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Penwarn Farm Lodge - A photographic Essay

In December 2023 I had the privilege of visiting Penwarn Farm Lodge for a time of birding. In December 2023, I visited Penwarn Farm Lodge for birdwatching. You can read more about my trip in this article:

I'll be sharing some bird photos I took there. The farm is not just great for birding but also stunning scenery, making it a dream for photographers. However, bad weather limited my photo opportunities during my stay.

I used a Canon EOS R7 with a Canon RF 600mm F11 IS STM lens. The R7's eye tracking is amazing, but I struggled with noise using the 600mm lens in bad weather. Despite the challenges, I'm getting better with this setup and seeing improvements in my photos.

I'll share five of the photos I took at Penwarn Farm and the thoughts behind them in this article. I'm not an expert, so I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments. I hope this post becomes a learning experience for both me and the readers.

  • Field of Dreams

I'll begin with my favorite photo from the trip. I've drawn a lot of inspiration from Richard Flack, an expert in what he calls habitat photography. The idea is not to isolate the bird but to include the habitat it's found in.

Penwarn Farm lies in the scenic Southern Drakensberg. I spotted a Secretarybird near the road and slowly moved alongside it until I could capture not only the bird but also its habitat. It seemed like a waste not to showcase the amazing environment where the bird was seen.

After much patience and climbing to different vantage points along the road, I captured this image of the iconic species in a field of yellow flowers against a misty mountain backdrop. I cropped the photo to show the bird small in the frame, allowing viewers to see both the bird and its habitat.

  • Rocky Mountain

A common bird on the farm is the Pied Starling, often overlooked by photographers. Yet, it's a stunning species! I managed to capture many photos during my time there, but they lacked a story.

One late afternoon, I spotted a Pied Starling sitting on a rock scattered across the rolling mountain grasslands. These rocks add another layer to the photo. Again, I aimed to capture the bird's habitat to tell a story. The challenge was to find the right crop. After trying at least five different ideas, I was satisfied. The soft afternoon sun captured not only the bird but also the details on the rock, despite using an F11 lens, I achieved a soft background.

  • As low as a man can go

Another common species found not only on the farm but also around many dams. The light was poor when I took this photo, so I had to work to get the colors right in the final edit.

What I like about this photo is the low angle. This is often a good approach when photographing water birds. When cropping, I aimed to retain elements such as the background and the reflection in front of the bird.

  • Here comes the showstopper

This photo was taken on a cold, rainy afternoon. I parked the car near a small pond where a mixed flock of birds was busy along the water's edge.

A Cape Weaver decided to do some yoga to end the day, stretching itself and providing a slightly different photo. Although I took many images of the bird that could fit into a bird photographic field guide, by waiting patiently, it did something a little different. This photo may not win any awards, but I was pleased with how it turned out, showcasing the stunning colors of this beautiful bird.

  • Winging it

A walk along the windy mountain path near my accommodation allowed me to spend time with a noisy flock of Wailing Cisticolas. As the rain started falling, they moved around me, calling to each other.

I like this photo because it transports me back to that cold, wet mountain pass. Looking at it, I can vividly recall the experience with at least four individuals. I can almost hear the bird calling as I see the cocked tail and open mouth in the photo.

Let me know in the comments what are your thoughts and suggestions. Which is your favourite image? What can I do to improve?

To discover more about Penwarn Farm Lodge, explore their profile on our accommodation directory at, or reach out to them via email at


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