As a photographer you might tend to pack big. This tripod and that monopod and that lens and this filter. Let yourself put all together and then look at it. How high is the mountain? Now leave it there for a couple of days and then go through it again with the question for every item, for what would I use it and how often would I be able to use it on photo safari? Some items will go out immediately others are doubt cases. Talk to people with experiences in safaris, reflect on how you use the equipment you have and how often you use the items now and how you could use it on safari. When you need to think about how you could use an equipment part on safari, it usually means that you won’t need it, otherwise the thought would not have come.
Now the mountain should only be a hill. Next step is to try and get it into your backpack. If it fits immediately, you are set. If it does not, another decision round might be necessary.
By doing that carefully and with time, you will have a relaxed African photographic safari with exactly what you need and no unnecessary kilos to carry around.
Earlier blog posts have focused already on the definition of a perfect photo and in all the cases the conclusion was, that a perfect photo is an image that appeals to you, an image you love. So why even think about how to get a perfect wildlife photo? Lets rephrase, how to get photos you love.
First reflect on you mindset. How do you want your photos to look like? Is that realistic and is it who you are?
Then reflect on what you would like to photograph on your African safari holiday. Are you going for the Big Five or rather for landscapes? This will determine the choice of your safari destination and make sure you get the photos you want.
Now you are on safari. Don’t stress yourself, just enjoy where you are, shoot away and don’t criticize yourself constantly. Just keep photographing and capturing what the bush has to offer you. Don’t get in negative spirals like today I want to see a leopard and if I don’t see a leopard it is all worthless and so on. Keep an open mind and welcome what nature wants to show you.
You are back at home and you look at your pictures. Don’t think too much. Just go through your images and mark the ones you love, the ones where your heart makes you stop and look. Put all of them in a folder and you will have a collection of your perfect wildlife photos.
Safaris are certainly already by itself a best thing to do, but what is the best thing on safari? For some it’s the sundowner, the satisfying feeling after a day of adventure, watching the sunset with drink on a lovely place in the bush. For others it’s a lion sighting with a pride of 22 lion playing in the afternoon sun. And again for others it’s the crocodile kill on the Mara River.
It is very personal. And probably the best of a safari are the memories one takes home captured in beautiful pictures.
As you go on photographic safari to enjoy wildlife photography, you got to be conscious of the light. Every safari destination has different light, defined by the land, the sun, the soil and water. The Masai Mara light is very soft rich and honey golden, at least during the golden hour. The light in the Okavango Delta is very crisp rich with every color evenly saturated. The light in Kruger in South Africa is a bright rich light, almost at the edge of being too bright, even during golden hour.
Knowing that, you will be able to adjust your camera settings to achieve the best results and to anticipate to changing situations. It will also help with expectations. Don’t expect Masai Mara colors in the Okavango Delta and vise versa. Keep at all times checking the light situation and adjust accordingly and you will go home with great wildlife photos.
And even back home when you make a photo book with your safari images, you will see that it is not a match to put photos from different light zones in the bush on the same page. Somehow it doesn’t work.
Yes, little cats are the cutest things one can have in front of the lens on photographic safari. But there is more. Little elephants for example or little hyenas, those come and bite in the tires of your safari jeep. Or all these just born antelope babies, still wobbling on their new legs.
But don’t forget the caring interactions between adult lion before they go off on hunt or the caring bird parents feeding their little ones.
It can be a pretty exciting event, going on photographic safari and planning the entire trip with travel bookings and photo equipment preparations. First of all, enjoy the excitement. Second, don’t panic when it seems challenging to get your photo gear within the luggage allowance and all the worries on dust, water and other elements you might get into. Try to talk to people who are experienced with photo safaris to avoid unnecessary buys and too much luggage. Don’t feel silly about any question. If you haven’t been to Africa, you cannot know what to bring and prepare. Keep it easy and joy, don’t stress.
When actually being on photographic safari connect with where you are and realize that this lovely forest your camp is in is not like the forest at home, it got lion and leopard in it. Be conscious where you are to avoid critical situations. The bush is not dangerous as long as one sticks to it’s rules.
With all that set in your mind, let your heart enjoy the trip and just shoot away. Have enough memory cards to not be limited and set your camera on continuous shooting. All happens fast in the bush and often you just keep shooting seeing later what has come out.
This is the prime safari area of South Africa with the best circumstances for wildlife photography courses, wildlife sightings and all levels of hobby photography.
Best leopard sightings, probably in the world Excellent Big 5 sightings Excellent lodges with excellent rangers and trackers Great safaris “old” style with nowadays comfort (image above: Londolozi Private Game Reserve) Easy access by air and road, yet no self-drive in the reserves Photographic equipment for rent available in several lodges Great flexibility and customized game drives for photographers
The Sabi Sand in Greater Kruger National Park are really the best South Africa has to offer on safaris. Away form the crowds and right on the first row for the best sightings.
Its such a thing with lion, when you see one, always wonder where are the others. That couldn’t have been more true than during a wildlife photography course we did a while ago in the Masai Mara in Kenya.
The wildlife photography course was part of a team building photographic safari and we had two open 4x4 jeeps to have enough space for photography. It was an afternoon game drive when we saw two mail lion lying in the grass on the open plains. It was an area where off road driving was allowed and we drove closer to the lion. All was fine. The male lion were beautiful, majestic lying in the grass with a bit of a distance between them and we drove from one to the other to see and photograph. While we were driving to the second lion we suddenly got stuck in the wet soft soil and all attempts to get out did not work. Fortunately we had two vehicles, so the other one came to pull us out, with the two male lion watching us. The drivers got out of the vehicle to connect the rope, carefully keeping an eye on the lion. The closest lion was about 60 meters away, but watching only relaxed what these creatures (us) were doing there. We all watched the two lion to make sure the guys on the ground were safe. Suddenly a third lion popped up, very close only about 20 meters away and he was annoyed. Most likely he had been sleeping and was now disturbed. He felt uncomfortable with us so close and we felt uncomfortable too, but our drivers managed to get the rope connected without problems and a moment later we were out and driving again.
The essence of this story is keep watching out when you are on photographic safari in a Big 5 area and be careful when you see a lion, there are most likely more and you don’t want to end up standing in the middle of a lion pride. Being in a vehicle is safe, but standing or walking on the ground is completely different. Then you are in their world.
Just keep that in mind when enjoying great lion sightings, don’t forget where you are.
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!
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.
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!
I’m not a friend of Photoshop for wildlife photography, but there are exceptions and here is one.
What happens when domestic cats go on photo safaris and do all the big cat things? Then they are part of a Whiskas advertising campaign and a teamwork result of photographer George Logan and retoucher Tony Swinney.
They are done with so nice humor, yet showing that your domestic cat looks and behaves very much like a big cat, although she or he is rather small. Actually the African wild cat has about the size of a domestic cat and does live in the bush.
Well, if you are short of wildlife for your photography course, remember your cat and you have the subject you were looking for. Now only some photoshopping and you can even create the impression that you were traveling with your cat to the bush.
This is NOT only a post for ladies! Also men can end up with too much luggage and the wrong things packed.
Being on photo safari means being out in the bush, exposed to the elements, yet just to a certain extend. That demands careful packing and not only with regards to the camera equipment to make sure the wildlife photography course is going smoothly, but also to be prepared for all weather situations. And being not prepared for the weather, can influence the photography again, so better think of it.
First of all inquire about the climate of the region you are going to. Do not only look up the weather forecast on the Internet, but ask people you have been there or live there. 20 degrees warmth feel different when there is wind, but who can image how it feels from reading the wind information online. Better ask.
Pack casual, practical outdoor clothes that allow you to dress in layers. By doing that all will be covered, the heat at noon and the chilly evenings. Bring a light rain jacket that can function as a windbreaker and rain cover. Always wear closed shoes when being in the bush. And bring easy slippers for in the camp. Bring a sun hat and sunscreen. The sun in Africa can be tricky and you can end up with sunstroke when being not prepared.
In the bush camps is no need to dress up for dinner (except the very luxury lodges). You can bring jeans and t-shirt to have some change from the safari outfit and to have backup clothes in case all gets wet, but keep in mind when packing that it works best when you can combine everything with everything else. Most of the lodges and camps also offer laundry service. So, there is no need to bring many clothes and to have excess luggage on the safari flights.
Ready to go? Enjoy the fun of photographing wildlife!
Traveling for photography is the most wonderful thing to do; yet one needs to be conscious of the dangers involved to ensure a great experience and fantastic photos.
This applies to all photography travel no matter where in the world. As a photographer one carries expensive photo equipment and this can attract the interest of the more shady kind of people. So, make sure your equipment is insured in the first place. That gives already a peace of mind. But you want to photograph and not to loose it, so take precautions to be safe during your trip. When traveling in a group do not drop your guard, because you think you are fine as a group. If everyone in the group thinks that drops the guard, everyone will be a soft target for thieves. Yet its understandable that you want to focus on photography not thinking of anything else, so, make clear who in the group is taking care of safety and if you travel alone, find somebody to cover your back.
Another important safety aspect is to make backups of your photos on several external hard drives and just as at home, make sure one backup is off site, which means while traveling keeping them in different places and send one backup home, if possible. Read for more details also Joey L.’s travel tips.
Choose safe accommodation as a “home base” from where you go on your photographic explorations. For example when you want to photograph Andalusia choose a hotel that is safe and in a central location to be able to see all you want during day trips. This has several advantages. You can tell the hotel where you are going and when you think to be back. They will be able to follow up on you, if you are not returning as intended. The hotel will also be able to advice with directions and sights you should see and you avoid carrying around all your things or to pack and unpack every day. I do that anywhere that way, in Spain just as in Nairobi. The locals always know where to go, how to get there and what to do in emergencies. Just choose carefully the accommodation.
The advantage of going on pre-organized photographic safaris is that you are traveling with experienced guides and adequate safari vehicles. Yet be careful with the choice of the safari operator with regards to the vehicle and the quality of the guide. For our photography courses in the bush we always choose operators with qualified guides and 4x4 vehicles and this works very well. They are usually from good camps or lodges that provide also safes in their tents or rooms. They are not the cheapest, but provide higher safety. If you rather travel budget and solo, just be cautious and take in Joey’s tips.
This year celebrates the 200th anniversary of Dr. David Livingston’s birthday. He was one of the most remarkable explorers, crossing Africa on foot in 1856 from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. He was the one who spotted the Victoria Falls first and there will be celebrations in the Zambian city Livingston throughout the year.
One hears the Victoria Falls first, before one can see them. Their thunder prepares the visitor for what the eye will see, a 2 km wide and 100m tall curtain of falling water, the largest in the world.
The Victoria Falls can be explored in several ways, often embedded in Africa holidays between photographic safaris, from walking the falls to viewing them from a helicopter or small aircraft. They are impressive and a photographic challenge for photographers. An entire photography course could be dedicated to them, learning how to capture their majestic water curtain the right way to let the viewer give the feeling of being there.
The region around the Victoria Falls offers lots of activities from water activities on the Zambezi to bungee jumping and wildlife interactions in the surrounding game reserves.
Maybe this anniversary year is a good reason to visit them.
Photo safaris are of course for the purpose of seeing animals and photographing them, but that can be challenging at times, when the animals just are who they are and the photographer is too late to capture the action. This can be improved by a faster camera, a better trained photographer, yet more important by the photographer having knowledge about animal behavior.
During photographic safaris with photography courses this is an important part of the course. In order to do wildlife photography one needs to know the animals or at least have somebody on the vehicle who does. For example birds. Photographing a bird’s take off is the moment of capturing motion, beauty and dynamic, yet it happens very fast and the photo is often one of an empty branch or an empty piece of sky. This changes when the photographer knows that a bird ducks down for a moment before it takes off, like a skydiver before jumping out of the plane. Then you only need to start shooting the moment the bird ducks down and you will have the take off.
Another example is lion movement. Lion tend to rest during the day and get active when it cools down in the late afternoon. But it can be very tempting to be impatient and not wait when being at a lion sighting and they are all not moving an inch and it becomes very boring. Stay with them when you see that they start grooming and yawning. This is a clear sign that they will get up soon and that is when the action comes and movement happens.
In case this sounds all new don’t worry. There are rangers on the vehicles who know the animals. Learn from them about animal behavior and your wildlife photography will improve and stress to get it right will subside.
On photo safaris probably the most popular events are the stops in the bush for coffee and sundowners. Being right there in the middle of the animals, overlooking beautiful landscape and enjoying a nice cup of coffee or thee. Usually we discuss photographic topics as we are on a photography course, play a bit with the cameras or just chat about anything. Its really nice.
On very rare occasions these stops include animal encounters, bigger animal encounters. The photo above was taken by my student Michelle de Souza when she was safely back in the vehicle and the lioness had made her way to inspect the things on the table. There was no moment that the people were in danger. The lioness was seen in time and all could get back into the safe landrover. Something like that is really very rare and it ended with the lioness walking away with the cookie box.
When new cameras are announced, the speed in frames per second is one of the very interesting features. We want a camera to be fast to capture animals in motion. Nothing is more frustrating on a photographic safari than pressing the shutter and nothing happens. Sometimes the missing focus is the reason, but often it is the speed. And very often it is not even the camera that slows down the process; it’s the memory card. You can have a fast camera, but it will not be able to use its entire abilities when the memory card is to slow in processing the images. Then you see the message “buffering” and the lion kill is just happening in front of you.
Be conscious about that when purchasing memory cards. Always ask what card suits best the abilities of the camera. When you are attending photography courses make it a topic to understand better what memory card to use when and for which camera. It will make you a happier photographer, shooting away at great sightings in the bush and elsewhere.
On photo safari probably the most exciting part is to photograph moving objects, like a leopard jumping in a tree or lion cubs playing in the sun. As long as the lion cubs are playing in the sun everything is nice and easy. The light is great and the images will look lovely.
But as soon as the leopard moves around in the tree and with every step he makes the light changes, it becomes a photographer’s challenge. A leopard moves fast and light changes fast too. That means fast changing settings back and forward, keeping the focus point constantly on the leopard where you want it to be, checking ISO and exposure, not forgetting what you all changed now that he walks into bright light and so on. It is exhausting and wildlife photography course attendees all agree that this is a very challenging task.
But photographing moving objects is also great fun and it often results in stunning arty images, like half blurred horses in the last light of the day or a herd of buffalo like an abstract painting in the first light of the day. Movement is great and often lives its own life in our photographs, surprising us with its mind blowing results and let forget the trouble we went through to get them.
The moment the sun appears on the horizon and the moment the sun disappears on the horizon are magical moments of a photographic safari. Sunrise and sunset are the moments we love to capture, but sometimes they are also the moments that frustrate us the most when the image is not what we wanted it to be.
Photography courses teach us about contrasts and that we need them for great images and that applies to sunrises and sunsets as well. The best sunsets and sunrises are the ones with clouds. The sun (the light) needs something to shine on to be seen and clouds are ideal. They become the carrier of the sunlight and the light can display its amazing colors that make the event so mesmerizing.
Another great “tool” to create a beautiful sunset photo are trees. That makes photographic safaris in the Masai Mara so fascinating with their single umbrella trees dotted over the Great Plains. The sun setting behind such a tree is just amazing.
But what works in the bush works also at home. No matter if you are in a big city or in the countryside, choose a spot where the sun can shine on something, a cloud, a tree, a building, a person or on water. As long as there is a medium to carry the light, you can create great pictures.
Seeing it already in front of you? Try it and enjoy the magical moment.
In November 2012 Botswana’s President Ian Khama, gave a speech wherein he announced that by the end of 2013 trophy hunting would no longer be allow allowed in Botswana. He said that "Next year will be the last time anyone is allowed to hunt in Botswana and we have realized that if we do not take care of our animals, we will have a huge problem in terms of tourism."
Great. Photography won from trophy hunting. Photo safari won from hunting safari and it was about time. The number of lion had dropped dramatically and other animals like leopard and elephant were also only to often licensed to be killed. But the peaceful adventure of photographic safaris and the worldwide photography enthusiasm of billions of photographers had turned the table on the hunt. Photography has become a peaceful force of conservation. Cameras replace the rifle and the animals stay alive. The photographer goes home with great image-trophies and
And other countries seem to follow Botswana’s example. Zambia has banned trophy hunt, but so far temporarily and Zimbabwe is considering doing the same until final decisions are made. The fine print of the Botswana ban on hunt is not known yet, but it is a major step in the right direction.
Thanks to eco tourism and photography lovers wildlife is preserved. Photography has become a movement.
There is lots of attention for camera gear when being on a photographic safari, what lens to bring what settings to use, but there is an essential factor that is often forgotten, the photographer and I don’t mean the ability of the photographer to operate the camera, its something more subtle.
Photo safaris take the guests out on open 4x4 jeeps (strongly recommended to go to places where they are doing it like that and with only 6 people on the vehicle). That means there are two people in a row and if you are lucky you got a row for yourself. Experience from wildlife photography courses taught that it proofed to be hard to get the photographer moving in his/her row, really moving not only leaning over. Wildlife can be on either side of the vehicle or move to the other side of the vehicle and in order to get the best shots the photographer should move too, but often is glued to the spot.
How is this possible? Think of yourself how often you were standing on a spot photographing a scene and getting annoyed that people were walking somewhere on the side or other obstacles suddenly turned up. Did you think of moving yourself to a different spot to get the good shot? One reason to not move is the composition we see just there, but there is more, especially in the bush or other challenging environments. We are feeling comfortable and we like to keep it like that, moving seems then uncomfortable and we resist, stick to where we are and don’t move.
But this is just the point, one got to be willing to move/change in order to get great results and discover different perspectives. Photography is also a physical activity and means physical efforts for the photographer, although its tempting to forget about that, but its crucial.
From the point and shoot cameras to the professional digital cameras, all have the feature “Auto ISO” and although one might have learned during a photography course how to use the manual ISO settings, one often goes just back to use Auto ISO. It’s just convenient.
And it might work in most of the situations, but not as well when being on a photographic safari. Photographing in the bush is different and the auto settings often fail to match the light conditions there. The Auto ISO often goes too high and the images look washed out. Use in normal bush bright daylight ISO 100 and you will be fine. But keep looking at the light and adjust the ISO manually when the light gets lower. You will see the results are much better. Depending on what manual setting you prefer, rather leave the ISO at 100 and play with the aperture.
Wildlife photography is different and the last wildlife photography course in the Northern Kruger Park in South Africa made that clear once again.
Wildlife photography demands a lot of efforts from the photographer. Not only the environment is demanding, also the photographic subjects and the light. Some features of a camera that were included in high end devises do not work in the bush. They are mainly made for other purposes and one needs to be conscious about that.
For example the 3D-tracking autofocus setting, tested during the mentioned photography course in Kruger Park on a Nikon D800E. The focus picks up the wrong things, does not recognize the head/face of an animal and gets confused with the light. The photographer has to chose the focus point, otherwise what he wants in focus is not in focus. So, be careful where you use what autofocus setting and be conscious that the photographer got to do efforts to get it like he/she wants it.
Practice the different settings when you have time to play and not when you want it to work. That will make you happier with the results.
We were driving in the Masai Mara when our very bird loving wildlife photography course attendee suddenly shouted stop. There was a crested eagle just in front of us on the top of a tree. All cameras started clicking immediately, also from the not so fanatic bird lovers, because it’s a beautiful bird. But soon moaning was to hear and panic, the bird was only a black silhouette in front of a bright over casted sky. Flash, no option, exposure compensation, probably the best, but the background will be very bright, spot metering, lets try, a combination of exposure compensation, f-stop correction and spot metering? Let’s try. The results were great and the faces turned happy again and the bird continued to be very patient with us, taking his time scanning the area for prey.
This was the start of a wonderful morning and some more people started loving birds and seeing them suddenly everywhere.
Any birds in your garden or just outside your window? They are very beautiful and also challenging photographic subjects, rewarding the patient photographer.
We were on a team building session on Phinda Private Game Reserve in KZN, South Africa, when two cheetah brothers decided to teach us all about teamwork.
It often happens that guests have their designated animals for their stay at a certain game reserve. They will see the same leopard or pride of lion during their entire stay in different situations, witnessing the most beautiful wildlife interactions and bonding with these amazing animals. It is, as if nature assigned them for the best experience.
The two cheetah brothers seemed to be assigned to us and they spoilt us. During the four game drives we had on Phinda, they showed us how a perfect team works. When one brother was resting, the other one was scanning the area. When they were scanning the area together, each of them had his own section he was responsible for. During all their activities they gave each other reassurance and backup. One could see that each of them felt safe in their relationship and the roles were clear. They understood each other even without a look or a sign; they were just connected.
The highlight of the cheetah teamwork was the hunt and if we had not realized until then, now it was very clear they were our designated animals. We were the only vehicles around and following the brothers. They were mobile and intensively scanning the area for potential food. The grass was very high, but the brothers could still see very well. Suddenly they moved faster, the hunt had begun, each of them in a split of a second doing what he was supposed to do. There was a buck in front of us. One brother approached it from the right and chased it towards the other brother waiting on the left. Then the brother on the left took over, made the final sprint and killed the buck. They took a couple of deep breaths and one brother started feeding while the other brother scanned the area for possible other predators and therefore potential danger to their prey. After a while they changed. Now the other brother was feeding on the kill and his brother was on the watch.
We were sitting there speechless, astonished how the two cheetahs showed us exactly what we wanted to accomplish with the team building session in the bush. Teamwork at it’s best.
Again the night ended at about 4.30 a.m. with hooting matatus and the mullah calling for prayer. We got up to find out there was no water. Fortunately we still got some in our jerry cans. We left the campsite at 7.30 heading north to Samburu National Reserve. The first stop was after an hour and a half at Thomson Falls. A nice place with a small hotel, good facilities and the waterfall. We had breakfast and a walk to the falls. We were awake now for what promised to be a long day.
From Thomson Falls the road goes along Aberdare National Park and then north around Mount Kenya. It’s a clime up to about 3.000 m through a fertile agricultural area. Although the altitude is high the rain and the soil make everything growing in abundance. After two hours and a half we reached Nanyuki. I liked the name and the place. A colorful buzzing African place. Nanyuki is Masai and means “place of red water”. I didn’t see water, but maybe when the Masai first arrived, they found the water colored by the red soil of the area. We stopped and did some shopping to have enough food for our stay in Samburu.
From Nanyuki we drove to Kenron Grill, a restaurant just about one km away from the road to have lunch. When we got there we were the only guests except the local police officers, having their lunch as well. Because our itinerary was mixed up from the first stay in the Mara, the restaurant had expected us yesterday and not today, what meant that there was nothing prepared, what meant the meat was still in the freezer. So we got grilled frozen chicken, but we were hungry, we ate it all.
We left Kenron Grill at a quarter to two and started descending to Isiolo from about 3.000 m to about 1.600 m altitude. It was a beautiful drive, down the slopes of Mount Kenya with a view over the Laikipia area. The vegetation changed. It was dry land, desert like. Isiolo felt different. The market was along the road, it was buzzing, people herding their camels and yet it felt more poor than other places. Maybe because it’s not a fertile agricultural area and people have to fight every day to get food on their plate. We had to register our vehicle before we could continue to Samburu. There had been incidents in the past with bandits on this road and registration is for security. If you get lost they know where you were last and when you departed for Samburu. It was a weird feeling. I had read about this in the Rough Guide and now I was there. Alex told me that there was nothing out there when we left Isiolo, only desert with poachers from Somalia. But he said quickly, that was in the past. It’s much better now. Anyway I was sitting in the vehicle thinking what am I going to do when we get ambushed. Nothing actually. Give them what they want and hope that they are happy with it.
We carried on to Archers Post. There would be the gate to Samburu National Reserve. It was the most horrible road I experienced throughout whole Kenya and the only way to make it bearable was to drive very fast. There were roadwork’s going on to provide a wonderful and comfortable new road, but it was far from being finished. The good thing was, that the roadwork’s had brought many people there working. Small settlements were along the road and it turned out that the drive didn’t feel as unsafe as I had expected. There was something out of Isiolo.
We reached the Archer’s Post Gate at 4 p.m. and lost our fuel tank. Paul had filled up both fuel tanks (the Landcruiser has two) and the rear one had just fallen off. Rangers, Paul and Alex were underneath the vehicle fixing it with ropes that we could continue. It was actually just another thing that didn’t work properly, the fridge (repaired in Nakuru), the leaking tents (still not fixed!!!), my car door (when I closed the window the door fell open) and now the fuel tank. Half an hour later the fuel tank was roped up and we carried on to the campsite. It was 4.30 p.m.. A truck was driving in front of us, it had rained, the truck got stuck and we got in his trail and got stuck too. Everybody out, spates out and digging. We pitched camp at 5.30 p.m. The public campsite in Samburu is next to the river and also next to the rangers headquarter. Alex choose a spot next to the river and close to the facilities. They were challenging.
It started raining again and even with the flysheets (still the heavy ones) my tent was leaking badly. I kept everything packed and in the middle of the tent in case I have to get my stuff out quickly. We all had an early night after an exhausting day. At about 11.30 p.m. I woke up from voices next to my tent and then I heard THE noise. The river. When we arrived the river was low and small, now it was a dangerous stream. This is also called a flash flood. It had rained in the mountains and all the water came suddenly like a wave. My tent was the closest to the river and now just about two meters away from the water. I rushed out, gave Alex and Paul a shout to wake them up, got my stuff in the vehicle, broke down my tent together with Alex and Paul and set it up again on higher ground. That all happened in 10 minutes. It probably sounds quick, but it isn’t. If the flood had got to me, there wouldn’t have been any time to get out. It was about midnight when I was in “bed” again and it was still raining and my tent still leaking. I woke up a couple of times from heavy rain and the noise of the waves coming down the river. This day taught me once again what it means to be in the bush. No matter how tired or exhausted you are you got to take on the challenges.
It was a noisy morning. About 4.30 a.m. the Matatus started hooting and at 5 a.m. the mullah called for prayer. Waking up by city noises in the bush felt weird and suddenly the Nakuru National Park felt like a zoo to me, which is a pity, because it’s beautiful.
The group from the truck got up, packed and took off within 15 minutes. Amazing. We were not that fast, but off for the drive with packed breakfast at 6.30 a.m.
There is a road going around the lake with just a few side roads. It’s an easy course and even school buses come and take the children out for a lovely day with the animals. And there were plenty. In the first place plenty of birds and specially flamingos, thousands along the shore. Our drive took us around the lake through a beautiful fever tree forest. Paul told me that there is one part of the shore where we can get close to the flamingos and we made our way to that spot. As we approached the shore we saw a hyena next to the road. She didn’t respond like a healthy animal usually does, being alert, keeping distance or even run off. This hyena must have been injured. She could hardly walk, her eyes were looking empty, she was behaving like in trance, focused to get to a hiding place, what we figured was a dip next to a drainage pipe, where she lied down, looking exhausted and stressed. We let her alone to avoid more stress for her (we actually didn’t know if it was a male or female, difficult to say with hyenas) and decided to come back later. I thought she was dying.
Just about a 100 meters from the hyena was this broad part of the shore with thousands of flamingos. Vehicles can get there very easily and the rest you can walk and this is actually the interesting part, because there were not only birds, but also rhino and buffalo. At this lake one can really forget very quickly that this is the bush and drop guard while busy with the tripod and focused on shooting birds in the most beautiful interaction and suddenly the photographer becomes an easy target for a buffalo. Nothing like that happened, but it crossed my mind and I kept an eye on the buffalo and rhino. Shooting the birds was awesome and the memory cards were filled quickly. We decided to drive a bit closer to the big mammals and had our breakfast between the rhino, buffalos, zebras, pelicans, flamingos and plenty of other bird species. This was also a good moment to set up office to upload the photos and check emails. Yes, check emails. I can’t imagine a more beautiful location for an office and thanks to the satellite technique nowadays this is possible.
For our afternoon game drive we started again our round trip around the lake and we were very lucky to see colobus monkeys. This is a rare sighting and they were just next to the road jumping in the trees. I actually got a couple of good shots to find out later that I lost them somewhere between uploading and backup. Again a lesson in staying focused and being careful all the time.
Our drive brought us to the dip where we left the hyena in the morning. We approached carefully and yes she was still there and for a moment I thought she was dead, but then she tried to lift her head. She was in a very bad shape. There were no visible injuries, so we assumed there could probably be internal bleedings, maybe a kick from a buffalo or something like that from interaction with another animal. There was nothing we could do.
The night was quiet. I heard again the breathing next to my head, which was a hippo according to Alex, grazing at night around the tents.
We left the campsite at about 8.30 a.m. and headed towards Nakuru, our next stop. Paul said we are taking a short cut to Narok, but this wasn’t really the case. We headed away from Narok and made some kind of a circle back onto the tar road. My guess was that we had to avoid driving through the reserve, like we did on the first day, The itinerary was mixed up and we hadn’t paid the park fee for the last day. Anyway our drive brought us along lots of animals and led us through a flood plane, which was the less nice part. All black cotton soil and wet, which is like driving on wet soap and one makes a good chance to get stuck. But we made it without bigger difficulties and hit the tar road to Narok. From Narok we followed the road back to Mai Maihiu and instead of turning right to Nairobi we headed north towards Naivasha and Nakuru. The drive was without any incidents, at least for us. There was a turned over Matatu on the side of the road. Fortunately nobody seemed to be hurt, although the faces looked in shock.
We arrived in Nakuru and to my surprise the Lake Nakuru National Park is only 10 min away from the city centre. The campsite was just behind the gate next to the ranger post under the cover of fever trees and in sight of the lake with its pink ribbon of flamingos along the shore. It was so tempting to just go there and have a look at the flamingos, but Paul reminded me that just recently a ranger got killed by a lion just in front of the ranger post.
We pitched camp and it was raining again. There was supposed to be somebody from the office in Nairobi with flysheets and a new fridge. He arrived just before dinner and the flysheets turned out to be impossible to use. They were big and heavy, made from some kind of synthetic leather, you use in car interiors. The first difficulty was that we needed trees to hang on the sheets, because there were no poles. When we fixed that, the sheets started soaking water and became even heavier what made them hanging down on the tent which collapsed, because of the weight. Anyway, it was late, we were tired and I just wanted to sleep in a not leaking tent. We postponed the sheet issue to the next morning.
We had dinner and suddenly a truck arrived on the campsite. Such a big lorry transformed into an overland bus. I learned that these trucks are doing tours from Nairobi to Cape Town and stop at the campsites in the National Parks. It was like watching a show. Maybe about thirty people pitched camp and had dinner. This happened like a military operation. Always two people fetched and pitched a tent until the camp was set, without any space between the tents and in a correct circle around the cooking area. It took them 15 minutes to do that. Then a designated group started cooking other groups looked after the table settings and other jobs that had to be done. There was no waste of time and manpower. After dinner within 15 minutes everybody was in the tents and ready to sleep. I was wondering if those people were on holidays.
We were on a morning game drive on the Klein’s Concession in the Serengeti. It had rained and the moisture was still hanging in the air when we drove through the forest just behind our camp. Our Masai tracker Steve spotted lion, feeding on a kill. As we came closer we saw that it were all young lion, sub adults, probably on an expedition not far from the main group of the pride. They were feeding on a warthog and we could see that they had dug out the warthog from his burrow, lots of earth had been moved and there was a big whole. After a while watching them, one lioness went into the warthog’s burrow and came out with a young warthog, still alive and screaming. She was looking like she didn’t really know what she was doing, following more an instinct then being hungry or wanting to hunt. The young warthog would die without its mother, either starving to death or being killed anytime later by other predators or scavengers. It was better to make it short and that might have been the silent assignment of nature for this lioness. She killed the young warthog and ate it and she went back to the burrow and came back with another one and another one. There had been three young warthog without mother and the young lioness did what she had to do, although she didn’t do it fast. Our Masai tracker Steve couldn’t watch it, because the youngsters were still alive for a few moments. He wanted her to do it fast and easy for the little ones, but maybe the lioness was just too inexperienced to understand that. It was an impressive sighting, showing the innocence in the face of a young lioness while holding a struggling young warthog in her mouth, causing it pain and stress, before eventually doing what she is supposed to do. Nature is pulling the strings.
The Photokina has started and millions of people all over the world are waiting for the technical photography news to flood into their inboxes. Will Canon come with this 46 Megapixel camera? How will be that NikonD600 entry-level full-frame camera? There will be new “Porsche” and “Mercedes” and “city cars” for the photographer to play with. But will they be of any meaning for the success of a photo safari?
Technical photography gear is important for photo safaris. You will need a camera with a reasonable speed in order to photograph the fast moving objects and you will need a good zoom lens to get them in the picture, recognizable as a lion and not only as an undefined dot. But do you need 36 megapixels? Most likely not. As fantastic as the Nikon D800 is, it is not the most suitable camera for a photo safari. Shooting these big files costs speed and memory card space and if you have a proper zoom lens, you don’t need to crop afterwards. Do you need all the accessories, tripods, gadgets, bags and straps? Keep it simple. Don’t get lost in technology. On a photo safari you are in the most beautiful and demanding environment for photography and not in a studio. You got to connect with this environment, understand it and translate it into photographs. Too much technical gear will only be a burden. Keep that in mind when packing and for the rest enjoy the inspiring news from the Photokina.
Early wake up call at 5.30 a.m.. I wanted to shoot a sunrise. We were up quickly and off into the park. Paul had a tree in mind which would make a perfect picture with the sunrise in the back. We were racing. The sun came up quickly. And there was the tree. One of those beautiful umbrella trees set out as dots on the big planes of the Mara. While racing there I had mounted the camera on the tripod and was ready to shoot when we got there. It was awesome. This gracious tree in the golden light. I was happy. It was a good start of the day.
While getting back into the vehicle we heard a lion roaring. We thought immediately of the pride of lions we had left the previous night and headed towards the area. Unfortunately when we got there we only had to follow a trail of vehicles. The lions had settled around a mount. The females and males were lying around in the shade of bushes. The cubs were climbing the mount with their full tummies. They must have had a kill.
It should have been ideal for photography. Blue sky, sun, a pride of lion with playing cubs, but it was hectic. Many vehicles were there and made a half circle around the pride. But when more vehicles arrived the circle became close to a full circle and this is not the background for the lions you want. Some vehicles arrived and drove through the whole scene, the drivers were sometimes very close to drive over a lion’s tail, but it didn’t look like the lion were irritated by that. Maybe we were a sighting for them and they were amazed what a competition was going on in front of their eyes.
In sight a few hundred meters away, another group of vehicles was watching something. The group was growing, so we assumed it must be a cat and they were all looking at a tree, so it must be a leopard. We left the crowded lion sighting and drove over to the tree. Yes, there was a leopard in the tree, but the sighting gave only space for two vehicles and the visual was 2 out of 5. Nonetheless there were six vehicles fighting for a good view on the leopard. It was ridiculous and we decided to come back later and drove back to the lion. We were not the only one to drive back and forward between the lion and the leopard. It was an absurd scene of vehicles racing between the two sightings trying to get in a good position. The whole scene felt like it was all about the humans and their competition and not about experiencing the beauty of wildlife. After a last attempt to get to see the leopard we left. A vehicle had parked in front of the animal, blocking the space for another one, people sitting on the roof and moving constantly, so that parking in second row made no sense too. I had enough.
We heard that three cheetah males had been seen and we went there. It was in a different area and a bit of a drive. Another vehicle followed us. It was a guy on his own cruising around in his Land Rover. He asked Paul to stop and talked to him in Swahili. After that we carried on and he tailed us. I asked Paul what this is about and he told me that the guy doesn’t know the way to the cheetahs and asked him to guide him there. I stopped the car, stepped out, walked towards the Land Rover and stopped him. What did he think speaking sneaky in Swahili to Paul and using a guide I had paid for to get to the sighting. I wouldn’t mind, but ask me too. Obviously the piled up anger from the vehicle sighting race of the morning came onto that guy. I apologized, but since then he kept his distance.
The cheetah were in rough territory. Rocks were lying everywhere and access was difficult. Also there the same story. The sighting gave space for two vehicles and one was blocking it. Sometimes I’m not sure if the drivers just don’t know how to handle a sighting. This one felt like that. The cheetah were beautiful, but my photographs were not. I guess the emotions of the morning distracted me and I wasn’t focused, but the animals were awesome.
We drove back to the camp to have lunch and a rest. That would be the chance to reset for the afternoon game drive. And it did. The lunch was nice and I had a shower and a nap. I was ready to go out again.
The strategy for the afternoon was to go back to the lion and to see what more is coming on the way. Rain came and the light went bluish and soft. The lion were still wide spread around the mount. We decided not to go anywhere else. Just to stand our ground and see what’s going to happen (there was enough space for about twenty more vehicles). It was lovely. The cubs were playing with their mums, some of the females were taking position on the mount to scan the area for prey and the male lion were lying in the bushes. And then the rain started again. I loved to watch one female who was on the top of the mount, trying to hide her head between her paws against the rain. She closed her eyes, waiting the rain to stop. She was beautiful.
We too closed our “eye”, the hatch and went back to the camp, were leaking tents needed attention and Alex was waiting with dinner.
It was in the Serengeti when a pride of lion was lying in the grass, cubs playing and the females keeping an eye on the plains. This is just that incredible thing in the Serengeti that you can overlook the entire area and not only the lion can, also the photographer when looking out for photographic opportunities on a photo safari.
We spotted the lion on a morning game drive and while watching and photographing them a herd of zebra approached. That was promising. Maybe we could witness a hunt! We retreated a bit from the scene to not disturb the animals and waited. The zebra herd was lead by a stallion. He walked in front of them scanning the area, head up and alert. The lion pride had disappeared from earth as soon as they saw the zebras approaching. They were all down in the grass, no movement nothing at all to see of them. Nonetheless the leading zebra stopped about 60 meters away from the pride. The rest of the zebra herd just carried on grazing, but stayed behind the stallion, some of them even playing. The stallion and the herd stood there for at least 10 minutes and just at the moment that the stallion was about to carry on the big male lion of the pride popped up his head. He had been sleeping away from the females and cubs in the grass and had just woken up, wondering where his females are. When the stallion saw he male lion he stopped again, looked at him and them turned around and walked away where he came from. The herd followed him. There was no fast movement of any zebra, no panic, nothing and there was not attack of the lion. The females popped up their heads when the zebras had turned and walked away. Only one sub adult female an after the zebra, but only for a short distance. Nobody joint her. The lionesses are too wise to waste any energy. They knew they wouldn’t have a chance to catch a zebra, so they just carried on with what they were doing before the zebras arrived.
This was an incredible sighting and we decided to stay with them, but move away for now to have some breakfast at a nearby rock. While having breakfast we saw that a buffalo heard was approaching the lion pride and the buffalos had a completely different strategy than the zebras. They had seen the lion and they immediately started attacking them, because they wanted access to a nearby water whole (probably the zebras also wanted to get to the water whole, but they do not have the strength of buffalos). The buffalo’s lion chase made that the pride was scattered over the whole area, which makes the weak. After a few moments also the lion seemed to realize that and organized themselves again. The buffalos were at the water whole drinking. The lion let their cubs under a distant group of trees and each lioness and young male lion took position on a termite mount. They set up an ambush for the buffalos for when they would leave the water whole. Ambush in this case meant that the lion had positioned themselves to take advantage of a hunting chance, but they were completely visible on the termite mounts. They were waiting. After quite a while the buffalos started moving off, but unfortunately for the lion in the wrong direction away from their positions. The lion left their termite mounts and met with the cubs under the trees. All were lying down in the grass again, again not wasting any energy.
Later on in the afternoon, still at the same spot and still lying in the shade and the cubs playing, a heard of elephants approached. And also the elephants made clear that they don’t want the lion around and chased them away. The lion moved off and lied down in the grass away from the elephants. They knew there was no hunting opportunity and again they saved their energy for better opportunities probably occurring during the night.
Being able to follow the lions throughout the day, well actually being with them the whole day in the same spot, was a great photographic opportunity and also a great learning experience from the photographic point of view and animal behavior point of view. They are so much wiser than we are … well probably except that male lion.
The Sabi Sand in the greater Kruger National Park in South Africa are famous for their leopard sightings. And because one can see leopards pretty often, it is possible to follow their family life quite good, especially when working as a ranger and being out in the bush every day. Leopards have territories. The female territories usually do not overlap, but the male territory overlaps or rather covers the territories of a couple of females. These are the females he is mating with. Often female leopards stay close to their mom and set up territory next to her. Leopards are not as solitary as one might think, they usually only don’t want to be seen and that makes that we can’t follow their movements. But in the Sabi Sand we can. They let us often see what they are up to and this is very interesting. Don’t get me wrong, they are wild animals, trusting that they will be left alone and not threatened by humans.
There was this one family, a male leopard, an older female, her daughter and the two cubs of the daughter. The older female, lets call her granny was already pretty old, but a strong spirit. She was more or less allowed to pick a bit more from the male leopard’s kills and also the daughter was looking after her. And granny did what grannies do. The daughter left one of her cubs with granny and granny raised the little “boy”. That gave the daughter more freedom and strength to raise the other cub and to hunt. Some days the daughter left even the cub she had with her with dad, just to check out something. And dad was staying with the cub, looking after it until it’s mother came back. It was observed that the cub thought to test daddy and slapped him with his little paw. Daddy showed the little one that he can do that too and the cub was rolling all over the place. When observing these beautiful interactions one learns to understand leopards so much better, their close relationships and family dynamics. The little “boy” raised by granny is now a big boy and still tolerated by dad in his territory. It might be not for nothing that he looks a bit like a spoilt boy, raised by granny and having the sweet life of being allowed in the save territory of dad. He is the one on the picture above. Granny doesn’t live anymore. She became 17 years old, a great age for a leopard in the wild. She was a very special and strong spirit.
I was on safari in Africa and it was pouring rain and it was hot. It was tough and it was beautiful and it all started in Nairobi.
Departure 8.15 in the morning. The safari vehicle was waiting for me with Paul the driver and Alex the cook. Alex was tired. He had worked a lot and fell a sleep as soon as the vehicle started to move. We headed towards the Masai Mara through the suburb Muthaiga to get onto the road to Mai Maihiu, a more scenic road than the A104 they said. I’m actually not sure if the road was more scenic. For my feeling it took longer than the highway and it was probably not such a good idea, because it was already a long drive to the Mara. Anyway we took this road and it was a good road, built by Italians after the war. After Mai Maihiu the road was really bad. I guess lots of traffic to the Mara from Matatus, safari mini vans up to trucks and 4x4s like us. It was hot, dusty and bumpy. The road went through dry land. Every now and then a settlement or market and some animals, most of them cattle, little wildlife.
We reached Narok after a three hours drive and had a break at a gas station. Narok is a busy town and it seemed that everybody took a break there to get ready for the Mara. Lots of mini vans with tourist, having a last or first (depends where you come from) bathroom stop, a drink and a snack. A good business for the inventive, friendly and persistent vendors. The gas station was fine, except that there was no gas. So, Paul went off to get some somewhere else and we hit the road again.
The tar road stopped shortly after Narok and from there it was a bumpy dirt road to one of the gates. After an hour and a half we entered the Mara through the Sekenani Gate and it was like a miracle. It was dry land until the gate and from there it was green with plenty of wildlife. It almost felt like entering a zoo, like the animals know they are supposed to be there, because it’s the famous Masai Mara with lots of wildlife. It made immediately everything worthwhile, just to be there with the animals. Another 40 minutes drive brought us to another gate, the Talek Gate where we pitched camp just outside the gate at the Crocodile Campsite. This was after a 6 hours drive, including the stop in Narok and we drove just 245 km. The campsite was next to the river Talek and a bit further was the Masai shopping center. We choose a nice spot and two Masai came to help setting up the tents, which was nice, I guess for all of us. Alex the cook was very strict with the kitchen stuff. Nobody was allowed to touch it and he set up his kitchen in a secure cabana, which has the function of a kitchen. Secure means for the food. The animals can’t get to it and that makes the life of the cook much easier. The facilities where ok. Simple but tap-water, shower, a sink and dry toilets. And my tent looked good as well. A light dome tent with enough space for me and my equipment. So, everything looked good and I was ready for a small snack and off on the game drive.
We drove for 15 minutes and there was a leopard in a tree and we drove another ten minutes and there was a pride of lions and a cheetah with three cubs. This is unbelievable. Three big cats in one game drive just around the corner from the camp. But that’s also a result of the Mara of the cell phones and because it’s so crowded with vehicles. The Mara is quite flat and open and when you see more than seven vehicles looking at something you know it’s a cat sighting. If there are no vehicles in sight, just call other drivers and they’ll tell you. I was struggling with that a lot. On one hand you see really lot’s of animals and on the other hand it’s a disaster with all the vehicles on the cat sightings. About fourteen vehicles fighting for the best spot making a game drive a competition and stressful event for all, the drivers, the guests and the most for the animals. There are rules, some kind of, but it seems a sport to get around them. It annoyed me a lot that I had to spend so much energy on anger about vehicles blocking a sighting forever, driving through the picture and getting so close to the animals that they almost drive over their tail. It started raining, or no actually it was bucketing. Great to see and lovely shots of wet cheetah cubs playing with mum. And I was worried about the tents.
When we got back to the camp the rain had stopped and unfortunately there was reason for worry. My tent was leaking. It came through the stitches where bottom and top were stitched together and it was all around. The nice tent became smaller. Luggage and mattress in the middle and toilet paper around as a safety belt to soak up the rain. I told Paul and Alex about the leaking and Paul had the same in his tent. We would call the office in Nairobi the next morning to ask for flysheets to cover the tents and the fridge was also not working, so this was on the list too. The dinner was delicious and I had an early night. A leopard was calling next to my tent. I thought, yes, that’s what I’m here for. Wonderful.
We were on a morning game drive when we approached a tree where a leopard was seen earlier that morning. When we came closer we saw that there was a kill in the tree and a male leopard lying underneath in the grass. He was lying on his side, eyes closed, but probably not sleeping. We watched him and suddenly another leopard approached the leopard in the grass from behind. It was a female leopard. The two knew each other well, but she was very cautious. She was trying to steel his kill (he had stolen the kill earlier from another female leopard, actually her daughter). When she knew where he was she retreated back into the bush, all happening without any sound. He stayed the whole time lying on his side in the grass, pretending not knowing that she is there. Then out of nowhere the female leopard climbed the tree in the back of the still in the grass lying male leopard. At that moment the male leopard jumped from lying on his side in the grass into the tree in less than a second (didn’t manage to get a photo of that), chasing the female leopard up into the very top of the tree. The female leopard was sitting in the treetop with a leg of the kill in her mouth, shaking from the stress and urinating on us in the vehicle under the tree. The male leopard growled at her, she growled back and he wouldn’t let her come down. After a while the male leopard chose to have a look at the kill to see what the damage is. At that moment the female leopard took her chance and jumped past him down the tree and ran off, with the leg from the kill! The male leopard was not happy, rearranging his kill and by doing that angrily, he dropped it. Now he had to watch how a hyena took off with his kill. She had been sitting under the tree waiting for the moment the kill would fall. The hyena had the biggest portion of the kill, the female leopard had al least something, the male leopard was still sitting in the tree and had nothing. He had played cool for too long.
Many companies organize team buildings to create opportunities for their teams of employees to bond in an informal environment away from their usual workspace. To enhance the informal character mostly some kind of activity is chosen that allows interaction like carting, rafting, other sport activities or special experiences like a balloon ride. People usually love it. It gives the opportunity to interact in a different way with your colleagues and to get to understand each other better.
How would it be to add photography to team buildings and what would be the benefits? Nowadays with the smart phones and tablets, photos are taken all the time and also during team buildings, but mostly like on a holiday as memories. But photography can offer more and add extra benefits to the team building.
Photography can become the bonding tool of the team building and the anchor of the achieved result at the end. By making photography part of the activity through assignments involving the sport, the experience or even wildlife it adds extra stimulation, motivation, fun and understanding of each other. And at the end it can be utilized to anchor the groups experience through images that reflect the purpose of the team building.
Photography can be a vital source of fun, insight, stimulation and motivation for something important as a team building. With the side effect that its results last forever. … and its easy too!
It is already very fortunate to be close to a leopard and able to photograph this incredible animal, but this leopard sighting was of a magical kind.
We were on a game drive on Londolozi Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand (Kruger National Park) in South Africa when our tracker spotted a kill in a tree just of the road in the bush. We pulled over and found an the foot of the tree a male leopard, not to happy with us at first, but quickly focusing again on his prey up in the tree. His kill was a nyala and the tree was not really ideal for a hoisted kill, but it would do one could think. The leopard was not happy with the position of the kill and went up the tree to rearrange his kill. What happened then you better see in the video. Words cannot match that.
You might have read stories in newspapers or on the Internet about people getting eaten by a lion during their safari. Every now and then these things happen and immediately a fearful idea of the bush evolves. But its not the bush, that causes these terrible incidents, it’s the people.
When people go on safari they either drive by themselves for example in the Kruger National Park or they visit Private Game Reserves. In both cases they are informed about the rules for their stay in the bush which include staying in the vehicle when being on game drives and especially when being at a sighting, staying in the camp, not wandering out of the camp into the bush and not walking unescorted at night. People hear all these instructions and sign for it and yet they forget. It proves to be hard to remember where they are when they stroll through the bush camp, forgetting that its not the park at home or seeing a lion and forgetting its not the zoo and not TV. It might sound very silly when reading this, but it happens and the reason is the emotional experience of being in the bush that makes people forgetting where they are and how to behave. The bush is real and the lion is a real wild animal and not a part of an attraction park. This gets confused and then it goes wrong.
