LBAH Informational Articles

Masai Mara 2007- Leopard

This elusive cat showed up a few times on our trip. Like all the big cats we can watch them for hours. Unlike the lions and cheetahs, leopards prefer to do things in private, so you have to get that shot when you can. One morning this female was found just outside our camp.

She was intent on something so we stayed with her. She moved through the grass rapdily so following her was not easy.

We were lucky to get a shot of her when she dashed off to attack a baby warthog. She was succesful, and move her prey into higher grass to eat. That was the last we saw of her.

This female was found when we heard her calling her young.

She walked right past us, and moved so quickly I did not have time to change lenses or cameras. So I had to stay with the 500mm lens, which was too much lens for this distance. At least I got a closeup!

Let’s test your eyesight. Do you see the leopard in this photo? It’s in the middle left branch of the far right tree. Sometimes this is the only view you get of wildlife. Lucky we have “eagle eyed” guides with us.

As we move closer she is much easier to see

She stayed in that branch until it got too dark to photograph

This beauty came out and posed for us in the late afternoon sun

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Masai Mara 2007 Group 3

The Shot Meisters

Yea, our final group at Rekero camp.

A couple of “Cheetah Chicks” teaching the cheetahs the proper way to pose

This group was serious about their photography

They also knew how to have fun

A nice uphill hike to stretch the legs at Wilderness Trails Lewa

They took so many photos we never had time for a photo contest.
Instead, we reviewed photos at our mid-day break

Catching that good afternoon sun….

Rick is in his glory!

Getting psyched up for our camel ride

Our final breakfast at Rekero

One last group shot at Lewa

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Masa Mara 2007 Group 2

This page has just a few of the numerous photos we took of our second group at Ol Seki.

 The Cheetah Chasers

Ol Seki is a beautiful camp with its ambiance and style

Our day at Ol Seki started just as early as the other camps. We tried to catch that early morning sun.

By 9 AM we were back for a hardy and gourment breakfast. The breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at Ol Seki were a delight.

This camp allowed walking tours, so we took advantage of this whenever we could

On occasion we had a unique “hunter” Masai take us on a stroll

At the end of our walk we had our refreshments in the daytime……..

……. and our sundowners in the evening

Many an hour was spent relaxing and game viewing

Group 2 had lots of avid photographers

They also had an awesome balloon ride

They took off as the sun was rising

It is a nice vantage point for the Mara

The animals are not bothered by the balloon so you glide right over them

The landing is as much fun as the ride

On our last night the guides put on a song and dance routine for us.

It was a dance in our honor, showing their pride in their traditions and respect for us for coming to their land

After their routine they waited in eager anticipation of our song and dance (boy were they disappointed)

We reciprocated with our version of “auld lang syne” Who the heck picked that song?

On our last day they gave us a surprise breakfast in the bush (there is more to this story in case you want to hear it)

Time for Dr. P to say good riddance to group 2 and all their antics and get ready to meet Group 3 back at Rokero again.

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Masa Mara 2007 Group 1

The Ibble Dibbles

This page has just a few of the numerous photos we took of our first group at Rekero camp.

At the end of this page we have links to each of these individuals with more photos.

Our day would start at 6 AM with moring wake up call and tea. We would be out in the field by 6:30 AM to watch the morning animal activity. By 9 AM it was time for a leisurely breakfast in the bush.

We would be back for lunch, then after a nice siesta and 4 PM tea and cake, we would go back out until sunset

They called our evening cocktails “sundowners”, and we would partake in them most every evening before we headed back to camp for the night

Back at camp, after a nice hot shower, we would gather around the fire and try to outdo each other with animal viewing stories as dinner was prepared

Dinner was superb, with plenty of great food and lots of other guests to interact with

After dinner it was time for drinking games, courtesy of Robb, our host at Rekero

The goal is to blow some cards off the top of the bottle without blowing over the whole deck

Carole and Naomi were successful…..

…..but Kate, another host, did not fair so well and it was time for bottoms up for Kate

Then came Leto, and as was true to his form, he knocked over the deck…..

