New Website (Finally)

After a few weeks (okay maybe it was more like a year) I finally created a new website so after several years of posting here I’m going to be moving over to a website that is more customizable and allows images to be displayed directly on the website even larger than the wordpress.com platform does.

The website is www.RoamingLama.com

I’m not that old (only 36) but trying to create a website – even with all of the templates out there – that I was happy with was challenging and until NextGen Pro was launched to host the galleries I wasn’t sold that moving to a new platform was worth it. However, they make the galleries/portfolios look so nice that I decided to give it a go. I ‘published’ my first post over there last night so it is live and I’d love for you to go over there, read the post, look at the pictures and ultimately follow me! We’ve got some amazing travel coming up in the next nine months – St. Lucia in October, Charleston in December and Hawaii in April 🙂 so I promise you there will be a lot of nice shots coming in the next year or so. In addition, I’m going to do a better job of expanding on the posts and describing:

1) How we take all these awesome trips without spending more than $1,000 or so out of pocket (leverage that credit score and make it work for you!) over the course of a couple weeks on lodging, cars, etc…. We do have to eat and of course the experiences are where we splurge. We’ve already decided to do an open door helicopter ride, kayaking and a sunset catamaran ride while on the beautiful island of Kauai

2) More photograph techniques

3) Some before/after photos to show you how I bring the feeling of ‘being’ there out in my images using Lightroom, Photoshop and other software

4) Weekly links to photography related articles that I’ve read or videos that I’ve watched. I’m constantly learning and evolving. That is one of my favorite things about photography – the learning never ends.

So hope you come over there and check me out – I look forward to the transition.

Maybe this will entice you as the most recent blog post has a couple of shots of the lions in Phinda – even one with a baby cub nursing. The shot below staring into the Lion’s eye turned out to be one of my favorite shots from the trip to Africa we took earlier this year.

Lions in Phinda

The Eye of the Lion

Lions in Phinda

Cheetah’s at Sunset (Phinda Game Reserve, South African Safari)

During our trip to South Africa I rented a lens from Borrowlenses.com in order to bring the ‘action’ closer to me. The lens I rented was the new Tamron 150mm – 600mm and it certainly did the trick as I found myself able to zoom in tight and bring the animals right to me. For example, in this image the cheetah’s were probably 20 or 25 feet from our safari vehicle but because I had the long lens I was able to zoom in tight and frame this shot perfectly so that this guy and his brother were both in the shot as the sunset over the horizon. I intentionally let the light leak into the frame as I wanted the image to be warm and for the sunset ‘feel’ to be established without actually bringing in the sky. I did have to wait several minutes with the camera up to my eye for the cheetah in the front to do anything interesting but finally he looked towards us and yawned – clearly he was ready for us to move on as well.

Cheetah’s at Sunset (Phinda Game Reserve, South African Safari)

Cheetah's at Sunset (Phinda Game Reserve, South Africa)

White Rhinos (South Africa)

While we were in South Africa we were fortunate enough to see many white rhinos with immaculate horns – some of which may be worth up to $300,000 on the black market. For some reason the horns today fetch something like $60,000/kilogram and the adults have horns that weigh approximately 5 kilograms. The horns themselves are just made up of keratin – yes, keratin – the same exact materials that make up human finger nails, hair and horse hooves. Why does it cost so much? Tough question to answer but apparently in eastern medicine there is a belief that the horns are magical and can cure many ills and they also can serve as decorative handles for knives and other fine jewelry. Overall, it seems like an expensive price to pay for a ‘cure’ when I can just chew my finger nails and get the same medicinal effect?

White Rhinos (South Africa)

White Rhinos (South Africa)

Unfortunately, the war on the White Rhino horn trade in South Africa is still ongoing to the point where the country recently (briefly) lifted their ban on domestic trade of the horn. It was reinstated but is currently under review and there is a chance that South Africa decides to lessen the penalties on trading the horn within their country. Clearly, this would be a negative development as hundreds of these animals are marred or killed each year WITH the ban in place. Imagine what will happen if suddenly the penalties for committing the crime and trading the horn are lessened.

