LBAH Informational Articles

Tourists of the Serengeti

We had a great crew on all three of our locations on this trip. Here are a few of their mugs- names are included to add to the indignity. 
Kat

CP

Dominic

Michelle

Vince

Mellisa

Odet

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Animals of the Serengeti

Here is a smattering of some of the animals we saw on the trip

Agama lizard

Bat-eared fox

The very rare Caracal. When it comes to this cat I usually get a shot of its south end
while it is heading north. 

Hartebeest

Dung beatle

Grant’s gazelle

Spotted hyena

Thomson’s gazelle

Chameleon

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Jackal of the Southern Serengeti

These jackals look just like coyote

The jackals are bonding with each other as they revel over their prey.

As the gazelle mother circled they aggressively defended their meal

When the mother got her courage up she chased one of the jackals

The other jackal continued to feed, now without being harassed by the gazelle

Click on the picture below for a graphic 30 second silent video of them feeding

This video not suitable for all audiences

Jackal eating gazelle silent video

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Cheetah of the Southern Serengeti

Cheetahs tend to be daytime hunters, and with their beautiful markings and haircoats make good photographic subjects. In February of every year they take advantage of the easy pickings of very young Thompson and Grant’s gazelle, along with wildebeest calves and zebra foals. This is an ideal time to teach young cheetah how to hunt.

The end of this page has graphic photos of a cheetah eating a baby gazelle that are not suitable to all viewers

They scan for prey constantly and never seem to notice us

These youngsters came down to Lake Ndutu for an early morning drink of the soda water

Their mother walked right past us

And sat on a small hill to scan for breakfast

These two cheetah were having a little disagreement

They were easily distracted by zebra and chased them to see if there was any easy pickings

A cheetah walking through the plains looking for young gazelle hidden in the grass. Click
on the photo below and watch a video of her scanning for a few seconds.

Cheetah Searching Grass

The Thomson’s gazelle are highly alerted to her presence

Her eyesight is keen and she zeroes in on a 1 day old gazelle

By the time we catch up she has her meal

She started feeding at the back first and moved towards the front

This gazelle is young and tender, so she eats the whole carcass, including the head

She periodically took a break from eating to look for lion and hyena that might take her
gazelle

Click on the picture below to watch her eating for 40 seconds

Cheetah Eating Gazelle

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Birds of the Southern Serengeti

East Africa is a mecca for birders. In addition to the normal residents there were a significant number of migrators in February. This page has a few of the more interesting and colorful birds. 

European roller

Juvenile Bateleur eagle

Augur buzzard

Augur buzzard melanistic phase

Flamingo heaven at Lake Ndutu

Hildebrant’s starling

Ruppell’s vulture

Click on the picture below to watch short video of how intensely they feed alongside a hyena

Vultures eating

Marsh owl

Nubian vulture

Pygmy falcon 

Secretary bird

Spotted Thick-knee

Speckled pigeon

Lilac-breasted roller

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Tanzania 2011

It is in February of every year in the southern Serengeti that the wildebeests try to overwhelm the predators by calving in the tens of thousands. It is during this time that the predators have a feast, which you will see on this page.

On this same trip we saw the gorillas in Rwanda on the way to the Serengeti, and ended our trip with the Hadzabe in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

We were in the Lake Ndutu region of the Serengeti (black arrow at the bottom). In mid-February, as the rains start to return, the mineral rich grasses sprout and the wildebeest arrive.

This calf with its mother is only one day old. Click on this picture to see a very short video of wildebeest grazing with their young to give you a glimpse of just how many animals graze at this specific spot when the rains return.

Wildebeest Calves

A female cheetah in the southern Serengeti on the hunt in the early morning. Click on her picture to see many pictures of this beautiful cat in action, along with a short video of her eating.

Serengeti Cheetah

These lions were part of a large pride resting in the Seronera area of the Serengeti. Click on the picture to see lots of babies and hunting.

Lions on Rock

This is a lilac-breasted roller. If you click on the photo you will see a sampling of the many birds we encountered.

