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About ajm057

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    Wildlife Photogrpahy

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  1. Hi Here is my album on Flickr of Leopard shots over the last 18 months including an exceptionally rare sighting of a 12 year old female leopard killing a 6-9 month old Impala at a waterhole (PAN) in the Kruger on 22nd July -- https://www.flickr.com/gp/ajm057/232MXU - here attached is the first stride in the brief chase and a shot of the leopard about to bite the Impala's neck.
  2. What on earth are you smoking?
  3. I just posted this in another thread -- The Ngorongoro Conservation rangers should also ban stupid folk with selfi sticks leaning out of the top of their safari truck while a hungry lioness is resting in the shade just below. I don't have the most extreme picture - where she was almost upside down with hair just above the lion and selfistick in the air - but these provide context. However, let me add a few other thoughts from from a photographer's perspective, and its all to do with Depth of Field -- i.e. what is in and not in focus. The the iPhone 7 Plus has that 23mm (equivalent) lens, with an f/1.8 aperture and a 1.5m long selfi-stick the image has a depth of field (using standard assumptions) of about 76 cm - if focussed on the person and the background further than 2.5m away will appear out of focus. This is what Iphone cameras are designed to do - they are designed to take portraits like if they were taken with a DSLR and a good lens. The GoPro Hero4 has an equivalent 17 mm lenses that comes with F2.8 aperture - this gives much larger depth of field. The go pro does not have the same focussing system as the Iphone. In fact it is hero4 actually has a fixed lens and the field of view is also fixed, this is supposed to give it a depth of fieldwith everything from 300mm-4.6m in focus. But it varies. Taking shots with an Iphone and 5 foot long selfi-stick at arms length and focussed on the person holding the stick is unlikely to have the wildlife subject - the thing in the background - in focus. In most cases it will just be a blur. For the case of the lioness in the shade of the vehicle, the girl is at least using a gopro and that should allow both to be in focus --- BUT, it is clearly extremely stupid to hang out from the top of a landcruiser over a lioness I have seen far worse behaviours in the Masai Mara recently, with safari vehicles containing folk wanting to shoot selfies getting very close to lions on a kill (whereas we the photographers are 20-40m away) and always with their back to the dangerous subjects. Clearly I am absolutely against
  4. The Ngorongoro Conservation rangers should also ban stupid folk with selfi sticks leaning out of the top of their safari truck while a hungry lioness is resting in the shade just below. I don't have the most extreme picture - where she was almost upside down with hair just above the lion and selfistick in the air - but these provide context
  5. I prefer private safari, that being myself and one or more guides -- no other guests -- in a safari vehicle. To be clear not a normal private vehicle, but a converted Land Cruiser Pick-up and a highly experienced tracker/driver who knows the park we are in in detail -- be this a Masai or someone who completed their training in the park. My guide needs to know what is around and where their normal ranges are. He (or She) needs to know how to get there in the dark and quickly and which crossing to use if the rivers are running full. They need to be very good/experienced off-road drivers. And that is why I use Wilson from Sun-world or James from Entim Mara for the Masai Mara. I would absolutely not be able to achieve the same results in the same time if I had my own vehicle or drove myself - no matter how good an of road driver I my think I am. I also want a local mechanic available who can fix little or large problems as they occur. And, they do. Particularly late on in the season. I am extremely exacting about what I want to find and shoot, and where I want to situate the vehicle. For example, I don't need to see yet another group of lions sleeping partially visible in a bush, particularly if we saw them the previous day in the open in good light -- we just move on, without arguement. I did this twice in the early morning on my recent trip and then we came across a wonderful male black rhino sleeping in the open. We had him to ourselves for nearly 20 minutes, while others were looking at the lions in a bush. I know from bitter experience that this is not what you get in a mixed group.
