Wildlife Photography Defender – Defender of the Delta
Story: Patrick Cruywagen / Pictures: Hannes Lochner (extract from Land Rover monthly)
“To take his incredible wildlife and landscape images Hannes literally spends years with his subject”
Where did you find the Defender?
A friend of mine saw it for sale in Swakopmund, Namibia, for around £8000 at Dietmar Fleiss’ garage and so I went to have a look at it. It was his personal desert travel vehicle and I knew straight away that I wanted it. Maybe the fact that it had a galvanised chassis from a 1981 One Ten V8 had something to do with it? We had to convert it into a film vehicle and Dietmar did the conversion for me.
Tell us what he did?
As you can see from the pictures this is not a standard Defender, it’s about 10 cm wider on each side. Doing coffee table books is not a very lucrative business and so we had to watch our pennies with the conversion. We had to create something that was comfortable for working in as you have to spend every single day in it for years on end. While Dietmar’s Defender was desert orientated we needed something that would be comfortable in water, especially when we moved to the Delta. I changed the dust snorkel to one for water. Other major changes included: the opening in the roof, rooftop tent and the side panels which fold down. I need all round panoramic views for my photographic and Noa’s film work.
It’s basically a hard top but you can take the windows, panels and windscreen down or off. Once Dietmar had finished all the mechanical work we tackled the interior and built the cupboards that we needed. Seats were replaced with pelican cases or boxes plus mounts all round for the cameras. Now it’s the ultimate Defender wildlife filming and photographing vehicle.
Do you return to base camp each night?
We’ve spent lots of time shooting at hyena dens and will then just sleep in the roof top tent while on location. The reason for this is that you want to be there for the rare moments when the cubs come out of the den and so you have to be there all the time. It’s a stakeout of sorts really. We did the same when shooting leopard cubs in the Kalahari. While shooting in the Delta we spent several nights at an elephant carcass to see who would be coming to visit it. The smell was not great and it made sleeping hard. It’s not always pleasant being a wildlife photographer. Noah is just an extension of us and what we do. It’s our office and our world.
You’ve been living in the bush with your Defender for eight years now. What’s the best off-road tyres? In the Kalahari we used Bridgestone All-Terrains. They were not cheap and we lost loads of tyres.