From The Crater to Gibb's Farm

Today we said farewell to our wonderful camp staff on the rim of the Crater and we began our journey to Gibbs Farm for our last night on our safari. We stopped on the way down at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area HQ for a quick refresher on a huge scale 3D topographical map. As I pointed our the highlights of our journey, it was a graphical reminder as to just how much distance we have covered on our adventure. At Gibbs Farm, I did a session on Lightroom and protecting your photos. As we sat on the veranda with wine in hand, I always like to go around the table letting the clients comments on their highlights of the trip. Some of the highlights for them included: The amount of wildlife, the landscapes, the elephants, the flamingos, and of course the lions. Last count, elephants and lions TNTC (to numerous to count), 3 leopards, 3 rhinos, hundreds of giraffes of all ages, a few million wildebeests, and zebras beyond counting.

Back at Gibb's Farm, I found myself in the bar teaching the guys how to make a Seattle Martini.  Rachel, the Chef, prepared a wonderful slow roasted lamb meal for us with all of the trimmings.  What a wonderful place to spend our last night in Africa.....simply lovely.

Blogging live from Gibb's Farm in Tanzania, Africa

Safari Update

From the Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Crater, here we come.

Today was our drive day as we moved from our camp in the Serengeti to our new home high on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater (7,800 feet). About half way to the Nobi Gate we ran into a huge line of wildebeets and zebras that had to extend for several miles, as it seemed to never end. With the line on the move, they provided us with some wonderful panning opportunities. Continuing our drive to the Crater, we arrived at my favorite Maasai village for an insight into the Maasai way of life. After visiting with the Maasai, I arranged for an impromptu portrait session with several of the warriors and women. If I recall the details correctly, they were ready to arrange a low cost marriage for me. Something like 200 cows would get me a Maasai bride – I took a pass. Tomorrow will be another early rise - off to the spend the day in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Blogging live from the Ngorongoro Crater.

Safari Update 1 June - Hippo time

Man-oh-man, up early again today, breaking camp at 0545. Our first objective was the hippo pool for a very early shoot. I wanted to give the clients a shot at photographing the hippos as they were retuning to the pool after a full night of grazing as well as taking advantage of very low lighting angles. It is during this period when most fights break out as everyone tries to get the best spot in the pool. We continued onward to the Massai Kopjes in hopes of finding the lions again. This time all of the lions were together, still looking well fed. As we continued toward the Research Area, we hit massive herds of zebras and wildebeests, many in a single file march as they continued north toward the rains and Kenya. Again, the cloud formations were just wonderful. As we bring the night to a close, it was lamb with mint sauce, broccoli, squash, potatoes, and a green salad with a lime tart to finish off with – there goes the weight. One interesting thing this safari, is the tall grasses. This is causing a change in the animal behavior such as numerous lions in trees. Lake Manyara, just outside of the park, is well known for its tree climbing lions however, seeing all of these lions in tree after tree in the Serengeti has been a new experience for me.

- Blogging Live from the Serengeti - 

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

June Safari Update – Day 7

June Safari Update – Day 7
June 7, 2014

We broke camp today just as the sun started coming through the clouds. Our home for four nights, Robanda Camp and the wonderful staff, coupled with an incredible location and stunning views, was simply hard to leave.  Bidding our farewells to the staff, we were off to the Ngorongoro Crater and our next chapter of our safari.  Driving through the Serengeti, the Wildebeest population exploded all around us. With three days of heavy rains, we saw first hand, the explosion of fresh green grass shoots. Following a very dry spring, this was just what the animals needed.  We stopped briefly at Nobi Gate to take in a killer view of the endless plains of the Serengeti.  As we said so long to the Serengeti, we headed for an educational stop at Oldupai Gorge where we learned all about the archeological significance of this site.  After lunch we were off the the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.  On the way to our camp, we paused at a local Maasai Village for a bit of an education on how the Maasai live.  At the end of the village visit, I gathered up several of the Maasai warriors as models for some instructions on field portraits.  Lessons that we covered at this location included how to keep the distant horizons from going directly through the head and or necks of the warriors as well as how to balance your exposures between the sky and the dark skin color of the warriors.

Randy giving Don some recommendations on framing the photograph.  Photo by Jeff Paradiso

After a wonderful meal at our campsite located on the rim of the crater, it was time for bed in prep for an early rise tomorrow as we explore the Ngorongoro Crater for the entire day.

Cheers and happy photo’ing

Live Blogging from the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater made possible by XCOM GLOBAL International.

June Safari Update – Day 6

June Safari Update – Day 6
June 6, 2014

Having weathered two days of rain and two nights of heavy storms, the weather gave us a wonderful break today. Departing the camp, it was a wonderful sunrise with wildebeests everywhere. As we made our way to the Ikoma Gate, the animals were on the move to the areas that were freshly burnt (controlled burning) in hunt of fresh green growth that the rains will bring.

The clouds were simply incredible as we drove toward the central Serengeti. I borrowed an IR camera from Jeff and took a few landscapes along the way. Our treats today included more lions, another Cheetah, and on the way back to camp, two of the rigs photographed a number of lions with 12 cubs, all out in the open playing and having a great time.  At this point, we have given up counting our cat sightings -  too many to count.

I returned back to camp early so Jeff and I could use the drone to do some camp fly-bys and some overhead wildebeest shots for use in a future movie. More to follow on this effort, so keep an eye out.

Tomorrow it is a bit of a road trip as we head to the Ngorongoro Crater.

