The Kruger National Park in South Africa is huge, about 2/3 the size of Belgium. It offers a great variety of options for African safaris and especially for photographic safaris.
First. Wildlife photography enthusiasts can create their own trip by renting a car, driving themselves around in the park and staying at one or more of the many available camp sites. To make sure you see some wildlife, read in advance about the park, get information from the park offices and maybe team up with local guides. Otherwise the trip can be unsatisfactory with regards to wildlife sightings and the missing great photos.
Second. Book yourself on a group safari that stays in an accommodation just outside the park, but has game drives in open 4x4 jeeps with professional guide inside the park. This can be a very affordable option, but keep in mind that the other guests have different ideas about what they want to see and how long they want to stay at a sighting and you as the photographer might be frustrated.
Third. Book yourself in at a safari lodge inside the Kruger Park. Considers taking a private vehicle as it will give you more freedom and the lodge might otherwise put up to 10 guests on one game drive vehicle. Be aware that game drives in the public part of Kruger Park mean that traffic jams at sightings are possible.
Fourth. Book a private game reserve in the Greater Kruger Park. Choose one that guarantees a maximum of 6 guests per vehicle. Taking a private vehicle can also here be a good idea, although it might be pricy. The private game reserve will make sure that you can go off road for cat sightings and no crowds of vehicles fill up the bush and roads. Some private game reserves offer even high end photographic equipment for rent. They are the best choice for photographers with regards to the quality of sightings and freedom as photographer. However, they have a price tag.
Fifth. Book yourself into the exclusivity of a walking safari. Great walking trails are available that bring the guests to off the beaten track places and the accommodations are in mobile tented camps in the middle of the bush. Their price is also very interesting. Their only disadvantage is the problem with cat sightings. When you see cats, you will not be able to sit or stand and photograph them. You are on foot and so are they.
Consider the different photographic safari options when you make your planning to make sure you get what you have in mind, photography wise and safari wise.
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.
Wildlife photography takes us home to nature, lets us feel the outdoors and capture its beauty. There is probably no other photography that is in the same way exciting and calming as wildlife photography. Photographing the Big 5 on safari is very exciting, impressing and stimulating and at the same time sitting with a leopard for a morning is very calming and makes us connect with nature again in a quiet way.
It is never boring. A day in the bush is never the same. The animals have always surprises for the observer and photographer. They make us see and grow in photography with every minute we spent with them and they rarely do what we think we want them to do, which is very refreshing too.
Get your dose wildlife photography every day. Wildlife is everywhere, in your garden, in the park and even in the city. Just start seeing them and capture their magic.
It is sometimes not easy to get through the thick bush of safari offers and available lodges. But there is a way to filter out the good ones and to make a difference with your photographic safari choice.
There are a number of bush lodges and camps that can call themselves eco lodges. They use solar power, re-use water, keep the use of plastic low and more ecological conscious actions to make the impact on nature as small as possible.
There are also a number of lodges and camps that work closely with the local communities, provide medical care and education for the community and their staff.
A third criterion is the conservation policy of a lodge or camp. How do they manage the land and how do they protect the wildlife.
The best lodges and camps do all three and if you would like to make a difference while having a great time with your wildlife photography and game drives, you should choose one of them. Ask for them when you are planning your safari and you will know, that you did a good thing.
Happy difference making while having photography fun!
Photographic safaris seem pretty expensive on first sight, especially when one hasn’t been on safari yet. They are completely different from other holidays and there are good reasons to be careful in choosing the right photo safari adventure.
Besides the utterly remote location of the lodges and camps with the logistic challenges of operating them, a main factor that influences the quality and with it the price of the trip are the game drives. It makes a big difference if the game drives are operated with 4x4 vehicles or with mini vans. Mini vans get in difficulties when it starts raining and in sand. There are many areas they cannot go or only with big risk. 4x4 vehicles instead can easily go off road and that means they can for example follow a leopard through the bush, where a mini van has to drive around and most likely lose sight of the leopard. A 4x4 vehicle is safer and it offers the better conditions for wildlife photography. Ideal is an open jeep where the photographer can easily move around and photograph on all sides.
But there is more that influences the quality of game drives. Some lodges and camps put up to 10 guests on a vehicle, which gives no space for photography and even without photography, this is very disturbing for the safari experience.
Another important criteria is the driver/guide. Only a qualified professional driver/guide will be able to find the animals and to take you to the best places. Private game reserves in South Africa have even trackers. They sit right in front of the vehicle on an extra seat to look for tracks. They work closely with the rangers (driver/guide) to provide outstanding game drives with fantastic photographic opportunities.
Game drives make or break your safari. Choose them carefully. Their quality matters for all wildlife photographers and safari guests.
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.
Yes, think of it as crafting, as being on photo safari is a creative process itself. Probably approach it like creating a sculpture, free the sculpture that is hidden in the stone by removing the stone around it.
With this mind set start from the sculpture, the core of your photographic safari. What photography do you want to do? Landscape, desert, savanna, big herds, big cats, Big 5, with water like in the Okavango Delta or the bush in South Africa? Listen to your heart when making the choice and then go further.
Whatever your budget is, investigate for the best game drive quality. This will be essential for your wildlife photography. When this is established, look at the options and choose the one that looks extremely comfortable, just the way you would like to spend the time between game drives and intense photographing to rest and relax.
Now you got your sculpture, your personalized safari, your photo adventure in Africa, where you are going to take pictures you always wanted to take and you will come home with an amazing photo treasure.
Phinda consists of at least 5 different habitats and is located just behind the sand dunes of the Indian Ocean in the southeast of South Africa. Specialties are:
The very rare sand forest, a forest where fairies seem to live with elephants and big cats. Great diversity of animals The Big 5, with especially great cheetah sightings The possibility to watch turtles laying their eggs Great birding with the possibility of boat cruises on the river Different landscapes And great lodges (see image above) Great team building activities Black rhino tracking Wildlife photography courses
Phinda was in the past a pineapple plantation and was brought back to be bush more than 20 years ago. The name Phinda means “the return” and the game reserve made indeed a great return to the wild African bush.
