While working the border between Tanzania and Kenya, I started photographing this bull that separated himself from the main herd. Using a telephoto to compress the distance a bit gave me the added safety distance that I needed. All in a days work I guess.
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
2014 SAFARI ALERT
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.
Heavy bamboo made getting a clear shoot of the fast moving monkeys one heck of a challenge.
Cheers and happy photo’ing
Elephants are one of my most favorite animals to photograph in Africa. I think it is a combination of their sheer size, their sense of family, and the efforts that they go to in protection their young. More importantly is the needless killing over poaching for their ivory. With an estimated killing of more than 30 elephants per day (1), one has to wonder just how much longer we will be able to view these magnificent animals (2). With an estimated population of 70 – 80,000 free roaming elephants in Tanzaina, the government of Tanzaina is stepping up their efforts in combating poaching.
In the image below, a mother is protecting her exhausted calve after the young one finished playing near the side of the Tarangire River. Almost always, the mother places herself in front of the her young, often with only the shape of the young ones partially visible to photograph. I consider myself lucky to have captured this image.
Now for the bad news:
Cheers and I wish you happy photo’ing.
Taken last year along the Mara River from the Tanzania side, one brave soul makes the first jump into the river. Their pattern is simple; they know bad things can happen when they (wildebeest) get in the water, yet the rivers form a ‘must cross’ obstacle for them as they move to and from the grasslands between Kenya and Tanzania. Once one daring male makes the jump, the rest of the herd will instantly follow, regardless of the dangers. Reviewing this shot from last year, I recall how put our cameras down and watching in awe as hundreds of thousands crossed the river before our eyes. Yes, I can’t wait to see the river again in two weeks, give or take a day.
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?
Cheers and happy photo’ing
Every time I go on safari to Kenya or Tanzania I make a serious effort to spend some quality time with the Maasai, mostly the warriors. With just a little bit of coaxing and some good ‘ole southern charm, they will open up to you and before you know it, you will soon be learning all sorts of wonderful facts and folk lore about their way of life. For a quick and fun read giving you a glimpse into a young man’s transition from a Maasai child, to life in the western world, give Facing the Lion: Growing up Maasai on the African Savanna (National Geographic) by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton a read. It is a rather fast read however it is a truly amazing story about a boy growing up with his Maasai people in Kenya, and later – through incredible twists and turns in his life – comes to the United States for college, all the time never abandoning his African roots.
According to the Maasai, there is a reason why the sun is so bright, which they tell in the following folk tale:
Long ago the sun married the moon but one day they fought and the moon struck the sun on the head. Of course, the sun hit back, and damaged the moon. When they had finished fighting, the sun was so ashamed of his battered face that he became so dazzlingly bright that humans could not regard him without half-closing their eyes. The moon, however, was not in the least bit ashamed and anyone looking at her can clearly see that her mouth is cut and one of her eyes is missing.
On one of our last days with the dogs, we found them lounging around in a small open area surrounded by low brush and trees. I really wanted to walk away with a low angle shot of the dogs; sort of an image taken from a dog’s view. Steve Carey, our guide (AKA Wild Dog Man), mentioned that he thought I could get closer to the dogs by exiting the vehicle and maintaining a very low profile as I worked my way into the bush and to the edge of the clearing. When I asked Steve just how close he thought I could get, he simply answered ‘you will know’ – a man of few words, that Steve. We repositioned the truck to cover my dismount and down I went into the brush. Ouch, Ouch I thought as I crawled on my knees to a position just forward of the outermost tree, then it was down into a low crawl position. Between the pain of the sheeps’ head burs and the acacia thorns, I was in a great deal of pain with my every move and thought about just giving it up. As I made my way to the edge of the grass, I found myself concentrating on the dogs and their interaction with his 6.2 foot guy laying in front of them holding a really large camera and lens. The pain that was previously killing me, was no longer in my attention span. On several occasions the inquisitive young dogs would approach me to the point that they were outside of the minimum focus of the zoom that I was using. Below is one of the up close and personal shots of one of the dogs taken while in this position. I used a shallow f-stop in conjunction with minimum focus range in an attempt to blur theforeground grass that I was shooting through. Steve Kruger is in the background (in the truck) shooting me shooting the dogs. BTW, I was crawling on my stomach With a D3s -200-400 and a D3x – 70-200. What a load to crawl around with and maintain a low to the ground profile and not spook the dogs. It was another great day in the bush with the dogs.
I recently led a photo safari to the Lewa and Sossian areas, both in Kenya. Located in the the middle of literally nowhere with the nearest village some 2.5 hours drive from our camp, the Laikipia Conservation Area is the place to see and photograph wild dogs in Eastern Africa. Until some 4 or 5 years ago, the dogs were thought to be extinct in this region. Now a number of packs are making a wonderful come back in this conservation area. Under the back county guidance and expert tracking skills of Steve Carey, these dogs can be located and photographed (with some luck). Once located, the photography can range from easy to very challenging, all depending upon light and brush conditions. The dogs run or are active very early in the morning and again late afternoon, often after sundown. Every image has a story, so here is the story associated with the image below.
We had been tracking the dogs for two days, with little photographic opportunities. While we spotted them midday on day two, they had moved to a river bed far below our access road later in the afternoon, offering little chance of good a good photograph. We positioned ourselves along a road above the river bank so we could maintain visual contact. Our thought was that they would cross the road, either behind us or in front of us, as they began to move for the evening hunt. With any luck, we could reposition the truck to take advantage of their movement, all before the last light. With the sun now below the ridge line and only atmospheric reflected light, I knew any photos taken at this point would require a very high ISO if I had any hope of a capture. I let out a deep sigh after taking a meter reading off of some nearby grass. Ouch – an ISO of 12,800 might work if my shutter speed was low. Shooting with my Nikon 200-400 f/2.8 VR, I knew I would be facing a potential vibration or focus issues due to lens movement. A few minutes went by and suddenly the dogs sprang into action, heading up the hill. Within a minute, it begin to look like they would cross directly behind us. We decided to not move the truck, in hopes that the dogs might come to us. Shooting to the rear of the truck, a tripod would not work and would take more time to set up than I had. Here they come, and man were they moving fast. I now have only a few seconds to make an exposure decision and move into a shooting position. I fell over the spare tire and wedged myself between the spare and the side roll cage support for a shooting platform. As forcefully as I could, I crammed by arm and elbow into my chest and supported my 200-400 the best I could. As the last of the light left the road, two young dogs appeared on the road and walked directly toward us, as if they owned the truck. I was able to take two shots before the dogs spun around and disappeared into the grass and on up the hill. With the low light conditions that I was shooting in, I knew in my heart that the shots were going to be worthless and full of blur. When I looked at the images after I returned from the trip, I was very pleasantly surprised: tack sharp – and our first photo experience with the dogs. The remainder of the trip was filled with more imagery of the dogs and a truly unique experience. Thank you Steve Carey and my travel partner, Steve Kruger.
I’ve been very quite over the past 12 days, all do to the remote locations we we visiting. So I thought a fast update would be in order, as I sit in Zurich looking for that elusive United Airlines gate. At both locations, Lewa and Sosian, cell coverage and Internet was either non existent or so weak that it would not carry a data signal. This made updates from the field impossible, so you will have to hang on a few days for the stories and photos. For now, the rhinos of Lewav were impressive as was the varried landscape. Once found, the African Wild Dogs of Sosian were fabulous to photograph as a well as just watch the dynamics of the pack as they went about their business. So, give me a coulple of days to get my arms around the images and start processing.
More later and happy photo’ing
Sent from my iPad