Blood Moon Over Montreal

I am not a night sky photographer but I thought it would be fun to try to photograph last night’s spectacular lunar eclipse.  There was quite a bit of light pollution where I was, including a street light off to the side of my balcony, but the skies were clear and the view of the blood moon over Montreal was spectacular. I had the Canon 100-400 F4-5.6 L ll with the 1.4x extender on the 5D Mlll. When it started to get a little darker I took the extender off to gather more light. By the final shots I was shooting at f5.6, 1/30 and ISO 3200. So, lots of noise. I did not want to risk any slower shutter speeds as the moon is moving and I felt I was risking some motion blur. Manual focus became more challenging as the shadow crossed the surface. It was lots of fun and worth the effort–can’t wait for the next one.

blood_moon_njwight blood_moon_njwight

Posted in wildlife

Happy World Rhino Day!

A Memorable Moment to Celebrate World Rhino Day

During a 2013 visit to South Africa I was blessed with several remarkable opportunities to photograph white rhinos. Given their solitary and secretive nature, they are not easily found, at times requiring some serious off-road searching. So that is just what we did at both Kirkmans Kamp and the award-winning Leadwood Lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve–a brilliant destination for Africa’s Big 5! The efforts paid off and over a five day period I photographed rhinos five different times. However, one sighting was uniquely memorable and serves as the celebratory subject for this World Rhino Day post.


Little Shrek in the Sabi Sands

It was on a very dull and damp afternoon game drive, sitting huddled, hands nestled in my armpits while stealing glimpses through the dense forest, that I thought I spotted a mother and baby rhino. They were across the river and their distinct gray forms stood out against the light sand. My ranger pulled up quickly, and, confirming my suspicions threw the truck into reverse looking for the nearest spot to pull a u-turn. We veered off-road and headed straight down a steep bank and into the river, water inches from my foot propped up on the doorjam. When we reached the sandy flats on the other side we pulled up just meters away from a four month old white rhinoceros who was doing his very best to nap in the sand. With Mom grazing closeby, the little guy was intent on catching a few winks…and might have succeeded if not for a persistent oxpecker searching out some tasty parasitic snacks. When the red-beaked bird started digging around in the little guy’s ear, he finally lifted his chin and gave his head a little shake. Those giant ears stood at attention–unusually tall, pointed, and slightly fringed around the edge–they quickly earned him the nickname Little Shrek! This was absolutely one of the most endearing little wild creatures I had ever seen and the 20 minutes I spent with him were pure joy.


Luckily for me, Little Shrek didn’t have much of a horn protruding forward. The light was low and I was looking to capture his entire body in focus, so depth of field could not be sacrificed. Shutter speeds had to be quite slow, so I was very glad this little guy was a little sleepy and slow. I was left pushing the ISO on the 5D Mlll to 2500, which ended up being quite workable with some noise filtering.

Young white rhino napping

Wanting to capture a different perspective and to get as low an angle as possible on his little prehistoric face, I wedged myself between the seats and stretched out on the floor, steadying the 400 F4 DO on the doorless opening of the Land Rover. Little Shrek, still new to the concept of a symbiotic relationship, endured the bouncing and digging oxpecker for about four more minutes before rousing himself to shake it off for good. Provoked from his nap he made his way back towards Mom to graze. Gaining confidence in her presence, he gave us a courageous mock charge–which was more like a delightful little happy dance–and then he had himself a little dinner.


The Happy Dance!

After spending 20 minutes or so with the two of them, the light was almost gone and they were grazing towards the thickets, so we headed back to camp very happy to have seen this healthy youngster. To this day, it stands out as one of the most magical sightings I have had travelling in Africa. I am so grateful to have seen such a rare animal in such a relaxed moment and to have been able to sit quietly with him for such a long time. I often wonder if he is still alive and wandering the Sabi Sands. He would be almost two and a half years old now and just starting to live on his own.

Sadly, his chances of survival are not very good. The rhino numbers continue to plummet in South Africa, where almost 80% of the rhino population lives. 2014 was a record breaking year for poaching, with 1215 rhinos slaughtered. 2015 is not fairing much better and as of the end of August the death toll is at 749. (Save the Rhino)


I cannot imagine a world without these iconic creatures. And yet, this could happen–in my lifetime. The white rhinoceros is the second largest land mammal in the world–it is a symbol of wild Africa–and it is disappearing. If a safari is something you long to experience one day, I urge you not to wait. Go now. Go while elephants and rhinos still wander the plains.

