New Photography Website

Helo!!

I miss all of you who have kindly followed my photography blog, and I would love it if you would navigate over to my new, professional photography webite http://www.cathywagner.co.za and follow me there.

I will be posting all new blog and portfolio updates there, because, yes, I have quit my Financial Management position and taken the leap into full-time, professional photography!

I would greatly appreciate hearimg from you again, as I always enjoyed your comments and compliments on this blog (who wouldn’t?) and I can use all the encouragement I can get right now 🙂

Yours creatively
Cathy Wagner
Cathy Wagner Photography

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Photography: Pilanesburg Game Reserve

 

The Pilanesburg Game Reserve lies to the north-west of Johannesburg, South Africa, and is very close to Sun City – our famous destination for gamblers, golfers and others in search of a good time.

The Game Reserve itself lies within an ancient volcanic caldera, and is richly endowed with wildlife. The best time for game viewing is around sunrise and sunset. Most of the animals are very inactive during the heat of the day – about 30 to 35 C in summer!

 

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/4.5, 1/320 second, ISO 80

 

I have been lucky enough to visit the reserve several times over the years. My favourite spot for photography is the hide on the largest dam in the reserve. I have seen crocodiles, hippos, big antelope, and a huge variety of bird-life from this vantage point. When the dam was built, many old trees were drowned. They make a safe resting perch for fish eagles and other large predatory birds, while they scan the waters for their next meal.

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/5, 1/340 second, ISO 80

 

Roughly the same scene, at sunset, with the Gibbous Moon overhead….very peaceful scene…

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/4.5, 1/280 second, ISO 200

Perfect calm, this time in the mid-morning:

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/3.5. 1/350 second, ISO 200

 

My tips for photography in the game reserve:

  • I found when I shot the same scenes in the middle of the day, they were overexposed and I lost a lot of detail. It is best to shoot in the hours around sunrise and sunset – unless you are deliberately trying to show the harsh heat of the African Bush.
  • It helps to use a polarising filter to bring out the deep blue skies and brilliant white clouds, as long as you are aware that it works best when you’re at right-angles to the sun. A polariser reduces glare and reflections, so you can photograph INTO water. The water “disappears” as you turn the filter.
  • A neutral density filter can also help to darken the sky, to prevent that washed-out look

 

 

Photography: Lions

If you ever visit Johannesburg, South Africa, you should make a point of visiting the Lion Park. It’s near Lanseria Airport, to the west of the city. Children are especially fond of the place because they can go into the cage with the baby lions, pat them and play with them – it’s a great adventure for little ones. The baby lions don’t seem to mind too much either.

When you’re done playing with baby lions and feeding the baby giraffes, get into your car and drive over to the four lion enclosures. A word of caution – DO NOT get out of your car, or open the windows – the adult lions are NOT friendly! They are extremely dangerous, and more than one tourist has snapped his last shot, leaning out of the car window or getting out of the car. I’m not kidding.

The dirt road leads through all four enclosures in turn. We came across this group first. As you can see, they’re all fairly alert – it was nearly feeding time:

FinePix S9500, f/4.9, 1/210 second, ISO 200

Two of the lionesses got up to investigate our car. It’s pretty scary coming face-to-face with these big cats!

FinePix S9500, f/4.1, 1/400 second, ISO 200

If you have any doubts as to how big a full-grown lioness is…..

FinePix S9500, f/4, 1/320 second, ISO 200

The males tend to lie around under the trees, and let the females do all the hunting.

Canon 400D, f/5.6, 1/1600 second, ISO 400

Occasionally, the male will get up and go sharpen his claws on a tree – just in case he has to do any work later!

FinePix S9500, F/4.9, 1/80 second, ISO 400

We saw a rare white lion in one of the enclosures. He looked like a big, white, fluffy toy….

FinePix S9500, f/3.7, 1/280 second, ISO 200

until he opened his mouth!

FinePix S9500, f/3.8, 1/300 second, ISO 200

We also managed to snap a few close-up portraits. This little cub was quite happy to have his photo taken.

Canon 400D, f/5.6, 1/1600 second, ISO 400

So, if you want to see Big Cats – REALLY big cats – come visit us here in South Africa!

 

Photography: Birds & Bees

I live in the middle of suburbia, between Pretoria and Johannesburg – a very densely populated area. And yet, surprisingly, there is still a wide variety of bird-life that manages to survive around here. All the more amazing considering I have two cats who regularly deposit an “offering” of dead bird at my bedroom door….