Tanzania birds

Brown jackals in a standoff with a Grant’s gazelle. This link contains graphic photos of the jackal’s attacking her calf.

Jackal eating gazelle

Miscellaneous animals of the Serengeti. There are way too many to show, so click on the elephant photo below to see a few of the different species we encountered

Srengeti animals

Breakfast in the Serengeti. Click this photo for a glimpse of some of our travelers

Our group

Return to Wildlife Photography page.

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Rwanda Gorillas 2011

The mountain gorillas in Rwanda are a success story. Their numbers are increasing (720 in the world, 480 are in Rwanda), poaching has diminished, and the local people are reaping the benefits of tourism.

There are 16 groups in Rwanda- eight are for tourists to view, 8 are off limits to tourists and are used to study their behavior.

Franois Gorilla Imitation

Our guide Francois was a porter for Dian Fossey, and as such has extensive gorilla knowledge. Francois acts so much like a gorilla that he looks like one!

In the video below Francois is showing us the noises he makes to calm the silverback in our presence. In the video he describes the sounds the silverback makes to give you an indication of his mood. You will also get a kick out of his making Dominic make the same sounds. It’s quite humorous!

At the end of the video you will see how close a silverback comes to Dr. P as he is taking a video with his camera. He wasn’t paying attention, and Francois had to tell him to move or else the silverback would bump into him.

 Francois instructed us in proper gorilla behavior in the presence of the silverback. We learned you are to stay 21 feet (7 meters) away from them. Looks a little less than 7 meters in the video!

Rwanda Gorilla

When it comes to primates it’s all about the eyes, especially for an animal that is so closely related to us. This is a silverback gorilla on the first day of our trek.

I love their hands also because they are so human-like

The scenery in Rwanda is lush and beautiful. This is the view from our hotel. The gorillas are at the base of those mountains.

Theo was our guide for the trip. His professionalism was a huge part of making this trip successful, especially when he bartered the purchase of fruit for us!

The Rwandans are warm and friendly towards tourists. Our hotel had a 45 minute “welcome” dance for us by some cute kids.

Click on the photo below to see the last 15 seconds of this dance Gorilla Dancers

Almost everywhere you go in Rwanda people come to greet you, especially the children. This gives you a feel of why the wildlife are being pushed out by the burgeoning people needing land to feed themselves.

The kids were always curious about us as we made our trek to see the gorillas

This boy beckoned Dr. P to come over and give him something

They carry everything on their heads. This rock weighs over 70 pounds.

Rwanda is a mountaneous country with a dependence on agriculture

This is the view from the National Park at the beginning of the trek

These are the mountains that contain the gorilla troops

All groups meet at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters for instructions and guide assignments. The maximum number of people in each individual group is 8.

The entrance to the National Park where all groups meet before their trek

The mountain gorillas were identified here in 1902

Our head guide Francois and his assistant are showing us which group we will be visiting. They know each individual gorilla and its social standing in the group. Click on this picture to hear a 5 minute detailed introduction to the gorillas by Francois’ assistant. He has an accent so you have to concentrate on what he is saying.
Gorilla briefing

In the recent past some groups had to walk for the better part of the day to find the gorillas. We had an easy 1-2 hour trek to meet the trackers who  watch over them.

We start the trek through agricultural land at the edge of the mountain.

Francois is in the back, a porter carrying our backpacks is in front of him, and at the very front is a ranger with an AK-47. His primary role is to scare away the occasional cape buffalo that roams the area.

The beginning of the trek is easy

Can you guess what we are hiking through?

They are potato fields

Taking a break during the trek

We enter the thick vegetation at the base of the mountain to find the trackers. The two men on the right are our porters, the two in the center are the trackers that keep continual watch on the gorillas, and Francois is on the left.

Final Gorilla Briefing

Francois giving us final instructions before we meet our distant cousins. Click
on the photo above hear several minutes of it. In the beginning he talks about a wall to help keep the cape buffalo and elephant away from the potato crops.