It is not the common safari destination, but very worth visiting.
The Maasai people in Kenya and Tanzania are very beautiful and proud people. They live in the Serengeti and the Masai Mara and one can easily see them herding they cattle when being on a photographic safari, wildlife photography course or team building photographic safari. They make fantastic photographic “subjects” with their colorful traditional clothes, decorated with beautiful beadwork. But one should know that they want to be asked before you photograph them, otherwise it can get a bit nasty. And because they are quick learners, they adjusted to tourism and will ask for some money for being photographed. Usually the amount can be negotiated and they will be really patient with the photographer and helpful to get great shots. It is only a pity that the photographs will be posed and not spontaneous snap shots. However, they are impressive people and fabulous for photographers.
Recently a lady guest from a wildlife photography course called to tell that she was with a group of friends in Uzbekistan and while they were having dinner no one spoke about the day they had in Tashkent, but only about the Namibia trip they did years before. She wanted to share how incredible it was that they all dreamed back to this safari, although they were on a lovely trip in an exciting country. The lady was very clear, there is nothing better than safaris and she will start making her whatever how many photo book just now with the images from her last safari.
What was your last team building? Most likely some kind of activity that provides fun and lets the team do something together like bowling or other sports activities. What were the benefits of the team building? Most likely you learned something about your colleague, learned to do things together with people you thought you don’t like that much, but they turned out to be nice. Did anything-significant change after the team building when you all were back in the office? Hopefully it did, that’s the purpose, but for how long did the benefits last?
Well, team building photo safaris are not the first thing your boss thinks of when you work in lets say New York and the bush is a very long flight and big travel costs away. Yet, it’s worth to consider doing one. Not only will the team members love the idea of going on safari, they will feel much rewarded and stimulated for greater goals. And there are more benefits.
A photographic safari environment in combination with wildlife photography works like a Silicon Valley incubator with regards to anything you want to achieve with the team. A few days on team building in the bush do more than weekly training sessions at the office for 6 months. Any process is accelerated by the environment and visualized through photography, ready to take home and to benefit from it forever.
And there need to be no worries about the photography part. Neither technical knowledge nor big camera equipment are needed. The team building has the structure of a wildlife photography course and photography tuition is provided when needed.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Meru National Park is a beautiful photo safari destination in northern Kenya. Its breathtaking landscapes and beautiful animals provide ideal conditions for wildlife photography courses. The light is magnificent and the outlooks over the park are stunning.
Meru got also the rare Grevy’s zebras and the gerenuks, also called “giraffe antelope”. It is a place to go to enjoy nature and photography and to be with beauty at ease.
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.
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is one of the most beautiful destinations for photographic safaris. The light is just sensational and even with an entry level photography equipment one can take the most amazing pictures.
Images from photo safaris to the Okavango Delta can always be identified easily, the light is different from any other place and photographers heaven.
The images of this book were not taken during a photography course, just when traveling for photo fun to the delta.
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.
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.
Who wants to walk in Yosemite? Who wants to go on a photographic safari through America? Who wants to attend a photography course presented by a great master of photography?
If your answer is yes, me, then you should visit the Ansel Adamsexhibition in London. The show is on until April 28th in the Maritime Museum in London. And if the journey to London would be a bit too far, there is a catalog available online to enjoy his great work.
Learning form old masters is not only beneficial for painters; it is also a wonderful source of inspiration for photographers.
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.
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.
The beanbag is an item made of fabric, looking like a small pillowcase, and is filled with beans, at least it was.
Nowadays beanbags can be filled with rice or lighter synthetic fillings and can have several shapes. There are beanbags that stay nicely on the sill of car windows on metal bars in safari vehicles or on the knee of the photographer. They are multifunctional and extremely helpful on photo safari.
We photographers are not able to hold our camera (with or without zoom lens) steady enough to create shake-less images. We need help. For night photography it has to be the tripod, but on photographic safaris the tripod is not very practical. The beanbag is much better. You can put it everywhere, it keeps you completely flexible and mobile and the images will be sharp. Just rest the camera lens on the beanbag and shoot away. Well, we seem to like to have control about our camera and it is always an item during the photography courses that it is difficult for us to let go and trust the beanbag, but we can. The beanbag is doing the job just great. Try it. It works perfectly.
Beanbags can be bought in all sizes and shapes. They are also easy do be made at home from a small pillowcase or a piece of clothe.
Being on a photographic safari can teach one sometimes more than simply photography. A photography course might bring one to see more than only a wildlife sighting and sometimes the impressions are deep and make one think about life.
Travelling to the Masai Mara can be traveling into the essence of creativity, stimulating whole new insights.
Choosing the right equipment when going on photo safari can be difficult, especially when one has several cameras, lenses and accessories. First it depends on the mode of travel during the photographic safari. Travel by road gives usually no limits regarding the luggage and enough space to bring what you have. Flying is different. The small safari aircrafts have strict baggage allowances, usually 15 kg including hand luggage and photo equipment. Well, a camera body and a zoom lens are easily already 5 kg.
When it comes to accessories photographers are often doubtful, if they should bring a tripod or not. A tripod is nice when you want to do low light photography and night shots, but it needs space. On the safari vehicle is little space to set up your tripod and the tripod will constantly be in the way. And you cannot get out of the vehicle to set it up when photographing animals. It is actually not a good idea to bring one. You better bring a monopod. A monopod is lighter, easier to carry, needs less to no space and can help when wielding a big lens. It is not ideal when wanting to do night shots, because you are still holing it yourself, but if you are not keen on night shots, rather bring a monopod than a tripod.
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.
What are your resolutions for this year? Do more sports, eat less and healthier and spend more time with family and friends? What are your resolutions for this year regards photography? Do photography courses, travel to photograph more of the world, get a new camera, make more photo books or learn how to photograph at night?
What came first, aspiration or inspiration? Did you cherish the hope of becoming a visual artist and you happened to have a camera at home or were you inspired to capture moments and you developed the hope of winning an award?
