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Cinematographer getting a PTC from the Spanish Presenter on the Zambian side of the mighty Zambezi.

I met Ant Elton (the owner and head guide of River Horse Safari’s) whilst anti poaching in Matusadona, Kariba through a mutual friend.  My camera is never far from So with this in mind I ended up on my first corporate job, paddling down the Zambezi with my Canon 7D in hand.  It was a three day shoot and we were accompanied by a Spanish film crew.

Waking up in the middle of the wilderness on the first day was fantastic.  I knew the images I wanted to capture before dawn and quickly set about getting my tripod together and after restarting the fire to make coffee set about getting my gear ready so I was ready for the moment before the sun presented itself.

The Spanish DP was up and about shortly after myself capturing a time lapse with his camera.  Slowly the camp came to life, coffee was made to help shake off the morning chill before camp was broken just after sunrise and we embarked on the first leg of our journey.

Ever aware that I was travelling just above the water line in a fibreglass object with all of my gear led to moments of anxiousness.  I told myself to trust my guide and his instincts, admit that control was out of my hands.  So sit back, enjoy and be ready for moments of action, which due to our proximity threatened to be explosive in nature.

One such moment which will remain etched in my mind forever was the moment where the Canadian canoe carrying the Spanish film crew was nearly upended by a hippo.  With the benefit of hindsight everything about this scene was leading to one end…

Picture the scene…

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Filming the elephants on the opposite bank. The presenter is sitting in front of the cameraman.

 

Four canoes’ slowly drifting down the Zambezi which is twisting and turning through the land…  The main guide was with me so that I could concentrate on capturing images as we drifted.  Drifint toward a pod of hippo the main guide began paddling so that we gave the pod a wide berth with instructions for the following canoes to follow our path exactly. The East African guide in the Spanish canoe seemed to know better and decided to cut across the path we had taken as it was shorter.

As well as paddling the guide was also doing a PTC (piece to camera) and the presenter, who knows nothing about the African bush was the only one taking in his surroundings…The next moment I heard an exclamation of surprise and looked back (unfortunately without looking through my lens) and registered that a bull hippo had come up under the canoe; lifted it a foot off the water whilst the camera man was now filming the hippo. Brilliant!  My first thought as a photojournalist was the footage!!  Wow. My next thought was that if the hippo tipped the canoe the footage would be damaged!  No!!!

The end result was the hippo taking off in one direction with frantic paddling from the East African guide towards us in a more circuitous route!  The $100 000.00 broadcast camera escaped, the film crew debussed into the kit boat with rather wobbly legs and decided to do their filming from there!  I ended up laughing my head off – a reflex action which I guess helps me cope with stressful situations.  But the footage survived and is was shown on Spanish TV…

Drifting past a small breeding herd on one of the prolific sandbars.

Drifting past as small breeding herd on one of the numerous banks of the Zambezi River.

 

 

 

 

One of the amazing attractions about the Lower Zambezi is the prolific sand bars which occur in the middle of the river and the possibility of finding abundant game who have swam across to get at the succulent grasses.

This allows the canoe’s to paddle very closely to the game, (at the guide’s discretion).

 

 

Canoe safari’s allow those interested in real adventure to travel up the small tributaries which would not be accessible by foot or by boat.

Travelling unhindered into areas where birds and crocodiles breed without upsetting the delicate balance with the noise of an engine.  The only sound is the tripping of your shutter and even that is an un natural sound in such a natural environment

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Canoe’s parked at dawn on the banks of the Zambezi River.

Camping on sandbars overnight is an amazing experience.  After paddling into the campsite at sunset and sitting around the fire with a cold drink in hand listening to each other’s highlights of the day and discussing the possibilities of tomorrow whilst waiting for your fresh bream to cook is an unforgettable experience.  A moment to be savoured and brought forth whilst sitting in your office at your desk editing the images of your once in a lifetime trip.