Masa Mara Photography Workshop

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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