No two moments are ever the same. As any given moment passes it can never be truly recreated, especially so in photography. Weather and wildlife are unpredictable, light changes, emotions and moods change, all altering our responses to particular moments. Moments pass.
Having just spent 11 days at the beautiful Zimanga Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal I learnt so much, especially about my expectations as a photographer. Having been on two previous occasions, I was hoping on this trip to add similar images to my collection that I had taken before. Omgodi, the overnight hide had given me the opportunity to produce night shots of animals with stars. I planned this trip so carefully giving us more time and thus opportunity to add to my gallery. I even worked around the moon phases for the best star shots. But the best laid plans can go astray...
10 days of consistent rain and many thunderstorms made it impossible to shoot for the stars. It was in the wee hours of the morning on one of our first nights in the overnight hide that I realised you can't recreate moments how ever much you want to. We have no control over weather good and bad, and of animal behaviours. All I could do was make the best of it and feel glad for the land owners who have battled with drought for so long. It was time to expand my skills instead.
As a photographer I had to make the best of bad weather. The rhino had been dehorned since our last visit so rather than capturing them the same way as last time I tried something new. I used the magical blue hour to show off their magnificence and used the stormy skies to enhance the look.
It was full steam ahead with making the best of it, so we ventured out over and over in atrocious weather only to be rewarded by some amazing wet weather images. The new young lions were the perfect subjects, co-operating fully with a shake of the mane.
I had memorable moments shooting both elephant and zebra from a sunken hide, finding it no easy feat to fit them in the frame.
Our wild dog experiences were also very different not only because of the weather but the expansion to the pack with a tonne of puppies. They were lively, playful and tremendous fun to join on a hunt. They chased each other, they chased the ellie, they chased anything that moved including a cheetah up the tree.
A new bee-eater hide presented huge challenges trying to photograph fast moving birds in low light. I discovered the best part was not the photos produced but the laughs I had with Craig, Victoria and Dean because it's harder than it looks.
I tried to shoot vultures at the new vulture hide only to have the enticer eaten by jackal faster than I had ever seen before. He loved to eat it with his back to me then run off with it behind the hide.
But as always Dean and Zimanga saved the best for last (and that was not just getting rained on again and bogged so we could have a much needed coffee break). I'm sure it was my reward for making the best of bad weather and diligently trying new things. I have never seen hyena on this property and they are a favourite of mine. We found them on the last morning. They share a matriarchal society, unique in both their looks, behaviour and are always good for a laugh, not to mention stunning to photograph.
All in all it was a tremendous 11 days at Zimanga, the very best photographic reserve in South Africa. Through rain, thunder, lightening, no sleep and odd nights of no power I learnt not to try and recreate moments but to stretch for new ones because it is more rewarding than you could ever imagine.