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.

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.

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.

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.