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.
Here is a smattering of some of the animals we saw on the trip
The very rare Caracal. When it comes to this cat I usually get a shot of its south end
while it is heading north.
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
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
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.
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
Click on the picture below to watch her eating for 40 seconds
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.
Juvenile Bateleur eagle
Augur buzzard melanistic phase
Flamingo heaven at Lake Ndutu
Click on the picture below to watch short video of how intensely they feed alongside a hyena
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a lilac-breasted roller. If you click on the photo you will see a sampling of the many birds we encountered.
Brown jackals in a standoff with a Grant’s gazelle. This link contains graphic photos of the jackal’s attacking her calf.
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
Breakfast in the Serengeti. Click this photo for a glimpse of some of our travelers
Return to Wildlife Photography page.
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. This trip has proven so popular that the government has increased the park fee for your one hour visit with the mountain gorillas.
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.
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! 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!
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.
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
They have great dexterity in spite of their huge hands
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. 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. Our hotel had a 45 minute “welcome” dance for us by some cute kids. When we first arrived it was pouring rain, and we did not know anything about it. The rain stopped after an your, the sun came out, and we ran outside when we heard this dance starting
Click on the photo below to see the last 15 seconds of this dance
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
We were mobbed by the “gorillas” every time they cornered our vehicle
They carry everything on their heads. This rock weighs over 70 pounds.
Rwanda is a mountaneous country with a dependence on agriculture. The weather is conducive to several crops. Unfortunately, the people farm the land adjacent to the gorillas and the National Park, so conflict is increasing as the population expands.
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 the 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.
Some groups have to walk for the better part of the day to find the gorillas. We had an easy 2 hour trek to meet the park rangers that watch over them. From then on it was Francois, us, and the gorillas.
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 roam 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 park rangers. The two men on the right are our porters, the two in the center are the park rangers that keep continual watch on the gorillas, and Francois is on the left.
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
He spent several minutes getting his lunch prepared
When it was just right he munched (loudly) away
Guess who was keeping an eye on us as we watched this youngster?
Its easy to see why he is called a silverback
He ate vegetation right in front of us, pretending not to notice our presence. Francois made many calming gorilla sounds when the silverback came this close.
It was fascinating to watch how he held the food with his hand, and how he ate it
This is the silverback that walked right past me in the video above
Apparently he was used to having his picture taken
He gave a few different poses. It reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was in a body building competition!
After a short while he decided just to stare at us
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
He had a huge head
Did I mention how large is head was?
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.
She figured if she kept still we would not see her
She stayed hidden for several minutes
As she felt more comfortable with our presence she showed off her twins
They were only 2-3 days old according to the guides
Many females in the troop had babies
They let us get near them
Most of the babies rode like this
They were as curious about us as we were about them
This one stared at us for quite a while
Like many children he put on a show in front of us
He made sure we were watching him……
…. until he decided to ignore us
The youngsters spent lots of time frolicking
Look at their hands and feet
We are supposed to stay 21 feet away. That is impossible when they are this cute and they come up near you. Some of them have died picking up a virus from visitors, so the rule needs more enforcement
Sometimes they played with the silverback (this is the 440 pounder from above). Can you see him sitting on the youngster?
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?
In February of 2011 we went to the Serengeti at lake Ndutu 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:
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.
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
Our group of Hadzabe observers!
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.
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
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
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?
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
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.