Kafue getaway

Last weekend we managed to get ourselves out on a three nights stay in the Kafue National Park, Zambia’s largest reserve and one of the largest in Africa. We had booked in at Mayukuyuku Camp site which sits right on the Kafue river about 8 km off the main road. The camp site is very basic and in need of a little TLC. You pay 20$ pppn (plus park fees) to have access to a flushing toilet and hot water in a grass walled ablution block. The site however is very beautifully situated on a rocky bend in the river. Once the tent was up the boys were quick to set their rods to have a go with fishing, we walked just a stone throw from the tent where my youngest spotted a crock a few metres away, sun basking on a rock. And at the spot the boys wanted to fish we found foot prints of lion! We sure were reminded that we are not on top of the food chain.

Day two we crossed over the river in to the main body of the park, we spent over three hours spotting the odd bush pig and warthog, water buck and too many impalas to count and elephants either in the distance or in the thicket. As we were starting to feel hungry and a little board we made a few random turns and ended up facing a massive herd of buffaloes, possibly a thousand all waiting to get to the water (Shishamba river). Wedged between the buffalo and the water hole was a pride of lions lying in the shade, their mouths watering. This was such a treat to watch. We parked sort of between the buffaloes and the lions for almost an hour, the lions first kept in the shade but soon the two young male lions came out to stretch and warm up in the sun.

Much time was spent fishing from the side of the river (while watching out for crocs and hippos) and by the camp fire. On our last evening we had a close encounter with a mother hippo and her calf. The campsite next to us was now empty and so she saw the gap for her to pass. We heard a big splashing sound and as we shone the torch we saw that she had come up onto the bank below our tent. She proceeded to walk up towards our fire, calf in tow, through the narrow passage, max 5 m from our tent, the children quickly climbed the back of the car and when she gave a warning “snort” my husband and Albin also bolted. I was left under the grass thatch kitchen giving myself a couple of minutes to decide to either run och carry on cooking my flat bread on the gas cooker, I decided for the former and so we spent some time on the back of the car! After she had passed through we came down to our fire again, except for the two youngest, Emil and Nils, they had their supper on the back of the car!

On the day of packing and leaving we decided to visit some family that have a private camp site near the main road, they had come out just to pack up after having spent almost the whole term there homeschooling by the river. We were just popping by but ended up staying for brunch and the kids had so much fun fishing from the deck. Albin, my oldest, pulled out a big barbel (that he released again). And as elephants were spotted in the distance we were treated to a boat ride to get up close. We saw at least three or four groups of elephants and numerous pods of hippos, both on land and in the water, all in under an hour. Such a bonus and a great ending to a lovely getaway.

Creative refill part 2

So let me get to the photo challenges for day 5-7 from the course (read part 1). As the week progressed I struggled to keep up with both the live classes (which I ended up watching the following days) and the challenges, but we were free to catch up on the weekend.

Day 5 Anthony Epes spoke about subject fixation and the importance of avoiding it. In short, it’s sometimes easy to get so focused on your subject that you miss what else is in the frame and you might only see it later. We were told to go out and put everything we had learned thus far in to one photo. This one had me scratching my head… I posted these two very different photos to the group:

On the sixth day it was time to talk composition, the favourite subject for many photographers. However, Anthony Epes emphasised all on the “why” and not the how. Why have eg leading lines or framing in this shot? Does it improve the final result? Does it help tell a story?

The final challenge was about telling a story and trying to focus on having one subject and two supporting elements. As work is always on going on the farm I decided to focus there, for me photography is all that more interesting with people infront of the lens!

The course has definitely fuelled my creativity and reminded me why and what I love about photography. If you fel stuck in a rut and dry on creative juice I can highly recommend attending an online course, the options are endless. Look up Anthony Epes to see what he has on offer or any other photographer that inspire you, or find a local workshop. Get inspired and get creative!

Update: almost forgot to share this photo; taken with my cellphone (remember your best camera is the one you’ve got with you!). Posted it under challenge 1 – light.

Creative refill part 1

At times it can feel like you’ve run out of ideas, you’ve taken enough photos of the same kind and as a result you end up bored or feeling like you’re not as creative as you first had thought. I’m sure anyone in the creative field can recognize that feeling. But there are ways to get back in to that creative space and to get those juices flowing again. One way is to join a workshop or a course, which is exactly what I did.

A couple of weeks ago I came across the blog and website belonging to photographer Anthony Epes and decided to sign up to his news letter. That is how I learnt that he was about to host a week long live streamed online class with no fees attached. Too good to be true! With internet/network being a challenge here at times I took a chance and joined the Facebook group where the lessons would be live streamed.

What I appreciated most about the course was that it was all about creativity, nothing on gear, no exif, shutter speed this and aperture that. I think many times we (aka photo nerds) get caught up in the gear obsession and forget that the most important part of creating a great photo is being in the present.

The course was called “7 essential skills to transform your photography”. Every day there was a live lesson and we could drop questions a long the way, or we could watch the video in our own time. In every lesson we were given a challenge, we could then go ahead and post on the group to receive as well as give feedback.

The first lesson was all about light! As a photographer you are always chasing light, the right light for your subject, however we were now told to make light our subject. I started out feeling a little lost, even just shooting at the sky, but as I walked around I started seeing it, the light:

Lesson 2 was about imagination, creating something new in a familiar place. We were told not to go further than 30 m (90 feet) from our homes. I came up with the idea to create a double exposure with a self portrait and a photo of a page from the book I’m currently reading.

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Day 3 was in a way about the gear, but not in a pretentious way at all. In the end we all shoot on a wide variety of cameras but of what use are they if we do not learn how to operate them? The challenge was to learn a new function, perhaps discover something we didn’t know at all, or a setting we hardly use. I learnt that you can create HDR images straight in camera, though the downside is that they are only jpegs and the result was awful, still, challenge completed!

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“regular” image
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with HDR on medium effect
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with HDR on high effect

In the fourth lesson Anthony Epes spoke about how we position our selves and how we can change the result by shooting from a different angle. As I was just at home that day I ended up using my washing line for this challenges! The yellow t-shirt is the subject that I try to capture from various angles.

This already ended up quite a long post so I will continue with the remaining challenges in another post soon!

My next camera? (for the photo nerds)

Photographers (enthusiasts and professionals alike) love to use the argument that “it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer” whenever someone tells us our camera takes really great pictures. Then we turn around and get all caught up in the gear race! We try to figure out which camera others around us use and we look with envy in our eyes at the big expensive gear the well established photographers have at hand. In the past couple of weeks I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit looking at cameras online (more time than actually spent taking pictures!). Is it time to go full frame? I need a mirrorless as they are smaller. Maybe I should go Sony Alpha? Seem like a lot of people whose work I admire use those. And so on and so forth. I have read endless reviews of cameras and lenses and watched YouTube videos on ‘fullformat vs cropped sensor’ leaving me more confused than when I started out. In the end I’ve come to realise my Nikon D7100 is doing quite alright with its cropped sensor (who can tell the difference anyway!?). And I realised that this was a slightly addictive behaviour, I WANTED something new more than I NEEDED it. Truth is I still need to figure half of the settings out on my current camera. I still need to learn to edit. That’s where I need to invest. Invest time. So instead of looking for new cameras I can’t afford anyway I’m going to give my Nikon D7100 a second chance in my hands and instead of using my internet bundle on Amazon I will use it on watching photoshop tutorials. My advice to anyone feeling they need a new, better, bigger/smaller camera, you don’t! Or perhaps you do, but first make sure you have given your current gear a true chance to shine! Maybe it’s your skills that need an investment and not your gear? Happy shooting!