We leave everything but cameras and follow our guides as they machete through
the thick jungle

The gorillas seem to appear out of nowhere because they are well hidden and you are
concentrating on your footing in the jungle. This was our first encounter.

This little guy came closer and proceeded to feed right in front of us

Guess who was keeping an eye on us as we watched this youngster?

Its easy to see why he is called a silverback

This is the silverback that walked right past me in the video above

Silverback Walk Past

When we were sure the silverback accepted our presence we took this photo

This is the group for our 2nd day with them

This silverback in this group weighs 440 pounds


During our trip we found out that a female gorilla had twins on February 3rd

On our second day we were looking at the mother of these twins as she was hiding from us

We slowly got closer to her to try and get a glimpse of her babies. She stayed behind the leaves most of the time.

As she felt more comfortable with our presence we got to see them

Many females in the troop had babies

They were as curious about us as we were about them

The youngsters spent lots of time frolicking

Sometimes they played with the silverback (this is the 440 pounder from above)

The youngsters seem to have no fear of people and come up so close that Francois has to remind you to back away. Notice how this gorilla’s left eye deviates?

The gorilla-meisters!

 

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Rwanda-Tanzania 2011

In February we went to the southern Serengeti to watch the wildebeests calve. It is quite a spectacle, especially when tens of thousands of female wildebeest calve within a two week period of time. We decided to stop off and visit the gorillas in Rwanda on the way to the Serengeti, and ended our trip with the Hadzabe in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. These fascinating people were on the cover of National Geographic last year. It was such a good trip that I would like to repeat it in the near future.

This page has links to 3 aspects of this trip:

  1. Rwanda with the mountain gorillas
  2. The Serengeti with the wildebeests and the predators
  3. Two days spent with the Hadzabe while they were hunting

All of the pictures on this page are low res for rapid downloading. If you are interested in the high resolution version let me know.

Click on any of the 3 pictures below to see many more and learn some details of these animals and our trip. These pages also have links to several short and basic videos to give you a better idea of what we saw and heard. 

A  silverback gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Click on him to see our trip and lots of gorilla pictures

Gorillas

Sunset over Lake Ndutu in the southern Serengeti

Click on this photo to see the animals of the Serengeti, especially the big cats

Serengeti

A Hadzabe hunter near Lake Eyasi

Click here to see more of him and his buddies in action

Hadzabe

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Hadzabe 2011

People like the Hadzabe fascinate me, and when the guides on my 2009 safari told me they could set up this trip I jumped on the opportunity. Our guides told us that less than 1,000 tourists have been brought to see the Hadzabe in their daily routine. Our experience with them was genuine for the most part. Without the touristy part it would be difficult to see them so you have to accept this as a small part of the experience. Our group of 4, with our guide Firoz and an interpreter and Hadzabe guide named Hasani, spent part of 2 days with the Hadza as they went about their business. The culmination of our time with them was watching them hunt, which is showcased on this page.

His ancestors go back over 10,000 years, so you are in essence looking into the eyes of a caveman. It is hard to believe they even exist in this modern world. I wonder what he is thinking as he stares at me taking his photo.

The Hadzabe (also known as the Hadza) were on the cover of the December 2009 issue of National Geographic. I learned about them over 10 years earlier when my acquaintance James Stephenson literally lived with them for a year and wrote a book called “The Language of the Land: Living Among the Hadzabe in Africa”. I read the book before I went and also after I returned. Many of the places and descriptions of their behavior we were able to observe on our trip. It was fun to come back after the trip and read about something we actually observed!

This web page has a few of the pictures I took of our experience with the Hadzabe in February of 2011 when they went hunting. There is a 4 minute basic video at the end that is not to be missed because it complements the pictures. The National Geographic article and book referenced above will give you details about their unique lifestyle. To summarize- they live for the day and are exquisitely in tune with nature.

This map from the National Geographic article shows their territory near the Ngorongoro Crater. The dotted red lines show their range in the 1950’s, the solid red lines show their current reduced range. We saw them in the Mangola region. Agriculture and the pastoral lifestyle have encroached on their land, chasing their game away and shrinking their hunting grounds. Their population is down to 500 so their future as a society is at grave risk.

