Thursday, July 19, 2018

My first visit to Cape Town, South Africa

After a full week of being deep in the bush with no WiFi or cell service, I am back and able to write blogs again. It was both refreshing and frustrating not having any connectivity. But alas, I am connected again and writing again. And I am heading home too!

In between the Namibia photo tour and the Botswana photo tour we took a break in Cape Town, South Africa for a week. It was my first time visiting South Africa and we had a good time touring the area.

In this blog post, I will share with you some of the cool things we saw during our stay.

I was amazed at the amount of snow on the mountains as we approached Cape Town by air.  Since my camera gear was packed up, I took this shot with my iPhone X.

We arrived at our hotel in the the Sea Point area and I went up to the roof to check out the view. In this photo, you can see Lion's Head (right) and Table Mountain (left) which is covered in this big cloud bank.

I liked the way the clouds were formed over Table Mountain and decided to get a shot of just that.

I then turned and got a shot of just Lion's Head.

As I was taking the photos, I looked up and saw these para-gliders in the air above me.

On our second day, we hired a car and driver and took a tour of the area. I used my Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 24-105mm lens to capture the beautiful coastline.

We drove along the coast and checked out some of the marinas.

Not only did we see the touristy things, but we also made it a point to check out the living area outside the city. As you can see, there are some people in the area who are still living minimally. Apartheid ended almost 30 years ago, but you can still see some of the remaining separate living conditions throughout the city.

I found it interesting that, even with the sparse conditions, almost everyone had a satellite dish for television.

We drove up to Table Mountain, but did not go all the way up since we showed up after 5pm and the lift to the top was closed. I decided to walk back down the mountain to our hotel, and stopped along the way to get some iPhone shots.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post (which was dedicated to just the penguins), we loved them so much that we visited them twice. If you missed that post, you can find it here.

We toured around and saw some of the great colors of the region.

Since we were staying right on the beach, we had numerous chances to capture the beautiful sunsets.

I was hoping to get more color in the sky after the sun set on this particular evening, but it did not happen. But I took the opportunity to show one of our tour attendees how to motion pan in this low light, following the joggers and bikers as they went by.

On one of our free days we drove down to the Cape of Good Hope (the most South-Western point of Africa).

The Cape Town coastline reminded me a lot of the California coastline.

It was fun to be down at the cape, but not very picturesque. I did see these peaks along the coast and liked the repeating monotone shades that they created.

You can't visit the Cape Town area without visiting the wineries. We spent the afternoon in the Stellenbosch area of the wine country and had a really great lunch at one of the wineries.

On our last day in Cape Town, I walked around the Bo-Kaap area, known for the colorful homes.

I saw this old car in front of the colorful houses and had to take this shot!

It was our last night in Cape Town and I went to see if I could capture a boat directly in front of the setting sun. I got this one, even though the sun was a little higher than I wanted when the boat crossed the path.

A couple of us watched as the sun set and the large waves broke on the shore. I really liked the power of the waves and the amount of mist being pushed into the air, all in front of the orange sky. It was a great way to end our time in Cape Town.

From South Africa, we flew to Botswana to start the second photo tour. I am very excited to show you all those images as well, as we had some epic wildlife encounters! Those are coming...

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If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Namibia Photo Tour - The final days of the tour

Our first photo tour ended last week, and I am now in Botswana with our second group. But I never got a chance to blog the last couple of days of safari in Namibia. I am sitting in another country in Africa and posting the last images from that trip. Soon I will bring you all images from here in Botswana, but first...

I wanted to thank all of you who commented on the last blog post. Not only was I very happy to read everyone's comments here on the blog, on social media, and in my email, but also thrilled to see that everyone was positive, supportive and respectful in their feedback. That is what this blog is all about - keeping it positive and sharing the passion for photography!!

And now on to our last couple of days in Namibia where we spent the bulk of the time in Etosha National Park, This park is known for all their water holes, where the animals congregate.

We came upon this one watering hole which was devoid of most wildlife except for a couple of giraffe. But, one of the things I teach our tour guests is to look for good reflections and environment shots. I waited for this giraffe to walk towards the center of the water and grabbed this shot with the giraffe and his reflection. They are such pretty and majestic animals.

We were shooting the image above when our driver heard on his radio that there was a black rhino siting nearby. We got our shot of the giraffe and then made a quick turn and headed for that siting.

Sure enough, this rhino was walking right in plain sight of our vehicle. We were all excited and firing our cameras in burst mode.

The rhino walked parallel to the road for so long that I had a chance to try and motion pan him. I quickly changed the aperture of my camera to f/32 (already at ISO 100) to get a shutter speed of 1/25th of a second. I panned with the rhino to get some motion in his legs, while keeping his face in focus.

At one point we came upon this beautiful bird, which was resting in a tree far from us. Right as I prepared to get a photo of it in the tree, it took off and flew right towards us. I always teach our guests to keep their cameras in IO Servo focus mode (otherwise known as follow focus), and to use back-button focus. Since I practice what I preach, I did this and nailed this shot of the bird coming right at me.

There is nothing like seeing elephants in the wild. I have seen them many times, but it never gets tiring.

Later in the day, we visited another watering hole, and this time had a small group of zebra and some giraffe who were sharing the drink.

For those of you not lucky enough to go on a safari, it would amaze you to watch the giraffe drink. They spread their legs and "splay" to get down low enough to drink. It is a site to behold.

While one giraffe was drinking, he got irritated by the zebra and he and some of the other long-legged animals started chasing the zebra away. I quickly changed my aperture to f/40 (using the Canon 1D X Mark II and Canon 100-400mm lens at ISO 320) which gave me a shutter speed of 1/40th second. I then panned with the running giraffe to get this motion blur shot.

After chasing the zebra, these two giraffe got together and had a moment.

The next day we were on a private game reserve when we drove up on three cheetahs who had just killed a springbok. It was awesome to watch them as they made no waste of the kill.

The cheetah is one of my favorite animals here in Africa, with those amazing faces and markings on their bodies.

I was shooting images of the feast when this cheetah stood up with the springbok's head in his mouth. It really shows the circle of life in one image, and is one of my favorites from the trip.

After the cheetahs were done eating, they ventured away from the kill, right into perfect evening light.

Two of them laid down of the ground and started to clean each other's faces. It was an amazing site to see. I shot some video of this which you will see once I get it all edited.

In between their cleaning, they both turned and gave us this pose. We were all excited to get this shot!

In Africa, there is a pecking order for food. Once the cheetahs were done eating, it was time for the jackals to come in and get their leftovers.

The vultures wanted their turn at the carcass and a fight ensued between the jackal and vultures. It was another incredible site to watch.

We completed our last game drive and headed back to our lodge to pack up. But before heading out of Namibia, we had a chance to enjoy one last sunset. It was the perfect ending to an amazing two week journey through this country.

After this, most of the guests flew back to the U.S., while Mike and I (and one guest who is doing both trips) flew to south Africa for some R&R before heading to Zimbabwe and Botswana. Those images are coming next.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Photographing wildlife: Is a staged photo OK?

Let me start this blog post by saying this: This post about staged photos is going to stir up a lot of emotions (on both sides), but I am writing this for three reasons:

* To respond to a recent blog comment from a guy named Mike
* To open up a conversation amongst all of us
* To express my opinion on this controversial topic

Here is the comment: 

"Are you kidding me, Jeff? Are you seriously promoting a Namibia tour where the guide is digging wildlife out of a sand dune and throwing it on the ground for tourists like your self to photograph? Promoting someone that is baiting birds and reptiles for 'wildlife photography'??? WTF happened to your standards? What would the IOC think of a 'professional' photographer that endorses this kind of eco destructive tourism? 

Jeff, I have respected you, your business, your photography, and your intellect for years. I have referred innumerable people to your site as a reliable and reputable source for photography knowledge, but no more. This is inexcusable. This is a horrifying approach to what you think of as wildlife photography. It completely discredits every wildlife shoot you have ever done in the past as nothing more than a staged photo op"

I did respond to this person, but over the last 48 hours, it has really gotten me thinking about the subject. I don't fault him for expressing his opinions. Actually, I am glad that he did and that it inspired me to think about this more and address it here. I welcome his thoughts on the subject, as I do with all of you, and I fully respect him taking the time to air his concerns. 

To address some of his points:

* The guide who was finding these reptiles in Namibia was doing this to educate us on the fragility of the environment and showing us the ecosystem that exists in the Namibian dunes - his homeland where he has been studying this ecosystem for over 50 years. He never moved the animals from the wild and always made sure to respect them. He would show them to us, allowing us to capture photos, and then let them return to their environment. Not only would he teach us about the wildlife, but he made it a point to stop any time he saw any litter on the dunes, and grab that and put it in his garbage bag. The chameleon that you see below was exactly where the guide found him in the wild. The guide did throw the bugs out for the chameleon to eat (allowing us to get shots like this), but that was fully disclosed in my blog post. 

* I don't think that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) would care about my wildlife photography at all. Trust me, they are not looking at every Olympic photographer and scrutinizing our work. But I would be honored if they cared that much about me and my work.

* I do think that it is overly harsh, discounting all of my work, for a small selection of images, but it is his right to think what he wants. 

* I appreciate the referral of others to my blog and sincerely hope that I have not lost all integrity.

* And now for the most important point, the credibility of wildlife photography. Almost all of the wildlife photography that is in my portfolio, posted on the blog, and taken on our photo tours is completely in the wild. But there are times when we capture photos of wildlife that are in more controlled environments. 

Here are some samples:

In the rain forest of Costa Rica, I always have a half day when the people on my photo tours photograph snakes and frogs that are handled by a native. The snakes are being studied by scientists and the tree frogs are gathered on the property, brought close to us, and then let go right away. They are in their environment and not baited. Does this count as real wildlife photography? I think it does. It is also a great way to photograph these amazing animals, up close and personal, but in a non evasive manor. It allows us to share the beauty with others and hopefully inspire future generations to see it for themselves.