….and it was his turn to celebrate his accomplishment

Once everyone got bored with that game it was time for another one

Relaxing after a hard day’s work

Happy campers!

3 hottie’s!

3 more hottie’s!

Village visit

Towards the end of our trip we decided to take a “booz cruz” down the Mara river

It was gorgeous night that included a rainbow that went all the way across the sky

Now is a good time to talk about the nickname of this group, the Ibble Dibbles.

This picture tells it all, and an explanation of this drinking game is probably not necessary. The winner is the person that makes the biggest fool of themselves.

Our last breakfast at Rekero on the morning the group goes off to a new camp at Lewa

All packed up and ready to go

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Masai Mara 2007- How We Got The Shot

This page gives you the technical details of how we took photos of a hunting cheetah trying to bring down a young Topi. We used Canon professional cameras with professional lenses to get these shots. If you are contemplating a trip anywhere in the world where you want to get high quality photos its nice to get access to this type of equipment. Most people cannot rationalize spending $4500 for a camera and $5000 for a lens, so try to make friends with someone that is willing to share with you. Now all you have to worry about is lugging all this stuff around.

We have a page that gives you more information on our cameras and lenses.


Our day started uneventfully. We came across this cheetah in the early morning and just watched her for a while (our guide said it was a female because it was solitary).

In a short time she went on the alert

And started stalking something

Our guide noticed a Topi mother and calf in the distance, and positioned us in what he thought would be optimum for photography. Now all we had to do was wait with crossed fingers as the Topi neared. Unfortunately, through no fault of the guide, our position was not optimum, and it did affect our outcome.
In this photo Carly has the Canon Mark II N and Sean has the Canon 5D. Carly was assigned to stay with the cheetah, Sean with the Topi. Both of these animals are off the screen on the far right. It was as close as we could get without interfering with the cheetah.

I set each camera as follows:

Carly was using the Mark II N that shoots up to 8.5 pictures per second. She also had the Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 IS lens. I set the camera for spot metering, and set the ISO at 400 to give a fast shutter speed on this sunny day. The camera was set on aperture priority with an f-stop of f/4, which gave us a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second. I decided this was fast enough to get good photos of the cheetah when she sprinted. I set the aperture at f/4 because in prior work with this lens it gave me the best photos at this aperture. Also, for both cameras, an ISO of 400 gives us a relatively noise free photo in case we want to print it out in large size.I set the lens at its maximum focal length of 200 mm. Even though that is equivalent to 4X it was really not enough to get a real closeup as the cheetah sprinted. We had no other choice because we could not get any closer according to our guide and we needed the bigger lens to shoot the Topi since it was further away.

Sean had the 5D, which only shoots 3 pictures per second, although each picture is 12 megapixel in size. Since the Topi was further from us than the cheetah, the frame rate might not be so critical. I set his ISO at 400 also, with an f-stop of f/5.6. He was also spot metering in aperture priority. These settings gave us a shutter speed of 1/1600th of a second. I used this aperture because this lens seemed to shoot best at this aperture, and in doing so I got a fast enough shutter speed to keep up with a running Topi.
The lens was the Canon 500 mm f/4 IS, which gives us the equivalent of 10X. Since the the Topi was furthest away from us I thought it appropriate that Sean had the more powerful lens and the camera that was slower. Sean used the beanbag for additional stability, a crucial aspect of photography when using a lens of this power
Next I told them not to move, breathe, or even think about going to the bathroom, keep focused continually on their subject, and shoot only when I said to. The chances of seeing somethng like this again are slim, so we do not want to pass up this potential opportunity. Hopefully the cheetah will go on the offensive. Lets see how they did….

Carly did a good job of catching the cheetah on her initial sprint.

Her lens just did not have the power to keep up with the cheetah as she accelerated, so the cheetah rapidly move too far away for any details. This is not surprising when you consider how fast she can accelerate. 

Sean did great, kept his focus locked on the Topi, and pulled the trigger when I told him. I am glad he had the more powerful lens.

So, did she get it or not?

 

This is the cheetah moments later. She did not get the Topi calf. Our guide said it was because she was not that hungry and did not sprint at full speed. It was also because the Topi mother stayed between her calf and the cheetah. In essence, the cheetah was testing them to see if it could make an easy kill.

