Thanda time once more. Make that insect season actually. January's moist-oven heat, means that the insect world comes alive...that and every heat loving animal as well (read snakes). For some of the students this wasn't exactly fantastic as a drive through the bush meant tearing through innumerable Bark Spider and Garden Orb-Web Spider webs that were strewn across every open patch of bushveld available. But it made for some great shots of terrifyingly large spiders that look like Shelob from the Lord of the Rings.
On a sobering note, the current poaching crisis is affecting all of the reserves in the Zululand region. Every reserve is on high alert with Thanda as well as its neighbours now posting 24 hour patrols to protect the rhino population. Rhino deaths increased last year from 323 last year to 448 in 2011, with Kwazulu-Natal Province being the hardest hit (you can visit Stop Rhino Poaching for more information or to make a donation to save the rhino). Already, there have been 19 confirmed rhino death's in 2012, and we're only 13days in. This is shocking news for a species that might not live to see the next century, and is an appalling indictment on humankind's avarice. Thanda has also lost one of their male lions, 'Spot', to poaching since the last workshop. So it was with some sadness that I watched the now depleted South Pride on my first day back on the reserve.
On photographic matters: a number of the students struggled with low light photography this last week. Although I know that I harp on about ultimate image quality regularly, it must be said that there is a time and place for upping the ISO. Modern DSLRs are extraordinarily good at shooting in low light. The above image of a lioness and the lower image of two buffalo sparring were both taken at high ISO (1600 on a D700). Yes, the image quality is compromised, but not so much that the images cannot be blown up to as large as A3. Good post-production technique will mean that either of these images could be used as a double truck (double page spread) in a magazine. In landscape photography there is reason to shoot at the base ISO so that better detail can be retained in the shadows. For wildlife and sport photography, although the image would benefit from low ISO shooting, the reality is that getting the image is better than not getting the image at all. So be brave and crank up that ISO. Just remember that it's not the highest ISO possible that you use, but the lowest permissible ISO that you use (i.e. in the example's here the lowest permissible ISO to obtain a shutter speed that would negate camera shake and unintentional blur was 1600 ISO).
Thanks to the students at Thanda for yet another wonderful week in the bush.