Throw-Back Thursday

Taking you way back to 2009 in Kenya.  This image was taken at Mara Plains Camp next to the Masai Mara Park in Kenya.  Taken with a Nikon 400mm lens, it is a prime example of why I love long lenses for sunsets.  When we rounded the corner returning to camp we saw the huge sun setting.  We ran at full pace from the car park to the front of the camp for the shot.  During the final few shots, several wildebeests walked across the plains.  I am transported back to this wonderful place every time I look at this image.

Cheers and happy photo'ing

Rwanda and the Masai Mara – March 2014


As I write this, I’m off to Tanzania to lead another exciting photo safari / workshop featuring the RUT season and all of the crazy activities that go on during the period of RUT. I described the RUT to someone the other day as the “Serengeti being awash in a sea of testosterone, with all animals fully involved.”

Before I kick this safari off, I wanted to toss out a teaser for my March 2014 trip featuring the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda followed by several days in the wonderful Masai Mara. While I am still pulling together the final logistical details of the trip, I can share with you that we will have two full days of gorilla treking, one day of treking for the endangered Golden Monkeys, and 5 days in the Masai Mara Plains area of Kenya. The trip will be limited to 12 people and based on the interest that I have received, it will sell out fast. For those of you whom have already requested a spot on this trip, I have your name on the list and you will be the first contacted with final details.

Photographing and viewing the gorillas and monkeys, will a moving experience for all. For the photographers, it will be fast paced and some of the most technically challenging shooting that you will likely have ever undertaken. Between the complex light levels, constant motion, and thick vegetation; you will have your hands full I will be there with you to ensure you get the most out of this trip. After our daily treks, we will spend some time visiting local villages, markets, and doing some post processing or image review.

As far as the Masai Mara goes, it is a game rich area and full of action. The term sensory overload comes to mind when photographing in this incredible area. From the big five, to exhilarating cheetahs chases, we will likely see it all.

Nikon D4, 70-200mm f/2.8 @200mm, ISO 640, 1/125 sec at f/3.5, elevation 8497 ft.

Nikon D4,  70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 6400, 1/125 sec at f/5.6, elevation 8435 ft

Heavy bamboo made getting a clear shoot of the fast moving monkeys one heck of a challenge.

Cheers and happy photo’ing

River Crossing Time

I have been very blessed on my last three safaris to have seen and photographed river crossings along the Mara River.  All three crossings were differing in size, intensity, and actual location however, witnessing a crossing is still a bonus anyway you call it.  When one of my safaris ends up in the northern area, my senior guide and I start working the information network the day we arrive.  From this point on, we are in constant contact with other guides in the northern area keeping tabs on the wildebeest activity.  Once we arrive in the northern area, we always do our best to preposition ourselves for the best opportunity for viewing a crossing.  At the end of the day and with the best laid plans of mice and men, mother nature remains firmly in control and the crossing simply may or may not happen.  For our August safari, I briefed the clients the night before on what to except and warned them that this could turn out to be a hide and wait with the understanding that things simply might not happen.  We broke camp around 730 (really late for us) and started making our way along the banks of the Mara River.  Soon we were watching a large herd of wildebeest running along the opposite side of the river.  It was now up to us to guess which of the nine crossing locations they were likely to use.  Watching the herd behavior, Kelio and I settled on one location and instructed the other vehicles to conceal there positions to avoid spooking the animals.  Funny thing about these animals; while vehicles on the opposite side of the river from the herd could cause them to select another crossing point or abort the crossing all together, once they start across the river, nothing will stop them.  With one truck positioned high on the hill top as a lookout, the rest of us gathered behind a thicket of trees and scrub brush.  All of a sudden, I head a huge splash followed by the crack of the radio – “they are crossing”; then race to get to the edge of the river was on.  Funny thing, as I looked around some 15 other trucks were doing the same thing.  I felt like Mario Andriette for a moment as Kelio and the other guides raced to position our trucks for the best photographic positions.  As luck would have it, our efforts really paid off with a great crossing event.   As soon as the herd bolted into the river, the force of the current had them spread out into the classic “S” curve in no time flat.  Repositioning the truck allow me to capture the S curve, which had always eluded me before.

Nikon D3s, 200-400 f/4 @ 200, ISO 800, f/8.00 at 1/400 sec

Nikon D3s, 200-400 f/4 @ 200, ISO 800, f/9.00 at 1/400 sec

If you have Google Earth, these images were taken here.

Cheers and happy photo’ing


During one of my visits to the Serengeti and the Massai Mara Plains, I followed this large male lion around for a while.  While I was in hopes of getting an image with some really harsh back lighting, the sun and camera angles never really worked out.  Just before we decided to depart the area, he turned directly to me and presented me with a simple portrait. Back at the camera tent, I took a look at the image and suddenly I realized just how much pain this fellow must have been in.  Looking closely, you can see a massive amount of ticks on his face and those crazy fairly flies are biting his nose to the point that they are bringing blood.  All the time, he just sits there and takes it in stride.  And we think we have bad days?

Feb 2010  Nikon D300, 70-200mm f/2.8, ISO 250, 1/125 sec at f/10

Cheers and happy photo’ing

45 Days and Counting until Safari time.

It has been a cold snowy past week (actually last week) in the Seattle area.  On the heals of this, the 48 hour flu ht me right between the eyes, just as I was planning to travel to San Diego to do some nature photography.

On my mind these days is my next safari in March.  I’m leading a private safari focusing on Wild Dogs and Rhinos in Kenya.  Operating exclusively in private conversation areas, off-roading and foot tracking will be the order of the day as we strive for outstanding up close and personal photography of these wonderful subjects.  We will also be spending time with a local Samburu Village for some wonderful travel shots.  Below is a shot from my recent trip to the Mara Plains area.  Place this in Google Earth to see where the image was taken at:

1 24.12921S, 35 8.3947E , elev 5182ft.

