Interview with a Professional Wildlife Photographer

We are passionate about wildlife and recently we met someone that shared our enthusiasm – Professional Wildlife Photographer, Nelson Albarran.  We had the privilege to speak to him about his life and career.

Tell us more about yourself?

I’ve always had an immense interest in photography but only in 2008 decided to take the leap of faith into purchasing my first professional DSLR camera. My day to day work back then involved organizing incentive groups and inbound tourism into Southern Africa. Travelling to beautiful locations, meeting interesting people, visiting luxurious Game Lodges and experiencing incredible safari sightings is what inspired me to want to capture and share those moments.

With limited free time to attend a professional photography course, I initially learned the basics through reading, researching techniques, video tutorials and of course networking with other “togs”.  But in photography learning is never over and I’m constantly still learning, even after having attended various courses at ORMS Cape Town School of Photography, new techniques and equipment are emerging on practically a daily basis. Good camera technology has become far more accessible to the average user and competition is strong, but as they say, competition is good. It makes us strive to improve our skills. The beauty of photography is that once you have the basics right, you can then start to experiment, and this is when it becomes its own art form.

I believe that as a photographer, you are constantly seeing things from a totally different perspective, always looking for that award winning captured moment, that one photo that people will stand back and say “Wow”!! This challenge and constant learning are what drives me, and having people appreciate my art, is at the end of the day a truly special sensation.

What made you choose photography as a career?

My career originally started in Hospitality & Event Management, through this I was exposed to many beautiful game lodges & private game reserves with abundant animal sightings and it just felt like I was wasting away an opportunity by not capturing and sharing these moments.

Why are you interested in wildlife photography specifically?

I enjoy capturing both people and wildlife as each is individual and no moment or emotion can be exactly repeated. The uncertainty of wildlife is exhilarating, just when you think you have seen everything, something new happens, best you have your camera ready!

What do you find most challenging about being a wildlife photographer?

In Wildlife Photography, you need to be patient. You can drive around for hours at a time and not necessarily get the animal interaction right away or keep getting “rear end” shots. Many photos come out looking “similar” but it’s up to you as the photographer to try and look for the creative angles & unique moments.

Please describe one of your best moments as a wildlife photographer.

In 2009 I was featured on 8 pages in South African Airways “Sawubona” in-flight magazine. It was an amazing feeling to have my work recognized and exposed to over 600 000 viewers that month.  One of the main photos of that feature was a Leopard drinking water. This cat followed us around for about 45min. We kept losing her in the bushveld and before we knew it she was back again literally following us and very relaxed about the vehicle and our movements.  I have featured again in a few other publications shortly thereafter.

The interest in wildlife photography seems to be growing.  Why do you think that is?

People are starting to realize the importance of conservation in general with many hunting reserves realigning their business ethos with more eco-friendly tourism activities. People are becoming more “tuned-in” to nature and experiencing wildlife in their natural environment is a far better experience than seeing them in captivity. Sharing these moments via social media, on canvas prints or photo books is fast becoming the new trend.

Tell us about one of your favourite photography spots.

The Sabi Sands area has a remarkable number of Leopard sightings and that is due to its elusive nature my favorite animal to capture.

What advice would you give amateur photographers?

My advice would be to attend as many workshops as you can. Hands on learning from a tutor and your peers have a much faster growth curve than just trying things out on your own.

What is one of the most common mistakes wildlife photographers make?

Putting the camera away too soon. Some of my favorite images were shot in almost pure darkness with just the light spill from the ranger’s spotlight touching the animal.

Thank you Nelson, for sharing your passion with us!

Please join us for a Wildlife Photography Course hosted by Nelson Albarran at Wag n Bietjie Lodge in November 2017.

Rangers Report

Rangers Report at Wag-n-Bietjie Lodge

With the turning of the seasons and easter coming up, we are bringing you our second rangers report.

New arrivals.

We are happy to report that we were blessed with a lot of new arrivals. The Warthogs have a lot of newborns. The Springbuck are also dropping their lambs at the moment. Some lambs have just been born this past week while others are already strong and enjoying the warm autumn days.


The Giraffe calf, born on January is doing very well at the moment. She is almost as tall as her parents and still growing! We also saw a young Lechwe bull at the Lodge. 

