The latest coffee table book from internationally acclaimed photographer Hannes Lochner, Planet Okavango is an evocative tribute to the wetland deltas of Botswana, its inhabitants, and its unique wonder. The meeting of the creative mastery of Lochner and the rich beauty of the Okavango has resulted in a stunning work, every page vivid with images of the delta wildlife at their natural best. Here Hannes shares some of his favourite images from the book, with the stories behind the pictures.
n the 10 years I have been photographing wildlife, I always make notes of the things I would love to have images of. One of these images was a backlit shot of a lion roaring at sunrise on a cold winters morning. I thought I had a very good chance in the Kalahari Desert where I spent five years doing various projects. Temperatures can be as cold as -12 degrees Celsius and I thought it might be an easy image to take, because the landscape is open and you can get really close to the big cats. After five years I could never get the shot I wanted, but it was still on my ‘wanted’ list. This year in the Okavango Delta while doing another project I found a male that was very vocal and was roaring every evening. I followed it after it walked through my basecamp for a few hours, positioning myself in the right spot in case it was roaring at sunrise.
Halo of dust
In the summer months and towards the end of the dry season in the Chobe National Park in Botswana, the elephants gather around the waterholes and can walk up to 50 miles to get there. Dust fill the air and big bulls fight through the evening for the best spots around the waterhole. This evening I used a bounce flash into my wide angle lens to give it a halo and the dust formed small circles within the halo.
The first rains arrives in the Chobe National Park after a long dry season. This elephant is having a drink at the last remaining water in the area, but soon there will be plenty to go around. Late afternoon thunder and lightning storms are common especially on hot days. This particular day the heat rose to 48 degrees Celsius, and in the afternoon it became cloudy and the rain started. I framed the thirsty elephant with the first rains in the background.
African wild dogs can run up to 72km/h and hunt in packs. They rely on their phenomenal stamina to tire their prey and the combined strength of the pack to bring it down. They require vast open ranges for effective hunting. Often they make no attempt at concealment and approach potential prey openly at a slow trot. They keep their heads low and ears back; they break into a run only when the prey flees. They may rush a herd into a flight of panic and then wait to identify potential members that are slower than the rest. The leading dog, which is usually the dominant male or female, will select a particular target and pursue it single-mindedly. The rest of the pack will follow in lines behind the leader.
I always wanted to capture a silhouette shot of an animal at night with the stars. This particular evening there was a fire on the horizon, caused by a lightning storm. I framed a still-standing elephant over a 30 second exposure to capture stars and moving clouds, hoping the elephant wouldn’t move too much. I stood still enough to capture a perfect silhouette and with other elephants moving about in the foreground.
A yellow-billed stork flies up to its nest. As with all stork species, male yellow-billed storks select and occupy potential nest sites in trees. They then display behaviour to advertise themselves, whereupon females attempt to approach. One of these behaviours is display preening, in which the male pretends to strip down each of his extended wings with his bill several times on each side, but the bill does not effectively close around the feathers.
Ghosts of Botswana
In the dry season the elephants of Chobe National Park will cover themselves with mud for protection from the harsh sun. At night they congregate around waterholes to quench their thirst. On this particular evening I combined elephants, in the foreground moving around the waterhole, a fire glowing in the background and the cause of the fire, a big lightning storm.
The great escape
When a pack of African wild dogs chased an impala and tried to corner it against a river filled with crocodiles and hippos, the impala decided to take a leap of faith and jumped into a pool of hippos, trying its luck to swim across the river. Two hippos immediately swam towards it, flung it into the air and repeatedly bounced on top of the impala trying to drown it. An hour earlier, a similar scene had happened and the hippos immediately killed the impala. The second impala was luckier though and it kept on swimming to slowly reach the other side. Shocked and with only a small cut on its hind leg, the impala looked back, one hippo was still flinging the first (and less lucky) impala into the air. The second one turned around and walked off.
When elephants gather at waterholes in the dry season, it’s normally the big bulls that get the best spots for the freshest water. This particular evening I tried to capture the reflections of the big bulls in the waterhole over a period of 30 seconds. I filled flashed the foreground with a bounce flash and capture the milkyway over a long exposure.
Hannes Lochner is an internationally acclaimed photographer who has been photographing wildlife professionally since 2007. Hannes has produced four magnificent photographic books, three of which were dedicated entirely to the Kalahari. To achieve this, he lived in the Kalahari for five years, where he spent hundreds of hours capturing inspiring images of this captivating landscape and its enigmatic inhabitants. He now brings his dedicated approach and creative talents to Botswana’s Okavango Delta in Planet Okavango, having lived there for two and a half years and committing his every waking moment to his photography. Hannes has been recognised internationally, receiving several awards over the years – from the prestigious BBC‘s Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year, to being named at Nature’s Best Awards competitions. Also, a great number of his photos and articles have been published in both national South African press and in well-known international publications. For more information on his work, or to find out more about going on a photographic safari with Hannes, please visit https://hanneslochner.com/safaris.php
For more information on the book Planet Okavango, please visit http://planetokavangobook.co.za/
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