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Emma Gatland – Lockdown in the Kruger

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It’s exactly a year since we have been on this unexpected journey of being forced to stay at home and avoid contact with people and places. 2020 will carry many a story for each induvial. I had the privilege of creating a visual story of capturing photographic moments from nature. My fiancé and I had just returned back from a road trip around Namibia when we received the news of having to lockdown, his family own a laid-back lodge in the prime wildlife area of Klaserie called Africa on Foot, it was a no brainer that this is where we would all retreat, what we thought would be 21 days has rolled into 12 months and what an absolute privilege it has been to soak up a very quiet Klaserie bushveld. Usually filled with game vehicles, tourism and a buzz of fully operating lodges it was now ghostly quiet. We kept ourselves distracted by tracking lions, walking through the bush in search of any fresh tracks and enjoying witnessing the change of seasons and animal movements. With no other sightings being reported over the radio we worked hard and covered a great distance of traverse to capture and document natures magnificence despite the world’s chaos.

We came across numerous sightings of lion kills, leopards in trees, elephant herds moving through camp, but the one that sticks out the most is of a Wild Dog kill at a nearby dam. The pack consisted of roughly 30 plus members, accompanied by 12 opportunist Hyenas. The Wild dogs chased a young Impala into the large dam, which was also occupied by a resident hippo. After watching the impala struggle, swimming side to side with the dogs surrounding the small dam, it slowly started to lose strength. As heartbreaking as it was to watch, we know nature is raw and this was a prime example of that. Eventually, a wild dog launched itself into the water making an attempt to bring the impala back to his pack but was swiftly chased off by a very disgruntled hippo. With one sudden loud splash, the impala was seen flung into the air by the hippo ending the trauma. A most unique sighting. Thereafter we encountered this large pack of dogs on numerous occasions patrolling the quiet main road that separates the Timbavati from the Klaserie. With no human traffic, they treated us to some great photo opportunities during golden hour light with the Drakensberg mountains as the backdrop.

My gear set up consisted of a Nikon D4s and Nikon D850 (This being my body of choice, a magnificent machine) I like to switch between a 70-200 f2.8 a zoom lens 200-400 f4 and a macro 105 2.8. I have recently switched the 200-400 for a prime 300 2.8 and will be keeping you up to date on this great new piece of gear. You can hear more about my stories and gear, settings etc. on my social media @emmagatlandphotography

Images by Emma Gatland