Does it matter? As long as you enjoy photographing, you will be inspired to achieve great things in life, in arts and elsewhere. Take your camera and snap what you see, share it and enjoy the captured moments forever.
Photo awards have proved many times that they are questionable in their motives and results and the just announced winner of the “nature” section of the National Geographic 2012 Photo Contest is only another example how cynical awards have become.
The winning photo is a photo of a tiger, taken in a zoo. One can just imagine what kind of wildlife photography that is in the comfortable security of a zoo with an ice-cream stall conveniently at hand. Not a photographer out in the bush where it has 40 degrees Celsius, covered in dust and sweat, facing possible danger behind every corner and trying to be patient to get that one special shot. No, conveniently with a trolley for the equipment and a foldable chair and umbrella to wait if necessary comfortably for a while, probably being very annoyed by other visitors flocking around the same cage or enclosure.
Day 20 Our last full day in the bush and we went back to the waterhole from yesterday. When we arrived the waterhole was empty and that means in times of drought that there must be cats around. And yes, when we got close we saw them. Two male lion were lying at the waterhole. We took a closer look and found out that they weren’t well. One of them was limping and he looked very dehydrated, skinny and his belly looked like a balloon. The other one didn’t look injured but very skinny too. Paul told me that they are brothers and we made the conclusion that one got injured and his brother stayed with him and shared the pain and struggle. It was very touching to watch them and very sad too. When the sun came out they tried to get some shade under a skinny tree about 100 meters away. It took them forever to get there and I was afraid they wouldn’t be alive for long anymore.
When we came back to the camp that morning we had visitors for lunch. A breeding herd of elephants was resting about 50 meters away from our tents under the trees. This was awesome. They allowed us to be so close to them and to share the site. It felt magical.
In the afternoon I wanted to go back to look for the two lions. They were still there under the tree and after a while they started moving again towards thicker bush, probably to find some food. It was very impressing how they carried on trying to survive and how the brothers stayed together. And it was also very sad to watch them and to feel their pain.
We had to go back to Nairobi. On one hand we looked forward to sleep in a bed, having a shower and being at home. On the other hand we had become a good team and we would miss each other and the bush. Anyway, we had to go and Paul drove furiously fast to get quickly back. He also wanted to be with his relative in the hospital and Alex and me wanted to relax, it was after all a Sunday afternoon.
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.
Now the photography enthusiast and Reddit user hallbuzz made a list of all the camera settings of the 95 images from the Reuters list including camera brand, lens type, shutter speed and f-stop. Then another Reddit user mathiasa turned all this information into charts. See the charts on petapixel.
When looking at the charts one could be tempted to think that in order to be one day on the list of the 95 greatest photographs of the year, chosen by Reuters, one just can buy the equipment mostly used and the settings mostly applied. But is that so?
How often do you shoot a sports event like the Olympics? Are the best photographs shot with a Canon, rather than with a Nikon?
What are the charts tell? Photographers of press agencies get equipped by their employer and the employer chooses a camera brand of good quality he can get a good deal with. Same for the lenses, reflecting also in the f-stop stats. And from there it’s a bit of everything, depending on subject and location.
So, what does this example of stats of popular settings tell us? There is nothing like a popular setting one can just use, because others do. Camera settings always depend on the light and nothing else.
Unfortunately the bats had left behind quite a mess in the bathrooms and it was really a shame that nobody had thought about nets to keep them out. The facilities were really nice, except the other visitors. I found out later that every morning people are coming to clean the whole place and it’s fine until the bats come back. Nobody seemed to be bothered by it.
Tsavo East is well known for the elephants and we went out to find some. It was very dry and then the best thing to do is going to a waterhole. According to Paul there was a big dam where we could find plenty of animals. When we got there the dam was dry. Even Paul was surprised. He had never seen the dam dry. Not far away was another smaller waterhole and there the elephants were. It actually didn’t look much like a waterhole, more like a mud-hole, but the animals seamed happy with it. The elephants were standing in the mud, enjoying cooling down. Zebra, warthog, jackals and ostrich carefully tried to sip water from the mud. We stayed for hours.
In the afternoon we cruised through another part of the park and also there were plenty of elephants. Beautiful red colored elephants, from the red soil in the park.
We had planned to stay the whole day out, with packed breakfast and the lodge would bring us lunch later. We were on a photo safari in the Sabi Sand in Kruger National Park in South Africa, the heaven for leopard photography lovers.
Staying the whole day out in the bush has the advantage that you can stay with the animal when you eventually found it and follow it the entire day. We had found a female leopard. She had two pretty “old” cubs of about 18 months old, two boys, still staying with her. Usually the cubs have to live on their own by this age, but the boys seemed to enjoy their mother’s care and were in no rush to live on their own and do all the hunting themselves. The mother is a good hunter and also this morning she had a kill hoisted in a tree. But there was no sign of the boys. After she had fed on the kill for a while she started calling for the boys. No response. She started walking away from the tree looking and calling for the boys. The calling is a gentle sound, heard by the cubs and telling them mom is calling and expecting response. But nothing. The mother kept going and calling and after about one hour doing so, she seemed to have enough. Now she was really calling, a loud, strong leopard call that made clear she will take no nonsense anymore. And suddenly one of the boys popped up, just a few bushes away from her approaching her in apologies and trying to sooth her anger. After a moment of accepting the cubs attempts to make it up again, they wandered off to the tree with the kill.
“Ten percent of all of the photographs made in the entire history of photography were made last year — an astounding figure. More than ever before, thanks in part to cell phone technology, the world is engaged with photography and communicating through pictures.
Nonetheless, a great photograph will rise above all the others.” This quote comes from TIME Picks the Top 10 Photos of 2012.
But what is a great photo? Somehow the first image they choose with the man from Ghaza reminds me very much of the winning photo of Word Press Photo 2012. Are they playing safe by choosing what won an award elsewhere or do they really find it one of the greatest photos of 2012?
The problem is, that all rankings and awards are subject to the subjective judgment of the jury. They have an idea what they want an image to look like and the one that gets the closest to the idea is the winner. But what a jury likes is not necessary what you like and find a great image.