There were cases that a tourist went jogging in Kruger National Park and got eaten by lion. Pray runs and a running person triggers the predators hunting instinct. A woman was sitting at dinner in a lodge and remembered that she forgot her sweater at the pool earlier that day. She got up and walked over to the pool, that was about a hundred meters away in a separate part of the camp in the bush. Lion were there when she got there and she was killed. She had forgotten where she was and that she could not walk by herself at night, only with a guard. Only recently a tourist stepped out of the vehicle and walked towards the lion at a sighting in the Kruger National Park to get a better photo. He was killed. He also didn’t realized that this is real and no TV or zoo. One needs to know the bush to walk around there and the bush is not Central Park.
It might sound far-fetched, but Quantum Physics is the starting point to understand and photograph leopards. Everything is made of the same energy and everything is connected to everything else is an essential lesson from Quantum Physics, that applies to us as it applies to leopards, a coffee mug and the car we are driving in. Because we are all made of the same energy, we are also all connected and communicate on the energy level all the time, mostly without being conscious about that, although we use phrases like “we are on the same wavelength” with somebody or not. So somehow we know that we are communicating on frequencies like radio channels and some people can receive the signals and some don’t or receive only distorted messages. That means that the energy we are made of vibrates or moves in different frequencies, higher or lower frequencies, faster or slower. We might experience situations where we immediately have a good “click” with somebody. Most likely this persons communicates on energy level on the same frequency as we do. When we experience a situation that we find it difficult to be in the presence of a certain person for too long, because we start to feel tensed and restless, like pressure is building up, we might have an encounter with somebody of a high frequency energy and our energy frequency finds it hard to adjust to the same level. In the other direction to a lower frequency the adjustment is easier and mostly not experienced as demanding or unpleasant. But what does all that have to do with photography and especially leopard photography? An easy answer could be, wait until you look one into the eyes, but it is helpful to know what happens when you are in the lucky position to be near a leopard and able to spend time with the animal. The difference in photographing wildlife in general and leopards in particular is the very high frequency energy this incredible cat has. Being conscious about that helps a lot when photographing them. Imagine you are on a game drive and suddenly there is the leopard you were looking for already for days, right in front of the vehicle on a termite mount. Now just shoot away. Don’t think. Let the adrenaline from the excitement out and also take the pictures you can get, before the leopard possibly disappears. This moment might take a minute or two. You will feel when the excitement has settled and you will sit more relaxed in the vehicle. First thoughts of how to photograph the leopard properly will pop up. The next thing might be a feeling of impatience and negative thoughts about the light, the not doing anything animal, chaos with the camera settings, maybe a bit cursing, annoyance and eventually anger why we are still here with this leopard, enough leopard. This is a very important moment. When you decide to leave the sighting, you will miss the chance to connect with the animal and to get the most beautiful photos. All the negative thoughts and the physical reactions of feeling uncomfortable are caused by the difference in energy vibration/frequency. The leopard as a high frequency animal is just sitting there and doing nothing, only sending out on his/her frequency and your energy is trying to tune in to the leopards energy frequency. This tuning process causes the uncomfortable feeling. It will disappear as soon as you are tuned in and from there its as easy as what to photograph this amazing animal and to get the most beautiful leopard images. Be patient. Stay with the animal and give yourself the time to tune in. As soon as you are tuned in on the leopards frequency the whole “energy situation” on the sighting will calm down and all present parties will connect on the same level. The leopard will start doing his/her thing and the most incredible photo opportunities will occur.
Try it at home with your cat and get trained for the big cat!
Ingredients 1 or more camera(s) 1 or more lens(es) 1 or more fully charged battery(ies) 1 or more memory cards/films 1 laptop or other backup medium 1 or more power adapter(s) 1 card reader or cable for image upload 1 or more places to stay 1 or more reliable guide(s) depending on destination 1 or more camera bag(s)/backpack comfortable clothes for all possible weather conditions food & beverages well planned logistics and accommodations visas and permits if necessary maps/GPS for navigation well considered security preparations and backup plan plan B if plan A cannot go through emergency plan passion, inspiration & a high spirit Method Listen to your heart when deciding on the destination of your photo adventure; the park in your town, your grandmother’s garden, the beaches of Hawaii or the African savanna, no matter how close to home or how far away, follow the choice of the heart. Take all technical ingredients, check them, clean them and decide on the cameras and lenses depending on the destination and subject. When you made your choice put the technical equipment in the camera bag or backpack. Add the environmental ingredients. Make sure that everything is organized and set in a way that you are safe and comfortable. Finish with putting the cherry on the cake; the ingredients passion, inspiration and high spirit.
Digital Photography is a great thing. It makes us shoot away, not thinking and worrying too much, just snapping and enjoying this incredible hobby or profession. But there is a little downside. How to handle all these images? Many of us are struggling with this part of photography and when you’ve got down the road for a while with now good idea how to do organize your images, it becomes more and more frightening to start doing it properly and organizing the archive. Here some tips that might help getting some structure into the huge amount of images we are taking and taking away the fear of doing it.
Reflect & Anticipate. Before you even start taking images think of how you want to find them back and/or think of how you usually find things back. Everybody has got his/her own way of thinking and remembering, the way we go through the drawers of our brain for all sorts of things. Some have a photographic memory others are good with numbers. There are plenty of different ways of thinking. Reflect and identify your way of thinking and remembering. You might like to store the images chronologically by making folders like “day 1 of photo safari”, “day 2 of photo safari” or you rather like to make folders per subject like “lion”, “leopard”, “cheetah” and “landscape”. Only you know what suits you best and fits your thinking patterns. Reflect on that and make an important first step to organize your images. Then anticipate. When you are for example very lucky and on a game drive where you see five different leopards, you want to be able to know afterwards which images where of which leopard. Take an image of the sky or another landmark that does not fit into the sequence of the leopard shots before you start photographing the next leopard. It will tell you later that this was the other leopard, leopard number two and you can put him in his dedicated folder. It works also very well when photographing for example dog shows or horse sports events. It will save you lots of time and nerves when going later through your images to find the one your friend is asking for.
Structure the image upload to your computer. When the moment comes to upload your images to your computer you know already how you want the images to be organized, because you did the reflection and the anticipation beforehand. Now comes again a bit anticipation. Before you start uploading your photos, make the image folders on the computer first. That will prevent the leopard images going automatically into the big folder of all holiday photos, but directly to where you want them. When you have a folder “photo safari”, make a subfolder “leopards day 1” or only a subfolder “day 1”, whatever suits you best to have the structure to find them back later set.
Upload and backup. Your images are on your computer, nicely organized and you can find everything easily when you need it. Now comes the next and final step, the backup. The general rule is that you should have 2 backups and one backup off site. The backups are usually done on an external hard drive, to prevent image loss due to computer problems or theft. Create the same folder structure you use on your computer on the backup hard disks, because your thinking stays the same and you want to find things back. The off site backup can also be a hard drive with your images that you store in a safety deposit box at your local bank. An alternative is to store your images off site is the cloud, but when you shoot big files that will only apply to your very best images. Otherwise it will take forever to load them to the cloud and take a lot of space.
Now you are all set and organized. No worries anymore and free brain space to think about nice photography opportunities instead of how to organize and find your photos again.
Easy software for organizing images is Aperture. I don’t know how it works with Lightroom, but its also used by many people.
Enjoy a photo database without worries and keep snapping away!