Seeing South Africa’s Kruger National Park through the eyes of a film-maker
In this four-part series, we asked the director of our Titan Travel films, Mark Hughes from Spellbound Pictures, to tell us what it was like filming in some of the most fascinating places in the world. As well as that, he is passing on insights from his keen eye to give novices and photo-fanatics alike some advice on taking better snaps.
This time around, we’re talking about the stunning Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Hi Mark, tell us a little bit about the crew at Spellbound?
There’s three of us. Charles, who works with me, and then we take Roman along; he’s our work experience guy. Roman thinks all his Christmases have come at once. He is only 20 years old, but he’s seen some incredible places. He didn’t go to the Portugal trip but has been on every one since. I knew his course director at college and said I needed another pair of hands; he said ‘take Roman; he’s by far our best’.
What made Kruger National Park your highlight of the Sensational South Africa tour?
I think from a landscape point of view, South Africa was my favourite tour. For me, going to Kruger and being on safari was phenomenal, because I’d never done anything like it before.
What was it like to film all those amazing animals?
We were in the jeep for 6 am, so it was an early start. What I hadn’t quite appreciated was the excitement of traveling around within the park, just to find them; but we had a brilliant guide, Roxie, who was so on the pulse.
For example, we saw a giraffe, and it was staring at this one place, and Roxie said ‘that probably means one of the big cats will be lurking around there’. So we’d drive up to see him, and over the radio we could hear, ‘We’ve seen a lion! A lion! A lion!’, so we’d turn around and try to find it.
What animals did you manage to capture in the end?
We were concentrating on finding the ‘big five’ (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and white/black rhinoceros), and we managed it within the first few hours. We were quite lucky to find two leopards.
What was the best part of being on safari?
Experiencing the safari at night was just brilliant. The night safari is an optional excursion as part of the tour. It leaves the park at sunset, which is generally a very good time to film. At that time of night, the light is low and the colours in the sky really stand out. Wherever you point the camera, things will look great.
What about when the sun goes down?
Our equipment works when there is pretty much no light thanks to camera technology. It isn’t a massive issue for us, we just had to adjust the setting a little bit and take the right lenses. We also brought a spotlight and torches and stuff. As long as you can see it with a human eye, then the camera can see it as well.
Were the tour group taking photos, too?
Yeah, that’s a common thread through all of the filming we’ve done – it’s obvious that the people on tour genuinely love photography. Certainly, it seems to be apparent among people that are passionate about travel. It is a massive part of the Titan experience – they all bring cameras, and try and capture the moments as they go along. For us it’s great, because we can help them to get the best shot and give them some advice.
What is your one piece of advice for taking great photos in Kruger?
For something like safari, you need a camera that can be instantly available. In that scenario, you have a split-second to get a shot before the animal disappears. You have to be sure your camera doesn’t take 20 seconds to start up. If you can get the shot, it’s amazing because you’ve managed to capture a fleeting moment in time. It’s a great feeling!
On behalf of Spellbound Pictures, we would like to extend our thanks to not only Titan, but also to Titan customers, for really embracing what we do and for being so charming and helpful.