A great image is an image that appeals to you, an image you love and can’t stop looking at. A great image draws you into it and makes you discover new things all the time. It lets you experience the feeling it captured and takes you on a journey.
We don’t like unpleasant surprises, we like nice surprises; yet both ways, surprises have the power to make us more creative. When you plan to photograph your friend’s birthday party you will get from one surprise into the other, because the people will just not do what you as the photographer want them to do. You got to come up with creative solutions to get some nice pictures anyway. And at the end your own photographs will be the surprisingly good.
When you walk through your town, garden, in the woods or in the park, with every step you might be surprised by new photographic opportunities. And you will try to capture them the way they surprise you. Lets not mention walking in the bush and being surprised by an elephant, well then there is no time for photo safari snaps, then its time to run.
But isn’t it always the surprise of beauty that makes us snap? The moment of awe we capture and go back to when looking at the images. Surprise can reflect in the images in many ways, from the blurred photo, because we were surprised by that photographic opportunity coming along just now and we were not ready, to the building that surprised us with its beauty.
Look at your images and see how they surprise you, again and again, every time you look at them.
Day 17 We decided to have a quite day with our game drives and also a long rest around lunch. It was just so hot. It felt like being roasted on lave stone and at the same time it was so beautiful, so irresistible beautiful that one takes it all just to be there.
Day 18 We left the campsite at 8.15 a.m. and headed to the main gate of Tsavo West Mtito Andei to hit the road to Mombasa. It was a short drive to Voi where we did some groceries and I got myself some chocolate and a stroll through the market place. The main gate of Tsavo East was just outside Voi and the campsite Ndololo just 20 minutes from the gate. We arrived there before lunch and pitched camp.
When we were about to have lunch a troop of baboons was lining up to get our food. I encouraged Alex to make a statement with the catapult to make clear who is the boss. He would be the one staying in camp when we are out and they would make life for him very hard if he wouldn’t do something right now. He went after them and they got the message.
Tsavo East is huge and doesn’t have many roads. It felt to me like a paradise for the animals, because they can live their lives unbothered by vehicles if they want, yet we had great sightings too. The first afternoon we spotted already lionesses, actually quite close to the camp, on their way to hunt. It was a good start.
When we got back to the camp I wanted to take advantage of the good facilities of the campsite and went off to have a shower. It was almost dark and when I entered the shower I saw them, bats everywhere. I didn’t feel comfortable and hurried up to get away form them quickly.
They are lovely creatures these warthogs, the wild boars of the bush. They always look funny when they run with their tails up as soon as you stop the vehicle. Do you know why they are always running with their tails up? When warthogs run through the bush or high grass they close their eyes not to get branches and grass in their eyes, but when they close their eyes they don’t have enough skin anymore and their tail goes up. …. Well it’s an African tale, but one wouldn’t be surprised, if it would be true with these funny animals.
They would actually be great pets and in some bush camps they are living right in the middle of all the guests, but claim their ground, if you come to close. And so they do at Kichwa Tembo in the Masai Mara. A whole family lives in the camp where they feel safe close to humans. But don’t be mistaken, they are wild animals and you cannot touch them neither approach them, they are very particular about their personal space. Yet there is nothing nicer than getting out of the tent in the morning and the first thing you see in front of your tent is a warthog family enjoying the morning sun of a brand new wonderful day in the bush.
So, when you see somewhere excellent warthog photographs, the photographer might have had the opportunity to photograph them just in front of his/her tent. That makes the photographs still great photographs only there is no exciting adventure of spotting them attached.
We heard baboons alarming the whole night. We thought the lions must still be there then and we went straight to the spot where we saw the lioness. Nothing. Paul checked other roads he thought they might have crossed, but nothing. They were gone or deep in the bush.
So we drove over to Mzima Springs, a beautiful lake and drinking water source. They built some kind of a tower in the lake where one can see the fish swimming and look just above the waterline like a hippo. A lovely place and Paul took the chance while staying there to clean our vehicle from tsetse flies. He was not very patient and focused this morning and I heard later that a family member wasn’t well and he was worried. Next to that we had to go to the main gate to recharge our smart card to be able to pay the park fees. Still a consequence from the mixed up itinerary.
We tried to leave worries and annoyance behind when we headed out for the afternoon game drive and we got rewarded. Three klipspringers were playing around on the rocks just next to the road. That was a rare and awesome sighting.
That night I woke up and was afraid. Chewing noise very close to my tent and very loud. I thought this must be something big and my new tent was very small, 1,50 m x 1 m and 70 cm high. I was lying there thinking, if this something big steps on my tent I’m gone, but I told myself too that there was a little roof above the tent and that would prevent an animal from stepping on the tent. I fell asleep again and heard the next morning that it was a giraffe.
The battery of the vehicle was flat again. It was the fridge, draining it. Again with the help of the Masai we got going to our next destination, Tsavo West. Paul told me that we have to drive in convoy and need to be at the checkpoint at 9 a.m.. We hurried there, but only got there at 10 a.m. and it was fine. Everybody else had just got there. The convoy drove fast through the volcano landscape around Mount Kilimanjaro. It was beautiful. Black rocky ground, streams of lava. That’s what makes Tsavo West so special and hot like in an oven. We arrived at the campsite at 11.30 a.m.. What a nice short drive. And it was really very hot and dry.
After a rest we took off for the afternoon game drive. It was thick bush everywhere. The scenery was breathtaking and the tsetse flies were horrible. But it was all worth it. It was very beautiful and the view on Mount Kilimanjaro was the best. On our way back to the camp Paul spotted a lioness, just on the edge of the thick bush and close to our camp. We would come back first thing in the morning to follow up with her and the rest of the pride.
It was a clear morning. The wind had died and the Mount Kilimanjaro was beautifully visible. We went out to the little mountain/hill, serving as a viewpoint to photograph the Kilimanjaro. It was awesome and I enjoyed the serenity of that moment. A clear, calm morning in this majestic landscape, it was splendid. After a while we carried on with our game vehicle and followed for the rest of the morning the animals from swamp to swamp.
