Fishing against the odds

Fishing against the odds

Photographing for Kruger – Wildlife Icon of South Africa, the Van den Bergs were on a game drive between Skukuza and Tshokwane in the Kruger National Park – this time all in the same vehicle. It is quite a sight to see the three Van den Bergs in a car full to the doors with cameras and huge lenses. And although Heinrich as a kid grew up in a car full of lenses, both he and the lenses have grown significantly.

On that morning, they ended up next to a small muddy pond and spotted a fish-eagle sitting in a tree nearby.

And they thought: ‘Yes, sure, what are the chances?’ But sure enough, as soon as they stopped, the eagle took off, flew over the dam and attempted to catch a catfish. They all fumbled with their cameras and missed the shot. Fortunately, the fish-eagle also missed. 

Although there are numerous images of fish-eagles catching fish, almost none of them are of the bird catching a fish that is not baited. This was a fantastic opportunity to get the real thing, so the Van den Bergs waited.

The next time it took off, they were ready.

Heinrich was shooting with a 300mm f2.8 with a 1.4x tele-converter, connected to the then top-of the-range digital camera. He set his camera on Av to f4 and pushed up the ISO to 400. He activated all his auto focus points to make sure that the camera could track the flying eagle. Philip was shooting with the 600mm f4 supported on a bean bag, with the fastest focusing film camera ever made.

Ingrid had to do with arguably the slowest entry-level digital camera of all time, connected to an ancient 300mm f4 with a 1.4x tele-converter, shooting over Philip’s shoulder as she was sitting on the wrong side of the vehicle. She couldn’t push up her ISO, as her camera was not good with high ISO’s, so she had to settle for 100 ISO – the odds were seriously against her.

The fish-eagle swooped down seven more times, missing a fish every time and giving the Van den Bergs ample opportunity to practise. And then finally it made a catch.

And guess which one of the Van den Bergs got the image? Ingrid.


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