It’s late afternoon approaching ‘golden hour’ upon the iconic Chobe River, the natural border between Namibia and Botswana. The light appears wonderfully soft and the landscape takes on a warm, honeyed appearance. This is the stuff of photographer’s dreams. It’s when even novice photographers such as myself can do no wrong.
Frame by frame
I am ushered on to the neat as a pin skiff by my Head Guide Killer. His name is a wonderful antithesis to his character and a colourful tale in itself. Be sure to ask him about it. Once settled into my spot, I swivel around on my seat, testing out the smooth 360-degree vantage. Feeling like a kid again a silly grin slides on to my face. Our custom built photo boat is rigged with eight specially made Gimpro mounts welded to the swivel chairs replete with double cup holder which – a stroke of brilliance. These gimbals make light work of even the heaviest professional photography gear.
That’s all fine and well except that I don’t own said swanky camera equipment. I realise that is why the gleaming Canon 80D camera fitted with a powerful 150-600mm lens has been set up for my use on the boat cruise. Seeing my impala in the headlights look Sabine, my accomplished Photo Host, sets her sights on debunking every myth I harbour about wildlife photography and my perceived shortcomings in this arena. When I snap a perfect shot of a Carmine bee-eater in flight the thrill remains unparalleled.
Where the action is…
Chobe is all about elephants. Year round. Being able to view these mystical creatures in their natural habitat is exhilarating. Within minutes of our launch, a herd of bathing elephants come into view. By turning my lens to the adequate zoom, my focus alights on a particularly playful young bull. I marvel at his antics. With coaching from Sabine, my camera is on sport mode ready for action. The powerful camera equipment in my hands effortlessly computes the depth of light and shutter speed. For the first time, what I was witnessing and what I was photographing was identical! The individual water droplets cascading like white diamonds from its trunk as it bobs around like a wrinkled grey cork in a river of molten gold. Since returning home, I’ve revisited it countless times. One of the joys of getting to take my memory card home.
I loved how, when learning to compose my image of a lone male waterbuck on the shore Killer would position the boat optimally with the utmost respect for the environment and the subject, whilst Sabine would softly mention the behaviour we could anticipate. The product is an unrivalled experience of this special area. Together, they possess a special kind of wisdom that only years of exposure in the wilderness brings.
All too soon Killer turns the bow of our boat away from action-filled Ellie Bay and heads for home. I go back for seconds (and thirds) during my time in the Chobe, taking in another afternoon trip and on my final day, a morning trip. Janine was my Photo Host on board for the two latter trips. Her style complimented that of Sabine’s beautifully. Killer, the common denominator along with the fantastic sightings on my trips, is testament to the reason for operating here on the Chobe river.