This photo was taken with the 5D and the 500 mm lens from around 40 yards away.

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Masai Mara 2007 Camera Equipment

Everyone brought a point and shoot camera along with their own personal digital SLR camera. These cameras were either the Canon 20D, 30D, 40D, or Rebel Xti. They did great and everyone learned much more about photography and had a ball shooting all those photos I had to edit!

A very important part of our equipment were the lenses. When it comes to wildlife photography it seems you can never get close enough. I brought along a Canon 500 mm lens, which was used to take the majority of animal photos on the trip. It was invaluable, and will go along with me on all my major wildlife trips.

A hallmark of our trips is the professional equipment we bring along for everyone to get a chance to use. These cameras and lenses are far too complicated, expensive and heavy for most people, so we bring them for all to use and significantly increase the chance of getting those priceless photos (once we showed them how to use all this stuff). We might not have gotten the eagle attacking the vulture, the cheetah’s chasing the baby gazelle, and the close up photos of much of the wildlife and people were it not for this professional equipment. My hat is off to Peter lugging some of this stuff to Africa.

Between Peter and myself we were well equipped for almost any photographic situation. Here is a smattering of just some of the professional cameras and lenses we own and brought with us. Don’t ask us how much all this weighed. My bag, which included 2 camera bodies, computer, several lenses, batteries, etc., weighed 36 pounds. The separate backpack that held my 500 mm lens weighed 15 pounds.

This is Peter with his equipment packed up and ready to load on the plane. Thank you Peter for bringing much of this professional equipment. Wonder what you are thinking about in this picture?

Canon EOS 1D Mark III- We had 3 of these on the trip. I will be bringing an EOS IDs Mark III in addition for my next trip. 

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III

500 mm f/4 IS

400 mm f/2.8 IS

Canon f.4 DO

Canon 70-200mm f/4 Image Stabilized (IS)

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 Image Stabilized (IS)

Canon 24-105mm f/4 Image Stabilized (IS)

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Masai Mara 2007- Cheetah

They are such regal looking animals, and since they are daytime hunters you get an opportunity to capture them in action. These are only a few of the thousands of cheetah photos we took. At the end of this page we have a sequence of cheetahs on an actual hunt as a mother teaches her yearlings how to hunt.

This fat belly confirms a recent successful hunt

Watching out for other predators that might take her kill as she is eating

Scanning for any potential prey

In the morning sun we got the poses we wanted

They are always scanning, looking for potential prey

This photo was taken minutes after she made the kill

Sitting still for us so we can take a nice portrait

Yearlings in the afternoon sun

In 3 weeks over many encounters this was the only time I saw them drink

Even though they are slim compared to lions, they are highly muscular. The powerful tail is an important counterbalance when they turn rapidly at high speed.

Cheetah mother training her cubs

This next sequence of photos depicts a cheetah mother showing her pups some of the skills they will need to survive. It shows the ruthless nature of the beauty we observed all around us in the Mara. It is not for the faint of heart, and shows how cruel nature can be amidst all its beauty.

A special sports shooting camera by Canon, called the 1D Mark III, was used. It shoots up to 10 pictures per second, and each picture is 10 megapixels in size. It is also designed to lock focus on rapidly moving objects. I used a Canon 400 mm DO lens for all of these photos. I was ready with a brand new large capacity disk, and over the course of the 30 minutes of action we observed I took lots of photos. I figured what the heck, I might never see this again, and I had plenty of disks. So I blasted away, and I am glad I did because the rapid movement of the cheetahs made it difficult to get good photos. What follows are a just few of these photos.

We came across this cheetah mother with her two cubs as we were returning from our morning game drive. Our guide could tell she was on the hunt, so we waited to see what she would do. He explained that she was looking for young Thompson gazelle, and he positioned us in what he thought we be a good position to see the action.

