African Safari (Kenya) Pt. 1
As some of you know, I traveled to Kenya in January and spent 3 weeks photographing wildlife inside 3 different National Parks. This photo safari was lead by four time author and international acclaimed wildlife photographer, John Gerlack. His work regularly appears in everything from National Geographic to scholarly text for bird guides. The group consisted of eight professionals and myself. After meeting the group and settling in, my first thought was what the hell was I thinking to imagine I could keep up with these accomplished shooters. My fears were quickly put to rest as they were a very inclusive bunch sharing wisdom and creativity freely. As it turned out, because of our varied backgrounds, we all had contributions that made for a fun and fulfilling experience. And, John Gerlach turned out to be not only an amazing photographer but an even better teacher. He could clearly identify any problematic photographic situation, ask a couple of rhetorical questions and leave you to figure it out from there. My type of learning!
Landing in Nairobi reminds you of just what “third world” really means. Desperate poverty, annual incomes of $400 dollars a year, surrounding small pockets of modern skyscraper edifices leaves the general population scurrying to hustle an existence or, exhausted and crushed, huddled and waiting for change they know will never come. It is no wonder that poaching wildlife has so depleted one of the greatest assets the African Continent has. Fortunately, the efforts of many of conservation groups have convinced some governments the importance of the eco-travel dollars as a major source of revenue and jobs. Although this is a very complicated problem, progress is being made. National Parks have been created with military trying to control the slaughter and efforts are being made to convince local regional tribes of the financial opportunities that conservation of their wildlife can afford. Given that many of these tradition bound tribes are semi-nomadic pastoral people who’s livestock represents their wealth as well as their livelihood, sometimes conservation equates to a competition of grazing rights. Add in the astounding black market value of everything from ivory and rhino horn to exotic meats and furs, and it becomes obvious that survival of the wildlife and the habitat that supports it still is an open question.
So to preserve the memory of this experience, I took over 26,000 images of which I would like to share 25,000 with you. No no no…. just kidding!! But I did think a few shots a couple times a week with a little explanation might be fun. If it’s not your thing, the delete button is only a click away.
The equator runs thru Kenya so there are an equal number of hours of sunlight and darkness everyday of the year. What this means for a photographer is that sunup and sundown happen very very quickly but extremely intensely as this sunrise shot of a silhouetted Acacia tree can attest.
Our transports were rugged Land Rovers and Toyotas with pop-off tops for ease of shooting
Key to the success of any photographic safari are your guides who are also your drivers. They have to be aggressive but yet not startle the game. They must always be cognizant of sunlight and shadows and how this will effect the shot. Positioning is quick and engines are immediately shut off so vehicle vibrations don’t ruin an image.
Below on the left, 64 year old David has been leading these expeditions for 30 years. His knowledge of the vast physical terrain is incredible but even more amazing is his understanding of animal behavior and his ability to anticipate their actions thus locating you so the action was frequently coming at you rather than simply chasing it. At first, I would wonder what the hell was this guy doing leaving this situation where I was getting some nice shots only to be put in a position a few minutes later to get the shot of the day with the animal walking right into you with the sun perfectly situated and all three photographers in the vehicle having equal access to the action.
Zachary, the middle guide below, was a walking encyclopedia of bird identification and behavior. He had studied for many years with the National Parks Services passing many rigorous certification exams along the way. His ability to identify hundreds of birds even before they perched was simply astonishing. The final member of our group was Stanley,the fun loving, guitar playing, 30 something son of David. He was learning from the best while pursuing a musical career with his band during the long 7 month off season.
Here are a couple of brothers walking right towards our vehicle.
The Land Rover has been a constant in their lives from birth. It is a neutral event to them. They hunt, feed, breed, rest, shade themselves as if you and the vehicle did not exist. But make no mistake, this is definitely not a giant zoo for if you leave the confines of your vehicle in their presence, they will eat you !!
Only 24,994 more to follow……………….