They use a click language like the bushmen of the Kalahari. This audio file is a Hadza speaking in his native tongue for a few seconds, with our guide Hazani interpreting it at the end. Listen carefully for the occasional click. Hasani will teach you how to speak like this if you visit them. Click here to download and watch the movie

We started early and met them as they were getting ready for their hunt. This Hadza is showing off a civet skin upon our arrival.

They are spiritual, surreal, and metaphysical all rolled into one mindset. Today they are rejoicing at the gift Hasani brought them- marijuana. Check out the baboon skins the two taller Hadza towards the left are wearing.

They use an ancient stone pipe and share their treat with everyone, including us if we wanted
to partake.
They inhale deeply and cough up a storm. This potent version of marijuana puts
them in a different mindset as you will see from the following pictures and especially the video.

This Hadza (the same person that is staring at us at the beginning of this page) was the star of
the show, and even though he ranked below the older man above with the headdress, it was
his hunting skills that were the most impressive. He enjoyed his morning smoke also.

Now that he is properly ****faced he is ready to go hunting

Hasani is explaining the 3 different types of arrows they use:
1. The smaller one on the right for small game
2. The middle one for large game
3. The leftmost one with poison for dangerous game

The poison is made from a local cactus

Their bows and arrows are important tools, so time is spent inspecting for flaws before any hunt

It was a wet morning and their arrows were slightly warped due to the moisture. They straightened them by warming them up and using their teeth.

They also performed other repairs on their bows and arrows

A few more bites and its time to test the arrows. Notice how he holds his bow between his legs? We saw this again when they were hunting.

Time to go hunting. The dogs tag along, and get fed if the hunt is successful, but they do not aid the Hadza in the hunt

They are supremely in tune with their environment and will drink water we would not think of even bathing in. They can go long periods without drinking at all.

The intense look of a Hadza on the hunt for game. He uses all of his well developed senses to
detect game that we would not see or smell or hear. He heard a vervet monkey far ahead in
a tree and initiated a plan with the others to trap it in the tree.

After a short hike they spotted the monkey in a baobab tree. Instead of sneaking up on it
they made lots of noise to intimidate the monkey. This way it would go to the top of the tree it was already in, instead of fleeing to other trees.

The hapless monkey is doomed as they surround the tree and pelt it with their arrows

The bow string is made from animal tendon and is extremely taught

The doomed monkey with an arrow in its back foot. This is a great photo by Dominic at an elusive target.

Even though one arrow found its mark, the monkey is small, elusive, high in the tree, and well
hidden by the leaves. The main hunter in the group climbed the baobab tree for a better shot.

He pounds wooden spikes as footholds

It was strenuous work and he took a short break when he got 25 feet up Another hunter climbs to hand him his arrows and also assist him in shooting the monkey. I tried to remember not to stand below them for this shot when they passed the arrows, especially since one of the arrows is poisonous.

So, what do the others on the ground do while these two are shooting at the monkey from the
tree? They get stoned again of course!

That must have been some good stuff! He had poison arrows in his hand so I kept my distance.

Even in this altered state of mind he keeps a wary eye on the monkey

The remainder of this page contains graphic pictures of a monkey being cooked and eaten that are not suitable for all viewers Eventually the hunters in the tree hit the monkey with 2 more arrows, one in the abdomen and one in the flank. The monkey fell to the ground a short time later and one of the Hadza jubilantly holds it up for all to see.

The Hadza cook their meal on the spot so they start a fire with sticks using only friction.

The monkey is skinned with a knife from the head Hadza

The partially skinned monkey is just tossed on the fire for about 20 minutes, being turned several times

No part goes to waste. The intestines are given to the dogs. I tried a small piece from the cheek. And yes, it tastes the way it is supposed to- like chicken!

Everyone shares in the feast. It is amazing how such a little monkey can feed this group, with
leftovers to bring back home. They eat very little, and coupled with their extremely active lifestyle, stay lean and strong.

