The Perfect Kruger Combo – Mike Palmer – Sigma150-600mm Sport and 20mm f1.4 Art
The Kruger National Park, situated in the South African Lowveld, is an iconic wilderness destination that people from all over the world journey here to enjoy, but for South African born people there will always a deeper connection to this vast and incredible place.
What makes it so different is the way in which the landscape changes as you move through the park. The various eco-zones create a platform for incredible diversity of flora and fauna, making it a photographer’s paradise. All this being said there is one major drawback and that is, like most National Parks, visitors are not permitted to drive off-road or alight from their vehicle unless at designated points. This then creates the challenge of capturing wildlife photographs at distance and this is where the “Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sport” lens comes into the picture. It is the perfect lens to use in a scenario like this as it gives you the reach when you need it and yet can be wide enough for some landscapes or animals at close quarters.
As much as I love spending time with animals, I personally love immersing myself into the area itself and landscape photography is something I really enjoy. The Kruger is a wonderful place for this kind of photography and even confined to a vehicle, you can create some great images, but a wide-angle lens is a must and for this I chose the Sigma 20mm f1.4 Art lens. The lens is very sharp and very wide, meeting my criteria in a landscape lens.
Below are some of my thoughts and experiences with using the 150-600mm f5-6.3 Sport lens as well as the Sigma 20mm f1.4 Art lens from a recent 9-day trip to the Kruger National Park.
Travelling from from Paul Kruger Gate up to Satara Rest Camp was a very eventful drive to say the least. The weather conditions were overcast with bouts of rain so higher ISO settings were necessary for most of the day, but I’m very pleased with the results I achieved with Nikon/Sigma Combinations.
The Satara area can be very productive, especially on the cat front, due to the fertile basaltic soils that produce attractive grazing grounds for a host of wildlife preferred by predators. At this time though, there isn’t too much good grazing to go around due to the lack of sufficient rainfall to the area, but it does lend to increased visibility for game viewing. We had decent luck with lions although not all sightings were great for photography.
When the light is good, take any and every opportunity to make the most of it. There are loads of worthy subjects with which to spend your time so I suggest you do. The ‘high profile’ animals such as the ‘Big 5’ are impressive to see, but never neglect to enjoy the smaller things in life.
It’s important to always make the most of every opportunity to get out there and capture moments, but make sure to take it slow. Due to the vastness of the Kruger National Park, it is easy to attempt to cover ground quickly in order to see as much as possible, but quite often you miss some really amazing opportunities when doing so. Taking it slow also allows you to really be extra vigilant, perhaps leading to an amazing discovery.
Sometimes luck is just on your side. It is fairly common knowledge that there are a host of hyena dens along a specific tarred road in the Satara area, but even armed with that knowledge there is no guarantee of a good sighting or even a sighting at all. We were extremely blessed during this trip to have spent time at 4 different hyena dens throughout the areas we visited. The birding was also spectacular and I managed to photograph many different species on this trip, a feat not possible without the extra length of the 150-600mm.
This day was spent packing up camp for the move to Letaba Rest camp and so there wasn’t too much time devoted to game drives, but we were lucky enough to have two lion sightings along the way. Just incredible when one thinks about just how big the area is. After settling in at Letaba we were able to take a drive along the river and only managed to photograph some hippos. The area would prove difficult for game viewing due to the density of Mopane Trees, but the views and scenery in this part of the Kruger are pretty incredible, even from the camp itself, where I managed to capture the nightscape.
The Letaba area is amazing for landscapes, but conditions need to be right. Luckily for me there was quite a bit of cloud cover with some breaks to allow for a bit of colour to burst through. I rarely enjoy perfectly clear skies for landscape photography anyway. The presence of a lot of water also made for some beautiful scenery and there were several crossings and viewpoints that enabled me to get some nice images.
We spent a lot of time near the camp, driving routes mainly along the river and Engelhard Dam. There is a really nice bird hide in the area as well, but unfortunately there weren’t too many opportunities for us there on this occasion. (Hides are always great places to spend hours in the relative cool and focusing on birds and/or other aquatic life.)
Our last day in Kruger was spent at the Olifants Rest camp and thankfully the land was drenched in some much needed water, so much so, that all the rivers in the vicinity were flowing incredibly strongly and many river roads were closed to the public. It looked like a pretty dismal day to be honest, but by the afternoon the clouds had dissipated, the waters receded and we experienced a magical sunset overlooking the Olifants River valley.
It was another great trip to one of my favourite wildlife destinations and a very rewarding one photographically speaking, most of which was made possible due to the lens and camera combinations. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I’m already planning the next trip for a little later this year…
I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the images above and I hope to bring you some more very soon from my home, Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, in the coming weeks.
Blog and images by:
Mike Palmer (Assistant Head Ranger at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve)