Africa. I had dreamed of seeing the animals. A few weeks. Impossible! You simply can’t see everything. I was so fortunate to see so much. We were not there long, certainly not long enough. I’ve seen too many Tarzan movies. I did not want to be anyone’s lunch nor any lion’s supper. There were many great moments. One of them was coming upon a leopard having a meal. Not so good for the meal, it was a great photo op for me. It was a moment hard to predict and hard to come by. Expectation… exceeded!
This next few days are about 5 star pics. They are in my catalog going back years. How did we get to 5 star? My picking method varies enough that there are plenty of worthy pics that aren’t labeled 5 but should be. Here are some that have 5 stars and to me are memorable. I start with a fish and a bird. It’s rare and for me, nearly never, that I was there at the exact moment to see the catch. Not so good for the fish, I suppose. But I was glad to have gotten the shot.
It’s that same trip to Africa. We were camping. Gee, all the sudden I got camp memories. I’ve been a Boy Scout. Tent, no running water, no shower, open fire, sleeping bags… This was not too shabby at all. The tents had a floor and a cot and blankets and screens and a porch…. The Masai escorted us to and from the dining tent. In the dark it was a possibility to be attacked… by lions. Oh my! The morning we departed I shyly motioned for a picture. Soon enough these guys all rushed to be in the picture. All smiles and delighted to have their picture taken, I was surprised. I usually am not so straightforward to impose upon strangers. And their enthusiasm charmed me. I was searching for that African jump image. This smile one always brings a fond memory and smile to me. Yup, a highlight image!
Jules had been in Africa teaching in a remote school in Namibia. It was the perfect excuse to visit Africa for the first time. It’s funny because we did not visit her in Namibia but instead were in Tanzania where she had not been either. She revived my memory of jumping. So good. On a hillside in the evening in remote Africa in a Children’s Village there we be and the moment is memorialized.
J has a smaller portable/travel version with her in LA. And it’s true they play this game fanatically in this area. There was a board inlaid into a table in our hotel room. We had just come from a spice tour where the local craftsman was adept at making purses, hats, and sunglasses.
We even attracted an audience while we played in the airport lounge in Zanzibar. There was plenty of free advice on strategy. It was casual for J and me but, every move we made was breathlessly anticipated by our audience. Now I have to go back and refresh myself on the rules. But the memory of passing the time idly playing the game with my daughter….priceless!
I am not an early morning person. Which is to say, that sunrise photos are few and far between in my portfolio. However, my calculations indicated that we were on a cliff facing east from our accommodation in Zanzibar. It was just step out of bed onto the walk and we were overlooking the ocean. So for several mornings the sunrise would awaken Julia and me. We would run out, shoot the sunrise, and then clamber back for another hour of sleep before breakfast. Yeah that’s about as easy as it gets. Oh, that’s the hotel’s infinity pool in the foreground.
Stone Town. I reference my experience in the market in Zanzibar. It was early morning and before my daughter was up and about. So I took the big Nikon and wandered the market looking for images. Here goes a swordfish to market. It just didn’t seem right that it should be dragged along the street. I suppose if you don’t eat the skin then it’s all right. It was around this time that I began to shoot from the hip at wide angle without looking into the viewfinder to compose the shot. There are times when this really does work. All these years and I’m just now finding out it’s called street photography.
I can’t say how I came up with this idea. On my last day in Dar es Salaam, I was going to take a walk. The hotel told me that I mustn’t walk alone. I had already done this at the beginning of the trip (and survived). But heeding the warning now, I hired a car and driver. I asked him to take me to the local fish market. I had had some success in the market of Stone Town and figured I could kill a few hours before my flight. It turned out to be a great time. No one seemed to mind me wandering about. I got to shoot local people and get a sense of the daily life one does not ordinarily encounter.
I put together this landscape. It’s interesting enough to me because the main element is my family in lower right. We had stopped by this pond/lake and there were hippos in the water. It was a non-event. The hippos were just noses barely poking out from the surface. You don’t go close to hippos. They will kill you. They have skulls in which there are teeth that look like they were derived from a saber-toothed tiger. I didn’t know they were so dangerous. But they never let us get near.
It used to be that after the sun went down, I would hardly take another shot until morning. Tungsten lighting, ASA/ISO speed, and a bunch of other reasons made it near to impossible to adjust. Now that white balance can be adjusted on the fly and IS0 can be made to almost see in the dark, it’s so easy to get night shots. Now the question is to see the image and then capture it. Like everything else sometimes you surprise even yourself.