New Kids on the Block.

We are also glad to have received new herds of Oryx, Sable bulls, and Roan bulls. They are all settled in by now, getting ready for the winter to come.

Winter is coming.

We are very thankful, that grass is abundant after the very good rains we had in the beginning of the year. The grass is beginning to turn to the rich golden colour of winter.

The weather is starting to turn as well, wich can not only be seen in the colour changes, but also in the daily routine of the animals.


We are also happy to report that the 300+ mm we had so far this season has broken the drought. As I am writing this, it is raining softly. In the past three days, we were blessed with almost 30 mm. As a result of this easter rain, the veldt will have enough energy to carry us through winter.

Scotty Smith is our Robin Hood of the Kalahari

The Northern Cape is known of its authentic beauty, rich culture and wide variety of wildlife. As part of this rich culture, one can find the colourful personality of Scotty Smith.

Robin Hood of the Kalahari – Scotty Smith

“WI L D E S T of all the reckless men who rode the Kalahari frontier was Scotty Smith. Every country has its Robin Hood, Dick Turpin or Captain Starlight – highwaymen of varying degrees of courtesy and crime. Scotty Smith was South Africa’s most notorious outlaw for many years, a legendary figure whose exploits live after him.” (Lawrence G. Green).

Scotty was born in 1845 as the illegitimate son of a nobleman. His real name was George St Leger Gordon Lennox, but this was however shortened to Scotty Smith. In all probability the compression of Scotty’s name happened between the taverns and gambling dens of the small towns in the Kalahari. His Scottish heritage might have had something to do with it too.

It seemed as if Scotty was a man of many talents, but not to be tamed. Educated as a veterinary surgeon, he went to Australia in search of gold, before he shipped to India to fight for the Brittish Government. He arrived in South Africa in 1877 as part of the Brittish army. He was however dismissed shortly thereafter, following a court martial.

Deciding that he needed a new personality, Scotty then took a fallen comrade’s papers to become “Smith”. It seems, as Scotty left his real name behind, he also left his will to be a lawful citizen behind. He got involved in gun-running, horse- and general theft, legal and illegal diamond buying and highway robberies. He even crossed borders and became involved in elephant hunting in the old Bechuanaland, now Botswana. What made Scotty famous was not the crimes in itself, but the fact that he was caught and sentenced several times, but always managed to escape at some point or another.

Acting also seemed to be part of his talent pool. After a particularly dodgy deal with diamonds, a search party was formed in Kimberley for his arrest. Scotty then decided to join the search party himself – effectively fooling everyone around him.

In true Robbin Hood fashion, Scotty also did some good deeds. From paying a poor farm wife an extreme amount of money for one night’s accommodation to sharing his spoils with the poor (on some occasions).

Scotty was finally captured and sentenced after a diamond theft went wrong. History has it that he was sentenced with 25 lashes and four years in prison, of which he only received one year imprisonment.

Scotty Smith spent his last years in Upington, farming on the banks of the Orange River. Whether all is rumour or truth, it contributed to the legend of Scotty Smith – the Robbin Hood of the Kalahari.


Time for self-reflection

The time for self-reflection has once again arrived.  Where one stands still long enough to ask important questions and more importantly, to answer those important questions.

Self-reflection is a way to dig deeper into your feelings and to find out why you were doing something specific.  Most importantly, self-reflection must guide us to new paths for the coming year.

“A man must find time for himself. Time is what we spend our lives with. If we are not careful we find others spending it for us. . . . It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, ‘Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?’ . . . If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one’s time—the stuff of life.”
― Carl Sandburg

Remembering the past

This year has been both an exciting year and a difficult year for everyone at Wag n Bietjie Lodge.  It is with sadness that we remember the serious accident of the owner of Wag ‘n Bietjie Lodge in May 2016 that left him seriously injured and hospitalized for weeks.  We are grateful to report that Wiaan has made a remarkable recovery that reflects the fighting spirit of his nature.  Emotions also ran high in May 2016 after a rhino poaching incident on the farm.

Functions and trends

Wag n Bietjie Lodge also experienced some great times with the hosting of the VIP Wintershoek Auction function at the lodge, as well as other functions.  Guests from all over the world visited the lodge.  This coming year Wag n Bietjie Lodge would like to follow the food and wine trends for 2017, so please watch this space!

