On My Way to Africa

Sitting here in lounge at Dubai after a lengthy and uneventful 20 hour ride from Seattle.  With a 12 hour layover, I will soon start my last push of two plane rides to my other office, Tanzania.  Although it has only been some three months since I was last there, it seems so long ago.  Sure am looking forward to seeing all of my friends and wonderful folks at Thomson Safaris and those lovely sights and sounds of Africa.

Cheers and looking forward to posting from the bush.


June Safari Update – Day 8

June Safari Update – Day 8
June 8, 2014

Today was our full day in the Ngorongoro Crater. An early rise greeted us with heavy cloud and a misty decent into the floor of the crater. Not more than 10 minutes into the trip, we found four huge male lions and four females and an added bonus of a pair of young cubs. Although they were playing just out of camera range, it was a great sight to see. We continued along our way photographing the landscapes of the crater, as well as flamingos, zebras, jackals (golden and silver back), and Cape Buffalos. We worked hard to locate the rhinos however, they would not cooperate so we returned to camp for wonderful African dinner and an evening around the campfire. As a highlight, the kitchen staff baked a birthday cake for Jeff. What a surprised look he had on his face when he figured out what was going on.

Early morning storm in the Ngorongoro Crater.  Nikon D800, 24-70 @ 24mm

Nikon D4, 200-400mm f/4, @ 330mm; ISO 200, 1/250 sec at f/7.1.   B&W conversion in NIK Software.

Tomorrow, we are off the Gibbs Farm to end our safari on a very high note. With lots of activities planed for Gibbs, it will be a full 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 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.

June Safari Update – Day 5

Last night was filled with all of the sounds of Africa as Wildebeests, Zebra, Reed Bucks, Lions, and made their crazy noises all thru the night. I woke up about 0300 and made a quick audio recording of the racket. To top things off, we had one heck of a rain storm all through the night. The much needed rain and the wildebeests on the move made for an eventful night.  

Soon after the sunrise, I did a quick primer on motion panning and we were off to photograph the running wildebeests just outside the camp. Jeff Paradiso took a great panning shot of a running wildebeest.

Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the Retemi Hippo Pool for some hippo shots. Funny thing, you just never know who you will meet at the hippo pool. Don ran into some folks from Gig Harbor and Fox Island, both not far from my home in Puyallup.

Following lunch we returned to camp for a discussion on digital assess management and Lightroom processing.

With another African rain storm heading our way, It will be getting a great night’s sleep.

Cheers and happy photo’ing.

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

June Safari Update – Day 3

June Safari Update – Day 3
June 3, 2014

Early to rise today with jombo jombo at 0530 and a departure at 0630 we were off heading for the Research Area in hopes of finding quality cats. Man oh man, did the Research Area produce. With 30 lions before noon, we were off to a great start. The highlight was a lioness posing for us in a tree, a large male lion next to the road and a number of cubs with the Marsh Pride. The total lion count for the day was 30 plus 2 cheetahs.

Nikon D800, Nikon 200-400 f/4.0 at 200mm, ISO 200, 1/640 sec @ f/6.3.  Converted to B&W with Nik.

Back to camp around 1630 and greeted by hundreds of wildebeests who will lull us to sleep tonight. Until the wind came up, we released a quad copter and took some shots of the camp. With the numbers of wildebeests continuing to increase around camp, we hope use the copter to do some filming in the local area. A light rain has passed over us and thunder and lightning in the distance. This will make for a very pleasant night tonight and I hope it will relocate some of the wildebeest into our immediate area. Tomorrow will be another early rise as we will push into the Moru Kojpes for some different cats and some killer landscapes.

Cheers and happy photo’ing

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

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.

Buenos Aires to Ushuaia

The three of us left BA early this am (from AEP) bound for Ushuaia, our jumping off point for the Antarctica adventure aboard the Polar Pioneer.  Concerned about the overall weight of our camera gear, we devised several different means to address our potential non-compliance with carry-on weight restrictions.  Most of the flight was uneventful however, once the sun was up we were treated to incredible views of the Andes and our first view of the bottom of the world, or the end of the world as the locals call it.

Buenos Aires from the air at 0445.  Sony NEX-6.  Some crazy automatic settings

I had no clue that BA was this large of a city.  We enjoyed our limited time the BA and everyone agreed that it is a place that we need to return to.

Kathy (aka Bag Lady) with Gura Gear and BAD bags, a great and unbeatable combination

Technical packing to avoid weight limits.  In the end, it was not needed.  Sony NEX-6

Hasselblad H5D40 on Safari

I took my Hasselblad H5D40 and the ultra sharp 35-90mm lens with me on my September safari.  While my original  plan was to use it in capturing some Maasai portraits, I really wanted to give it a workout on the landscapes.  I had been warned not to shoot the H5D without a tripod, as well as not shooting above ISO 200.  After doing some test field shooting around the city before my departure, I soon learned that I could get acceptable images with ISO up to 1600.  This higher speed, would also allow a faster shutter speed which in turn could support hand-holding the beast, after eating a large bowl of Wheaties – so off I went.

I could not be more pleased with some of the images that I took.  Shooting in full 16-bits, the dynamic range of this beast is well worth the weight and unlike anything I have used before.  Talk about wow-factor, this body and lens combination really has it for landscapes.  I’ll be posting more shots in the future, but for now, below is one of my all time favorites from the Hasselblad and this trip.

Early mornings are really special if it is not totally overcast.  Most mornings, I am up early and most certainly before my clients.  I often consider this my special or private time however, it is really about experiencing the the wonderful cloud play just before sunrise.

The shot below was taken during one of these sunrise times at our most northern Serengeti Camp, looking down ‘tent row’ directly toward the rising sun, only minutes before the sun popped up.  With my arms tucked closed into my chest for stabilization, I made several exposures in hopes of one being acceptable with no camera movement.  I was doing something right, as all of them came out without any blur.  The image was processed in the field with Lightroom and very little adjustments – just how I like it.  I am amazed just how accurate the colors look right out of the camera.  I always smile when I get it right in the camera.

Hasselblad H5D40, 35-90mm @ 45mm, ISO 800, 1/60 sec at f/1

Cheers and happy photo’ing.