At lunch time the wind was back. 1.45 p.m. a rainstorm, 2 p.m. again a sandstorm, 2.15 p.m. sun and hot. This carried on for the whole afternoon rest time and there was no place without dust. At 4 p.m. I stopped practicing accepting and started thinking again. We need to change that. I got out of my tent and talked to Paul an Alex. We need to move the tents behind the bushes. They looked at me in unbelief but did move the tents, mine first still skeptical. But soon they were happy we did it. It worked!
4.30 p.m. we wanted to leave for the game drive but the battery was flat. With the help of a couple of Masai we got the car going and left the camp. Just around the corner on a smaller swamp was an elephant baby lying on the ground and two adults were standing next to it, watching and not moving. I thought the baby was dead and felt sad for them, but then arrived an elephant bull and the two adult females woke up the baby. It had been very deep asleep and needed some time to get up. I felt relieved.
The sand storms carried on that night, but we had a good sleep behind the bushes … until the mongoose came, shouting at each other and turning the whole place upside down.
Duba Plains is an island in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, famous for its lion and buffalo encounters. Over years the “Duba Boys”, two lion brothers, were the dominant males of the local pride, but times got difficult when a buffalo killed one of the brothers. That meant for the remaining brother that he had to control the entire territory by himself and this was a difficult task. Male lion walk the borders of their territory to make sure there are no intruders to maintain their authority. But when the territory is a bit big for one male lion the intruders can slip through. And that is what “Skimmer Boy” from the neighboring island did.
We found him one day mating with one of Duba Boy’s females. He didn’t get to that point easily, like his face showed. There was obviously a heavy fight between the two male lion, which the intruder won. He was at last happily mating with the female for days. That was definitely a sign that change was coming upon the pride, the remaining Duba Boy was not strong enough to control the territory without his brother and Skimmer Boy had made his move.
Let’s hope that the situation was cleared before the new cubs were born. Otherwise the naughty move of Skimmer Boy might be not so smart for the newborn cubs. Male lion do not accept cubs of another male and kill them.
Being a lion is not an easy life, although we might think that when seeing them snoozing for the whole day.
I was awake and just about to get up when I heard a scream and another one and another one. What was it? A bird? When I got to the main house I heard that somebody saw a leopard next to my tent killing a duiker. I was excited. This was spectacular and I would have loved to see the leopard. We were all standing on the veranda with binoculars trying to find the leopard. Nothing. Suddenly while sitting at the table chatting, Richard (the manager) said, I can see him. We all jumped up. I got my camera and only with the big lens I could see “him”. The leopard turned out to be a cheetah and a female, just up the hill behind my tent, feeding on the kill. What a start of the day.
At 8 a.m. I met Paul and Alex at the gate. They managed to get us a new vehicle and new tents. Nonetheless we decided to go straight to Amboseli and to skip Mount Kenya and Aberdare. The first part of the drive would bring us back around Mount Kenya to Nairobi and from there down to the border with Tanzania. We drove back to Nairobi through Meru. It was very different from the other side of the mountain, lush and tropical with many plantations and colorful villages. Everything went well and we arrived in Nairobi at noon, had a stop at a supermarket, our packed lunch along the road and carried on towards the border, 251 km to Arusha and it was 2 p.m. at Ngong junction. One hour later we had a flat tyre, at 4.55 p.m. we arrived at Amboseli Gate and at 5.45 p.m. at the campsite. What a drive, but we were glad we did it. From now on we wouldn’t have to drive far anymore, except the way back to Nairobi, but that would be at the very end.
It was November 2006 and the time of the short rains in Tanzania, normally not the time photographers want to visit the Serengeti, but I thought it would be great to see the savannah during rains and to shoot with the soft light. At arrival in Arusha it was announced that our safari flight to Klein’s Camp in the Northern Serengeti would have a delay and would not be able to land at Klein’s. There had been too much rain and the airstrip’s soil was to soft for a plane to land. After a while a solution was found. We would fly to Seronera in the middle of the Serengeti and from there carry on by 4x4.
During our flight over the Serengeti we got a pretty good impression what was going on. The Grumeti River was full and the plains were flooded. The often-dry Great Plains were wetlands. From Seronera airstrip we carried on in our 4x4 Landcruiser, heading north towards the Kenyan border where Klein’s Camp is situated. The road we were driving on was still all right, although we had to be careful with the patches of black cotton soil, a tricky soil that looks dry and the moment you drive on it, its like driving on wet soap. After driving for a while we got a call via the radio that another vehicle from Klein’s got stuck and if we could help pulling them out. Their position was quite close and we headed to them to help. The vehicle had dug itself deeply into the black cotton soil and we had to be very carefully to not get stuck as well. The guests were standing next to the vehicle with a desperate look in their eyes, but it was soon clear that we couldn’t pull them out. We would get stuck too. So all the guests got in our vehicle and we carried on. The guys would find a solution for the vehicle later, at least the guests were off the road and on-route back to the camp.
In order to get to Klein’s Camp one has to cross the river. When we arrived at the river it was clear that we wouldn’t be able to drive through it, definitely not with all the people on it. We had to drive to a little pedestrian bridge, get out and walk with our luggage over the tiny bridge to reach the vehicle that was waiting for us on the other side. Masai people were awaiting us on the other side, dressed traditionally and with spear and with a big UMBRELLA! It was such a funny sight to see the brave Masai warriors with an umbrella to shelter from the rain.
Well, we finally arrived at the camp and our driver proved to be brave and a good driver as well. He drove through river with the empty vehicle and everything was fine.
We were the last guests arriving at Klein’s Camp for several months. They closed the camp after we had left. The short rains turned out to be very long rains and the camp was only reopened in August of the following year. Nature has always the last word, not matter what humans want.
I obviously needed it so much, a relaxed day at Lewa Downs with a nice and dry room, a shower and everything just working. So, happily I went out on the game drive with my guide form Lewa and it was really fun. He made a Swahili lesson from the game drive and it was lovely.