After 15 minutes she spotted something

It was a very young gazelle that had been hidden in the grass by its mother

It instantly burst from its hiding spot and ran away as the cheetah closed in

This young gazelle did not stand a chance against this adult cheetah, and it was caught within a few seconds. Until you see the phenomenal acceleration and coordination of this adult cheetah it’s hard to describe. They turn instantly, using their powerful tail as a counter balance.

She trips it up and as it falls to the ground she pounces and bites it at the throat. Routinely this is how she would kill it. It is relatively rapid, and prevents sounds that will attract larger predators that can easily take the kill away from a cheetah. In this case though, the mother only stunned it, and kept it pinned until her cubs arrived. You can see the one of the cubs on the right.

Both cubs have caught up with the young gazelle and try their hand at biting it. From this point on for the rest of the sequence the mother watches out for larger predators who might take this kill from them or endanger her cubs. She lets the cubs learn on their own.

They are ineffective and the gazelle gets away, until the cubs pounce on it again. The remaining pictures in this sequence show the cubs chasing it down, catching it, and then watching it until the gazelle takes off again and the chase continues. This happened over and over again.

Finally the mother kills the gazelle and the cheetahs eat it rapidly

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Masa Mara Photography Workshop

October 2007
Carl Palazzolo, DVM


In October of 2007 I will be leading a digital photography workshop in Kenya to view the wildebeest migration, which will be my 4th time to Africa. It is a tremendous opportunity to view and photograph the age old drama of these animals and their interaction with the predators they encounter during the migration. All adults over 18 are welcome, and even if you are not interested in photography, you are encouraged to join us. You will be able to do what you want without any pressure to take photos or learn about photography.

This is a custom trip designed to keep us away from hoards of tourists from Peoria, wearing Lands End safari hats, bouncing along in crowded vans, and who don’t know a lion from a tiger. We will be with expert guides in an exquisite setting during the wildebeest migration. This will give you the maximum opportunity in a short time to see the wildlife you envision when you think of Africa. Since most people go on a trip like this only once in their life, we are planning far in advance for everyone to get the most out of it and make it the Africa you dream of. If you do go on this little excursion, upon your return, you will wonder why you waited so long, and you will start planning your next adventure.

If you are interested in photography though, there will be an opportunity to increase your level of expertise dramatically, and have a fun and rewarding time doing it. It all boils down to "keepers". Anybody can shoot hundreds of photos and get an occasional "keeper". You will go far beyond this hit or miss approach, and when you return home you will have much more than the occasional "keeper" as memories. After our days of wildlife viewing and shooting we will gather around at night, share exaggerated stories of our daily exploits, and look at everyone’s best photos while I am teaching you how to edit using Photoshop CS3. If you want to bring a personal computer you will get more out of this when we edit your photos each day. We will have electricity to charge your batteries. Rumor has it there might even be a photo contest……

One of the many unique aspects of this trip is the fact you will be given access to the best professional cameras and lenses Canon has to offer, and also learn what it is like to use this equipment to increase your chance of getting exquisite photos. Who knows, you might even bring back some pictures that don’t bore your friends and family. We will even practice embellishing your stories to make your pictures even more impressive. A list of this equipment is further down this page.

The photography aspect will be for 5 days when you first arrive at our luxury camp. You will be part of a group of 10 people maximum at each camp. After the 5 days with me in the photographic part of the trip you will spend another 3 nights in a different location without me. If you prefer, on the way in or out of Africa, you can spend time in London or Amsterdam (the two most common gateway cities from the United States), for a few days, and make a great 14 day trip overall. As of August 1st there is room for 2 more people only in Group 1. Exact dates, prices, and itinerary are at the bottom of this page. You will be given 3 options. In each option you will spend 5 nights with me at one of 2 different camps depending on the date, then everyone will spend 3 nights at Wilderness Trails/Lewa without me. This will give you a chance to practice what you have learned and get a nice change of scenery. Contact information is at the end of this page.

Oh, and don’t forget to pack your sense of humor. You will use it more often than most of the other junk you put in your luggage and never pull out.