We also visit a butterfly house which has many species of butterflies in a large netted space. Once again, these butterflies are being studied by scientists and not harmed in any way. 

These giraffe were obviously photographed in the Sydney Zoo. That is made obvious by the background. Is this wildlife? No...this is a zoo shot. After doing many safaris and trips to the rain forest, I actually find zoos to be more "invasive" and "destructive" since the animals are kept in such small spaces. Does it make the whole idea of a zoo wrong? I have mixed feelings about that.

I took this photo of an eagle more than 12 years ago. It was in a rehabilitation center in Alaska where it was being cared for. By taking this photo and having it in my collection,  does that mean that I am a bad person or promoting the destruction of the species? I don't think so. But, with that said, I think it is important to tell people that this was not taken in the wild. I always have.

On our first day in Namibia (which is normally a down day for people to get time adjusted), we decided to take the group to a local animal reserve to get photos of big cats and other animals. This cheetah had only three legs and was rescued by the staff. If it weren't for the staff of the reserve, this animal would be dead for sure.

Paying to enter the reserve helps pay for the care of these animals. It also gave the photo tour attendees a chance to practice their photography in a controlled environment prior to us going out in the wild.

At our last lodge in Namibia, they had their own private reserve and fed all types of animals, including rhino, zebra, giraffe and more. This allowed us to get very close to the animals for tight shots like the one above. If I had blogged these as "in the wild" photos, I agree that this would be wrong.

My opinion

I love photographing animals, and started by doing so at the San Francisco zoo. I, like most people in the world, did not have easy access to them in the wild (unless you count squirrels and seagulls). It wasn't until 3 years ago that I started making annual trips to Africa. I don't see anything wrong with people photographing animals in any environment, provided that they are not doing ANY harm to the wildlife. As I said before, I do believe that, if a photo appears to be taken in the wild, it is the photographer's responsibility to disclose if a photo was taken with assistance. I am not a hunter because I could never take the life of another living thing. I prefer using my camera to capture the beauty of the wildlife in any way I can.

Other staged shots

As I dive deeper into the subject of staged shots, it makes me think of all the other photos I have seen that appear to be "real" but are staged. The first time I saw a night shot of an old asian fisherman on a river with his lantern and bird, I thought "wow, that is a great shot!" I was amazed that the guy captured this old fisherman with his lantern and even got a bird perched on the end of the boat. Now, after seeing the same shot of the fisherman on the Li river in Guilin from countless photographers, I know that this is a setup shot. The old fisherman makes himself available to photographers all the time, for a fee of course. Does this lessen the impact of the shot for me? It actually does. I now look at the photo and think, "there is that same guy again, in the same pose and with the same bird tied to the back of the boat." So, yes, staged shots are not the same as capturing the "real moments" in life, but they can still make for nice artwork on your wall.

Your thoughts?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, I write this as an open to as larger conversation. I would love to hear from all of you, as to your thoughts on the subject. In the spirit of this blog, I would prefer to see constructive thoughts and expressions without any name calling and finger pointing.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Penguins in Africa? Yes, and they sure are cute!

Here in Cape Town, South Africa they have a place called Boulders Beach where a large group of penguins live. Since we are here in Cape Town in between our Namibia and Botswana photo tours, we had to stop by and see these cute little birds up close and personal.

We watched as the penguins went in and out of the ocean, usually in groups.

We are lucky, since this is the time of year is when the young penguins are still wearing their fuzzy coats. Cuteness factor overload!

I was using the Canon 1D X Mark II camera with the Canon 100-400mm lens to try and isolate certain birds of interest. I liked the way this one penguin stood out from the others.

Since we were watching the penguins late in the afternoon (planned that way), we had some fun shadows to capture.

I took this photo and thought it could make a good poster about loneliness. :)

The baby penguins were so cute as they huddled together.

This guy was walking down a sand dune and I caught him full stride.

My first ever penguin family portrait!


This is one of my favorite photos showing these two baby penguins interacting.

The penguins do shake themselves all the time.

It was fun to watch them walking on the sand and rocks...

...and when they would just pose for a photo.

Mike (who owns M&M Photo Tours) and I watched as this little penguin was fed.

This pup was shaking and sunny himself.

More interaction between adult and baby,

This penguin was on a mission, walking quickly up the rocky shoreline.

These birds make the loudest noises! When they screech, it sounds like a loud donkey. I had no idea that they made this sound. I did capture some video and will do my best to get that edited and online soon.

Here is a youngster with some fuzz still on his beak.

I took this photo of this penguin because I liked that way that he was surrounded by all the footsteps in the sand.

We all had a great time photographing the penguins, and I would do it again any time. As a matter of fact, Mike and I are going to add Cape Town to a future African photo tour.

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.