Photo of the Week – FULL CHARGE

Every once in a while, I find myself in a position to capture the charge of a bull elephant.  Kelio, my long time guide in Tanzania, tells me that the bulls will make three mock charges.  The forth one is for real, and they will be coming thru your window.  Fortunately, the expert guides at Thomsons Safaris are keenly aware of the conditions that surround them and would never let any dangerous situation arise.  As much as I would like to tell you that this bull stopped only inches from our Land Rover,  it was all possible due to a telephoto lens.  Using a telephoto lens, you can compress distance a great deal.  As with this image, I was able to compress the distance between me and the elephant in such a manner that it appears like he was right on top of me.  In reality, we were safely tucked inside of our Land Rovers and at an appropriate distance…..the miracles of telephoto glass.  To get up close and personal with the wildlife, consider joining me on one of my photo safaris.

Nikon D3, 200-400 f/2.8 @ 400mm, ISO 500, f/8 at 1/400 sec

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!

Photo of the Week

The Treasury as seen from the Siq

Nikon D70, 12-24mm, December 2004


Petra is the treasure of ancient world, hidden behind an almost impenetrable barrier of rugged mountains, boasting incomparable scenes that make it the most majestic and imposing ancient site still-standing nowadays.

Petra is considered the most famous and gorgeous site in Jordan located about 262 km south of Amman and 133 km north of Aqaba. It is the legacy of the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled in southern Jordan more than 2000 years ago. Admired then for its refined culture, massive architecture and ingenious complex of dams and water channels, Petra is now a UNESCO world heritage site and one of The New 7 Wonders of the World.

The approach through a kilometer long, cool, and gloom chasm (or Siq) a long narrow gorge whose steeply rising sides all but obliterate the sun, provides a dramatic contrast with the magic to come. Suddenly the gorge opens into a natural square dominated by Petra’s most famous monument, The Treasury (El-Khazneh), whose intricately carved facade glows in the dazzling sun.

More facades beckon the visitor on until the ancient city gradually unfolds, one monument leading to the next for kilometer after kilometer. The sheer size of the city and the quality of beautifully carved facades is staggering and leads one to reflect on the creativity and industry of the Nabataeans who made Petra their capital.

For me, Petra was breathtaking, and I will never forget my initial reaction as The Treasury came into view from the Siq.  I hope to return soon with better camera equipment than I had in 2004.


Photo of the Week

The Sands of Namibia

Nikon D300, 17-55 @ 17mm, ISO 200, f10 at 1/160 sec

Deep in the sand dunes of Namibia, I was presented with a rolling light show of highlights and shadows as the sun rose from my left.  With the camera having significantly less dynamic range than the human eye, it is always a challenge to record an image that depicts, as close as possible, the scene as it was seen by the eye.  As many of you know, I am a technical shooter.  Shooting in the deserts of Namibia was truly a personal and technical challenge for me which resulting in pushing my photography skills to a new level.  Amidst a sea of sand, I worked hard to incorporate an artistic approach in many of my images.  I found myself paying a great deal of attention to lines, shapes, highlights and shadows to tell the image story.  Thanks to JP Caponigro and Andy Biggs for pushing me into this artistic journey!

This image is a good example of the use of hyperfocal distance knowledge to achieve the desired zone of focus.    Using hyperfocal tables, I was able to determine that focusing on the sand, 10 ft in front of me, the hyperfocal distance would be 5.37 feet (using f10 and the D300 at 17mm), resulting in a near focus limit of 3.48 feet and a far focus limit of infinity.  After determining these values, I simply reset the focus to 5 feet and shot.  To make all of this easier, I now use an iPod for my hyperfocal distance calculations rather than lugging around 10 pages of tables.  Thank you Mr. Apple.

Cheers and happy photo’ing

Photo of the Week

Mountain Goat, Mt. Evans, Colorado @ 14,130 feet

September 2006, Nikon D2x, 200-400VR, @240mm, ISO 100, f8.5


Shooting above 14,000 feet, I thought I was going to die.  Knowing that I was not in shape for this final climb to get to the goats and already feeling the thin air,  I took only one camera and lens with no tripod, plus my GPS.  I took my clothes down to hiking shorts, knee pads, and a tee shirt and windbreaker on top (plus my hiking boots of course).  I was able to snap only a few shots before I really started getting light headed.  Rocks were used as the shooting platform for my 200-400, because I had no energy to hand hold the beast.  What amazed me was the how approachable the goats were and the intensity of the clear blue sky.  Ok, the thin air really did kick my butt – I’m seriously working on getting into better shape so I can do this again!

Happy photo’ing

Photo of the Week

Namibia Sunrise

May 2009, Nikon D300, 17-55mm f2.8@ 55, ISO 500, f11 at 1/50 sec, -1/2 EV

Metered slightly below the horizon in spot metering mode


As sunlight started across the distance mountain range, I hiked up a nearby rock outcroping some 500 feet above the valley floor to get this image.  The clouds were simply spectactular as the moved across the desert sky.  After shooting about 6 frames (I don’t recall even checking the histogram), I put the camera down and just took in the view of the entire valley.  As I watch the rising sunlight dance across the valley floor, I realized just how lucky I was travel to places like this – to see and photograph things  and places that others seldom get a chance to see or even hear about.

Cheers and happy photo’ing