Friday, February 17, 2017

Our African Safari - Day Four (Giraffes. motion pan shots, and the Maasai tribes people)

Our fourth day on safari was a bit different from the first 3 days, with the first half of the day out on a game drive photographing wildlife and the second half spent at a local Maasai village.

This area of Tanzania is called Ndutu, and it is one of my favorite places to visit in the country. Why? Because in Ndutu the guides do not need to stay on the roads, and are free to drive almost anywhere to find good sites. This means that they can spot interesting animals and drive up very close to them. It also means that they can position the vehicles where we want to get good shots of the animals with interesting backgrounds.

This is a good example of that advantage, as I asked Sam, our guide, to drive to a spot ahead of this giraffe. The animal ran forward and I got this shot of the young giraffe in the foreground, with the Maasai tribesman, trees and mountains in the background.

And then we could drive up close to the giraffe to get closer photos of them.

As we drove around the area, we came across a large grouping of zebras and watched them as they ran around us. Even though I was using the massive Canon 200-400mm lens mounted to my Canon 1Dx Mark II (total weight of about 12 pounds), I decided to lower the shutter speed and try to get a good motion panning shot of the running zebra. For those of you not familiar with motion panning, this is when a photographer slows the shutter speed of the camera to a very slow shutter speed, and shoots photos with the lens pointed at the animal and tracking it at the EXACT same speed as it is moving. It is a difficult shot to get, but awesome when it works out. The goal is to get the face of the animal sharp, but get the motion of the legs.

This first shot was OK, but I wanted to get more of the legs in the shot.

And shortly after getting the first shot, I was able to get this shot. I took this at 1/30 of a second at 560mm. Not an easy shot to get, but with some practice it can be done. It is one of my favorites from the trip. Right after taking this photo, I looked at the LCD on the back of the camera and knew that I had a winner. And yes, that made my day.

Here is the same shot converted to black and white using NIK SilverEfex Pro (which is now a free program).

Out in the distance, I saw these two young Maasai boys who were walking through the plains. The one boy was practicing throwing his spear. I had to get a shot of that.

Eventually we came across more giraffes...

...and I thought I would try some motion panning on these animals as well.

Then it was lunch time and we returned to our lodge to have a really nice lunch. We took a break and relaxed for a couple of hours before heading out to the Maasai village.

Just like last year, we were welcomed to the village by a traditional Maasai dance, where the men jump as high as they can. This is one of their defense mechanisms, as they make themselves bigger to deter animals from attacking them.

I really enjoy taking portraits of the Maasai people.

These tribes members wear awesome colored clothing and really elaborate hand-made jewelry.

I took this photo to show you the way that they alter their ears.

At one point, the Maasai men showed us how they start fire. They are incredibly talented at rubbing two sticks together to get the fire started.

Once they get the wood hot, they then touch the hot end of the wood stick to donkey dung.

They blow on the dung to get flames.

One of the Maasai members show my wife, Annette, his hut. Amazingly, it is the women who are responsible for building the temporary structures for the nomadic tribes members.

These huts are very small. Last year I did not even try to shoot photos inside the dwelling, but this year I knew what to expect and gave it a try. I used my Canon 5D Mark IV with the Canon 24-70mm II lens, with a Canon 600 EX-RT flash mounted to the camera. I turned the flash to my left and bounced the light off of the walls of the hut which provided just enough flash on our Maasai host.

Too cute.

As I mentioned, the Maasai are nomadic people, and all their dwellings are made to be temporary.

I just love the youngsters. This little guy will be put to work tending the tribes goats in the next 3  or 4 years.

More portraits...

This photo is a good reminder for those photographers out there, that it is a good idea to take tight shots but also wide shots. This photo shows the Maasai woman, but also shows you the surroundings of their village.

When visiting the Maasai village, they work hard to try and sell their wares. Here is a tight shot of the bracelets.

After our visit to the village, we returned back to Olduvai Camp And just like the previous evening, we made the evening walk to watch the sunset from a nearby outcropping of rocks.

If you look back at the last photo from Day 3 of our safari, you will see this same tree. I really liked this lone tree in the rocks and thought that it would be an awesome place for a portrait. Well...on this evening we were joined by this willing Maasai subject. I asked him if he would be our model and he readily agreed. I started by shooting wide...

...and then moved in closer to get a closer shot. I just love the late day sunlight on his face. I framed this shot to include some of the overhead tree, my subject, and the acacia and herd of goats in the background. This is another favorite photo from the trip. Two in one day!

Stay tuned for Day 5 which was even more amazing than any other day so far. We got to see a kill, and it was incredible.

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.
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.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Upcoming photo tours and workshops (Cuba, NYC, Australia, Uganda, Alaska, Japan, Namibia, Tanzania)

Since posting photos and stories from the first three days of our last photo safari in Tanzania, I have had many people ask about future trips. I wanted to write a quick blog post for all of you to see what upcoming trips we have for 2018 and 2019.

So far, here are the trips which we have planned:


Cuba - March 13-21
This trip is scheduled for next month and we still have openings! Contact me immediately to join us for this trip, which is right around the corner.

New York - April 26
A one-day workshop visiting the hidden areas of Grand Central Terminal.

Australia - May 24-June 4
We are going to photographing in the outback as well as doing night photography in Sydney.

Uganda - Aug 7-17
We are going to be getting up close and personal with the gorillas!

Alaska - Sept 11-20 
Come with us to photograph the bears and landscape.

Japan -  Nov 20-29
Join us as we travel around Japan and capture the landscape and architecture.

Namibia - June of 2018
Another trip to Africa, but this time to photograph san dunes and animals.

Tanzania - Jan 14-28
We will be making our third trip to Tanzania in early 2019.

You can find more information on the upcoming trips by clicking HERE.

All of these trips are open to anyone, regardless of your level of photographic experience. I can teach all levels of photography, from the beginner to the pro. And...we often have people come along who are not photographers, but want to see the best each area has to offer. The only thing we require is that you have fun!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Our African Safari - Day Three (Lion cubs, Zebras, Elephants and more inside the Ngorongoro Crater)

Our third day on safari was an amazing one, experiencing some really great photo opportunities. It was our second and final day in the Ngorongoro crater, so we got up nice and early to catch the good morning light. This meant that we got our wake up call (one of the Maasai tribes members quietly saying hello from outside our luxury tents). We also got to experience our second chance at talking showers (the Maasai putting a ladder behind our tent and pouring perfectly hot water into a bladder to fill our shower water, and then telling us that we were ready for our shower).  I love this!!!

Once we were up and had a nice omelet breakfast, we headed down into the crater.

As we were driving down into the crater, I saw this lone gazelle up on the crest of the hillside, with nice morning light shining on him. I asked Sam, our driver, to stop at this vantage point so that we could get a shot of this animal with the distant mountains far in the background. I took this photo with the Canon 1DX Mark II and Canon 200-400mm lens at 560mm (using the built in teleconverter). I used the best aperture I could (f/5.6) to create separation between the gazelle and the background.

Not long after the gazelle photo, we spotted a pack of lions with cubs. We were all VERY excited to see these youngsters!!

Aren't they just the cutest things ever?

This is one of my favorite photos of the mothers and cubs, mostly because the cub is in the same stance as the lioness.

Once I got the shots of the adult lions and cubs, I then zoomed in tighter to get these isolated shots of the little guys.

They walked right behind our vehicle as we all snapped away.

They walked from our right to our left, which meant that they went from the good front lighting, to being back lit. But that was not going to stop us from shooting. The rim light really worked well on the cubs.

As they walked away from us, we watched as the mother lioness kept a watchful eye on each of the cubs.

We continued our drive around the crater and saw this mother and baby zebra loving each other.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Another "too cute" moment. I guess this loving photo is appropriate for today (Valentines Day).

We saw a small herd of elephants off in the distance and decided to stop our vehicle and wait to see if they would walk towards us. I fired off this photo to show you the size of the elephant as compared to the zebra. It is amazing how the elephant dwarfs the zebras even though the elephant is farther in the background.

Our waiting paid off, as the elephants made their way closer to us. Seeing these massive beasts up close is indescribable.

At one point, the four elephants all came together and I was telling everyone "shoot this grouping!" as they lined up so perfectly.

We drove forward another 100 feet to try and get directly in front of the elephant. It was awesome!!!!

They came right for us.

Click the image above to watch the video
Here is a quick video clip to show you just how close you get to the animals in Africa.

Later we stopped at a bathroom spot and saw this elephant hanging out in the mud. Gregg, one of our workshop attendees, had fun photographing from outside the vehicle (as we all did).

I love the look of the Grey-crowned Crane, but especially liked getting this photo of the two birds criss crossing each other in nearly perfect symmetry.

This one crane looked up at me as I was shooting tight photos. I love the look!

This is a tighter crop of the same photo, giving you a better view of the crane's face.

The day ended with us showing up to our next tent lodge just in time for a short hike up a hillside to watch the sunset. The sunset was not very interesting, but I liked this view back towards our lodge. Then we were off for a lovely 4 course dinner and some time to relax and recharge for the next day.

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.
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.