2014 Wrap-Up and Adventure Summary

Ok, it’s time for the annual 2014 wrap up and a glimpse of what’s happening in 2015, so here we go.

2014 had me spending more time in Africa and on the road than I did at home, at least it seemed that way. The year kicked off in February with one of my favorite Thomson Safari adventures in Tanzania – the wildebeest calving. This time of the year is always an exciting because we are able to witness and photograph the births of literally thousands of newborn wildebeests. We also see the numerous predators that follow the herds of newborns and their parents, hoping for an easy meal.

Shortly thereafter I found myself in Namibia with Andy Biggs and Joshua Holko photographing the incredible landscapes in the oldest and tallest dunes in the world. This was my fourth trip to Namibia, and when it comes to desert landscapes, Namibia is absolutely numero uno! I will be returning in March 2015 to lead another Namibian landscape experience.

June found me back in Tanzania for the wildebeest rut safari, again with Thomson Safaris – and if you ask whether I like the calving more than the rutting, well, I just couldn’t say because both are incredible! With predators following the herds as they migrated across the plains to Kenya, we were afforded plenty of photographic opportunities then shared wonderful stories around the campfire as we recounted our daily adventures. I will be repeating this trip again in the May-June time frame of 2015.

August found me leading a photographic expedition to Iceland, the land of fire and ice. Trying to describe the landscapes of this island is simply beyond words. Check back after the first of the year for a new collection of photographs from this adventure. If Iceland is on your bucket list, I will be leading another expedition (or two) to Iceland in 2016 so stay tuned and let me know if you are interested.

In September I returned once again to Tanzania for the incredible great migration. During this trip we witnessed multiple wildebeest river crossings – always a spectacular event – and had numerous opportunities to photograph lions and leopards. The energy that surrounds the chaos of a river crossing must not be underestimated and it is one that must be experienced first-hand. As the wildebeest cross the Mara River, it is truly survival of the fittest as they face rapid river currents, angry hippos, and hungry crocodiles. Many of the wildebeests do not survive the mayhem.

October put me in Ethiopia photographing the tribes of the Omo Valley. This was one of the most humbling experiences of my photographic career because of the challenging roads, logistics, weather, and the people. However, I also am excited to repeat as soon as I can, so again, stay tuned. I can’t begin to describe what it was like to photograph these wonderful and caring tribal people of the Omo as they went about their daily lives. Being given unrestricted access to these people and invited to photograph and take part in their daily rituals made memories that will be with me for a long time. I can’t wait to return to work with these tribal members again, and I need to give special thanks to Piper MacKay for introducing me to these seldom-visited areas.

From October to late November I led two safaris into Botswana and co-led another safari with Grant Atkinson. As always, Eyes on Africa provided expert logistical support for two of the safaris and a new provider, Unlimited Safaris, provided the support for my first private camping safari. All three safaris produced wonderful photographic opportunities for leopards, lions and wild dogs. The highlights of these trips were seeing the gorgeous leopards and the packs of African Painted Dogs in full action as they hunted with the precision of a well-trained military unit. It was intense, high speed photography as we followed the dogs on chase after chase.

My third Botswana safari as co-leader with Grant Atkinson started in Maun with 17 of us taking a bush plane flight and landing at Nxabega. Our two days at Nxabega were filled with dogs and dogs and dogs. The African Painted Dog is a formidable killing machine. Usually hunting in both the morning and evening, they sport an 80 percent success rate in their chase to kill ratio. On our last morning before taking another bush flight to Sandibe, we witnessed the dogs make 7 antelope kills in 2 hours. They only missed once when they tried to chase a large kudu. I will be returning to Botswana next October for another photographic adventure sponsored by Muench Workshops.

A big highlight of the year was being invited to join the team of Muench Workshops, a small collection of very experienced professional photographers that lead workshops throughout the world. I think their tag line “one-of-a kind photography workshops at the coolest places on the planet” says it all. I am honored to be affiliated with David Muench, Mark Muench, and Andy Williams, and their wonderful team of photographers.

2015 will be another full year with highlights that include two safaris to Tanzania and Botswana, the landscapes of the Palouse, and the chimpanzees and mountain gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda. I also will be joining Joshua Holko in July as we journey far north into the Arctic to photograph polar bears. In addition, I am currently planning a very small expedition-type adventure into Ethiopia’s Omo Valley in November, once again to photograph the seldom-photographed Suri Tribe. Details and booking information on all of these trips can be found on my website blog. If you don’t see me leading a trip to an area that interests you, please drop me a line and I will share with you what I have planned for the future. Likewise, if you are interested in one of the trips that are fully booked, I will be happy to place you on a waiting list – you just never know.

As for equipment, I am still shooting Nikon and Hasselblad and recently invested in the Profoto B1 portable flash head for my work in Ethiopia. I also invested in the new Nikon 400 f/2.8 FL series lens and man, what a beauty it is!

Wishing you a healthy and prosperous 2015.

Randy Hanna

Join me on an adventure of a lifetime as we make incredible photographs along the way.