The elderly member of the group gets the brain at the end. It is obvious he savors every bite.

This is what cooked monkey brain looks like up close

What remains is wrapped in leaves and brought back to their primitive camp

This 4 minute basic video shows the above pictures in action.

Our group of Hadzabe observers!

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Yellowstone NP Photo Tour

Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, provides an outstanding opportunity to learn about wildlife and digital photography in one of the most wildlife rich and scenic places in the continental United States. Travel time and costs are reasonable for the opportunity to spend time in such a unique and wildlife rich area.

Our Team

Gary lives just outside Yellowstone for part of the year and knows the area well, along with the local photographers and guides. He takes care of all the details- all you have to do is enjoy yourself.

Gary is in his element when in Yellowstone

Pointing out wildlife on a ridge

Working with a newcomer to photography

In addition to Gary we hire local guides that have lived in Yellowstone since childhood. Our primary guide is Nathan Varley. His father worked as a park ranger in Yellowstone for his entire career, so Nathan knows a thing or two about Yellowstone.

Nathan scanning for bighorn sheep on the far ridge

When to Go

You can enjoy Yellowstone in any season. In April the snow is starting to melt, the bears are coming out of their dens, the wolves are still somewhat active, and the huge summer crowds have not appeared yet. Its a good time to see the transition of the long winter to the freshness of spring and the corresponding young animals. We will be there again towards the beginning of April.
In the background of this April shot you can see the Yellowstone arches- the main
entrance to the northern part of the park

This is the other side of the same sign in December

In the fall the elk are bugling and mating, the fall colors are peaking, and the wildlife are in prime condition in preparation for the winter. Bears will still be active until they hibernate in October. We plan on a September elk bugling/mating and fall color trip this year.

Don’t be afraid to go in the winter. Its a magical time, and you will have the park almost to yourself. We will send you a detailed list of clothes and equipment so you are well prepared. This is the best time of year to see the wolves because they are quite active, especially as they hunt elk. The bison are also active foraging in the snow and the elk congregate in herds. We plan on a November or December trip this year also.

As you can see from our vehicle’s thermometer you need your long underwear in the winter!

Weather in Yellowstone can change rapidly in any month. You can go from this…….

….. to this blue sky in a matter of minutes

Even though non-photographers can join us, and have as much fun as everyone, we go to Yellowstone to shoot. We shoot every chance we get, and from every vantage point. Even though we shoot from right inside the vehicle, we like to get out where the action is.

Gary with his 800mm bazooka

Cheryl sizing up the pronghorn

Dominic scratching the hood of our rental car while nailing a bull moose with the 500mm

CP wondering when those otters will appear

Les looking like he works for Nat Geo

And Marv just having fun!

If you get tired and need to nod out for a few minutes during the day thats OK, although we might bust you and put you on the web

The Wildlife

A big reason to visit Yellowstone is to see the wolves. They are truly wild and tend
to stay away from people.

There are 100 wolves in Yellowstone proper. With such a big area it is quite a challenge to find them, so we enlist the help of the people in charge of the Yellowstone Wolf Project. If they can’t find them nobody will!

They use telemetry on the radio collared wolves to locate individuals they know by name

Once found the Wolf Project team keeps an eagle eye on them at all times. They
let us use their spotting scopes and know everything about the wolves in each pack.

Most of the time you will see wolves from a distance, so bring your binoculars for this trip. We tend to give them a wide birth because our presence can interfere with their normal behavior.

This is the alpha female from the Lamar Valley pack at an elk carcass killed just off the road the night
prior. It was taken with the Canon Mark III and 500 mm f/4 lens with the 1.4X TC from 150 yards away.

Sometimes the wolves will cross the road in front of you. When this happens the park service requests you
do not stop your vehicle to take photos like these people. The rest of the wolves in this pack might be
intimidated from feeding at the carcass because of this. This is the same alpha female as above, in the
process of joining the rest of her pack after feeding on the carcass for a short while.

