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Part 1 Lions of South Africa

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It was a Sunday morning when my family and I awoke. We decided to take a trip to the Lion and Rhino nature reserve.

A bit of history

“The Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve is a privately owned, non-subsidized game reserve, covering approxmiately 1 200 ha on the typical highveld of Gauteng. The reserve is situated in the “Cradle of Humankind”, a declared World Heritage Site, about 40 km north-west of Johannesburg and 60km west of Pretoria.

The reserve was founded in 1985 by Ed Hern, a well known stockbroker, with the aim of preserving this beautiful area for private leisure. Prior to this the farm was utilised as a dairy and agricultural produce farm. From a modest beginning of two white rhinos, “Ouvrou” and “Bulle”, imported from a zoo in Germany, and some antelope species, the reserve now boasts 600 head of game representing 25 different species. Public demand to visit the reserve became overwhelming and this was met in 1990, coinciding with a name change from “Kiepersol” to “Rhino Park”.

Emphasis was also placed on breeding and the success of this project is best illustrated by the fact that no less than 18 white rhino calves have been born at the reserve to date. Increasing the number of species is always hampered by external factors such as climate, habitat, grazing, availability, etc. but the reserve has always strived to reach this goal in order to enhance the entertainment and educational value to the public – many of whom would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience wildlife in this manner due to cost and distance constraints.

For obvious reasons, the rare and dangerous species have a greater attraction value, and this led to the introduction of lions, cheetah and later, the highly endangered Cape wild dog. The latter have formed part of a very successful breeding programme which has, in turn, led to breeding programmes for Bengal tigers, Siberian Tigers and the extremely rare White Lion (one of which was born at the reserve in 1999). These activities have seen the staff complement at the reserve grow from 5 to 39 people employed on a full time basis.

Once again the name was changed to “Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve” in order to reflect the new attractions and to differentiate between the reserve and its competitors.

The management of the reserve were still not satisfied and hence the re-introduction of warthog, after a long absence from the Gauteng highveld, was successfully implemented. A natural development was the establishment of a vulture restaurant which caters for the groups of these magnificent birds which live in the nearby Magaliesberg. Through the generosity of the general public and farmers, who donate carcasses to the reserve on a regular basis, this venture has proven highly successful. Often one can view as many as 200 birds feasting at the reserve.

Visitor numbers increased to such an extent that the reserve became a proud member of the Johannesburg’s Big 5 Tourist Destinations. This growth necessitated the construction of peripheral visitor facilities which include, for the general public, individual barbecue (braai) areas, a kiosk, restaurants, curio shop, swimming pool, children’s play park and the Crocodile Pub where visitors can enjoy a quiet sundowner while watching crocodiles at close range.”

The Wonder Caves are also accessable from this farm where Limstone was mined, wonderful stalictites and stalicmite formations. I will do an article on the caves in Part 2>

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Zululand

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A place close to my heart and roots. Zululand, Kwa-Zulu Natal. One of the most beautiful places in South Africa. This was a little holiday trip down to the coast of Sodwana Bay. What a place! Green miles and miles, thornbush treas, Zulu huts. Oh man, words cannot explain the tranquility of this place. On […]

Lunar Eclipse event specatular – “Big gig in the sky”

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Everybody awaited the Lunar Eclipse patiently be it at home, on holiday or wherever. South Africans were so blessed to spectate this event and all for free in the comfort of your home as we call it on your “stoep” which is patio. You did not have to pay to watch this astronomical event, how awesome is that!

I got all my equipment ready at 4pm CAT and went moon hunting, well you could not miss moonrise (at 5:10pm) as the moon was huge, it seemed big but was an optical illusion. Well I then got my tripod into place, mounted my telescopic lens and camera … there the wonderful show started in my backyard, this event felt like a rock concert, only audience I had around me were hooo hooo who? Owls and black black backed jackals as well as my lovely 6 dogs! I was hoping the Twilight saga would rock up too! The moon was like a spot light, being full moon it lit up the whole valley around me. I could even see the power lines 3km away on the mountain. Breathtaking.