Twende …Let’s go. My guide Joel was serious about teaching me Swahili. We started cruising on Lewa in the morning twilight when the rolling hills of Lewa are bluish and mysterious, an awesome light for magical shots. All together it was a very nice day and we saw twiga…giraffe, punda…zebra and pumba mingi … many warthogs and eventually simba … lion with ntoto ya simba … lion cubs.
Tsavo East is a huge National Park in Kenya with vast bush sections and a big elephant population. We were driving one morning to a waterhole, usually a place with a guarantee so see animals. When were already close to the waterhole we saw no animals at or around it and we looked at each other and had all the same thought, there must be a cat. When a cat is at a waterhole the other animals stay away and yes, there were two male lion drinking. What we didn’t see at first was that one lion looked very ill. He was incredibly skinny and could hardly walk. His brother was also skinny, but not injured and didn’t look ill.
We settled to watch them. It was a heartbreaking morning. The ill brother was obviously suffering a lot, he had difficulties with drinking and seemed very dehydrated. His brother stayed always with him, never left his side. When the sun got stronger they moved a bit away from the waterhole into the shade of a tiny tree. It took the ill lion for ages to walk the 50 meters to the tree. There they rested for a long time before they continued moving into thicker bush to hide from the sun and maybe to find some food. It was so sad to see the ill lion walking very slowly and weak with his brother on his side. It was very moving to see the healthy brother rather dying as well than leaving his brother behind. His ill brother slowed him down and with the weak brother as a “burden” he was obviously not successful with hunting, but he bared with him and stayed.
We watched them as long as we could see them moving into the bushes towards a little river that was running there and we hoped so much that they would bump into small and easy prey to fill their stomachs and to get some strength back.
I don’t know what happened to them, they could have died both or the ill lion could have died or with a miracle they could have survived both. Lets hope for the latter.
I met her first in January 2007. At that time she was a sub adult leopard of about 16 months old, called Vomba young female. The people in the game reserve give the offspring first the name of their mother until they establish their own territory. Then they get a name related to their territory.
This young lady had a brother, Vomba young male. The two were very different. The young female was a very confident girl, not afraid of anything, chasing hyenas away at this young age. The hyenas were most likely only surprised that this young leopard went after them; at least they looked like that. She was just the same cool lady as her mother, very beautiful and determined. Her father was the territorial male, a very strong short built beautiful male leopard. At this time he was in his best years and controlling a big area. Her brother was completely different from the rest of the family. He was shy, almost a bit neurotic, he would do queer things, but somehow also a bit sad. Maybe all the strong characters surrounding him were too much for his fragile personality. He was also always very uncomfortable in the presence of game vehicles, while his mother and sister were not bothered at all. The young lady’s mother’s territory includes the lodge and she does not care if there is a bush dinner in the parking lot of the lodge, she just walks passed it and guests can watch her from their tables. Well, this young leopard lady has definitely inherited her personality.
Since they were old enough to live by themselves, her brother was very rarely seen. The young lady instead is now a grown up beautiful leopard and mother, still in the area, neighboring her mother’s territory. She is still the strong personality and as comfortable as always with vehicles. That doesn’t mean you can easily go and see her, she just does what she wants and if she wants to hide, she hides.
See some of her moments in life in pictures below.
After 9 days in a leaking tent and a long list of other unsolved basics we arrived around 10 a.m. at Lewa Downs Conservancy. Nairobi office was supposed to book me there for two nights, but didn’t. Anyway, they had a tent for me and I said good buy to Paul and Alex for two days. They went to Nairobi to get things sorted that we could reset the whole trip and have a fresh start.
Lewa Downs is beautiful. The landscape is made of rolling hills bordered by Samburu on one side and Mount Kenya on the other. It’s a Grevi’s zebra, rhino and cheetah paradise and it was a pleasure to drive there with only a few other vehicles. I stayed at the Safari Camp, a tented camp with lovely bathrooms attached to the tents, a real luxury of dry tent with shower. It was also a chance for me to reset, to rinse out the anger and exhaustion of the last 9 days and to get ready for the second part of the trip. It gave me the time and peace to reflect on the last days and what I had learned. There was one conversation we had one night at dinner, which had impressed me a lot.
Paul and Alex are Kikuyu. The Kikuyu tribe lives from agriculture and it’s a custom that there has to be always enough food in the house to feed the family and unexpected visitors. They don’t throw food away and it makes them happy and proud when they can feed others.
Paul said, in the village where he grew up was one family who had a TV and always when there was a football game, the whole village came to watch it at their place. He said this family was very lucky and I thought because they had a TV but he continued, because their food got eaten and not because of a TV. This was completely logical for him and I was quiet and touched by this approach. Thinking back to this conversation always helps me to put things in perspective and reminds me of the basic values of life.
This was the morning I wanted to focus only on nature and photography. No signal-search, no phone calls, not even talking about the unsolved issues, just going to the airstrip at the end of the morning game drive to fetch the tents.
It was a lovely morning. We crossed the river and cruised through Buffalo Springs National Reserve, which is connected to Samburu. This area is a bit elevated comparing to Samburu and opens wonderful views on it. The landscape is magical and breathtaking. We saw also plenty of oryx with small ones, Grevi’s zebra and lovely bird sightings. Before we crossed back to the other side of the river we checked at the airstrip for the tents, but they hadn’t arrived yet. We would try again in the afternoon.
Back on the other side we finally found elephant. They were indeed walking along the river, back after the rain from the mountains. We tried to follow and got stuck. Fortunately other vehicles were around and tried to help, but they were mini vans and not strong enough to pull out a Landcruiser. It was digging. Suddenly a vehicles came back shouting at us that there was a lion coming. Ok, back into the vehicle and wait, although we couldn’t see any lion and with all the vehicles around we didn’t really feel in danger. The lion sighting we didn’t see brought also another Landcruiser to the scene and we were out of the dip in fife minutes. About forty meters further around a bush a lioness was lying in the shade. Maybe she was disturbed on her path and waiting that the vehicle was pulled out and gone, so she could continue or she was just enjoying the shade.
We carried on to follow the elephants and were just in time to watch them crossing the river. It was an awesome sighting and a great closure of a good morning.