 


Typical Photos

This is a photographic workshop, and if you want to be a part of this aspect of our trip, then photos we will be taking! Here are a just a few of the numerous photos taken on my prior Africa trips. They will give you an idea of the interaction you will have with the wildlife, people, and scenery. My goal is to teach you how to get photos that express how you see Africa. The best photograph in the world is not on the cover of National Geographic. It is the photo that you take, that you like, and that has meaning to you as you show it to your friends or look at it on your wall.

We want to move beyond photos of wildlife that can be taken in any zoo, and get those shots that give life to the people, scenery, and animals of this continent. Once we get past all the technical mumbo jumbo of our sophisticated equipment we will will be spending most of our time on the "art of photography". This is the part were will go slow and take our time setting up the shot you envision. Our emphasis will be on quality over quantity. There will be times when this is not possible though, so you might have to rapidly change your mindset to what is going on around you, especially if the predators start moving!

The Area Around Camp

Our setting will be the vast expanse of the Masai Mara during the season when over 1.5 million wildebeests, zebras, and antelope make their annual migration.

This is a wildbeest, also known as a Gnu. This is the culprit that  causes most of the commotion you will see (and hear).

You know this is a zebra, but do you know what kind of Zebra?
Hint: its not a Grevy’s

Because of this migration the predatorswill be ready and waiting.
Of course, being cats and all, during the heat of the day this
is what lions do best.

While the adults are snoozing the cubs will entertain by stalking us

We will visit the Mara river often to see just who is waiting for the zebras and
wildebeests to cross

You will be in an individual vehicle with only 1-2 other people besides your driver.

Depending on where we are and what the guides say, we will leave the vehicles and go on walking tours throughout the Mara

The animals are habituated to vehicles, and the guides have eagle eyes, so you will get very close to the action. By all means bring your point and shoot camera for those candid shots.

Most days will start early since that is when wildlife viewing and photography is at its best. Gathering first thing in the AM for coffee or tea in the cool morning air is very stimulating, especially as we plan our day’s shoot, and decide which guest is going to be bait for the day by walking ahead of the vehicle to entice the
predators closer to us.

On some mornings we will get carry outs from Denny’s and eat our Grand Slam
Sluggers breakfast out in the bush

The camps we stay at have all the ambiance of the "Out of Africa" experience most
people think about. We will gather together every evening to share our day’s exploits and try to outdo each with stories (both fiction and nonfiction are allowed) on what we saw that day. This comraderie is one of the more enjoyable and enduring parts of the trip.

The food is great (snake tastes good when cooked over an open fire), and evening
meals will be gourmet dining.


Shooting the Wildlife

Wildlife photography is unscripted and unpredictable, posing a unique set of challenges to say the least. They appear when least expected, are oftentimes behind a branch or tree, sometimes appear in droves, while other times you look all day to no avail. There will be long moments of down time with nothing happening, interspersed with moments where you can’t keep up with all the action. When something is imminently happening there is no time to carefully prepare the shot, and you have to make do with whatever "art of photography" you are able to cram in as you push on that shutter button and try to track the action. It will give you an appreciation of just how good those sports photographers are!

You need to stay on the alert at all times and have your camera ready.   In my case, that means remembering to take the lens cap off!

If you are like me you will be constantly looking, even if everyone else is in
the vehicle and nodding off to sleep after a long day. If you want to see widlife plan on being out in the bush all day long- you will probably be rewarded if you do.

Early evening sun is just as important as morning sun for its warm effect. These
cows are surrounding their calves in a defense posture as we rafted past.

You need to be quick on the draw because a pose like this does not last long. One of my axioms of photography is "get the shot". We will be practicing this technique often, so get used to hearing" hurry up and shoot"!

Unlike the lions that hunt at night and rest during the day, cheetahs are day hunters, and are constantly on the alert for any movement.

Our guides know how to get us close, and with the lenses I will be bringing, photos like the following ones are possible.

Male lion resting with his pride

Male lion warning us not to get much closer

In a moments notice the predators go from stupor to keenly alert and with twitching tail, especially when they are  hungry and prey is present

Don’t forget to look up, there is lots of action in the air


Shooting the People

A trip like this is a golden opportunity to capture the faces of people who live in a culture vastly different than ours. Our guides are very patient, even after answering the same question over and over on how you can tell a Grant’s gazelle from an Impala.