Canon EOS 50D (converted to IR), 24mm, ISO 400, 1/800 at f/8.0

Cheers and happy photo’ing

Live Blogging from the Serengeti made possible by XCOM GLOBAL International.

Wheels Up – June Safari

In Washington DC heading for Tanzania via Dubai.  As I write this the great herds of the migration are on the move.  With below average rainfall than normal across the Serengeti, the herds (as of today), have moved from the location showed below to a position more easterly position along the Grumeti  River.  This will likely present us with some wonderful and active cat action.

Thanks to the wonderful folks at XCom Global, I will be blogging live from the bush so watch for daily updates.

Let’s go on Safari.

Cheers and happy photo’ing

Safari Update – Day 2 – 18 Feb 2014

NOTE:  Communication Error.  As hard as I tried to blog live from the bush, the guys that live in the cell towers just would not let it happen.  While my XCom Global device could see the towers, there was never a connection that would allow for live blogging, other than the one hit I had on the floor of the crater.  As  result, I will be playing catch up with daily summaries upon my return.  In hind site, I’m sort of glad this happened.  Rather than spending time in the camera tent working up images for the next daily posting, I found myself sitting around the campfire or in the lounge tent hang’in out with my clients.

Safari Day 2
18 Feb 2014
Ngorongoro Crater
0600, 60 F Cloudy skies, burning off by mid morning with showers in the afternoon

Early to rise with excitement in the air as we prepared to descend into the crater floor shortly after sunrise. As always the descent was magical and the game viewing an eye-opener for everyone. 9 Black Rhinos, multiple female lions with three different litters of cubs, and of course the giant bull elephants in the distance. A field lunch was served near the hippo pool and photography was the buzz of the meal. Later in the afternoon a storm system blew through parts of the crater driving many of the visitors to leave early. We of course, stayed for the entire day and found additional lions and numerous zebras fighting. Before we knew it, we were heading back to our camp with lots of photographs and stories of our wildlife viewing.

For some reason, seeing the Maasai Warriors using cell phones and digital cameras makes me smile. Some sort of ying and yang thing I guess or maybe it is the old world meeting the new. This Warrior picked up a camera and used it like a pro.

The rolling hills on the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater change as the light changes. From deep shadows to highlights on the ridge line, they are a light show all unto themselves.

As with all evening meals, we go around the table with everyone recounting their personal highlights from the day. Tonight the table talk was all about first contact with the wildlife and the incredible scenery and the first lion sighting along with the 9 Rhinos.

Cheers and happy photo’ing

Rwanda Day 3 – 5 January 2014

Mostly clear with large cloud banks largely surrounding the mountains,
60 degrees F @ 0600, warming than previous mornings due to the cloud cover throughout the night.

Today was another lengthy hike, with mud like I have not seen before.  Our goal today was the Umubano Group.  Last year this Group had three silver backs when I visited them; however, this year only two remained as the third had died of old age. I was looking forward to seeing them again, as I had heard of another small baby in the in the group.

Upon contact, we saw a baby ( some 8-9 months old) with only one foot. According to the Ranger, its’ mother and another female were fighting over the baby resulting in the baby’s foot being pulled off during early stages of infancy. Watching the baby get around today, it was obvious that she had adapted well and was totally capable of keeping up with the other gorillas in her group and was unaware that she lacked an appendage.

In doing research on the gorillas, I recall reading that they would not drink from standing water, taking all of their water from plants.  According to the literature, the gorillas would see their reflection in the standing water and it would case a bit of a scare or they would become inquisitive about this other gorilla in front of them (their reflection).  Today, I witnessed this as we watched a young gorilla play with his reflection in a small mud puddle.

Charles, the senior Silver Back of the Group (distinguishable by the red hair on his brow).
Nikon, D4, 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 155, ISO 1250, 1/200 sec at f/5.6  Auto ISO, Altitude 9199 Feet.  This image was taken here.

Nikon D4, 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200, ISO 800, 1/125 sec at f/4.5 Auto IS

We took it easy during the after noon and as luck would have it, the skies opened up and we were treated to one heck of an African rain storm. Lasting only for an hour, it was a solemn reminded of just how hard it can rain in this area and how the mountains surrounding us, make their own weather.

Cheers and happy photoing.

Blogging from the mountain tops of the Volcanoes National Park – brought to you byXCom Global. For Global WIFI solutions, even in remote locations, I turn to XCom Global to stay connected.

Rwanda and Mountain Gorillas – Here We Come

After a very long night fighting a hard drive failure on my main computer, I’m off to Rwanda with a quick stop in Dubai.  As far as the computer is concerned, I am very thankful that I was able to do a full system resort from my most recent backup.  After all of the traumatic  starts and stops, I finally diagnosed the problem as a hard drive starting to fail.  I had SMART monitoring enabled but it did not catch the start of the failure. Backups saved me this time.

For this trip to photograph the Gorillas, I will be going very light with only two camera and two lenses.  Do to the low light conditions I will be working in, I selected my Nikon D4 and my D3s as the bodies.  For the glass, the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 and the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 will round out the kit.  I will be using a double camera strap by Black Rapid.  Having shot the Gorillas before, I will be making use of the auto-ISO feature on the bodies to keep my shutter speed high enough to avoid camera shake.

I’ll be blogging live from Rwanda thanks to the wonderful folks at XComGlobal.  XComGlobal offers WiFi internet access in more than 175 countieis worldwide.

Cheers and happy photo’ing.