Hannes Lochner, our 2021 Photographer of the Year, shares a selection of his favourite images.
This National Geographic Cover of Luna is one of my favourites. My wife Noa and I followed her for two and a half years. To work so hard and be rewarded with a National Geographic cover four years later was very satisfying after our time and effort.
After a good meal, a Cape cobra came down from a sociable weaver nest in which it was looking for chicks. The leopard, meanwhile, wanted to return to the springbok he had stashed on top of the nest. The cat and the snake stared at each other for a few seconds before deciding a conflict wasn’t worth it. The snake went up, and the leopard lay down again. This photo is where my career started – where I decided to become a full-time photographer. I love images that tell stories. And this is one of them.
I have spent nearly five years perfecting this remote wireless technology to photograph intimate portraits of wild African animals (at night predominantly). In the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa, I set up a camera near a waterhole, hiding it from lions especially – their playful ways can cause damage! I was settled in my vehicle just as the sun set, the dust in the air creating a special kind of Kalahari light. A pride of lions arrived, and by repeatedly clicking the shutter, I coaxed the ever-curious cubs forward. This bold individual gazed into the lens as it sniffed the strange object. All the camera settings were on manual, and I had pre-focused. I just hoped I had judged the lighting and angle correctly.
A lion cub tries to nudge dad, but the male is grumpy. At the click of the shutter, a fly passes through the focus point and the pupil of the eye. The blunt teeth indicate an old male – but clearly, one still to be feared. Cubs always tread lightly around the males, weary of a swipe. This is my Africa Geographic 2021 Photographer of the Year winning image.
A different image altogether. I overexposed and blew out all the detail in the background. I love the simplicity. The star is actually the little oxpecker!
One of my favourite sightings in Namibia recently was an albino black-backed jackal. Albinism is a congenital disorder that can be only be expressed if both parents carry the recessive albino gene.
This young male seemed blissfully unconcerned by the lightning and thunder rolling in across the Kalahari. I came across him stretched out next to the road. He raised his head to look at me a couple of times, but he wasn’t interested in either me or the dramatic goings-on behind him. I worked fast, framing the lion against the illuminated night sky at the moment a bolt of lightning flashed to the ground. Just after I took this picture, there were a few more lightning bolts, and then everything went still and dark again.
A lunar moth emerges from a mopane thicket and alights on an elephant. A harmless meeting of two different worlds.
After a massive fight between two hippo bulls, the older one succumbed to his wounds. The crocodiles took their share before the smell attracted some hyenas that dragged the carcass out of the water. They feasted for a while before two lions appeared on the other side of the river. The cats walked downstream, crossed where it was narrower and arrived at the carcass to chase the hyenas away. They feasted long into the morning. Every so often, the hippo responsible for the carcass walked out of the water and chased the lions off his victim for some strange reason. I tried to capture the whole scene, two lions feasting, hippo and the river in the background, all overhung by the Milky Way.
I love spending time with baboons; the bigger the group, the better. There is always something to photograph. I tested out the latest Sony 600mm lens with a 2x converter and was blown away by the sharpness. Monday blues for this baboon, after an evening of fermented marulas.
A leopard’s eyes reflect the moon in my 600mm lens. We waited until it rose over a dusty African plain in the Kalahari Desert. I shot images with different light sources from the side, front and back. But this one with just the reflections of my lens remains my favourite.
The last rays of the hot Kalahari sun caught the mane of this magnificent, black-maned lion. I purposely underexposed to make the sunlit areas stand out.
I was fortunate enough to be in a game reserve during the lockdown, staying in a house close to a small ravine. I set up a camera on a game path among some ruby gnidia flowers that had popped up after the first rains of the season. One of the tracks I saw had been made by a bushpig, a rarely seen nocturnal mammal that forages in leafy vegetation.
Photography is all about timing. A fly was irritating a meerkat while it looked out for danger. I snapped this image as he seemed to shield his eyes from the sun. Timing can change everything.
The Kalahari desert is a hot, harsh place, but the creatures that live there are experts at making the most of every opportunity. Rain had brought out a host of insects and, in turn, geckos looking for a meal. The Bibron’s thick-toed gecko is an acrobat, running, jumping and leaping from bush to bush to catch insects. They ran across our tent roof, leaping up to grab meals mid-air. After one such leap, this individual landed on a tumbleweed that was glowing in the light of the campfire. Gambling on capturing the Milky Way as a backdrop, I risked a long exposure. Using a soft flash to freeze the gecko as it paused, I captured the spiky reptile, the spiky seedpods and the stars.
A pack of African painted dogs tried to corner an impala against a crocodile and hippo infested river. The antelope took a leap of faith and jumped into a pool of hippos in an attempt to escape. Two hippos immediately swam towards the impala, flung it in the air, and then bounced on top of it. An hour earlier, a similar scene had played out with another impala. This one was luckier, though, and it escaped. Shocked but with only a small cut on its back.
Hannes uses Sonyalpha systems, and both Noa and Hannes use Cartoni camera supports for equipment support and Lacie tech drives for image and video storage. You can follow Hannes on Instagram or his website.
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