This is Zhou, a park ranger that is assigned to a black rhino antipoaching unit. He is typical of the men that will take us around and spot game with their eagle eyes.

We will encounter the Masai people during our stay. You can visit actual villages where they live, and get a chance to learn about their highly unique culture. In a nutshell, it all boils down to cattle.

Its a good chance to brush up on your portrait photography

The bashful children love to see their photos on your camera screen


Composition

The best lighting for photography will be early in the day and late in the day, so that is the time we plan on being out in the bush and looking for some action. There will be numerous opportunities to get creative with your photography. You never know when one of your photos will turn out stunning, and with the equipment I will be bringing the only limit here is your imagination……

If we get out early we can catch the lions while morning mist is still in the air

A little flash helps get a surreal effect when the light reflects off their eyes

Our last shot of the day before the sun called it quits.

After the sun goes down we might bring out the spotlight, put those
flashes on our cameras, and see what we can capture. This is a Serval.

Do you know what this night creature is?

During your stay I highly recommend an optional hot air balloon ride over the Mara. You will have to arise at 4 AM to get there on time.


My Last  Two Africa Trips

For more details on Africa I have links to my two prior Africa trips. Both of them were research projects, which is not what we will be doing on this upcoming trip. We will be doing research, but this time it well be on how many sundowners we can drink each evening after a full days work shooting photographs!

In the Lions of Tsavo trip are many photos of the Masai Mara halfway  through the page, some of them in large size as you link to the corresponding page. These photos will indoctrinate you to the names of the wildlife we will encounter. 

Lions of Tsavo

Male lion protecting buffalo kill


I went to Zimbabwe in 1995 to help in my small way regarding the plight of this highly endangered species. Zimbabwe is not a place for travel at the current time.

Black Rhino of Zimbabwe


And if you can’t make this trip to Africa I plan on another Alaska trip in the near future, along with New Zealand. Here is what it is like to go to Alaska and get close to some really big bears as they fatten up for hibernation.

Bears of Katmai

Grizzly fishing


Camera Equipment

This is just a sampling of the professional equipment I own. I will bring most of this equipment on the Kenya workshop in 2007 for all to use with my supervision and personal training. The heavier lenses will be used in the vehicles, the lighter lenses will go for us on walks. If you bring a Canon SLR on the trip you will get to use some of these lenses on your own, some of this equipment will be used only when you are with me personally.

This will give workshop attendees a unique opportunity to learn how to use professional cameras and lenses while getting those once-in-a-lifetime shots. If you are contemplating the purchase of a nice SLR camera with a good lens this is your chance to get hands-on experience.

Canon 5D


Canon EOS 1D Mark II N


Canon 70-200mm f/4


Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 Image Stabilized  (IS)


Canon 24-105mm f/4


Canon 300 mm f/2.8 >IS


Canon 500 mm f/4 IS


To learn the nuts and bolts of digital photography follow these links to my lectures:
Intermediate Digital Photography


Itinerary

The cost of this trip is $6,000. This pretty much includes everything but your airfare to Nairobi, and a few incidentals, which are explained in each of the options below. This price also includes the photography workshop.

We have a professional travel agent intimately familiar with Africa that has made all our arrangements. They are responsble for the trip once you get on African soil. My role will be to teach you photography. I will be at each of the camps before you get there, will greet you on your arrival at the airfield in the Mara, and will also drive with you to the airfield when you leave the Mara as you depart to Wilderness Trails/Lewa.

Please note: As of August 1st there are two spots left in group 1 only.

Option #1

Rekero Camp October 2-11, 2007

Option #2

Ol Seki Camp October 8-17, 2007

Option #3

Rekero Camp October 14-23, 2007

Web links to each of the camps for further information:

Rekero Camp

Ol Seki Camp

Wilderness Trails/Lewa

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Scenery of Katmai N. P.

Landscape

Alaska Rainbow

Beach Scene

Eagle Rock Low Tide

Flats

Flower Shuts

Glacier

Image

Log View

Mountain Cloud

Mud Print

Rock Island

Sunset

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Bears of Katmai National Park

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