me
I have been a member for 11 years now. I’d never heard of NANPA until I saw NANPA’s Road Shows advertised in OutdoorPhotographer magazine. I attended a one in Sacramento, California, and was impressed and inspired. I have entered the Showcase since 2015 and have had numerous top 250 images over that time. In 2017 I was honored to have my image of Snow Monkeys awarded Best in Show, Mammals.
It may seem trite to talk about resolutions for the new year but, really, it’s as good a time as any to challenge yourself. Are there things you can do to improve your photography? To improve your business? To increase the satisfaction and enjoyment you get from your photography?
As we approach Thanksgiving, many of us make an inventory of those people and things for which we are grateful. In that list we often find the landscapes and animals and plants that give us such joy when we’re out with our cameras. Not surprisingly, many of the items on our list reside in national parks. But, if we are so grateful for them, what are we doing to protect and preserve them?
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tom Haxby, and for the next year I will be the President of the Board of Directors of NANPA. I’ve been a member of NANPA for over 10 years and have been on the Board of Directors for the last two. I have always enjoyed photography, but several years ago, after a career of almost 30 years as a natural resource manager, it was time to leave behind the 10 x 10 cubicle, endless meetings, toxic office politics and administrative tedium. So, I dove into nature photography full time and have not regretted for one minute the photographic adventures and time spent behind my camera. Along the way, there have been a few photos that have made the Showcase top 250 and a few other award winners as well as six weeks as an Artist-in-Residence in 2016 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There have been so many trips to the Smokies, that some thought that I am local to there. Not yet! I currently reside in the Traverse City area of Northern Michigan.
There are as many reasons to enter Showcase 2019 as there are photographers. For some, winning Best in Show or Judge’s Choice serves as an endorsement of their skill, and can be added to their bio and marketing materials. To others, recognition by the judges is a validation of their devotion to nature photography, a payoff for the years of effort they put into improving their skills. And, for still others, selection of their photo is both a personal triumph as well as a challenge; applause for how far they’ve come and a challenge to continue getting better.