Go…before it is too late.

To find out more about rhinos and how you can help keep them safe, visit the following organizations:

Save The Rhino

World Wildife Federation

African Wildlife Federation

For more of my rhino photography adventures, please read: World Rhino Day:Tales from a Photographer


Posted in wildlife Tagged , , , , , , |

World Lion Day: A Celebration of New Life!


Giving Thanks on World Lion Day

The killing of Cecil the lion has caused an uproar around the world as so many become aware of the tragic situation facing Africa’s biggest cat. Let us hope that Cecil’s death can bring change and help end the senseless slaughter of these majestic animals. In just over 50 years the lion population has plummeted from approximately 250,000 in 1975 to about 20,000 today. This leaves only 3,000 or so older breeding males–the prime target of trophy hunters–and the future of the lion populations. (See this national Geographic animation for an understanding of the rapid decline.) 

Just as poaching is decimating the elephant and rhino populations, so is it affecting the the big cats. According to CITIES, there were 6,652 lion trophies exported between 2000-2009 and ignorance surrounding the “medical” benefits of animal parts further fuels the black market trade. Loss of habitat and human-animal conflicts are on the rise. I would urge you to visit The Big Cat Initiative and learn  more about the challenges facing the lion population and how you can help.

I have had over 40 encounters photographing lions in Africa and this year, in honour of World Lion Day, I would like to celebrate all the new life–the lion cubs–the next generation of what hopefully can be a growing population of  panthera leo.


You never forget your first lion…

lionCub_snarl__Wight_IMG_2970In 2007 I made my first trip to Africa to safari in Tanzania. I also bought my first DSLR to take pictures along the way. Several things happened on that trip–we were stranded in the Serengetti due to out of season torrential rains, I fell in love with Africa, I discovered my love of photography and…I saw my very first lion cubs! We were staying in the Grumeti sector of the Serengeti with @ beyond and there was a small pride with five cubs. We watched for over an hour and I was taken with this little guy who was practising his best snarl.

I have been lucky to observe cubs in 5 of the 6 countries I have visited. I have seen cubs just over a week old and learning to use their paws and open their eyes, jumbles of youngsters and tangles of tawny fur tossing themselves this way and that, adolescents and sub-adults almost ready to strike out on their own. For the most part it has been joyful. However, nature poses some difficult challenges on young lives and I have sadly witnessed cubs in distress.

This is “Buddy” a young cub in the Okavango Delta in 2008. He had lost his paw in an altercation with a predator. He was a marvel to watch, tumbling with his two siblings and making his own way through the tall grass. But sadly, a week after we met, his Mom hid him and his siblings away while she went off to hunt. A nearby pride had made a kill close by and the cubs, likely lured by the smell of the meat, came out to investigate the remains. The lions returned to their kill and while the two other cubs managed to scatter back to safety, Buddy couldn’t get away fast enough and was killed. I was glad I had met him and he certainly struck me as a brave little soul.

worldLionDay_Wight__U7A5741I photographed this older cub in Laikipia, Kenya last year while staying at Kicheche Camps. Her markings were absolutely gorgeous with her spots still quite prominent. (You sometimes still see these spots, although faded, on sub-adults.) She had somehow managed to be separated from her family. She was a little thin and my ranger Andrew figured she had likely been on her own for a couple of days. As she wandered away calling to her pride I said a small prayer that she would find them before nightfall. On her own her future looked bleak as she would be easy prey for hyena.

The Charleston Lion Pride of Sabi Sands


Lions are the only cat that live in groups. A pride of lions can include up to three males, over a dozen lioness and all their offsprintg. A large pride could number 40 or so. These three are what remained of the Charleston Pride when I photographed them in the Sabi Sands at Kirkman’s Kamp in 2013. The two sub-adults were living alone with their aunt after their mother and several others were killed by a neighbouring pride when they were young cubs. (See Lions at Night for more.) The aunt did a formidable job raising them and keeping them safe after losing her sisters. Male lions will be fully grown at about three years old and will leave the pride to make out on their own. These two males, maybe 2+ years old, were preparing for the challenges ahead.



