14 April 2013

On Photographic Safari: Traversing Rights

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When you plan your photographic safari or team building photo safari to Kenya, Tanzania South Africa or Botswana be wise when you choose lodges and game reserves and not that much in regards how luxury they are, but in regards to the game drives.

When we went recently with a
wildlife photography course to the Masai Mara in Kenya, we learned that we couldn’t go to all parts of the Masai Mara during the game drives without paying again the park fee of USD 80 per person per day. We had paid already the park fee, but we found out that this gave us access only to a part of the park, witch can be very annoying when you want to see certain areas, but you would have to pay again. The people from the camp told us that there were intentions of the national reserve authorities to change that, but it would still apply to us. So check that before you go and make sure you go to the interesting areas.

Even more annoying is it when you see a leopard going hunting and you cannot follow with the vehicle, because the leopard is crossing over to a different game reserve. This can be the situation in the Sabi Sand in Kruger National Park in South Africa. The Sabi Sand are part of the Greater Kruger National Park, but are all privately hold game reserves, also called private game reserves. This is actually very good, because you will have better sightings and only three vehicles at a cat sighting, what you don’t have in the national park, but there is also a downside. The private game reserves differ greatly in size and the small game reserves do not have enough land to guarantee good game drives lets say for a three nights photographic safari. For that reason the landowners negotiate traversing rights on each others land. But these traversing rights come with rules like you are only allowed to be on the land until 9 am and then again in the afternoon. But when the leopard hunts and it is 9:15 you will not be allowed to follow. Even worse is when the neighbor does not allow traversing and you have to stop at the border, hearing the leopard kill, but not seeing anything. These situations can occur in the northern and western Sabi Sand and they are really very annoying. For that reason look at the size of the private game reserve when you book your photographic safari to make sure you do not have to encounter these “border conflicts”. Choose a game reserve with plenty of land and a maximum of 6 people on the game vehicle and you will have an amazing experience. Maps of game areas are available online and you can ask your agent to advice.

Ready to go? Have fun!

Ute Sonnenberg for

Photographic Safari Destination Ngorongoro Crater

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The Ngorongoro Crater is a place not to be missed when being on photographic safari in Tanzania. In 1979 the Ngorongoro Crater became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers breathtaking views from its rim and a great variety of wildlife living on the crater floor. The photographic safari game drives decent every day 620 meters (2,000 feet) into the crater to cruise the entire day on the crater floor. It would take too much time to go up to the lodge in between, so one stays in there for the day. But this is not difficult. The crater floor covers 260 square kilometers (100 square miles) and lots of wildlife lives there. It is an ideal place for wildlife photography courses and team building photo safaris with the opportunity to have picnic breakfast and lunch during the day game drive.

The best place to stay at the Ngorongoro Crater is in one of the three lodges at the rim. From there the view is just beautiful and completely mesmerizing. These lodges cost a bit more, but it’s worth it. I would recommend staying not longer than for 2 or 3 nights, unless you have a special interest in the area and its wildlife. It is very busy at the Ngorongoro Crater and off road driving is not allowed (because of the many vehicles). That means the animals can be far away and only big zoom lenses will allow good wildlife photography. But it’s definitely worth going there. It’s very impressing.

Dress warm. The elevation of the crater floor is about 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) and the crater rim about 2,400 meters. It can be very chilly and windy. Bring a fleece sweater!

Ready to go? Do, if you can.

Ute Sonnenberg for

Wildlife Paintings of Wildlife Photographs & vice versa

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When wildlife painters like David Shepherd work on their paintings they use photographs to help them paint animals correctly and to recall certain moments and light. Many use photographs other people took on their photographic safaris and others go on photographic safari themselves. It would be interesting to have painters on wildlife photography courses to see how they work and how they use the camera as a tool. Do they photograph already compositions they paint later or do they capture mostly animals with the idea of being able to paint them correctly? Probably both, yet there could be inspiration from painters to photographers and the other way around.

But there are also photographers that recreate paintings in photographs like Richard Tuschman did with Edward Hopper’s paintings (image below).


What is more difficult, painting a photograph or recreating a painting with a photo? It might all boil down to the skills of the photographer and painter, but I cannot see how to recreate a Van Gogh with a photo or a Picasso. So I think its more difficult to create the photo.
Anyhow, it is a nice thing to try during a painting or photography course with lots of fun and probably funny results.

