Wildlife Photography in Africa – Pilanesberg Safari Tips (2019 #19)


I got up at 3am to drive to to Pilanesberg National Park in North West province. So that’s a drive of 120 miles 200 km and it takes about 2.5 hrs to 3 hrs over some rather nasty potholed roads to get here in the dark. So, it’s been, a little bit fraught. I got here before sunrise, which is happening over on the right and at the moment there’s a soft orange glow in the sky and I’m looking forward to the day ahead. Now, I came here to see Elephants today so I’m hoping to see them. We don’t get them that much around Johannesburg so you have to drive a bit to come and see them. and I’m looking forward to that. Hopefully, I see them and get some shots. Coffee time I think! I’m still in the shade from the mountain on my left but it’s a nice place to hang out next to this dam at this viewpoint. and a nice place just to get organised ready for the day and to just scan the bank of this dam for any activity. Maybe some Jackals or something coming down to drink and it’s always worthwhile using your ears as well and just listening to what the birds have to say about the goings on in the bush in the early morning. I love seeing Pied Kingfishers because they’re wonderful little birds to photograph They’re quite gregarious, they travel in groups, they’re quite bold , quite confiding and they have this wonderful habit of hovering in the air over a fish before diving down from a great height and this hovering behaviour makes it relatively easy to get shots of them in flight. I’ve probably got all the shots I can out of the dam area this morning. So I’ve decided to head deep into the centre of the Pilanesberg. Right into the ancient volcanic crater and in the middle there is a dam called Mankwe and that is a wonderful place to find wildlife because of good feeding and water supplies. And it’s actually on a dirt road there that I saw the breeding herd of elephants last time. So I’m going to head down that road first and keep my eyes peeled. You may or may not have noticed that this elephant is actually… tuskless. At least there is no tusk on the right hand side and that’s actually a genetic mutation and a response to hundreds and hundreds of years, if not thousands of years of hunting and poaching of elephants along the East coast of Africa. That mutation can actually spread quite effectively in the elephant population and, obviously, without tusks, they are far less of a target (for poachers). Well, I’ve just seen a rather beautiful bird but rather skulking bird called a chestnut-vented tit babbler believe it or not! and they like to hang around under the bushes in this kind of stuff here. It’s quite a striking bird with a lovely rufous vent and grey feathers and a rather engaging tail with beautiful white spots on it. They never really sit still enough to get a photograph, unfortunately. But! when you come to a place like this where there’s a place to get out. So this is a bird hide but it’s not functional and there is a toilet still here I would advise getting out and trying to photograph any resident and confiding bird species that one might see here. Right! Let’s get out of here. So while I’ve been busy filming Spur fowls trying to eat a stick. This guy that I’ve just met has seen two lions several rhino and some elephant! This morning. I don’t know what I’ve been doing. Too much farting around filming and not enough looking (for animals). What do they say? One man’s shit is another man’s treasure? Well that’s definitely true in this case. Any kind of accumulation of dung. So Rhino midden’s because rhinos or white rhinos, return to the same places along their territory and deposit their dung over and over again and some of the other animals do too. But any kind of accumulation of dung generally attracts some interest from other species. So, birds for instance, really like scratching around in it looking for grubs and things like that. So I’m sitting here next to a pile of dung waiting for the birds to fly in, scratch around so I can get a picture of them and then fly off again. One of the really nice things about Pilanesberg as opposed to a lot of other places that I photograph is the hills in the background and the reason I like is for perched birds it is actually really easy to find a background for them you don’t have to place them against a tree because, you know, you normally would struggle because, for those perched birds on bushes and things like that, their background would be sky and very bright sky at that. Especially with this slight overcast. So having a handy hill to place behind the bird. It makes photographing them so much easier! Well it’s about midday and the light’s pretty harsh and I haven’t got much else to do except drive around and photograph small birds. They are driving me nuts because they’ve got such wonderful little thornveld and bushveld species here. Things like, Violet-eared waxbills, blue waxbills, colourful little birds basically tiny, tiny, tiny little birds So I’ve got an 800mm (or a 400mm with a 2x teleconverter) on it and a 5D mark iii. and I’m just photographing a scrub robin and a few other little birds hopping around and the reason they are interested in this little spot in particular is because there is a small ant colony there with a little mound and they are picking off the ants and I can see that the birds frequent that area, it’s quite easy even when there are no birds here because there are a lot of bird droppings around this small mound. and on the small rocks that are around about as well there’s one or two droppings as well which indicates that potentially a scrub robin

21 Replies to “Wildlife Photography in Africa – Pilanesberg Safari Tips (2019 #19)

  1. Great video Will, can you get into Pilanesberg before dawn? What time does it open? I always try and remember reserves that let you in early enough that you can shoot in dawn light!

  2. That was a wonderful episode Will. Thank you for taking the time to put this together and share – it looks like you used a few different editing techniques in this episode – whatever you are doing, it's working! Looking forward to your next adventure.

  3. Amazing as always! Love your videos! Thnk you for all of the effort you put in. It is greatly appreciated!

  4. Beautiful video. You have made great use of the 'panoramic' style format on the stills images. Very effective indeed.

  5. Simply outstanding, Will! An incredible production! My husband and I honeymooned at Sun City and spent some time at Pilanesberg National Park, such a beautiful place. Each and every film clip and every photo you achieved are all exceptionally good, I love the crop and orientation (sorry I don't know the technical terms, ha!) just fantastic!

  6. Another great video. Loving the editing like the transition from the pied kingfisher, you take enormous care in the post production as well as sharing great experience out in the field. Looking at the other comments youโ€™ve got a loyal following of people who appreciate your effort.

  7. Your adventures, photographs and videos are 1st rate, I'm in love with that door mounted jig you have…. Your BSK's look very similar to ours here in Australia. You would love our quite rare "Letter-winged Kite" a nocturnal hunter….

  8. Very nice, tnx for sharing the pano like format is very nice too, is it 16:9? By the way is the 400 the longest prime you use? And is it a mark I ? You find itโ€™s AF-speed on moving subjects with the 2x good enough?

  9. nice video, i seen most of your films now i am sitting in little Denmark way up i north euroupe, learning from you because on aug. 8 we are going on safari and we are staying at Balule River Camp near the Krรผger, so i try to pick up as many photo tips and tricks i possibly can, and you are a good teacher.

  10. Great video again! Iโ€™ve been watching most of your videoโ€™s the last day. Great editing and photography. Seems that you donโ€™t use the 1.4 converter and the 1 DX. Am I right? Personally I still use the 1 D Mark IV next to my 1 DX and do grab mainly my 1D Mark IV. Consider trading in my 500 mm F4 Mark II lens for a 400 mm F2.8. Have you triestheid version III and compacter to the version II? Main advantage seems to be the weight, which is in my Yes a big plus, but does not seem to justificeer a price difference of 6000 euro.

  11. Another excellent video ๐Ÿ™‚ 15 – 20 minutes is a good length. Love the soft music and video technique which is very relaxing

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