We watched her from a distance as she walked up the hill, looking back at the carcass to see
which magpies or coyotes were feeding on her elk as she leaves to rejoin her pack. It is not
worth the energy expenditure to chase these scavengers away.

Wolves like it very cold, usually well below zero Fahrenheit. Here she is having a roll in the snow
to cool off because its a balmy 20 degrees.

This is the last we saw of her as she joined the rest of the Lamar Valley pack over the hill

There are many other predators besides wolves. The coyotes are large, so don’t mix them up
with the wolves.

They are used to people and will sometimes will walk right past us

Keep an eye on them when they are hunting. They use their keen hearing to find rodents under the snow. They pounce rapidly, so get ready to focus and hit that trigger finger in an instant.

The elk are beautiful in their winter coats (actually, it has mange if you look above its left shoulder. We will be visiting in September to see them during the rutting and mating season.

A perennial favorite are the bison as they move the snow around with their huge heads

When the wind whips up in the winter they become ghostlike

When they reappear they just keep on eating

Please give them wide berth because they are unpredictable, have four wheel
drive in the snow, can easily outrun you, and probably outweigh you by a few pounds

This young bull moose was just outside the park

At lunchtime we take a break and get a hot meal in Cook city

Its a quaint (and tiny) town with loads of hospitality and good food

After lunch we visit Dan Hartman at his cabin/studio to learn about his 30 years of experience shooting Yellowstone wildlife, see some of his phenomenal photos, and even shoot the birds and pine martens he attracts to his feeder.

He has a great setup for wildlife photography on the way to Cook city

We will be shooting from the comfort of his cabin at a feeder just a few yards away.

He gets lots of furred and feathered visitors to keep him company. Can you identify these birds?

The Scenery

Even though our emphasis is on wildlife it is impossible not to do landscape photography in such a majestic setting.

We will be staying at the Mammoth Hot Springs hotel inside the park. This is your chance to get some nice photos of this scenic area.

Winterscapes are everywhere

The light can be magical

 

Workshop Details

For our workshops you must bring a digital SLR camera. We cater to all levels of photographers and customize to your needs. Beginners get more hands-on experience, intermediate photographers get advice and access to some of our professional equipment, and advanced photographers get to do their own thing once we get them to the appropriate area and widlife. If you are new to wildlife photography you will have a blast, no matter what level of photographer you are.

Bring or rent a wide angle lens, intermediate zoom, and telephoto. The telephoto should be at least 400mm in length, and will be the lens you use most of the time for wildlife.Typical lenses might include:

18-55mm, 24-70mm, or 24mm-105mm zoom for landscape and general use

50-250mm, 70mm-200mm or 70mm-300mm intermediate zoom for general use, landscape and some close wildlife

400mm or 500mm prime for most wildlife. In place of the intermediate and telephoto lenses you can use a 100mm-400mm zoom.

If wolves are your thing you need that 500mm, preferably with a 1.4X TC also.

If you are going primarily to see wolves, and even though we have seen them on every trip, we cannot guarantee you will see them. We make a tremendous effort to find them by working closely with the Yellowstone Wolf Project team. If they cannot find them nobody will. You can increase your odds of seeing and photographing wolves by going during the winter months.

You take care of your airline reservation if you are flying. Those of us from southern California fly from Long Beach, LAX, or Orange County airports on Delta (around $400), connecting in Salt Lake, and then continuing on to Bozeman. If you are flying you can make any reservation you want, but we request you meet us for the second leg in Salt Lake City so we all arrive in Bozeman together.

The Delta flights we routinely take leave in the later morning and eventually arrive in Bozeman in the late afternoon. We will meet you at the airport, take you to a nice dinner, then provide transportation for the 1 hour 20 minute ride to the park. We should get there by 8-9 PM at the latest so you can get a good nights rest for our early start the next day.

At the end of each day we will help you with editing if you bring a portable computer and use Lightroom. Rumor has it there is a photo contest with a prize.

 

Please be aware that the weather can change at any time, during any season, so you should bring warm clothes no matter what time of year. We will send you detailed information on what to wear and what to bring when you sign up.

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