Around the country the coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal had a spectacular event watching all this happen in what appeared like over the ocean, wow must have been some awesome photographing scenery too! The Cape well that’s why it’s called the Cape of  storms, they did not get to view the event due to rain. Well guys look at my Gallery for some photos if you missed it because you were too lazy to go look, too cold or had rain.

Photographing with this lens was quiet mmm… tricky and any movement caused me to lose the moon quickly, but luckily I got the hang of it about an hour into moonrise. Advice, practice shooting the moon before such an event. We cannot change the cold weather but I hear 2015 it will be in a warmer season.

Anyway, it was getting cold, super cold. At around 9pm I started noticing that I cannot see the moon let alone feel my fingers with gloves on, hanging like a monkey on my camera as the moon was right above my head. I decided to get it into some light. ha ha my lens froze!! It had a layer of fresh icy frost on the glass… now you must understand, this happened right at the time of the FULL eclipse, I was jumping up and down trying to get the lens a bit warm and get this frost off. Well I was seconds too late, but man what an experience. I spent 9 hours outside and lit a fire for warmth. Ok, ok yes South Africa’s winters are not as cold as the Northern hemisphere’s. I love winter! Next time I will integrate a heater into the lens.

So after cleaning my lens, eventually I found the moon again starting to open the second half of the eclipse and wow I am blown away at the photos I was able to capture on this amazing evening! God really blessed us with a spectacular event of a “sky movie show” and the stars were shining like never before! nothing but nature around me I felt even more blessed and looking at that moon do its full course wow!

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Total Lunar Eclipse for South Africa 15 June 2011

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Photo taken 1200mm

It is upon events like these that I want to jump up and grab my camera with full on excitement, to watch and photograph such a spectacular event that happens rarely. My whole life I have been inspired by nature photography having traveled Africa numerous times for a period of two years. Photographing nature and really blessed to know that God created this wonderful, beautiful, earth with so much perfection in nature as well as fine detail, from shapes to colour. Oh what a world we have! People should stand still for one second and realize what an awesome Earth we have. It’s hard not to complain about everyday life struggles, but look in nature for the happiness and perfection that was created by God full of unknown life. To South Africans, you have not seen the world if you have not even traveled in your own country! Africa is so blessed to have the big 5, sunsets, night skies filled with stars and most of all we have all countries in one ranging from deserts, oceans, forests, city life, mountains, flat plains and vast wildlife . Appreciate every detail and be inspired in your own life of colour.

A dream job would be to work with Davaid Attenborough from National Geographic’s Planet Earth series. Wow!

Tonight is the Lunar Eclipse that happens rarely when the moon passes behind the earth so that the sun’s rays do not strike the moon. This can occur when the Sun, Earth and Moon are aligned . Hence there is always a full moon the night of the Lunar Eclipse… Making it so wonderful, not half moon, quarter but full moon, making the event so much more special to see and photograph. It is said that the Lunar Eclipse is to occur tonight around 8pm CAT, and is to last for a rare 2 hours! How exciting!

I cannot wait to photograph this spectacular event, get my tripod out,my Nikon and Bausch & Lomb Criterion 4000 1200mm telephoto mirror lens on a winters night in South Africa, living out on the farms is perfect and away from city lights that might disturb the night sky.

Tips for photographing a Lunar Eclipse:

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A year filled with fun,hard work and inspiration.

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A new year and we almost a quater of the way. Filling up with shoots comming up is surely going to be a time of fun, hardwork and plenty to look forward to. Hoping to achieve high goals and always up for new ideas and challenges. Photography surely is a great part of my life capturing moments to remember and to make others smile. Stay tuned to see updated galleries and contact us!

Vernelle Imaging – where the eye meets the lense!

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