We have a small but densely planted garden – aloes, cycads, proteas, clivias, ferns and a few trees, and a pot with water flowing out of it that is a favourite spot for the garden birds to come and have a splash in the late afternoons.

The Aloes are flowering at this time of the year, attracting the sun-birds – we have two varieties that visit our garden almost every day:

Canon 60D with 300mm zoom lens, f/5.6 1/60 second, ISO 100

Canon Power Shot SX30 IS, 150mm, f/5.8, 1/80 second, ISO 400

The sun-birds have to compete with the bees – I’m very glad to see we still have a few bees! I haven’t seen any around for ages…. These two photos were taken with a macro attachment on a Lensbaby Double Optic lens. I really LOVE the very shallow depth of field – but it does mean you have to get really close… I was worried about being stung. The things I have to do for my Art 🙂

Canon 60D with Lensbaby Double Optic & 10x macro lens,1/250 second, ISO 100

Canon 60D with Lensbaby Double Optic and 10x macro lens, 1/250 second, ISO 100

The Sparrows seem to be confused because it’s so warm – even though it’s mid-winter. I caught these two mating:

Canon 60D with 300mm zoom lens, f/5.6, 1/200 second, ISO 100

Our little Cape Robin is still waking us every morning with his beautiful songs – he doesn’t seem to mind the early morning Highveld frost at all.

Canon 60D with 500mm zoom lens, f/6.3, 1/100 second, ISO 400

This little guy is totally unafraid of humans – he comes around every day, asking for cheddar cheese! No wonder he’s getting FAT.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, F/5.8, 1/40 second, ISO 400

I was very fortunate to get this shot of an Ibis taking off from my neighbour’s roof and flying directly at me:

Canon 60D, 225mm, f/5, 1/8000 second, ISO 6400

In general, when photographing garden birds I use a zoom lens, and just sit quietly and wait for the shots to come to me.

Photography: (Lion)sex – Rated PG

Okay, I know some of you may have found my post (Lion)sex in the city(zoo) a bit of a let-down in the end – a bit of an anti-climax, you might say 🙂

I’m sorry about that – I didn’t want the blog to be in bad taste.

However, friends and family who have seen the photo of the lions actually doin’ it don’t think it’s so terrible…. and I don’t want to be accused of false advertising!…..so here goes….

(if you have a six-year-old sitting next to you, perhaps you should put your hand over his eyes about now….)

Naughty beast!

Photography: (Lion)sex in the city(Zoo)

blogger once told me that if I wanted more hits on my blog, I should write about sex!

Does writing about a couple of lions having sex count? If I include pictures?

We have a lovely Zoo here in Johannesburg; Sunday was warm and sunny, so we took the kid, the camera and a couple of sandwiches and had a pleasant day wandering around, looking at animals and of course taking photos.

I hope you will like these. Yes, there are some (tasteful)photos of lions having sex 🙂

Not this one – this is an alert suricate (or meerkat),  guarding his burrow. These are sociable little mammals found only in southern Africa. The name “meerkat” is Dutch for “lake cat” – strange, because they don’t live near lakes, and they are not cats!

Canon 60D, 70-300mm @ 225mm, f/6.3, 1/800 sec, ISO 160

Meerkats are quite comical – their expressions can be quite human… I wonder what those two on the right are thinking?

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 300mm, F/6.3, 1/800 sec. ISO 500

A pair of ducks:

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 275mm, f/6.3, 1/800 sec, ISO 320 

What can you say about a couple of ducks….? Not much really…. I liked the symmetry of the photo, that’s why it’s here 🙂

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 300mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 5000

Nile Crocodiles. Very common, very dangerous. It is NOT a good idea to take a dip in a river in many parts of Africa – these 5 to 6 metre long reptiles are infamous for leaping out at the water’s edge, grabbing an unsuspecting animal (or human) and dragging it down into the depths, never to be seen again. They wedge the dead carcass under a log or stone, wait for it to rot, and then tear it to pieces…..They have very strong jaws, but they can only bite, not chew….

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 225mm, f/10, 1/800 sec, ISO 6400

A much happier picture! This old female African Elephant has been at the Jo’burg zoo for many, many years. She is one of the main attractions.

And now, as promised, the sexy lions!

These two were “playing” under a bush…

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 200mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 3200

When they walked out into the open, the male was nuzzling the female’s hind quarters, and then he took her tail in his mouth. I had never seen or heard of this behaviour before…. but it could obviously only mean one thing…

Canon 60D 75-200mm @ 220mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 1000

Note the huge scratches on his nose! The lady must have put up a good fight at some stage….