2015 Workshop / Travel Outlook –

Iceland – By Winter – February 11-18 (private safari)
Namibia – Overland Landscapes – March 12-22
Tasmania and New Zealand – April 2015 (Private Safari)
Tanzania – The Rut Migration – May 27-June 7
Washington State – Muench Workshops Landscapes of the Palouse – June 11-17 (limited openings)
Uganda and Rwanda – Chimpanzees and Mountain Gorillas – June 25 – 4 July 2015
Norway – Polar Bears – July 22 – 4 August
Botswana – Pure Botswana – September 2015 (FULLY BOOKED)
Tanzania – The Great Migration – September 19-30
Botswana – Muench Workshops Botswana Adventures – October 10-20
Ethiopia – Omo Valley Adventure Series – October – November (please inquire if interested – limited to 4 guests only)

2016 Teaser: Italy, Iceland plus many more.

Last Minute Opening for September 2014 Photo Safari

A last minute cancellation on my September photo safari to Tanzania has created an opening for a couple or two singles sharing.

Contact Andrew at Thomson Safaris (1-800-235-0289) if you are interested in joining me on a killer memory making adventure.

Cheers and happy photo’ing

Safari Update – Day 8 (3 Oct 2013)

Safari Update Day 8 (3 Oct 2013)
20 degrees C
Sunrise 0618, clear skies with clouds at the horizon.

Today was our full day in the Northern Serengeti.  We had heard of a female rhino and baby in the higher plains area as well as a leopard with cubs.  In talking with the guides from the previous trip (departing the day we arrived), they had not seen a wildeebest crossing at the Mara River, but had good luck with the rhino. With some wildebeests spotted on the far shore of the Mara River, I decided to position the team along the river and fore-go traveling into the plains.  In frustration, we watched the wildebeest herd build and build, running up and down the banks of the river.  With none of them interested in crossing, we decided to take a break for lunch under an acacia treat.  Man, I really wanted this to happen for my clients.

As we began our movement toward our camp, we saw it – the herd on the far side running a break neck speed toward one of the prime crossing points.  At this point, I knew it was going to happen and happen fast.  We took up a position behind some trees in an effort not to scare them away from the shore.  All of a sudden we heard the SPLASH and the crossing was on.  Zooming down to the banks of the river, we were treated to one of the wonders of the world – the great wildebeest migration river crossing of the Mara River.  Lasting only for 10 minutes, we had time to reposition the truck to photograph the crossing with both front lighting and back lighting conditions.  What a show of nature this was!  Following the crossing, we stopped along the way to knock out some landscapes and huge cloud formations.  On way back to camp we witnessed an overturned safari vehicle in the Mara river (not one of ours).  A solemn reminder of how critical it is to travel with experienced guides. I am blessed to have such guides in the Thomson Safari Team.    Another highlight as we closed the day was wishing Alan a happy 70th birthday, complete with a bush birthday cake and friendly dance from the camp staff.  Way to go Alan!  By the way, Rita’s birthday was the day after.  Thanks Rita for tolerating Alan after all of these years.  After the evening meal, a number of us gathered around the campfire to recount the stories of the trip.

A SPECIAL NOTE:  Over my years in working with the bush staff of Thompson Safaris, you come to know just about everyone involved in making our safaris special.  None could be more important than the unsung heroes of the kitchen, the chefs.  I come to know one of these heroes quite well over the years.  A quiet and hard working lady, Joyce was lady who had the gift of making a incredible meal out of very little – a true artist in the kitchen.    Every time I saw Joyce, we always exchanged small gifts with most of her gifts being hand made with Katherine in mind.  Her smile was simple but always genuine and gracious.  As we left the Crater heading to the Serengeti, I received word of her abrupt passing.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t say one word from the Crater to the the gate at the Serengeti as I reflected upon my days working with Joyce.  JOYCE, I will miss you and I know the entire Thompson Team will miss you as well.  Rest in peace JOYCE.

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

Africa in 6 Days

Yes, it is 6 days before wheels up and the start of another wonderful photo safari into Tanzania.  This Feb will bring a farily small but very focused group of photo safari enthusiasts to the wilds of Africa.  At this point I always start checking weather and migration status realizing that the rains in the the Serengeti will drive the herds in a variety of directions.  It is not uncommon for these herds to move some 30 miles or more per day to reach the fresh grass that is reach in nitrogen, which will spawn the brith of hundreds of thousands of young wildebeest.  From the current weather patterns, it looks like we will be right in the middle of the migration.  Seeing millions of Wildebeest across the Serengeti Plains is a sight that simply can not be  adequately described in words.

For a great summary of the migration check out WATCHwild.com.  This link presents a great annual summary along with a flash based interactive map of the migration path.

For now, I am busy doing some dry runs on packing and figuring out how to address the new bag restrictions associated with travel from Europe to the US (see previous post).  For the first time, I am seriously consdering checking my Nikon 600mm.  Not very happy about that, but I guess that is why I have insurance!  I am also in the final days of delivering a number of large high-res prints in support of a beauty salon in Seattle.  It has been a fun and challenging time in the studio and I continue to learn more and more about throwing light in the studio.

Looking at my safari schedule, I will have very limited email access so live postings will not be as frequent as usual.  Those of you that have my sat phone, use it if you need it.

With lots of personal events happening this past year, I intend to find time to do some personal reflection as I sit around the camp fire looking at the stars and pondering life.  Other than Namibia, I can think of no other place that I have been to that has clear skies and stars so bright that a flashlight is not needed during the night hours.  What a great place for reflection.

Cheers and happy Photo’ing