Giraffes in South Africa

With a body type like a tall camel and spots like a cheetah the giraffe – despite its height was surprisingly elusive in the wild. You’d think that spotting their heads above the trees would be easy but alot of times they have their heads slightly bowed as they are constantly eating. However, when we did find them they tended to be in tight knit groups with a couple of adults and baby/small giraffes with them. They were more skittish than I expected and often took off when the safari vehicle would stop a little too close – they were surprisingly fast.

Our guide did use the giraffes to track the lions though since you can follow their eyes to locations of dangerous predators – which for adult giraffe is really only a lion. Smaller giraffes are hunted by other big cats – like the cheetah – but once they are of substantial size they are a tougher target unless the cats are extremely desperate.

Giraffes in South Africa

Giraffes on a Hill (South Africa)

I took a lot of pictures of giraffes but I liked this one because of the openness of space behind it them heading into the distance. There is really so much land out there supporting the wildness of all these species. It was a great experience to watch the animals behave in the wild compared to just seeing them in a zoo.

Downward Facing Cheetah (Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa)

While in Phinda our driver/game tracker was able to locate two cheetahs out hunting and we followed them for a bit – hoping to see some action on the trip. We kept a respectable distance to allow them to do their thing but ultimately they wound up just heading up to a lookout point and waiting for the sun to set – whether they were going to hunt later is something we weren’t able to witness. As they strolled over to an elevated position we watched just how relaxed they were as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Unfortunately, the cheetah is on the ‘vulnerable’ species list so while technically not ‘endangered’ they are on their way. It isn’t for lack of effort by South African officials and fortunately for them game drives like ours and people who are truly interested in seeing them aid in their recovery. However, our guide explained that relative to other ‘big cats’ cheetahs are just a disadvantaged species and despite their speed are unable to overcome both poaching and competition with other big cats – lions, leopards, etc… – which have done better in what is an ever shrinking ‘wild’ footprint. Phinda is a private game reserve and as such has a vested interest in protecting them. I believe they have 33 cheetahs spread over 175 square kilometers and the trackers/guides keep a close watch on them.

Downward Facing Cheetah (Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa)

Downward Facing Cheetah (Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa)

This cheetah made me feel lazy just sitting in the safari jeep as he practiced some high intensity yoga in the late afternoon heat of Southern Africa. Shortly after this house cat like pose he and his brother started over to a termite mound where they waited for the sun to set and the tourists to leave so they could go about hunting.

Mount Rundle from Tunnel Mountain Road (Banff National Park)

A spot that is often mentioned by photographers as one of their favorites for sunrise is the Hoodoos Viewpoint on Tunnel Mountain Road that provides views of the backside of Mount Rundle, the Bow Valley and the hoodoos (small, jutting rock formations). Maybe I just haven’t gone at the right time of year or have experienced bad light but it isn’t one of my favorite spots. I went through some old images this evening and this was among my favorites but it is still not one that I’m in love with. From this angle Mount Rundle just doesn’t look as majestic as I think it does from the other side (Vermillion Lakes area, Two Jack Lake Area, etc…). Given my viewpoint on the aesthetics of the peak it is probably not a mystery that I have a dozen or so images of the mountain from the other side but only a handful from tunnel mountain road.

Mount Rundle from Tunnel Mountain Road (Banff National Park)

Lion Cub (Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa)

Before going to Africa I rented a lens from Borrowlenses.com and it sure did come in handy. The Tamron 150mm – 600mm lens was a (relative) bargain compared to some of the more ‘professional’ lenses and it worked great even in low light at the end of days while we tracked tiger cubs in the bush of Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa.

Our guides on this excursion were great and in Phinda (unlike in our game reserve) the guides are able to off road and track the animals throughout the bush. Our guides followed the footprints of this family of lions and located them lounging underneath a tree. Due to the cubs being in the area we couldn’t get very close to them since the female and younger males were protective of them. Thus, we kept a respective distance and I focused through the trees on the cubs to try and capture their expressions as they wrestled with each other and climbed trees in the background. The Tamron lens did its job and I came out of the situation with a lot of nice shots (like the one below) where the curious cubs are trying to figure out what it is that the weird humans ooohhhing and ahhhhhing are doing.

Lion Cub (Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa)

Tiger Cub (Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa)

Majestic Beasts

We are just getting re-settled after our trip to Africa to visit Cape Town, Victoria Falls and go on a Safari. During the safari we came across many several different small herds of elephants. Before going over there I envisioned capturing a nice wide shot of a large herd of elephants (30 – 40 different elephants) but that never happened and I think it is because herds tend to be smaller in South Africa compared to other locations on the continent. I am not really sure why that is but that is the impression that I got from talking to our guides throughout the week.

Majestic Beasts (South Africa)

Majestic Beasts (South Africa)

Inside Sainte-Chapelle (Paris, France)

Before making it to Africa we spent the day in London as we had a 12-hour layover. Initially, I wanted to head back and check out Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. We were able to tour Westminster Abbey a few years back when we were in London but had to skip St. Paul’s because of time constraints. Unfortunately, we arrived in London on a Sunday and both cathedrals were closed to visitors. We wound up heading to the Tower of London instead – not a bad fall back plan and a place we enjoyed the first time through.

Last year, when we visited Paris one of the highlights for me was seeing the upper chapel in Sainte-Chapelle. The stained glass in this magnificent church is world renowned and it is obvious to see why. The picture doesn’t even do it justice – it is a sight you must see to believe!

Inside Sainte-Chapelle (Paris, France)

Inside Sainte-Chapelle (Paris, France)

Takakkaw Falls (Yoho National Park)

At this point of our trip we should be on the brink of just departing Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe and so I thought it made sense to post a shot of a beautiful but much less impressive waterfall. Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park (near Banff National Park)is a nearly 1,000 foot waterfall that is easily accessible and can be viewed from the road if desired without taking the short half mile trail to this point here alongside the river.

Takakkaw Falls (Yoho National Park)

Takakkaw Falls (Yoho National Park)