Nick Hiltermann, one of the owners of Tuli Safari Lodge, very sadly passed away recently. Amongst his many other attributes, Nick was a keen and accomplished photographer. Looking through the library of images Nick took at Tuli over the years, it’s clear that one particular tree – known simply as ‘Big Baobab’ – became iconic for him.
Always enthusiastic and generous in sharing his knowledge, Nick had kindly explained by email how he had captured this first stunning image …
“I had taken photos of this baobab silhouetted against great sunsets, and even with the stars appearing in-between the branches out of an inky blue night sky. On this evening, however, I decided to experiment with illuminating the tree with a spotlight.
With a wide angle lens zoomed to 14mm and the camera mounted close to the ground on a sturdy tripod, I attached a cable release to reduce the chance of camera shake. I chose to shoot on aperture priority and matrix metering, dialling in about one stop of underexposure as the sunset was fairly weak and I wanted to bring out whatever colour there was. I also set the white balance to cloudy in order to warm things up further.
As I had learned from previous experience that the autofocus tends to hunt when it starts getting dark, I focussed the camera early on using autofocus and then carefully switched to manual focus, thus locking that focus in place.
Knowing that some of the best sunset shots are taken well after the sun has disappeared I then sat down and had a beer!
Eventually it got dark enough to allow me to press the cable release and run back 20 metres to where I’d set up the spotlight. The spotlight ‘painted’ the tree before the shutter closed. I kept doing this whilst experimenting with the amount of light I was spraying at the tree, until it got so dark that I needed my torch to check my camera!
Of course, kneeling on the ground with my head over the camera eventually focused even my mind and I stole precautionary glances with sweeps of the torch behind me, as I have previously had close encounters with hyenas at this very spot.
This picture is one of those taken during this little experiment. It was interesting for me to note that the picture I chose was actually the last one taken at what was the darkest moment. The exposure was 30 seconds. I learned that the camera can still see the sunset well after we have decided that it is all over for the evening.
There may well be more effective ways in which to do this type of photography but life is a journey and there is a lot of fun to be had in simply having a go!”
The below celebration of baobabs is shared in his memory. Rest in peace, Nick.