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.
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
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.
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)
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)
I go out early and I stay out late. Often I am out hiking before the sun rises and I’m out well past the time the sunsets. I have multiple head lamps that I keep in my pack at all times because I never want to be without some sort of guiding light but as anyone whose used those knows your sight line is only limited to what is illuminated with the head lamp. The rest of the world remains completely dark and mysterious and what lies in the darkness can often be fierce and deadly if you sneak up on it. A few weeks back while hiking around one of the most frequented and easy to access places in Rocky Mountain National Park I had an encounter with Mama Moose. Now many wouldn’t think a Moose could be a violent creature but when they are protecting their young they will certainly turn from docile to attack mode pretty quickly. In fact, in the state of Alaska there are more Moose attacks annually then bear attacks.
It was pre-dawn – around 45 minutes before sunrise – so the sky was starting to light up a little bit. My eyes were adjusting to the darkness and I wasn’t paying enough attention to what was in front of me because I was distracted by the beauty of the lake and the mountains in the distance. I was also focusing and trying to figure out the best possible place to stand for what I hoped would be a great sunrise. It wasn’t until I heard the grunt about 15 feet in front of me and slightly off the trail that indicated to me that I was in trouble. I picked my head up and illuminated by the headlamp was a fully grown female moose with two young calves behind her. Her head and ears were back indicating that she didn’t want me to come any closer. I froze and didn’t know what to do but instinctively I knew I needed to get away so I dimmed the headlamp and started to slowly back away never letting the moose out of my sights….eventually when I sensed the moose was comfortable with where I was I turned and walked quickly, than trotted in the opposite direction. I came across a few other photographers on my way back around the lake and warned them of the potential ‘killer moose’ up ahead.
Photo of the Day – The Killer’s smile
After capturing a beautiful sunrise over Sprague Lake with the Continental Divide reflecting in the calm waters I started to pack up my gear. It was then that I saw the mama moose hop into the water. She spent the next half hour to forty five minutes just walking around, bathing and drinking water while the calves trailed her on the other side of the lake (you can see them in the distance). In this particular shot she had just reached down for a drink of water and picked her head up. I fired off six shots and in this particular one as the water is dripping out of her mouth it seems like she is smiling at me (if you click the image – and all images on the blog – it will bring up a larger version and you can also make it larger with some options on that page). I took that to me that she forgave me for my intrusion earlier in the morning. As the great portrait photographer Peter Hurley would say….’Shabang!’
I read this article a couple days back on wildlife photography which is something I don’t do very often and thought back to some photos I took of a seagull when I was out in Los Angeles a year or so ago. I had to wait for a while until the seagull settled down and then I fired off a few shots.
Photo of the day – Pelican?
Unfortunately, knowing my beach animals isn’t my strong suit however as I had labeled this picture ‘Pelican’ on my hard drive. My wife had to inform me as I wrote this post that it was a seagull. Hey I’m a numbers guy and mostly do landscape photography…wildlife clearly isn’t my strong suit. Let’s just hope next week in the Grand Canyon I don’t confuse a poisonous snake with anything.