A moment at the waterhole

   The Brave Wildebeest


I was busy sorting my workflow out and I came across this particular image captured on 5thJanuary in 2014. (To protect our Rhinos I will not disclose the location).  On this particular day I decided to spend the entire day at the same waterhole.

I got up very early the next morning and arrived at the waterhole just before sunrise, parked my vehicle with the sun behind me, suitable setting started flashing through my mind. Not knowing what to expect, I set my camera in to capture the Rhinos in the water. I was parked fairly close to the waterhole and the Rhinos were on their way for their morning drink.


My Gear:



200-400mm – to play safe I decided to use this lens


Nikon D4 Camera body


My choice of settings;

ISO 400, F/9 at 1/800sec - GimPro car bracket for support – no flash was fired – focal length 200mm - Manual mode - focal length: 200mm


It was just another day in the bush at a waterhole; opportunities came followed by long hours of waiting for something to happen. I have used most of my lenses throuhout the day to capture different shots. My settings stayed more or less the same, except for my ISO as the light changed constintly.

At around 18:45 that afternoon, I was still at the same waterhole; but parked further back in a different spot, not just for the sun, but also to keep a Dugga Boy (Old Buffalo) happy. By accident, I parked across his walkway to the waterhole and he made it very clear that he was not happy with me, so I moved my vehicle.

Just before I decided to call it a day, I noticed a very perky Rhino Calf wondering towards the herd of Wildebeest…all by himself. There was a herd (crash) of Rhino to my right and a herd of Wildebeest to my left. I decide to stay to photograph the Rhino Calf.

I could not believe my eyes when the Rhino calf changed direction and ran straight towards a wildebeest calve in the herd; I think the plan was to play. Well the next minute all hell broke loose, the other Rhinos intervened; they wanted the youngster back to where he belonged. One of the wildebeest, maybe the mother of the calf in the herd, really did not enjoy this kind of behavior from the Rhino calf and kept on challenging the calf.

The mother of the Rhino calf noticed this and had to put a stop to it. I though the wildebeest would back off once the mother intervened, but to my surprise, he carried on fighting, this time with the adult Rhino. This carried on for about 10 minutes and I went bananas!! (trigger happy), shooting thousands of images without checking my setting.  Eventually the Rhino pushed the Wildebeest into the bushes, the Wildebeest gave up and ran back to the herd. The bravest Wildebeest I have ever came across!!

After the drama that afternoon, I sat back, took a deep breath while everything I had just witnessed played itself out through my mind one more time. This was such a spesial moment for me until I looked at my viewfinder. I came to relize that no matter where you go or how much money you spend on trips, you have to be ready to capture the shot, by that I mean, you need to know your camera as well as your settings before you book your trips. Looking at my settings today, I can only wish that I had the knowledge and understanding that I have today. Never stop learning!!

To improve this image I could have done the following:

I was capturing action and therefore my shutter speed was to slow for a sharper image, I was just lucky as I had good support for my camera; it should have been nothing slower than 1/1600sec

My exposure was incorrect (underexposed), I could have pushed my ISO, to compensate for the dark shadows or alternatively moved my vehicle to use the sun to my advantage. This happens when you are not familiar with the maximum ISO threshold of that particular camera body.

The background was very busy which is distracting. With a wider Aperture I could have blurred the busy background even more - (f/6.5 with a 200-400mm lens).

With all that said, I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and the moment.  Although I have strong boundaries on which work I will show, I also accept failure as learning and that is never bad. Technically this image is not perfect, however it has Visual Weight and it tells a unique story instead.

Are you ready for your next trip???