On safari with Luke Street

This week Luke shares some black and white photographic insight, when seeing a leopard in the Timbavati is not just about spotting it, but really what you can do with those magical moments in photography.

“Tanda Tula Safari Camp is home to a troop of Vervet monkeys, these primates are fantastic to observe, but they can often prove to be rather pesky (just ask Chef Ryan!). Sometimes, however, their behavior underpins their value as we discovered a couple of mornings ago. While sitting and chatting over a cup of coffee the guiding team’s attention was caught by the classic sound of monkeys alarm calling around the lodge. Immediately we thought: Ingwe! (Which is leopard in Shangaan, the local language). All the guides and trackers ran off in various directions in order to investigate further. As I approached the pool area I could see one of the little monkeys peering towards camp dam and continuously alarming. I stood there for a while struggling to focus in the early morning light, but sadly could not see anything. Rather despondently I headed back to the vehicle ready for morning safari with the hopes of possibly locating this mystery predator later in the day.

Just as we headed out Glen, one of the Tanda Tula trackers radioed in, he had found tracks of a female leopard walking past the staff village. After a short period of tracking and some good team work Chad found her. By the time our game viewer joined the others this beautiful leopard was drinking from a small rock pond down in the river bed.

From a photographic perspective the lighting was rather dull, so I waited for her to head out of the river bed and up onto the opposite bank. When she did ascend I followed and noticed how the sunlight was hitting the side of her body as she moved through the bush. Here was an incredible opportunity for a great black white image and so I cut the vehicle engine, lifted my camera and corrected my camera settings.

My idea was to try and expose for her face which heavily shaded, this would blow out the highlights down the side of her body and around her face. I set an aperture of f/4, intending for her face to be sharp, but her tail be soft. Because of the low natural light at the scene I had to make do with a rather low shutter speed of 1/250 (I would have preferred a faster shutter) but in fact this helped to show a little movement in the front paw, something I really like about the image.

In Lightroom post production I brought the highlights all the way down to -100 as the boom affect I had gone for really had blown things out! I also brought the contrast up to create even more depth in the image and finally I converted the image into black and white.

I have recently started looking for opportune moments to take black and white photos and enjoy showing my guests who are interested in photography where these hidden images lie. It really goes a long way when you plan ahead for a black and white image as opposed to taking an image in colour and later thinking ooh I wander what this looks like in black and white!”

To find out more about Luke and his love of photography click here.


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