Back in camp I used the time before we would have lunch to upload and process my photos. I did this in the vehicle, because it was the most comfortable place to do it, but this morning I forgot to close the car-door. Imagine a Landcruiser with two seats in the front and after a bar two seats in the back. I was sitting on a seat in the back with my laptop on the seat next to me. While I was sitting there looking at the screen I felt a presence, turned to the left and saw a baboon sitting next to me on the bar, checking out the front of the car. His back was probably about 30 cm away from me. My hand wanted to waive him away like an insect, but my mind told me it’s a baboon. The next thought was to jump out of the car, but that would have meant to come between the baboon and the door and what if he panics. So this wasn’t an option either. Next thought was to give him space, space to escape and that was what I did. He didn’t even look at me, just relaxed turned around and jumped out. All that happened within about 2 seconds and I’m still amazed how much a person can think and decide in such a short period of time and how long two seconds can be. I was a bit shaken, because he gave me a fright and also happy that I finally did the right thing by giving him space. Alex had watched the whole thing and went after the baboon to give him a fright back, which of course didn’t work. The baboons there knew us and just waited for a chance to check out what’s on the dashboard.
We took off for the afternoon game drive early to go to the airstrip first. The tents weren’t there and there wouldn’t be another flight that day. We decided to phone the office. They told us that they didn’t know where to send the tents and couldn’t reach us all day, so it was our fault that the tents hadn’t arrived. We were speechless. They had sent flysheets earlier to the very same airstrip and now they didn’t know where we were. Senseless to say that this was the limit, but yet I wanted to focus on the game drive and to photograph. I would make a decision later and we continued with the drive.
At dinner I told Paul and Alex that I will pay and stay at Lewa for two nights and want them to go back to Nairobi to fix the vehicle, the tents and all the other things on the list. After that, they could pick me up at Lewa and we would continue our trip. Everything needed to be reset. Now even the cigarette lighter wasn’t working anymore and that meant no power at all.
Meanwhile also the nearby Samburu Lodge didn’t have power anymore. Their generator had exploded the night before and the rangers had to help extinguishing the fire.
Also this evening Alex’s mind was filled with stories. He told us that ones in the Mara at the very same campsite we stayed he was invited by a Masai to watch a football match on tv in the Masai shopping centre Talek. The guy came to walk him over and while they were walking in the dark at one point the Masai told Alex to walk more on the left. He did and after a while the Masai said, there was a lion. Alex started shaking and the first thing he did was buying a torch for the way back. He said, he couldn’t focus on the match. He was only thinking about the way back to the camp and that he had to pass the lion again. On the way back he was shining with his torch wildly and holding on to the Masai guy, afraid that he would run of if there was any danger and Masai can run fast and he would be left behind. He got back to the camp safely and the Masai said, just look in their eyes, they can’t have that. Mmm, I don’t wanna try and on my way to the toilet that night I was shining very carefully on the bushes along the path.
I woke up, still tired and exhausted, my mattress surrounded by rainwater. I had enough of that. This had to be solved.
We wouldn’t have a game drive this morning. The vehicle had to be fixed and the leaking tents had to be replaced. Paul and I went off to find a signal. He wanted to call the office in Nairobi and finding a signal for the cell phone was quite a mission. I was running out of patience and told him, enough now we are going to use the sat phone. The sat phone can be tricky as well, but we managed to get a signal and I got the operational manager on the phone. I made clear that the situation is unacceptable and that they have to send over new tents. He promised he would do that and the tents would arrive with the first plane. Next thing was the vehicle. The tank needed to be welded and Samburu Lodge workshop could do it. We drove there and I decided to have breakfast at the lodge. It didn’t take long and Paul came to tell me that the generator was switched off, so no welding and we had to come back after lunch. We went back to the camp and I collapsed on my “bed”, still surrounded by water. It was just so annoying that the equipment didn’t meet the basic needs and I was very angry and knowing that that wouldn’t help either.
Paul went to the airstrip to fetch the new tents. He came back with flysheets. I thought I must explode when I saw that. These flysheets were lighter, but to small to cover the tents and new tents were promised. I fetched my sat phone and called the operational manager and the owner. Nobody answered the phone. After all it was Sunday.
We tried to make something out of it and some kind of a weird flysheet construction covered Paul’s and my tent. It had to do till Monday. Phoning the office would be first thing in the morning.
After lunch we went back to the lodge to fix the fuel tank and we could go off for the game drive at least in the afternoon. Samburu is so beautiful and that made the disturbance by poor equipment even more annoying. Samburu’s landscape is breathtaking and the light was awesome because of the rain. Everything looks soft and bluish, which gives completely different shots. Eventually the animals made our day by rewarding us with beautiful sightings like fighting giraffes in front of a blue/gray sky and the green of the acacias. After all a peaceful closure of the day.
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.
Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy - your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself. Annie Leibovitz Maybe the strongest and most powerful nature is the African bush. Photographing its essence is an intense experience, unleashing energy, imagination, inspiration and creativity. Being on a Photographic Safari is an incredible photographic discovery. It brings us back to our origins and induces strengths we didn’t know we have. And from these places within ourselves it brings us back into daily life radiant and strong. And when a bad day at the office drained this energy, we just look at the images and restore. And we dance again with light.
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!
Photographer’s life can be a wild river, fast and with obstacles hidden in the waves. Hold the paddle steady in your hand. Steer your canoe through the stream of challenges with a sharp eye and don’t panic when you go head under. Use your strength to surface again and steer past all the obstacles into calmer waters.
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!
Many people go ones in their life on a safari and want to make sure they come home with lovely images. That puts a lot of pressure on the one who is responsible for the photography and one can easily end up buying all equipment possibly necessary, just to make sure to have it in case they need it. There is an overwhelming amount of equipment available and its really hard to make the right choice, but you got to make a choice and if its only for the luggage allowance on the flights. If you are an entry-level hobby photographer, the best you can do is having a bridge type of digital camera with you with a good zoom and a relatively good speed. The biggest problem of the point and shoot cameras is their speed. They are often to slow to capture the moment and the animal is gone. Bringing that good bridge model to start with is a good choice for the less ambitious hobby photographer. No further photo equipment needed.
