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.

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