Healthy Cubs in the OMC

Last year I travelled to Kenya and was not disappointed with the young lion life I was able to photograph! These youngsters were all in the Olare Orok Conservancy on the Mara and I enjoyed the time I spent with them thanks to Patrick at Kicheche Bush Camp.

lionbrotherslionLove snooze_njwight

The Lion Cubs of the Mara North

But perhaps my very favourite lion sightings came last year at Alex Walker’s Ngare camp in the Mara North Conservancy. My guides introduced me to three different sets of cubs, all still living alone with Mom. These were all the youngest cubs I had yet to see! A lioness gives birth after about 110 days and she keeps her cubs separate from the pride for up to 6 weeks. Not even Dad is allowed to visit. The cubs I saw ranged in age from less than two weeks old to about 4 weeks old. I am really excited to be returning to Ngare Serian this fall and hope to photograph them again, re-united with the rest of thier family!

In celebration of World Lion Day, here are the lion cubs of the Mara North–long may they live!







Pantera leo evolved in Africa as long as 800,000 years ago. Can it really be that they will perish under our watch? I sincerely hope the tides will turn and humanity will realize the steep price we will pay if we allow these formidable carnivores–the apex predator on the African continent–to disappear.

I cannot imagine a world without them…

lionCubPortrait_MG_7280 (1)


For more lions…

World Lion Day: Long Live the King!

Lions at Night

A Pride of lions following the migration in Ndutu takes a nap…bellies full!

Lion portfolio.

Please consider signing up for NJ Wight’s Wild! Life


Posted in Africa, wildlife Tagged , , , , |

Tracking Leopards: What a Difference a Ranger Makes

roadtrip8BWight___MG_9873It is always a thrill to catch sight of a leopard in the wild. Two leopards, well, that’s sheer bush ecstasy! These felines are elusive loners and very independant, so finding them is quite difficult and tracking them, well, hang on to your hat. Their markings and stealth movements allow them to disappear in front of your very eyes. But if you have an experienced guide at the wheel, you might be in for quite a treat! And so it was for me last October while staying at Leadwood Lodge in the Sabi Sands, one of my favourite of & Beyond’s property’s.

I was guided by Mack, a very experienced and photography-savvy ranger and our talented tracker, who’s name I wish I could remember. Two things that make an enormous difference when you are in the bush searching for wildlife and unique photo opportunities–a knoweldgeable and respectuful ranger/tracker team and a reliable, well-tricked out Land Rover. The & Beyond folks tick both boxes.

Early on our second morning we came across this mother with her adolescent cub. As soon as we spotted them, they were on the move! Through thickets and tall grass, down raveens and around termite mounds, they slipped in and out of sight. Unbelieveably, Mack and our tracker stayed with them, which involved some serious off road manoeuvers.

roadtrip5BWight___MG_9890The cats moved through tall grass, the occassional tip of a tail or back of an ear bobbing up here and there, welcome landmarks in bad weather.  Finally they emmerged from the thickets into the open and once again we were able to track more closely as they followed the bend in the road in front of us.


roadtripBWight__0U7A0204But not for long! Into the grass and down the banks they went, forcing us to once again to take our search off-road, bouncing along over tree stumps and dried, dead thick bushes–with one happy photographer hanging on to a roll bar in one hand and a Canon 5D Mlll in the other!

roadtrip4BWight___MG_9901The guys were quick to respond and years of tracking these fabulous animals has provided keen insights into anticipating which way they might be heading. Mack powered forwards (as much as you can power forward in 3 feet of dead underbush and rock.) and moved the truck carefully through the fields, pulling a quick u-turn and magically emmerging back on the road–with the leopards walking towards us!!roadtrip9BWight__0U7A0176They kept moving forward, straight at the truck, disappearing through my minimum focus range. They barely gave us a look as they slipped by the open-sided vehicle. I resisted the urge to try to scratch some kitty ears as they silently wandered by.closeWight__0U7A0180


Finally, they made their way into a cool clearing and lay down to tumble together and enjoy some serious grooming. Leopard watching just does not get better than this!


This post was previously published last July.

Click here for Why I Love Africa

Check out the Big Cats Gallery and Lions at Night

Sign up to receive Wild! updates. Just enter your email in the little box on the right!
Please Promote Passion – share, like, tweet, pin, stumble…or do whatever it is you do!



Posted in Africa, wildlife Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |