African Safari (Kenya) Pt. 3

I have never been much of a sleeper so each morning when the camp guard shook my tent flap at 4:45 am I was usually already assembling my gear with aid of a flashlight or laying on my cot waiting for the generator to fire up so we would have electricity once again. On a couple of occasions, before the camp lights came back up, I stood outside my tent to simply gaze at what darkness really is. With the absence of human light pollution, the Milky Way literally dances across the late evening sky in a display I have seldom seen. Once the generators are back up, there is precise little time for messing around. All the unfinished tasks from the evening must be attended to, recharging any remaining batteries, downloading and backing up images from your file cards, and cleaning the dust from your equipment for the one hundredth time. Pack up all the equipment once again, a 45 pound backpack and another 25 pound hand carried bag, and dash through the dark to the waiting vehicles. No time for breakfast, we will have a boxed version on the plains around 10:30 unless, of course, the action is too intense. Even though we are assigned a different driver each morning, it is a first come basis for selecting which row of the vehicle you want to occupy. Both seats in that row are available to you facilitating shooting from both left and right sides, as well as, storing copious amounts of equipment. I prefer the middle row and my fanatical early morning promptness assures the selection. Strap down our lens stabilizing bean bags to the baggage rails on the roof of our vehicles, and off into the pre-dawn darkness of the savanna we charge.

The early rising sun is a photographer’s dream. The warmth of the golden hues, the softness of shadows created by the low side angle of the sun seem to envelope this beautiful male Impala creating an almost three dimensional image.

Impala in Samburu National Park


Below is another member of the antelope family, a mature male Dik-Dik standing a full 16 inches high. They are eaten by just about everything. As a defense mechanism, they will poop over the same spot repeatedly trying to create a bigger pile and thus the illusion of a much larger animal so, at least, the smaller predators will not bother them.

 Dik Dik in Samburu National Park

This light even softens the deep furrows of an elephant’s brow.

Important note to self: this applies to humans also you idiot!

Elephant in Samburu National Park

It doesn’t take long for the sun’s angle and intensity to increase resulting in a much different temperature for my images as you can see in the warthog below. Good thing this isn’t a portrait for a paying client.  As any surviving  Renaissance court artist knew, too much realism did not work out so well. But in this case, no amount of artist liberty is going to beautify this grazing tough guy. The flood of light allows detail to be seen that might be lost in another situation. Notice the warthog has a smaller second tusk lower on his snout. This is razor sharp and, although this neanderthal does not appear to be a PHD candidate, he is bright enough to back into his burrow so even the lions are leery of a frontal attack!

Warthog in Samburu National Park

The bright sun articulates every muscle of this Grant Gazelle as he rears up at the approach of a rival sizing up his harem.

Grant Gazelle in Samburu National Park

The starkly contrasting markings of this East African Oryx simply scream “look at me ” in this lighting. Don’t be fooled by the beauty of this rather docile looking large antelope, for those lethal swords on its head are more than capable of killing a lion. I find the coloring of the Oryx, although understated, to be one of the more interesting.

East Africa Oryx in Samburu National Park

East Africa Oryx in Samburu National Park

East Africa Oryx in Samburu National Park

This Eastern Chanting Goshawk also exhibits a calm but intricately designed pallet.

Eastern Chanting Goshawk in Samburu National Park

Although this male Somali Ostrich has a simply color pallet, it would be a mistake to refer to this 9 foot, 250 pound, flightless bird as anything but striking. With an aggressive nature and the ability to run at over 40 miles an hour, they are best left alone.

Somali Ostrich in Samburu National Park

Their thighs are enormous and their feathers almost resemble thick fur.

Somali Ostrich in Samburu National Park

Keen eyesight is their best defense against large predators. Eyes on stilts if you will.

Somali Ostrich in Samburu National Park

You can’t ever take enough shoots, someone always has their secondary protective lids closed.

Somali Ostrich in Samburu National Park

And as the sun climbs higher in the sky, this Kori Bustard takes its camouflaged torso behind some bushes for a temporary respite from the heat.

Kori Bustard in Samburu National Park

Meanwhile, this Pygmy Falcon surveys lunch possibilities.

Pygmy Falcon in Samburu National Park

Ah, the nest of the Rosey-patched Bush Shrike offers a tasty morsel.

Pygmy Falcon in Samburu National Park

And then it was on!! I saw it coming before it even started. Eight shots of the entire battle. I couldn’t wait to download the sequence that evening.

Second important note of the day to self:  just because a fast shutter speed of 1/500th will freeze the action of a NFL football game it is not adequate for birds in flight you idiot!!  This shot is sharp because I was panning with the Shrike. The other 7 shots are only slightly out of focus but will have to remain in the ” what not to do” pile. Unfortunately, there are no do overs out in the field so knowledge and readiness are everything.

Pygmy Falcon and Rosey-patched Bush Shrike in Samburu National Park

This White-throated Bee-eater enjoys a much more leisure lunch as he crushes up a grasshopper before devouring the insect.

White-throated Bee-eater in Samburu National Park

While this peaceful Namaqua Dove just wants to build a nest.

Namaqua Dove in Samburu National Park

And the Red-billed Hornbill just rests.

Red-billed Hornbill in Samburu National Park

As momma leads her charges to the river for a cooling dip, it would simply be too clique to stamp “The End” on Big Bertha’s butt so I will just bid you adieu until the next time.

Elephants in Samburu National Park

Click here to see Africa Safari (Kenya) Pt. 4

Click here to return to Africa Safari (Kenya) Pt. 2

One response

  1. Pingback: African Safari (Kenya) Pt.4 | Steve Upton Photography

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