Monday, July 2, 2018

Namibia Photo Tour: Photographing snakes, chameleons and more in the desert

After several days of very limited Internet access in Namibia, I am now at a place where I can post a blog. Today's blog post shows images from our day in the desert sands, photographing some of the reptiles (and birds) in the area.

Mike (who runs M&M Photo Tours) knows this guy named Tommy who runs "Tommy's Living Desert Tours" out of Swakopmund, Namibia.  We met up with Tommy in the morning and hopped into his heavy duty four-wheel drive vehicle to drive into the dunes to look for wildlife. Tommy knows this area so well and can find animals that you and I would never see.

Early on the tour, we were driving along the sand when Tommy stopped, jumped out of the vehicle and started digging in the sand. Minutes later he arrived with a Gecko in his hands.

He put the Gecko back down in the sand so that we could all take turns photographing this little guy.

After driving a little while longer, Tommy exited the vehicle again and climbed up a sand dune. He had seen markings from a snake.

Sure enough, he came back with this little sidewinder snake.

He let it go and we watched as it made it's way up the tunes. It was pretty awesome to watch. I shot some video of this and will try to edit and post that and other videos when I return back to the U.S.  As I was taking these photos, I realized that the better shot would be from on the dune looking down at the snake and his tracks.

This was a much more interesting shot, and much easier to see the markings left on the sand. I suggested this angle to the other photo tour attendees but they did not want to climb the dunes and lay down this close to the snake.

Tommy had another snake for us to photograph at the base of the dunes. We were all laying on the sand to photograph the snake at a low angle. Mike told Conrad (one of the guests) to get up!

Conrad did so without questions. It turns out that only 12" from his arm was a small poisonous snake that was not happy that we were encroaching on his space.

I used the Canon 100-400mm II lens on my Canon 1D X MK II to get a close shot of the poisonous snake.

Once we were done with the snakes, Tommy started whistling. And some local birds, who know him well, showed up for some food.

This was a great way for us to get nice shots of the birds as they hovered by Tommy.

Tommy working his magic.

This went on for 10 minutes, which gave us a chance to slow our camera shutter speeds (to approximately 1/125 sec) and get some motion in the bird's wings. I also suggested that we shoot a little wider to include the sand dunes in the background.

Then Tommy said that he wanted to continue the tour to find a chameleon for us to photograph. We were all excited about this.

It did not take him long to find a big old chameleon by a plant. 

Tommy had some bugs with him and through them out so that we could get tight shots of the chameleon eating. I switched the Canon 1D X MK II to 14 frames per second, waited for the chameleon to make it's move with that big sticky tongue and...

We all had a blast photographing this action.

This last shot made me laugh, with the chameleon making a funny face and looking like it was smoking a cigar.

It was a really fun time photographing the wildlife as well as driving through the incredible sand dunes. And the photos are so cool to look at!

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Anonymous said...

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.


Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

This is a response to Mike. I totally understand where you are coming from, but let me respond to your concerns. The guide was there to point out the wildlife in the area. Yes, he was able to find them and show us the reptiles, but they were always put down in their environment and free to run. There were two times when he did feed the animals (birds and chameleon) and yes, those are "setup shots". BUT, the animals were in the wild and being fed what they would normally eat. Don't discount everything I have photographed for one or two photos like this. I can also tell you that in Costa Rica, we have people who find the tree frogs for us to photograph. They are also kept in their environment, but the guides help us to get great shots of them.

I am not in any way promoting people to take the wildlife out of their environments, or feed them "people food" to get a shot. I only have done this with trained professionals who retain the integrity of the wildlife. I have photographed big cats and small birds who were being rehabilitated. This was done for the good of the animal.

I have disclosed this information to be up front with everyone, and hope you do not lose faith in me.

Feel free to email me your contact info and I will call you when I return to discuss this further.

All the best (and I appreciate your concern - really!),