Stories from the bush...
They say that a picture tells a thousand words, but nothing came out of my mouth as I snapped the shutter, turned and sprinted towards the tree-line. Behind me I heard a crash as the huge grey behemoth (something enormous, especially large and powerful) smashed into the fallen tree, his front horn crashing into the branch on which, up until a few seconds before, I’d been standing on. Now the race was really on. All I could think about was that white rhino could reach speeds of 50 km/h, far faster than any human could run and my legs felt like jelly! Now I’m no Usain Bolt, even without the camera and other gear that I was carrying. All I could hope for was that I had enough of a head start on the grey beast huffing and snorting behind me and my trust in Richard.
It was a bright, mid-summer afternoon and the lush grass had cushioned our footsteps as we followed the two rhinos through the rolling bush land. It had been suggested that I enter a photographic competition in aid of a conservation project, naturally, I jumped at the opportunity and hoped to capture some great shots of these two rhinos in their natural environment. However, safety was always Francoise’s first concern. There were rules in the bush and they were not negotiable! ‘Make sure that you go with Richard as he’s been with them from the beginning and can read their moods and behavior’, she had cautioned.
I’d already had a few encounters with Thabo and I trusted Richard whole heartedly. We had followed the two rhinos as they grazed, always keeping a safe distance and good visual of them. When they moved, Richard, Sifiso and I followed. I don’t know if they picked up our scent when the wind suddenly changed, or maybe they heard something that tweaked their curiosity, but without warning, they turned and headed determinedly towards us. ‘Let’s move,’ said Richard as he led us at a fast walk towards a nearby thicket of trees. However, our increased pace was matched by the grey beasts and they rapidly closed the gap between us. ‘Get behind that fallen tree,’ instructed Richard as he and Sifiso moved to the side, hoping to lure the rhino after them. I quickly scrambled up the trunk of the dead Tamboti tree, thankful for the sturdiness of the structure as I reached a branch well out of reach from my pursuers. Ntombi soon lost interest in me, but Thabo’s interest was intense! Looking down on his crinkly grey skin, I understood why, after the elephant, white rhino are the largest land mammals on earth. Their name arises not from their color (they are actually grey), but from the Old Dutch word (wijd) describing their wide, square jaws which differentiate them from the black rhino (also grey in color) which has a narrow, hooked jaw. Thabo circled the fallen tree a number of times and my shadow looked so small as it fell across his body and at some points smaller than the width of his head. He couldn’t reach me, but neither could I climb down. Eventually Richard moved in to break the stalemate.
‘Kim Kim, I will distract him and then you must run for that thicket of trees and hide in the grass,’ Richard shouted as he approached, waving his hands matador-like to attract Thabo’s attention. The plan seemed to work and, as Thabo lumbered off towards Richard, I took my opportunity and slid down the branches of the tree. Unfortunately, the noise I made must’ve been picked up by the animal’s keen sense of hearing, as without warning he turned and charged full speed at the tree. My photographic instinct over-rode my survival instinct and I quickly snapped this shot as Thabo was blocked and peering at me curiously through the dead branches and then it was time to run.
It was probable about 500m and as fast as I could run it still felt like I was in slo-mo… after what seemed like an eternity I reached the safety of the thicket and collapsed, flat on my back, in the long grass. I knew that Richard had distracted him as all I could hear was my panting breath and my beating heart; I gazed up the tall trunks of the trees reaching up to the blue sky trying to calm my trembling body. At times like this, minutes feel like hours and after some time I peeped up to see what was happening. Richard was standing on a high point, the rhinos were contently grazing and I collapse back down on the ground to wait for Richard and Sfiso to join me.
In situations like this you simply do not have time to set your camera to manual….. You then have the creative zone modes to choose from and I do suggest you spend some time getting familiar with their functions.
“P” is like Auto on steroids and often misunderstood but it can be quite powerful. Although the camera will set your Shutter and Aperture these can be tweaked for sharper images and increased Depth of field. You will have full control of the ISO, Picture Style, Point of Focus, and Light Metering Mode & WB which can be used in many scenarios to created incredible images.
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