Try it? Have fun!

Ute Sonnenberg for

Wildlife Photography Storytelling

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Taking a picture is not just taking a picture. The picture tells the story of the moment and that applies to all pictures, the birthday party pictures, the family shots and the leopard photos from the photographic safari in South Africa.

Lets focus on the leopard for the moment. During our
wildlife photography courses we try to see and photograph the Big 5 and choose the game reserves and National Parks accordingly. But still it can be hard to see leopards and that makes us going to the Sabi Sand in South Africa to make sure we see them.

You might have seen many leopard photographs and think they look quite similar with a leopard lying down in its typical majestic pose or lying on a tree branch and you might think they do not look much storytelling, but they do. It is not easy to photograph a leopard and capturing its entire beauty. The angle, the light, the look, all needs to be right to tell the story and often a leopard photo tells the story of a very lucky photographer, pressing the shutter at just the right moment. Even the blurred images and miss-composed ones are telling the story of the excitement of the moment and the difficult circumstances. Wildlife photography storytelling are not only the spectacular images of a kill or a chase. In every image is a story that makes us look at them.

Pressing the shutter is telling a story and makes photographers storytellers.

Happy storytelling!

Ute Sonnenberg for

Photographing Native Kenyans

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There are beautiful photographs of Native Americans and various tribes from remote areas of the world that amaze us and inspire us to photograph them ourselves. But how does one do that without getting in trouble?

Let’s take the example of the Masai in Kenya. When you are on a
photographic safari in the Masai Mara you will very likely have encounters with the local people and in this case with the Masai people. They live there and their cattle herds are roaming in the Mara, guarded by children. Now imagine a game drive vehicle with a wildlife photography course on it with all lenses pointing on the child. How must that feel? Most likely this feels very unpleasant for the child.

If the distance is big enough a photograph can be taken without disturbing and that is also in general a good solution for e.g. street photography. It worked in the past quite well until the Masai understood the people’s passion for photography and the money involved. Nowadays even when they see you from far pointing a camera on them they approach immediately, making clear that you have to pay to take a photo and you better do it or don’t take the photo.

It’s somehow a pity that it has changed to that, but for the Masai has also changed a lot. As tourism took off, especially during high season thousands of people are visiting the Masai Mara and Mara River crossing points can look like a
team building photo safari event when seeing the number of vehicles gathering there. All these people also love to see and photograph the Masai and now imagine yourself what that did to them.

In general ask before you take a photo. You will have to pay them some money and it will not be as spontaneous as we would like it, but it’s nowadays reality. If you have a big zoom lens you might get away with a snap shot and these natural shots are always the prettiest.
Happy photo snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

Nature's Grace Beautifully Captured

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How long did it take you to see that the glowing beautiful fabric with the stunning light on the photo above is a vegetable?
It took me a moment to realize that this is nature’s beauty photographed like the most beautiful ball gown. The photograph was created by
Edward Weston, the magnificent photographer of the last century. He is well known for his nudes, but the nature objects like the vegetables are just stunning. A simple pepper or crop unfold their beauty under the creative hands of the photographer and become pieces of art.

Sometimes on our
photographic safaris in Kenya or South Africa when we do a wildlife photography course we try to create some play time. It can be really fun to practice “studio photography” in the bush. We take an object like a leave, a fruit or even just something from our bush breakfast and do a photo shoot with it right where we are. The results are often really nice, although we do not have the studio lights Edward Weston used, but working with ambient light is wonderful and inspiring, bringing new and surprising results.

Try it for a start in your own garden. Use the golden hour and see what you can create. If you need some more inspiration have a look at Weston’s books like
The Last Years in Carmel.

Happy snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

ePhoto Book: Aloha

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ePhoto Book: Aloha

Aloha, welcome to Hawaii.

Hawaii is a dream destination for holidays, weddings,
photographic adventures, and wildlife photo safaris under water, surfing and many more. It is a very beautiful place with a magic that makes you wanting to come back again and again.

Get a glimpse of these irresistible islands with this
photo book.

Aloha and Mahalo.

Ute Sonnenberg for