“Wow, do you work for National Geographic?” was what another guest said to us when she first saw us in our Land Rover – filled with two adult children sharing a love for wildlife photography (but undoubtedly sharing no more than amateur status), a father reminiscing about the days of ISO films and a mother armed with an iPhone and with a budding interest in birding. We certainly looked the part from the outset, with our new DSLRs and hired telephoto lenses mounted on the gimbal heads that the Makanyi photographic vehicle is fitted with. By the end of our stay at Makanyi, with the help of Hilton Kotze (a professional photographer and outstanding photographic host from Africa Photographic Services) we had moved from fumbling with the buttons on our cameras and just about taking a bird in focus on a branch in the distance to capturing numerous birds taking off, impala leaping, scorpions battling dung beetles and so much more.
We had been on two safaris previously as a family and decided to book a photographic safari at Makanyi so we could learn how to make the most of our cameras and take some photos that would wow us and our friends. We hired three telephoto lenses from Africa Photographic Services and were accompanied by Hilton for two days of our five night stay. During that time, we moved from cautiously rotating our cameras on their mounts, to experimenting with zoom bursting, lying on the ground to get eye level shots of mongooses and dung beetles, crouching with tripods to capture the starry nights, leaning out of the vehicle to frame an imposing elephant snorting and getting our settings just right to capture a leopard at night, lit up perfectly by the spot light. Hilton, Rico (our ranger) and Themba (our tracker) worked really well together to ensure the three photographers in our group got the photos we wanted and all had a great view of sightings without too much ducking around each others long lenses! Hilton also spent the time between drives teaching us how to use Lightroom for post-processing. We entertained the other guests with our morning set up of sitting with laptops, cables and cameras all over the table and sipping champagne (brought to us by the always attentive Makanyi staff).
For three of us (Grant, Alastair and Jo), photography was a highlight of our stay but for Margaret (the only non-photographer), the real treat was being able to stay at sightings for long enough to hear so much of Rico’s knowledge. We were spoiled with day time game drives, night drives and a walking safari– which all offered different opportunities to learn about the bush and which we can now talk about to find out who remembers the most! We are so fortunate and grateful to have had such patient and generous hosts. Our time at Makanyi was filled with learning and much laughter. Rico and Hilton brought out the best in all of us (not only in terms of photography) and we have left with memories of a fantastic stay and several photos we’ll be proud to display at home.