Rute Martins wasn’t sure if she got much of anything on her photo shoot at the Rietvlei Nature Preserve in South Africa that day. It was cloudy and she had parked her car on a bridge over a pond that she routinely visits to take pictures of wildlife in the preserve. She knew there was a Giant Kingfisher living there because of pictures she had seen others take, but she hadn’t witnessed it personally.
When it eventually appeared, she noted its every move, hoping for an interesting shot. For a long time, she saw nothing worth shooting. Suddenly, the Kingfisher dove into the pond water from above and came out with a fish in its mouth.
“Needless to say, I just pressed the shutter button,” said Martins. “All common sense of how to operate my camera went out the window, so I was quite excited to go home after that episode to see how my photos turned out.”
She was even more excited when she processed her photos. Despite lamenting that the low-light conditions meant she had to shoot at a high ISO, she got a wonderful image, which she was honored to have chosen as the Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day. She said the photo is a great demonstration of how the bird got its name. “And the message for other photographers,” she said, “is that patience pays off.”
Martins has always been interested in photography, but it was only recently that she became a pro. Five years ago, she decided to forgo a corporate job to pursue her passion full-time and was fortunate to have a family friend who mentored her. She shoots weddings, corporate and social events, and portraits on location, though with all the opportunities to shoot wildlife in South Africa, that is often the focus of her free time.
“Every opportunity I get, I try and get out into the open,” she said. Her favorite location for wildlife photography is Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Her foray into donating images to Wikimedia Commons came courtesy of her partner, who she said is very dedicated to Wikipedia and encouraged her to upload some of her photos there. She also said she thrives on the very positive feedback she gets from the Featured Picture process. “To have one of my photos selected out of a large number of submissions to Commons, makes me very proud and honored.”
One of her photos was even a finalist for Picture of the Year in 2010. Martins shot “Charging Leopard,” at left, in the Rhino and Lion Park, where they have a walk-through animal crèche with cheetah, leopard and jaguar cubs.
Martins noticed the cub was in a “playful mood” and was stalking other animals. She bided her time with her camera at the ready, until the cub eventually charged.
“It probably didn’t like the idea of me pointing this object at it,” said Martins. “My camera was ready and so was I, so once the cub started charging, I captured the shot.”
The trickiest part of the photo was shooting through the fence that separated Martins from the cat without getting any of the fencing in the image. Martins said she hoped the image conveyed how wild large cats are, even when they are young and in preserves.
As for future contributions, Martins said she was looking forward to Wiki Loves Monuments 2012. According to her, South African monuments are under-represented on Commons, a fact she hopes to help remedy this September.
(View more of Martins’ Commons photos.)
Story by Matthew Roth, Global Communications Manager
Reporting by Elaine Mao, Communications Intern