  6. 1) A kind of FAQ for first-timers Do your best to optimise your kit - I take photos with big lenses and 3 cameras. My first trip to Kenya and Tanzania was 25 days and I had 90kg of gear -- I did not use 30kg of it and my travel tripod was used all of once. My last trip (earlier in March 2017) - I went for 16 days and the weight of my trip was down to 60kg. I wore only 50% of the cloths I took and did not need much of the extra batteries, cards, cleaning gear I took this time as well - but I still took 3 camera bodies, 600, 400, 70-200, 24-70 and a 20mm lenses, 2 Teleconverters and a laptop with 2 external drives and a bunch of extension cables and chargers. I have 2 sets of batteries - one on charge and one in the cameras during the day. My photo guide carries 2 camera bodies and the same mix of lenses, except no-600mm, as a carry-on and a small duffel bag of clothes and wash gear. I still have a long way to go to match that. Next trip I will probably take the same weight of gear, but even less clothing. Entim Camp and the lodges I have stayed in washes everything the same day -- except underwear, which you have to wash yourself. I would take at least 7 pairs of underwear. 2) A series of recollections of how we planned our first safaris? Find an organiser that is very good at what you are seeking to do AND has a lot of good testimonials from people you trust. Do not use a man with a White Bus, who offers you accommodation outside the parks/reserves, unless you absolutely have to. I use Wild 4 Photo Safaris for my first 2 trips and arranged my 3rd through the Entim Camp, where I had stayed before. 3) A place where people can ask questions like "Should I go to South Africa or Kenya?" Both - it depends on the time of year-- avoid Kenya/Tanzania in the rainy season April-June - so head to South Africa/Botswana/Zimbabwe/Zambia then. Go to Ndutu in the last weeks of February when the Wildebeest are giving birth AND August-September when the river crossings are their heaviest in the Masai Mara. 4) A combination of the above You absolutely have to get up early and go to bed early - normal my day on Safari starts at 05:00, coffee and biscuits at 05:30, out at the vehicles by 06:00, aim to depart on game drive by 06:15. Sunrise 06:45. If I am forced to stay outside the park or as I did last year, was staying in the Triangle, when I needed to be in the Masai Mara NR, get up even earlier -- you have to be 1st at the gates/bridge when they open. WHY -- its all about being on your first subject by sunrise. We have a picnic breakfast on the game drive for about 15 minutes at a time between 08:00-09:30 depending on the action. And, if it is hot, are back at the camp by 10:30am - to process images, have lunch and an early afternoon sleep in the heat of the day, before heading out at between 5-5:30 pm for an evening drive that tends to have us back in camp by latest 7-7:15pm, for dinner at 7:30pm and bed before 9pm. Please understand that if you want to see or take pictures of big cats, hippos on land and rhinos these are only active in the early morning and late evening. The one exception is around the migration when cats, particularly Cheetah, are seen through more of the day. Absolutely nothing (that I am normally interested in) is normally visible between 10:30-16:00. The only reason I would leave the camp before 5pm in the heat of the dry season would be travel to an earlier sighting if it was a distance away OR if I had to abide by really dumb rules, like those in Etosha, where the gate closes at 18:30 and you simply cannot have a decent evening game drive if you are staying outside the park unless you leave earlier. Do not expect good internet connections or 24 hour power -- I stayed at the Entim Camp on the Mara River for my 3rd time in March of this year and they had recently upgraded the Satellite Internet Service, so it was much better; but like all the other camps I have stayed in the power is turned off twice a day - once in the afternoon and between 11pm-4am - so there is no internet during these periods as well; AND there is no internet if there is heavy cloud cover. Some of the lodges appear to offer better cover -- but often only in some areas, there are many more users and their connectivity can also be impacted by the weather. So - bring spare external hard rives for local back-ups and only seek to upload your very few best shots of the day. Take Malarone (Atovaquone 250mg / Proguanil hydrochloride 100mg) or your prescribed anti-Malaria treatment, at least one course of Ciprofloxacin (an antibiotic belong to a group of drugs called fluoroquinolones) to treat gastric infections; and Non Drowsy Antihistamines (If you buy locally you will more than likely get the best knock out pills ever); together with good sun lotion; very very strong anti-fly/bug spray you can coat your hands, feet and head with -- particularly if you are in an area with Tsetse flies, whose bite is a bugger. I use a DEEPWOODs product imported from the US and had had my clothing coated in the wash-in product. You may also want to take a diarrhea treatment with you if you are prone to this. Also take a wash line and travel wash/soap so you can wash your smalls if you need to.
  7. I now just take US Dollars, but you have to make sure that your bills were printed after 1996. 2013 is preferable. I have had older dated bills rejected in Nairobi and Tanzania.
  8. Remembering that a 10x bino is equivalent to a 500mm lens on a full-frame body and a 12x equivalent to a 600mm - I bought a pair of Tom Lock Series One 10x42 Waterproof Binoculars in early 2016 for about £55. These are great. I go on safari to take photos and take long-lenses (400/600mm and longer) and cameras to allow me to get close to the action. I went on about 12 weeks safari since I bought my binos, but only used my Binos a couple of times. So I actually have little need for binos, in particular since my binos weighed : 655g and this is the weight of another lens. My latest Masai guide did not have any binos - so I lent him mine on my last trip and he is still looking after them for me, which is fine by me. I applied the same policy to my Helm Field guide of the Birds of East Africa, which are now being looked after by the Trainee Guide who rode with us for 15 days - another weight saving.
  9. Get up very early and start your game drive as far before sun-rise as possible so that you can find and set up on your first shots (with sun behind) before the sun has started to rise above the horizon. In Kenya you have about 10 minutes once the sun has started to rise (06:45) until the really special red/golden light starts to cool and about another 30 minutes transition to normal good light. I have found that on days with no cloud cover, image quality starts to go by 09:30 as the light becomes increasingly harsh and heat haze begins to impact images. The best "normal" light is between 0715-0930, when images are soft lit and shadows are low or non-existant. For me, there is little point in taking shots between 10:00 and 5-5:30pm - both lack of animal activity and the heat of the day take until at least this time to reset. The one exception is Cheetah chases during the migration - which happen almost anytime - or if it is raining/very cloudy. You have to be prepared to return to the camp in the dark. Shooting in very low light is a challenge un-too itself -- You can expect to have to shoot at ISO's greater than 3200 very early in the morning or late in the evening before sunrise or after sunset. And you can get some good results, but they are no where as good as shots in first light shortly after sunrise and before the sun has completely set. Set your White Balance to Cloudy (5,500 K) and leave it there all day. Please no not use Auto-WB otherwise the camera will vary the WB temp to a default value, and you will not see the golden/red, unless you change it back. This is the time when the light differences can be the most significant -- You absolutely will have to recover shadows, reduce highlights, and change a host of other exposure settings, reduce noise etc.. So shoot RAW 14-bit compressed and do not use your jpgs - absolutely no point taking them. I can unequivocally say that the quality of my low light images has improved with the help of the best technology I can afford. The combination of a Nikon D5 and 400mm f/2.8E FL lens provides extraordinary performance and gives me confidence that I will find focus and lock on in almost no light. Here are a few examples - including extremes at each end D5 with 400mm at ISO 5000 f/3.5 1/640th - taken 5 minutes after sunset started. Sunset completes within a minute or so - so these are very much last light OR blue images D5 with 400mm at ISO 100 f/4.5 1/500th - taken a few minutes after first light on sunrise. D5 with 400mm at ISO 200 f/9.0 1/2,500th - taken a 25 minutes after first light on sunrise. We were tracking Malaika's daughter who was hunting Tomi's and chose sunset as the time she chose to start her chase. Note how fast the light drops in Kenya around sunset. None of these images are useable, but it was interesting to try. The shutter speed was to freeze the action - which it did - but at the cost of IQ. D5 with 400mm at ISO 9000 f/7.1 1/1,600th - taken as the sun was about to start to set. D5 with 400mm at ISO 5000 f/5.6 1/640th - taken as the sun was about to completely set. D5 with 400mm at ISO 72408 f/4.0 1/1,000th - taken a 21 minutes after sunset. D5 with 400mm at ISO 102400 f/4.0 1/1,000th - taken a 23 minutes after sunset and it was very dark (black).
  10. Only Nikon for Wildlife -- D5 (2 XQD option), D810(plus Battery Grip) and D500(plus Battery Grip) and 400/2.8E FL, 600/4.0E FL and 70-200/2.8E FL with 2 TC-14E IIs when needed - all camera have EN-EL18a batteries as their primary power source and I have never had a problem/need to change batteries during the day. I have tried a range of zooms - 200-400 and 200-500 and found the result far far less appealing than the results I get by using a long prime and moving the vehicle. I once took a tripod and sat on rocks next to a hippo pool on the Mara River for a couple of hours, but other than that I shoot from the left front seat or top of a Land cruiser safari vehicle driven by Wilson (Sun-world) or James (Entim Camp) with bean bags and an action plate. I use a laptop (Macbook pro), two physical back up drives and try to upload 5-10 initial processed images each night to flickr and facebook. So far I have had no loss of images. Examples of shots from my latest trip can be seen in my gallery/other posts here and my Masai Mara March 2017 specials
  11. Mother and baby Spotted Hyena
  12. Serval Cat taken just after sunset Caracal
  13. Over just a couple of days were saw some birds: Juvenile African Fish Eagle Lapet-faced Vulture What seems to be a one-legged Martial Eagle A pair of mating Bateleurs Brown Snake Eagle Tawny Eagle Black Shouldered Kite Marabou Stork
  14. Classical rise and sunset with a 400mm Evil looking Loki at sunrise
  15. Malaika and her two nearly adult cubs, up near Double Cross Malaika's daughter was seen near Entim Camp, attempting to hunt Tomis from very long distance and at and after sunset -- uncessfully Taken in the dark at ISO 102,400 - she had just failed to catch dinner while it ran away (ISO 72,408).

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