That’s a dhow in the picture. It’s sunset and I imagine that it is headed out to fish overnight. Otherwise how would the fish market be so full in the morning. Once again it is an opportunity that presented itself. I don’t otherwise bring along a tripod and sit and wait. I don’t have the inclination, patience, or the time. But every once in a while I happen to be in the right place at the right moment.
We arrived in Zanzibar and my daughter flopped onto the bed to read the guidebook and plot our next move. We were in Stone Town in a neighborhood where we had to abandon our vehicle and walk in among narrow alleys to reach our hotel. It made her a little nervous. Ok, so I was too. But as I have often said, window lighting is like a soft box. You can really get some nice images.
As I said, I shoot just about anything. So when you’re on vacation, the camera is always out. It’s on my shoulder, in my lap, or in my hand. And it doesn’t much matter if we’re riding up a bumpy road at 50 mph or flying in a plane with tinted windows. I’ll take a shot. Sometimes you win out. Of course there are ways to make your odds better. When flying I like to look for patterns. I can never understand when people have the window seat and they never look at the scenery. Flying across Tanzania, we had plenty of opportunity and especially because we were not flying so high.
The hard thing is getting birds in flight. If it was easy everyone would have great shots. And if you get them in flight, you’d like to see more than a dark dot on your image. Otherwise the big vultures and such are easy to capture when they sit and eat. No try catching birds in flight. It’s focus and shutter speed….and a bit of luck.
After the first, I saw this species many more times. They are almost like iguanas in that they stop when you approach. They wait to see if you are a threat and then move off if you come closer. With a big lens you can actually get a pretty good close-up.
Once we saw a lion and I got my fill of shots, the goal was again to capture some unique behavior. It’s not like every moment a lion is yawning. They mostly lie about and sleep. There aren’t really any predators above them in the food chain. So eat, sleep and then get up to hunt again.
Look, there’s a croc sunning on the island in the middle. It’s not that fast, I think. And it’s easy enough to see. And you could walk up about 10 yards along the riverbank and cross there. And then you wouldn’t be eaten. No, they are all gathered here. They will cross here. And they will be lunch … or not. Dumb?
When we arrived in the Serengeti, it was the tail end of migration season. There was still crossing of the wildebeests going on but you would never know it. Here’s how it goes. For as far as the eye can see, there are wildebeest filling the landscape. Thousands upon thousands are grazing on both sides of the river. To look at them you don’t know if they are coming or going. And while we were there they moved in both directions. And only a few moved at a time. The reason that it is dangerous is that there are crocodiles in the river, which will take down a wildebeest and eat it. Compared to a few crocodiles there are thousands more wildebeest. Still there is a built-in fear of river crossings. They (wildebeest) don’t look, they just gather courage and then run across the river. It’s not too hard to see the crocs, but they all run. It gets even sillier when they leap and run across puddles. Ok, so this is one quintessential shot of migration that I did not capture. But I suppose that it’s ok that a croc went hungry and a wildebeest lived to leap another day.
There are some animals in abundance. Zebras are seen everywhere. They are cautious enough. One sees herds numbering in the hundreds. So taking a shot is pretty easy. It’s the idea then to get something that is other than a cute portrait or close up. You looks for patterns or groupings that are different than the hundreds of zebra pictures you have shooting each day. You never know when or if your image will show up. So here we came up on a couple of zebras wrestling. And after a few hundred shots, you have to pick one.
We found this pride near a river. The group of females and young came down to the riverbank to sun. It seems that everyone had fed recently. We laughed because this little one looked so low and heavy.
The big five… if you look them up, they are on the list of every big game hunter. We actually saw them all within one day on this trip. Amazing! Rhinos are special. We saw a few. We were fortunate. Our guide was staring off in the distance and then suddenly we tore off bouncing and throwing up a big tail of dust. They (rhinos) don’t see too well. But they don’t feel to threatened by a vehicle. So we were able to get some close-in shots before he trotted away.
I suppose that when birds eat fish whole, it makes sense to them. Eagles tear their food apart. But this guy was going to swallow lunch in one gulp. He spent quite a while attempting to get this done. First the fish had to be turned head first. It doesn’t go down tail first easily. It (fish) kept flopping so it would be lost if the bird lost its grip. And there were other birds waiting just to grab this fish if there was any mistake. Yes, he did swallow it whole. Didn’t mom always say to ‘chew?’
The big cats are hard to see. They just don’t like to be where people are present. Go figure. It’s probably good because I have no desire to be a next meal. This early morning we arrived in the Serengeti and our guide took us straight to this spot. The evening before this leopard had made a kill. Here he was calmly munching on wildebeest. It was quiet enough to hear the bones crunch. By the next morning there was nothing left to see of the carcass. You would never have known it had been consumed in a day. Timing, it’s pretty special. We were very fortunate to have come at the right time.