Cape Town from Table Mountain (Cape Town, South Africa)

We went to the top of Table Mountain twice during our trip Cape Town – the first trip was foggy and the views were unique but less impressive than they were on the second trip when the sun was shining and the blue sky stretched as far as the eye could see. With the view I needed to take a panorama to bring the whole scene together so I took 17 individual pictures and merged them into a panorama in Photoshop. Because of the size of the image the one below is a smaller size than I normally post but if you have the time (and patience) to click on the picture, load in ‘original size’ and zoom in and see all the details it is quite impressive!

All of the focal points of Cape Town are shown in this picture. From left to right – the cable car from the bottom to the top of table mountain is on the left, Lion’s Head (another famous mountain with spectacular views) which trails down to Signal Hill and leads to the Soccer Stadium that housed the most important matches of the world cup in South Africa a few years back. Off in the distance is Robben Island which has been used over the years as a prison and held Nelson Mandela during his 18 of his years spent behind bars.

Cape Town from Table Mountain (Cape Town, South Africa)

Cape Town from Table Mountain (Cape Town, South Africa)

Grazing Zebra (Safari – South Africa)

One of the most frequent animals that we saw while on safari was the zebra – they were everywhere! The first few days seeing zebras was exciting but by the end of the trip we were hoping another predator came out from the bush to take one out. I know that is TERRIBLE but you really don’t understand how many there were and the other animals have to eat something! It is the circle of life. Still because they were so plentiful I got a lot of nice pictures of them and I’m not sure but I may convert all of them to black and white. I think the treatment makes the details in the animal jump out better.

Grazing Zebra (Safari – South Africa)

Grazing Zebra (Safari - South Africa)

I celebrated my birthday over the holiday weekend and because I enjoyed the lens that rented so much (Tamron 150mm – 600mm) my fantastic wife bought it for me. For her birthday I’m going to plan a little trip for us where I can put the lens to use…we need some images for the wall at home. Maybe Yellowstone? It’s been far too long since I’ve been there.

Cape Buffalo (South Africa)

The “Big Five” in Africa are the African Lion, African Elephant African Leopard, Rhinoceros and the cape buffalo. Who the heck knew that the cape buffalo was one of the ‘big five’? I would have suspected a hippo, cheetah, giraffe or something like that but nope it is the cape buffalo. Interestingly – at least to me – was the fact that the big five are known as such because they are the five most difficult animals to hunt – it has nothing to do with safari – but yet that is the main question you will get from people when you get back…’did you see the big five?’…even though most people (including myself until the minute before we got to Africa and I Googled it) have no idea what the ‘big five’ animals are or why they are called that. So before you ask – did we see them? Nope we didn’t. We got skunked on the African Leopard which supposedly only comes out at night and on our single night game drive we were not fortunate enough to see them. Night game drives in South Africa (and probably most of Africa) are pretty scarce given the poaching situation since it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have rangers finding animals like rhinos, elephants, etc… and calling out over walkie-talkies the location only to have poachers steal the signal and go cut down the beautiful animals for their ivory (which by the way does NOT have healing powers!).

This Cape Buffalo was one of many that we saw while out on safari. However, this guy had several birds on him eating the ticks that you can see on/about his face. The cape buffalo tolerates this because the birds ultimately keep him somewhat clean and the birds love it because it is something they can survive off of….ahh the circle of life.

Cape Buffalo (South Africa)

Cape Buffalo with Birds (Safari - South Africa)

Great White Shark (South Africa)

On our second day of vacation we spent the day cage diving with Great White Sharks off of the coast of Gansbaai in South Africa. Gansbaai is about a two hour drive from Cape Town so it was a bit of a hike after spending 21 hours on a plane over the two days before but my wife and I were both looking forward to it so we decided we had to do it regardless of how ‘painful’ the extra travel might be. We booked the afternoon trip (11 AM pick up) to allow us the chance to sleep in and get our body clocks back on schedule.

The boat trip was nice but we were giddy with anticipation as we approached the dive sight. As the crew churned the water we saw the sharks start to swarm and several (like this one) even lunged out of the water to make an effort at the seal looking lure they were dragging in the water. Ultimately, when we got into the cage we wished we were back on top since the visibility in the water was so poor (only six feet or so) which meant unless the shark was directly in front of your face you didn’t see much of anything.

Great White Shark (South Africa)

Great White Shark (South Africa)

During the course of the day we saw about ten sharks – ranging in length from 2 to 4 meters (~13 feet) which is about half their fully grown adult size. I think this one was right around ten feet and he moved so effortlessly in the water. It was truly amazing to watch.