I believe lions mate up to 40 times a day for the four days the female is on heat, so it’s probably just as well each  mating lasts only about half a minute.

Canon 60D 75-300 mm @ 165 mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 1000

Magnificent beasts!

Photography: Clarens, Free State.

My family likes to holiday in Clarens, a small town in the northern Free State, in South Africa. It’s a lovely little place, jam-packed with art shops, family restaurants, quaint curio shops, antique clothing shops… all the stuff I love to look at. As an added bonus, the town in nestled in the mountains, and is a stone’s throw away from the magnificent Golden Gate National Park.

Oh yeah, they also brew their own beer – a delightful light lager you can drink all day, and then still find your way home without falling in a ditch.

The place we normally stay in is on a golf course. They have the most beautiful little dam where I love to go at sunrise and sunset, and am often rewarded with quite special shots.

I was up before sunrise, taking photos in the very soft pre-dawn light. As the sun was rising, I was facing the other way…then turned around and saw THIS beautiful sight!

 

This is taken later in the morning – a favourite spot for a bit of lazy fishing….


Image

Six months later, in the same spot. Taken in the evening. I love the colours of the sky and water!

Just to the south of Clarens is the magnificent Golden Gate National Park. Absolutely pristine Drakensburg area, and a wonderful place for photography.

I’ll show you those pics another time 🙂

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For those who enjoy the technical details:

  1. Fuji Finepix S 9500   f/3.1 1/70sec ISO200  8mm focal length
  2. Fuji Finepix S 9500   f/3.1 1/150sec ISO200 8mm focal length
  3. Fuji Finepix S 9500   f/3.4  1/100sec ISO200 11mm focal length
  4. Canon PowerShot SX30 IS f/4 1/400sec ISO160 4mm focal length

Photography: Flowers in my Garden

I am fortunate enough to have a really pretty garden. Even though it is now almost mid-winter in Johannesburg, the Aloes, Strelizias, Daisies and even the Clivias are flowering!

It hasn’t been a particularly cold winter so far – none of those bitingly cold evenings, and no frost as yet. I’m sure the bad weather is ON ITS WAY!

I grabbed the opportunity to snap some photos this afternoon. First a gorgeous yellow Thistle:

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Glass Optic 50mm,  f/4, 1/400th sec, ISO 3200

My husband the Landscape Architect tells me this is called a Crocosmia – I believe him, because I don’t know any better…

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Glass Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/50th sec, ISO 200

This shot of a Strelizia is quite abstract – I love the contrasting colours:

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Double Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/125th sec, ISO 125

The Clivias are flowering way too early. (The Plastic Optic lens gives them a glowing, ethereal look which I find quite interesting.)

Canon 60D, Lensbaby Plastic Optic 50mm, f/4, 1/500th sec, ISO 100

This beautiful specimen is not growing in my garden. My dear Husband gave me two dozen red roses for our second wedding anniversary (he CAN be romantic when he tries…)

I took these two photos this morning as the sun came up:

Canon60D, 50mm prime lens, f/1.4, 1/60th sec, ISO 640

In this shot, I was trying to capture the light, rather than the roses:

Canon 60D, 50mm prime lens, f/1.4, 1/60th sec, ISO 500

Some blooms from earlier in the year: first a magnificent Barberton Daisy:

Canon EOS 1000 at 263mm, f/5.6, 1/200th sec, ISO100

And an Agapanthus head, up close. The series of photos had an incredibly 3-dimensional “popping” effect. If you have these flowers in your garden try photographing them from above with a wide-angled lens. Get as close in as you can to achieve the same effect:

Fuji Finepix S9500 at 29mm, f/3.9, 1/150th sec, ISO 200

Photographing flowers can be very rewarding. Here are my tips, based on my experience:

  • Fill the frame with the flowers, edge to edge
  • Use a wide aperture so the background is blurred.
  • You can use either a wide-angled lens, or a macro lens. Both will give great results
  • Don’t photograph in bright sunlight – the best times are early morning, late afternoon, and on cloudy days – avoid strong shadows, unless it’s for effect
  • Bright sunshine on red, yellow or orange flowers totally blows out the detail. It really is best to shoot them in the shade if you’re after sharp details.
  • Use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze movement – flowers move unpredictably even in a slight breeze. If you have to hold the stem to keep the bloom still, make sure your hand is not in the shot!
  • Be aware of the composition. Diagonals will make the picture more interesting
  • Look out for strongly contrasting colours and make the best of them.

If you have any tips for shooting flowers, I would be delighted if you would share them with me 🙂