It’s Monday 2nd April 2012 and David Rogers tells all

Hello – so then, how is everyone doing? Hope that we all had a great and relaxing weekend and are ready to hit the week with the usual amount of vigor and enthusiasm….

I was wondering what to write about this week, as there has been quite a lot going on. As Rob and I drove back from Lusaka, passing some wonderfully named businesses – Chance Restaurant, Bigfoot Shoe Shop, Comfy Coffin Workshop – I thought for a moment that I might give everyone a little bit of a behind the scenes tour and trip into Mfuwe town, but decided to wait until we start building the camps ready for peak season. In the meantime, I received a wonderful account from David Rogers about his two recent trips with us in the Luangwa.

So for now over to David…..

Two consecutive 8 day photographic workshops in Zambia during the month of March in 2012.What a wonderful opportunity… and here are some of the highlights.

The first trip held at the beginning of March included Barbara (a formidable woman of 80+ from USA who embraces new photographic technology better than most people half her age), Ritchie and MJ (environmental consultants from South Africa), Janine from Australia and Alexander – a medical doctor from Austria.

The four who had been on previous trips met me at the airport wearing specially made T-shirts saying

“Hey, Camera boy, Can you make me look like Brad Pitt?”.

How could I forget the tipsy South African “wide boy” who had posed the inane question the previous year.

The Emerald Season Photographic trip combines 3 nights at Nkwali, three nights at Nsefu and a final night back at Nkwali. While each trip is unique, I will introduce the second team before we start our journey. Trip two at the end of March was also full of old friends. Siddarth and Swati had flown in from Singapore and were joined by their close friends Preeti and Prashant from Durban, and the fifth member was a Turkish/American engineering professor called Turgay, whose wit and dry humor kept us in very good spirits through the whole trip.

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I love sharing my knowledge of photography and being in the Luangwa Valley, but meeting and being with such interesting people is a real highlight of being a photographic guide.

To make the whole experience even better, Jacob guided us for the Nkwali section of both trips and he has a great sense of photographic angles and the “sweet” light.

The central areas of Luangwa are surprisingly good for cats during the wet months as these water- shy predators tend to stick to the park’s network of all weather roads. And on both trips we had excellent sightings of leopards, lions as well as buffalo, elephant, giraffe and other game. The birds are at their best at this time of year as summer migrants are still around and other usually bland birds which are in their breeding pluage.

Before I forget — a big thanks to Emily and Rob not only for the pillow sized beanbags which we found in the vehicles, but also for the upgrade to Luangwa House. Having the house to ourselves was really a great benefit for our work shopping sessions.

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Everyone on both trips was really committed to getting up early and spending long hours preparing their images for the evening slide shows. Such enthusiasm makes everything so much more rewarding, but I did feel a twinge of concern now and then that they might be exhausting themselves. However, their effort showed every evening as we sat down to review the days’ work and my concerns were allayed by one who said: “We are here to learn and take photographs, we can always sleep when we get home!”

Morning drives, lazy lunches, afternoon workshop sessions, quick siestas, evening drives, long dinners and nights listening to the sounds of owls and patrolling hippos became our wonderful routine, but seemingly sooner that we could say “shutter speed” it was day four and time for our River Journey. We travelled upstream for 40 kilometers and with every turn of the wildly meandering Luangwa River more stunning vistas as well as fat, sun-toasted hippos, lazy crocs, fish eagles, impala and elephants were revealed. Finally we arrived at Nsefu, the oldest camp in Zambia and my favourite for its wilderness atmosphere, where Daudi and his team treated us to a memorable experience. How Patrick conjures up such delectable meals from a kitchen that is more than 70 years old is beyond me.

In March it’s not possible to go on game drives at Nsefu (the cotton soil is very sticky when wet) and activities were by boat and also on foot. Top of our “agenda” was the Nsefu stork colony which is said to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. It was particularly flourishing this year and our shutters rattled away like machine guns as the birds streaming in carrying building material for their nests.

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We spent most of our evening boating trips exploring the Mwamba River – a tributary of the Luangwa is relatively sluggish and we were able to moor ourselves beneath weaver nests and besides a pool where a large group of very obliging hippos gave us great yawning material. The light at Nsefu was superb with plenty of animals shrouded in green and bathed in golden light against bullet grey skies. This was the stuff that makes these Emerald Season trips so great.

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Heading back to the Nkwali area we realized that for three nights and days we had not see any other people aside from each other and the camp staff. Even so, it was wonderful to arrive “home” at Luangwa House where Jacob and his team were preparing for our final evening with them.

I have run one or two Emerald Season trips a year since 2006 and I will never tire of the remarkable opportunities presented at this time of year. We have got a bit wet at times, and the odd drive has been delayed, but it’s also interesting that rain has never ever stopped play. In fact the opportunities of the big clouds and saturated light have only enhanced the opportunities. It’s been the people of Robin Pope Safaris that have always given this trip its edge. From the security guards, waiters, guides and management, this is a team that is very hard to match for service, knowledge and sheer personality. What a pleasure it is to take my guests into their wonderful care.

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The next photo workshop is scheduled for October 2012, which is predator season, and there are still places for March 2013. This is no longer the secret season, so we are looking like we are going to be busy again. If you are interested in learning more about photography there is no better “classroom” than the valley. In case you don’t make it, here are a couple of tips which past guests have said that have been among the most useful things they have learned on these trips. The first is working in Lightroom and learning about processing and “slow-cooking” their raw images into jpegs. The second is learning just how good modern digital cameras are in low light conditions and to push their ISO to 2000 and beyond to capture the action.

That’s all for now — and hope to see you on safari soon.

Zikomo
David

Thanks so much David.

On a final note, on Saturday siesta time we had the most almighty storm. There we were, sitting at home – Rob, Mouse (Matt’s pet genet) and myself when all of a sudden this thunder clapped right above us – the house shook and Mouse took off up my trouser leg in a moment of sheer panic. Once Mouse had calmed down he was removed from said trouser leg, handed to Rob whilst I zipped out with my camera to see if I could get a couple of photos before the rain really started to come down and I managed one quite lucky shot. So this morning I thought, well, let’s try something new, so to go along with my lightning photo we are also giving you a sound snippet of the thunder so you can all close your eyes and really imagine that you are here.

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Have a great week and chat same time same place next week.

Cheers

Emily

storms

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