The more ambitious photographer with an entry level DSLR and interchangeable lenses gets already confronted with more choices. There are flowers and small animals that make great subjects, there are landscapes and there are the elephants on the water whole. For all three different situations are different lenses and the best thing to do would be to bring a macro, a wide angle and a zoom lens. But in reality one ends up not really using the macro lens when focusing on wildlife, unless macro is a specialty of the photographer and he/she will focus on small animals and objects. So, in general the wide angle and the zoom lens will be enough to bring. This lens choice can also apply to the more advanced and ambitious photographer. The next question is the tripod. A tripod is great for low light situations or night photography, but not essential for wildlife photography. A beanbag is the better choice. There is limited space in the vehicle, one needs to be flexible for the always-moving objects and night photography is not really happening. Get a beanbag.
The photographers with the more advanced cameras and lenses have a difficult task in making a decision. The beautiful fixed 400mm/500mm/600mm lenses are great, but they are also heavy, not flexible, need a tripod or monopod to be handled and require space. Already the transport on the international flight and definitely on the safari flight is challenging. But the main concern is their flexibility. In many places the animals are very close to the vehicles and the big lens cannot be used. So, one needs at least two cameras to have a more flexible lens on the other body to capture also these moments. If you want to bring all this great equipment, be prepared to have a private vehicle in order to manage it while being on safari. Also special arrangements for the transfers and flights might be necessary.
Whatever your choice will be, keep in mind to have a fast camera with a fast processing memory card, a minimum 400 mm zoom lens when shooting full frame and a beanbag. These essentials will serve you well when going out to shoot great photos of wildlife, yet having a relaxed safari and easy transportation.
One doesn’t need to go on a photo safari in Africa to end up in adventurous situations. A big event in your hometown can be already enough or a sports event with mountain bikers flying around your head. Actually photographing in familiar places and situations can sometimes be even more dangerous than on exotic locations or in the bush. Familiar situations let us drop our guard easily and then we step backwards into a gutter, fall of a wall, get equipment stolen or misjudging how many things we can do at the same time and loosing it. Well, making mistakes of this kind can be annoying, inconvenient and sometimes painful, but not so quickly life threatening. Making mistakes in the bush and in unfamiliar cultures can have larger consequences. But all boils down to watch your back and if you can’t do that yourself, get somebody to do it for you. When we look through the viewfinder or on the screen of our camera we get drawn into the photo we want to take. All our attention is on photography and we hardly see and hear what is going on around us. We somehow block out the world in order to focus on what we see and capture. The situation is similar to listening to the iPod while riding a bicycle on the streets or sending a sms while driving a car. For that reason, photographers in war zones and other dangerous places have guides with them and sometimes security guards to make their work possible. In the bush, one if not familiar with the environment, has a ranger and often a tracker with them. They find the animals and they take care of the safety. It might sound silly to remind people of “do not step out of the vehicle”, but unfortunately they forget and do it to get closer to the lion for a better shot. That only provides dramatic photos to the people who witness the moment and often ends the life of the other person. One might be tempted to think, how can you be so stupid, but be aware that being in the bush and seeing these animals can mix up very much someone’s mind and emotions. People don’t realize at that moment where they are and the animals look just like on TV and reality and fiction become one and fatal. Always be conscious where you are, what is going on around you, have somebody to cover your back and have a guide when unfamiliar with the surroundings. Listen when the guide tells you to stay in the vehicle. Walking the streets of New York is different from walking the roads of the Masai Mara. Both are safe as long as you know the rules and follow them. Be conscious and mind your guard. Bring jaw dropping beautiful images of your trip home and not images of yourself that could make the front pages. Happy snapping!
First things first, how do you know you want to go on a photo safari? Did somebody ask you to join them or did you think lets do something different this year or were you always interested in wildlife and now you can’t wait to see it yourself? By answering this question you set the first step to choose the right destination, accommodation and mode of transport.
When you join somebody everything is usually already decided and arranged. You only step in. When you think of doing a holiday just in a different way, than you should make a list what you want to see, experience and what is important to you regarding standard of accommodation and transportation. You might like to do a combination of safari, culture/lifestyle and beach to get an impression of Africa’s diversity. For that purpose you should choose a safari destination that offers excellent sightings, easy access and comfortable accommodation. You will travel quite a lot during that holiday to see and experience all the different places and activities, so easy access is important to not loose time and energy. The safari will be only one activity you are doing during the trip, so you want the best, preferably seeing the Big 5 within a few days before moving on to climb a mountain or to enjoy the beach. For that purpose a fly in safari to a Private Game Reserve or great areas as the Masai Mara and the Okavango Delta will be the best options. Check what vehicles the camp/lodge is using and if trained drivers/rangers are available. Be aware that travelling in Africa is different from other places. If you think about booking it yourself on the Internet you can make big misjudgments in planning distances, travel time, accommodation and game drive quality. Rather get somebody to help and advice you with that.
When you want to go on safari and only on safari to enjoy photographing the great wildlife, your photo safari options get broader. You can choose for a variety of wildlife areas, even with different countries in one trip, depending on the time you have available. There is no need to rush things and plenty of opportunity to see the very diverse national parks and reserves with different and rare animal species. For this kind of photo safari it is great to have your private 4x4 Jeep with an allocated driver/guide for the entire stay. It provides the ultimate bush experience and allows you to go on game drives when you want and for how long you want. You got the freedom to make your own plan. Also for this kind of safari the same advice applies. Get somebody to help you with the planning and booking. Distances in Africa are measured in hours, not in kilometers and not knowing the rules of the bush can get you in difficulties. Having your private vehicle can be combined with simple camping or 5 star lodges, depending on the budget for the trip. It demands more time through travelling by car between the wildlife areas, but with the opportunity to see more of the country.
Last but not least, ask yourself what animals you want to see. In some areas it’s easy to see the big cats in others to see elephant. Think about it when you plan the trip, that you don’t end up in an area where leopards are hardly see with the idea to photograph them.