I’ve had 3 weekends of hectic hospitality looking after the Soccer World Cup visitors staying at the lodge which belongs to my in-laws. This was my contribution to our country and the World Cup – we had a blast but I’m still considering it tougher than my day job. On the 16th the family and I took a breather to the Pilanesberg, a stones throw from Rustenburg. We had an excellent day but nature photography and kids don’t go together. I was so exited by the caracal and some of the African spoonbill photos that I immediately started devising a plan to get there again. During the week we had Peter and his girlfriend over for dinner. A plan was hatched and we were off – a bit early as we arrived before gates opened. We had a great morning spotting a new species – the brown hyena - before lunch.

We also got some amazing photos of birds during the day. I struggled a bit with the birds in flight, it is a learning experience I’ll get there. Only way to improve is to get out and practice!

Throughout my life I have always been close to nature, maybe not in the bush often enough. In all my years I have never seen a wild leopard. This day in Pilanesberg I thought i had a good opportunity but then we got so involved with the birds I forgot about leopards. By the time we had to leave to get the gate open the light was gone , huge shadows cast by the remnants of the volcanic crater reduced the light further. We were driving back to the gate and had the car lights on. We drove past a spot called “red rocks” and in the fading twilight I spotted something on the huge rock. I got my binoculars out and it was a big male leopard. The light was gone but luckily I had a pre-programmed setting on my camera for moments like these, to get as much light in as possible. Cranking the sensitivity of the sensor up to ISO 1250 was the only unused variable on my camera. This is not ideal nor is it the maximum on the Canon 40D, but seemed to be the best for useable results. It still delivered shutterspeeds way too slow for a sharp image.

I took photos of the leopard on the rock but through the magnification of the lens (almost similar to a 8X binocular) noted a metal rod infront of it. I thought I was stuck with that image of a leopard with man made product. My luck improved the leopard got up and started to move up the rocks and I got this image of it jumping a good 2 meters effortlessly. Afterwards while assesing my images on computer I thought I lost out on something decent. I then realised this image has something different to the pure sharp well lit images we always see - looks like an oil painting to me and without any Photoshop editing required. Seems God smiled on me and painted this.