New Years wishes

As the New Year approaches us with hopes anew, from everyone here at Wag n Bietjie Lodge, we wish you and your family a wonderful year ahead. Happy New Year!

The Lesser Kestrel of the Karoo

Each year thousands of Lesser Kestrels (Falco naumanni) migrate to Southern Africa, and the Karoo, during the summer months.  This article gives a brief overview of the description, behaviour and conservation status of these small falcons.  Lesser Kestrels come from the North (Russia, Siberia and Kazakhstan) and seek the warmth of Southern Africa when their breeding season is over.

Description and behaviour

The lesser kestrel can be described as small, with long pointed wings and a long tail marked with a black band at the end. They are inconspicuous raptors, not much larger than rock pigeons.   Males and females are distinguishable by colouring.  The females have buff, spotted markings, whilst their belly is pale.  The males have blue-grey feathers on the crown, rump, neck and tail and chestnut-coloured body feathers. Both males and females have white undersides to their wings, with black tips. The eye ring is bright yellow and the feet are yellow to orange.

Travelling in loose flocks of hundreds of birds, this sociable species will also roost together in trees, but migrate singly or in flocks of less than 50, at altitudes of around 2,000 metres. Once they arrive safely in South Africa, the kestrels moult all their feathers in symmetry, set by set. You’ll find them under the trees where they roost, worn to a nub after the long flight from the north.  These kestrels are quite apt at hunting and dives almost silently from a perch or from mid-air and pounces on prey with their claws, before swiftly killing its prey with a bite to the back of the head.

Conservation of the Lesser Kestrel

The decline of Lesser Kestrel was first brought to the attention of the raptor world in the early 1990s. Information available showed a decline of around 46% since the 1950s in their breeding grounds and of around 25% in their wintering areas.  The main cause of the decline of seemed to be habitat loss and degradation as a result of agricultural intensification, afforestation and urbanisation.  The breeding sites of the lesser kestrels are unfortunately not protected by law.  Research and management of the species and its habitat have been carried out in several countries.  Interventions mostly focussed on the construction of artificial nests, and research into factors limiting the kestrel’s survival and habitat management.



Tsessebe’s are Africa’s odd-looking, but fast moving antelope

Tsessebe’s are known to be rather odd looking and they are also considered to be the fastest antelope in Africa.


Tsessebe’s (Damaliscus Lunatus) are usually not recognised as one of the most attractive antelope in the wild.  This is mostly due to its forequarters being higher than their hind.  They come from the same families as the Hartebeest and the Wildebeest, that same these same characteristics.  Bulls are slightly larger than the cows, weighing approximately 140kg, to the cows 120kgs.  Both the bulls and the cow’s growths horn, although the bull’s horns are heavier.  Tsessebes horns are typically shaped in a “half-moon”.  It has a dark face, with a slight purplish sheen over its shoulders and a red-brown coat.


“Tsessebe are social animals and their basic group structure consists of small breeding groups, each comprising of six to ten cows with their offspring. Bachelor groups and territorial bull herds may sometimes number up to 30 strong. This is especially noticeable near water and favourable gazing. Breeding herds, that consists of cows, are not restricted to a specific territory. In areas where tsessebe occurs in higher densities, bulls establish typical ‘lek’ system territories. Young bulls form bachelor groups at the age of one year as they are pushed out of herds.” (


General facts

In general, Tsessebe’s are found in small herds in medium-length grass and they also prefer fresh growth and green grass stalks. In places where it has been recently burned, Tsessebe’s will often find the new grass springing up.  These antelope usually give birth during September up to November months to single calves, after a gestation period of seven months.    Tsessebes can run up to 60km/h, but they have, in addition, they have a peculiar habit of stopping to see how far away the perceived predator is.  Lastly, Tsessebes can live approximately 15 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.




Appreciating wildlife

The cheetah can reach a top speed of up to 100km/h and is, therefore, the fastest animal on earth.  Its conservation status is currently classified as vulnerable due to the loss of its habitat.  Interestingly enough, a cheetah uses their tails to steer them where they want to go.  If a cheetah is content, it tends to make the same purring sound as a house cat.