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.


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Shelly Schmidt said...

What a cool, cool trip- and lots of variety of animals. My fav part is your shower.......

Justin L. Brown said...

I think its great