Thursday, February 4, 2016

Tanzania, Africa - Day 2 - Our first day in Ngorongoro Crater

On Monday I posted the blog showing Day 1 of our trip to Tanzania, and now we move on to the second day of this amazing trip.

I can't start my story about Day 2 without telling you about our experience staying at the Lemala Ngorongoro Camp. You see, this was the first time staying in a luxurious tent that even had a talking shower. Yes, you heard me right, a talking shower! But wait, I am getting ahead of myself here. From the outside, all I saw was a large tent which looked pretty basic. But when I unzipped the tent and went in, I saw a really nice sitting area with a couch and table and a large comfortable bed. The tent had limited power (solar) for lights, but no outlets for charging my laptop or phone. That was available in the main tent (photo below), where everyone would connect their devices to power strips. Even the bathroom was amazing for a tent, with a flushing toilet and nice copper sink. Then there was the shower... We arrived at Lemala towards the end of the day and had a great dinner. After dinner, the Maasai tribesmen asked what time I would like my wake up and shower in the morning. I gave them the times and went to my tent for some much needed sleep.

I woke up around 6am to a voice outside the tent saying hello. This was my wakeup call. And then the person asked if I was ready for my shower. At which point I could hear them climbing a ladder outside and pouring hot water into a bucket. I heard the voice outside telling me that my shower was ready.

At this point, you might be thinking what I was thinking, which was "I am not sure I am going to like this." But, wow was I wrong. The water was the perfect temperature and smelled like the wood that it had been heated over. It was AWESOME! I used so much of the water that they had to fill it again. (I learned to be more judicious on the following day.)

And so the day started off in a totally surprising way... Then it was a great omelet breakfast and off on safari!

I shot this photo looking over the back of our Land Cruiser to show you the lush countryside we were driving through.

We left early enough to catch the golden light of sunrise on the Acacia trees. The combination of fresh air, beautiful light, and the sounds of the birds made this a perfect morning. 

As we started our drive into the Ngorongoro Crater, the first animal that we encountered were Cape Buffalo. There was a small group of them, but I decided to focus on the one that was close to me. I loved that he had an Ox Pecker on his snout. First wildlife shot of the day, with many more to come!

Speaking of wildlife, here is a photo of Mike (the owner of M&M Photo Tours), Joanne and Tina doing what we love to do.

Next up, we came across some Wart Hogs. I started with my safe shots of these guys, at a shutter speed of 1/320 sec. But then after taking a bunch of photos of them, I decided to try some motion panning.

I waited for them to start moving, and I quickly rolled my aperture to f/18 (giving me a slow shutter speed of 1/6 sec) and started panning along with the hog as he ran off. I should mention that the focus mode of my Canon 1DX was set to servo focus and I was using back button focusing on almost all of my shots. I kept my focus on the face of the hog as I panned at the same speed it was moving.

We were excited to see wild Zebra for the first time. As it turned out, this would be the first of many zebra sitings, but we were happy to photograph these beautiful animals.

We saw this Water Buffalo out in the distance. I asked our driver to stop to get this photo. I was teaching the group and used this as an example of shooting wide and using the rolling hills in the background to set a scene. If we photographed everything really tight, the viewer might think we were taking these photos in a zoo. I zoomed the Canon 100-400mm lens back to 180mm to show the animal in it's natural surroundings.

A male and female Ostrich.

The pink color in the neck shows that this bird was ready to mate.

Our first Hippo siting. I took this photo, knowing that we would see many more. But, like the Zebra, it was exciting to see this animal in the wild for the first time.

Throughout the trip, I was looking for interesting interaction of the animals. I really liked these two Zebra facing each other in this pose.

When taking this photo, I was thinking that this might be the new background on my computer desktop. I really like the way the Zebras are surrounded by 3 different levels of foreground, middle ground and background.

I could not resist this photo of a baby Zebra. You are probably looking at this right now and saying "ahhhhhhhhh - too cute!"

Here is a close-up shot of an Impala. These are really beautiful animals, with their unique antler.

Yet another first,  as we came across our first wild Elephant. He was off in the distance, but nicely surrounded by lush green foliage.

Coming in for a landing...

We came across more Zebra and I saw this one peeking out behind a couple of others. I moved my position to get high enough to capture the eyes behind the Zebra in the foreground. This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. I like it because it is different from most Zebra shots and is nicely framed with the Zebra in front and to the right.

Some more Impala out grazing...

This is a photo of a Kori Bustard, which is the largest flying native bird in Africa.

I love the look of these Grey Crowned Cranes and was happy to have two of them in synergy for this shot.

At one point, we were stopped, checking out something (but I can not remember what), when I saw this flock of birds flying by. I quickly zoomed the 100-400mm lens to 150mm, put the focus point on the center bird fired away at 1/1000 sec. At first I was disappointed that one of our Land Cruisers was in the background, but later I came to like it better with the vehicle in the shot. It helps to tell the story of where we were and how we were getting around and seeing the wildlife.

Then we came across our first pride of Lion. This was very exciting!

As you can see, some of them were VERY close to them. This photo was taken at 340mm, not using all of the 400mm range of the lens! (And for those of you wondering, we always stayed in our vehicles, but never felt unsafe.)

And another pride of Lion were a way off in the distance.

This was perfect for getting a wide shot, showing the Lion in the foreground with a pack of wildebeest (lion food) out in the distance.

Then this group came towards us as well.

Closer and closer to the first pride (which were right by our vehicle).

This lioness was not too happy with the other encroaching pride and made this well known.

After this full morning, it was time to stop for some lunch. I took this opportunity to give everyone a new Lexar Professional memory card and get a group shot.  This group was together for almost two weeks straight and everyone got along so well. It really was incredible. From left to right, we have Joanne, Hal, Matt, Carol, Mike, Michelle and Tina.

This photo is another favorite of mine. What I love about this composition is the amount of different wildlife that is shown coexisting in this one image. I love that the Elephant are off center and filling the right side of the frame, with countless Zebra and Wildebeest in front and behind them.

As this Elephant came towards us, I was happy to get a straight-on shot of him, mid stride.

While photographing the large mammals, this Guineafowl crossed our path. I was really intrigued by the colors. This is not my favorite photo, but it does show you the cool colors of this bird.

Another possible background screen for my computer...

I saw the repeating striped legs of all these zebra and took this shot.

Here are two Wildebeest battling it out, with the third one obviously acting as the judge of the match.

In all the times that we saw Zebra, this was the only time that I saw this type of activity, so I am glad that I got the shot when the opportunity presented itself.

As soon as I took this photo, I thought that I could use it for a Valentines Day card. (Maybe my wife will not read this blog and I can use this photo in a couple of weeks.)

Towards the end of day 2, a storm came through the area. Luckily, we never encountered any of the rain, but it did give me a chance to photograph the animal in front of the dark clouds and rain for a cool dramatic shot.

I just love the colors and look of these Thompson Gazelle. Having these two stand in perfect formation was a bonus.

This last photo of the day shows the Acacia trees that border the crater. I took this as we entered the camp area. It was taken around 5pm as the light was starting to fade. With all the incredible wildlife that we saw throughout the day, I did not want to forget the beauty of the surroundings in which they lived.

It was our first full safari day and exceeded all my expectations. And there was so much more to come!

Stay tuned for the blog of Day 3 and more.

And, for those of you who missed this amazing opportunity, we are going to do this amazing safari again next year...check out the site HERE to sign up for the 2017 trip! We have a limit of 12 people.


If you are interested in purchasing any camera 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.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Tanzania, Africa - Day 1 - Lake Manyara National Park, Monkeys, Baboons and more

After spending almost two weeks on safari in Africa, I am excited to have a whole bunch of photos and stories to share with you all.

After much contemplation, I have decided to blog these by the day. This trip was so amazing, that I want to try and share the the full experience with you, virtually.

So...let's start with Day 1 in Tanzania.

We landed around 9pm at Kilimanjaro airport and basically went straight to Rivertrees Lodge to get some sleep. Even in my jet lagged state, I was totally impressed with the accommodations in this resort.

This was the sitting area outside my room. Not too shabby, huh?

But I was not about to explore the place, I needed my sleep!

The next morning, I woke up and got ready for some breakfast and the start of our safari. I stepped outside my room and the first thing I saw were some monkeys on the nearby grass and up in a tree.

Tired or not, I ran back for my Canon 1Dx and took my first wildlife photos of the trip, right there in front of my room. I already had the new Canon 100-400mm II lens mounted on the camera, so I was ready to go.

You should have seen the group of us photographers going crazy photographing these little guys. It was comical. I also took this opportunity to start my teaching, and worked with the group on isolating the monkeys with a clean background behind them.

And we were all excited to see that there were babies as well.

These little guys were way too cute.

And speaking of cute...our first stop, before heading out for our safari, was a visit to local orphanage. You see, Mike, the owner of M&M Photo Tours (and our leader for this trip), met the people from this orphanage on a previous trip to Tanzania, and became friends. And now, each trip includes a visit to the orphanage for us to bring supplies and money to donate to these amazing kids.

Most of the kids were off at school when we showed up to the orphanage, but some of the younger kids were there.

After getting a tour of the facilities, we took some photos of these little ones.

I saw this painting on the wall and loved it. Since most of the kids were not there, and one of Mike's suitcases of school supplies was lost, we decided to come back to the orphanage on the last day of the trip to see all the kids. So off we went, to start the big adventure.

We drove through the town of Arusha, and I was in cultural overload. I took some photos from the vehicle, trying to capture the colors and scenes that we saw unfolding in front of us.

In case you were wondering about our transportation, Here is a photo of one of our Land Cruisers with Mike and Matt ready to shoot. The great thing is that, these vehicles hold 8 people, but we only had 3 people per vehicle,. This gave us plenty of room for us and our camera gear, and it was easy to move around and get views from any angle without conflicting with each other.

After a couple hours, we arrived at Lake Manyara National Park, where we were greeted by a group of baboons.  I saw this mother and baby crossing the road and quickly fired off this shot.

At this location, we got our first view of zebra in the wild.

And saw some remains... 

But mostly, this day was all about the baboons.

As we drove slowly through Lake Manyara National Park, we saw lots of these guys and were able to get really close to them.

We came across this one baboon, who was sitting about 5 feet from us. I saw this perfect light on it's face and asked our driver to stop. This was great place to teach a lesson on portrait lighting. I often tell people that the best lighting for a portrait is side lighting, and this baboon was sitting in the perfect natural light coming from just one side.

This baboon just made me laugh, looking at me as if to say "Are you taking my photo with that big ole' lens?"

And these little ones where just having fun playing in the tree.

We stopped for while and got out of the vehicle. This big guy was sitting across the road from where we parked. I got out and walked near him to get this close up of his face. This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. I just love the look in his eyes.

People have asked me how close we got to the animals. is a photo of one of the baboons who hopped up on our vehicle. We had to close all the windows and close the top of the vehicle, since these baboons are resourceful and will get into the cars to get food.

One of our group opened the door to get something out of the vehicle and sitting in the back of the Land Cruiser when one of the baboons snuck into the front and grabbed our driver's toothpaste. Later I found the same baboon hiding in the bushes eating the toothpaste. least his hygiene was pretty good that day.

A couple of the baboons had babies with them, and this provided for some great photo opportunities.


We ended the day at the top of the Ngorongoro crater. Since we were at this lookout point, we took this group shot.

And then I took out my iPhone and captured this panoramic shot. Pretty damned good for a camera phone. (And yes, I did bring this into Adobe Photoshop to adjust the exposure, contrast and color saturation).

Stay tuned for the blog of Day 2 and more.

And, for those of you who missed this amazing opportunity, we are going to do this amazing safari again next year...check out the site HERE to sign up for the 2017 trip! We have a limit of 12 people.


If you are interested in purchasing any camera 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.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.