Drinking in the Mara

Nikon D3s, 200-400 VR @ 200mm, ISO 320, f/8 at 1/320 sec


Cheers and happy photoing.

2014 Photo Safari Schedule

Safaris for 2014:
1. Rwanda – Gorillas in the Mist 1 Jan thru 8 Jan  DETAILS ARE POSTED HERE. Trip completed, full trip report in draft.
2. Tanzania – The Great Migration – Feb 15-25, 2014   TRIP IS FULL
3. Chile – Torres del Paine – March 2014,  Adventure Series Only*
4. Tanzania – The Great Rut – May 31 – June 10, 2014. Some openings remain.
5. Iceland – The Land of Fire and Ice – 10-19 Aug 2014 – DETAILS ARE POSTED HERE  Strictly limited to 8 participants, 4 openings.
6. Tanzania – Fall Migration – Sept 16-25, 2014 – DETAILS ARE POSTED HERE
7. Botswana – November 13-22, 2014 – DETAILS ARE POSTED HERE.

Looking forward to 2015:
Namibia – Landscapes of a Lifetime – April or May 2015- Details will be released in March of 2014.
Tanzania – The Great Rut
Tanzania – Fall Migration
Botswana – Adventure on the River
Lots More to Come So Stay Tuned.

*Adventure Series – Open only to previous clients and those who are willing to travel in conditions that require maximum flexibility as we explore new areas.

Shallow F-Stop Usage

I almost always shoot in aperture mode, as it allows me to control the depth of field or zone of focus.  I use this technique to control what the viewer “sees” in my photograph or to call attention to a particular part of the image or to isolate the primary image from the foreground or background.  Combing this technique with the image compression of a telephoto lens, one can really start to isolate the subject.   In the image below, I used a wide open aperture on a 200-400mm zoom set at 310mm and focused just in front of  of the cheetah.  Focusing in front of the Cheetah allowed me to keep the first cat in crisp focus while allowing the second cat (only three feet behind the first one) to go past soft focus and begin the transition into the blurred background.  The result is a tact sharp cat in the foreground with a pleasing out of focus background, yet showing enough detail in the second cat to maintain interest.  Having shot with the 200-400 for a number of years, I am pretty good at guessing the hyperfocal distances (I’ll save that topic for another post) within my normal shooting ranges.  Like most shots, when you take your time and make use of your knowledge, you will increase your chances of walking away with a solid image.

Outside of the Massai Mara Plains, two brothers on alert.

Nikon D3S, 200-400mm VRII, set at 310mm, 1/320 sec, f/5.0, matrix meeting, aperture priority

Cheers and happy photo’ ing.


Long Lenses for Landscapes?

You bet and it is one of my favorite landscape techniques.  In this particular photograph, we had just returned to Mara Plains Camp after spending the entire day on the Masai Mara Plains.  As we approached the camp, I noticed that big ole African sun about the break the cloud bank.  I yelled at everyone to bring their telephotos and pods and get to the front of the camp as fast as they could.  As everyone was setting up their tripods, I could be heard saying things like, shoot at f8 and ramp up your ISO to decrease the impacts of any shutter shake, turn off your VR, Auto ISO if you have it, as so on.  I ended up saying, the meter is stupid in these situations – just shoot this way, as I belted out the exposure recipe.

Technical notes to remember:  When facing the sun, ALWAYS shoot at f8 to get the round globe.  Anything other than f8, and you will end up with an oblong sun.  It will look sort of cool until you realize it is just not right.  Unless you have a VR lens that has a tripod mode, kick VR off.  Otherwise, the VR will fight the stability of the tripod.  Remember, in VR, the lens wants to detect motion to defeat it (yes, I know……).  If you have one, use a cable shutter release.

Three Wildebeest Crossing a Mara Sunset

Nikon D3s, 200-400 f/4.o at 400mm, f/8, ISO 200 at 1/125 sec,

tripod mounted.

If you have Google Earth, this image was taken HERE.

Cheers and don’t forget to use your longer lenses for landscapes!

Masai Mara Update 1

For the past four days, we have been deep in the Masai Mara at Mara Plains Camp. With intermittent internet connections, blog updates have not been possible until today. It is very late so I will post only this very short post. Over the past four days we photographed two large river crossings (Wildebeest), and several cats, to include an early morning chase and kill by a single female lion. We have now moved to Tortilis Camp next to Ambosili National Park, to photograph large elephant herds. So until my next posting, I leave you with this photograph of an intense river crossing. The sights and sounds of this event, simply cannot be described in words alone.

Wildebeest Crossing, Masai Mara, Kenya

Cheers and happy photo’ing

Masai Mara, Here We Come

After a brutal flight from Dubai to Nairobi aboard Emirates (the big guy does not do small seats very well), the three die-hard photographers will soon board our private charter flight taking us deep into the Masai Mara.  Rather than spending hours on the road, I selected a private charter option to maximize our shooting time on the ground.

I was excited to hear from the camp staff last night that large herds of Wildebeests are doing their river crossing activities.  With a little luck, I hope to put us right in the middle of the action.  For now, here is a graphic of what is going on (Source: Mara Bush Camp Migration Report):

Migration Report, 1 Aug 2010

For a generalized look at our first destination,   Mara Plains Camp, I have attached a map from their web site.  While at Mara Plains, I will find time to visit the Mara Bush Camp, which I will be using for my Kenya safari next year.  Off to the airport in about one hour, this will likely be my last posting for a while, unless I can catch a solid signal from the bush.

Mara Plains Camp Location