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 all three of us in a car full to the doors with cameras and huge lenses. And although I grew up in a car full of lenses, both the lenses and I have grown significantly since.
On that morning, we ended up next to a small muddy pond and spotted a fish-eagle sitting in a tree nearby. And we thought: ‘Yes, sure, what are the chances?’ But sure enough, as soon as we stopped, the eagle took off, flew over the dam and attempted to catch a catfish. We all fumbled with our 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, and so, we waited.
The next time it took off, we were ready. I was shooting with a 300mm f2.8 with a 1.4x tele-converter, connected to the then top-of-the-range digital camera. I set my camera on Av to f4 and pushed up the ISO to 400. I activated all my 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 make 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 ISOs, 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 us ample opportunity to practise. And then finally it made a catch.
And guess which one of the Van den Bergs got the image?