Category Archives: Kenya
This was my first safari. I didn’t know exactly what to expect or not to expect but experienced safari goers are pretty shocked by the fact that we saw three different cheetah kills. I’m not talking about driving up and seeing a cheetah eating something that they captured but rather we watched the cheetah assess the situation, develop a strategy and execute on their plan. It was stunning to watch, it doesn’t happen quickly, and you need a lot of patience. All three were different but no less interesting. Cheetahs are generally alone but they will work as a hunting pair and they hunt during the day (which does give better odds for us to see them in action). Our first encounter was with two brothers as a hunting pair. We were in the Mara Triangle where the grasses were long and provided good cover. In the field near them were a couple of Topi and more Wildebeests. Cheetahs working alone are very careful about not trying to take on too big of a foe but working together they can can go after a larger animal. Topi’s are usually very aware of their surroundings and are nicknamed the sentry from standing on top of termite mounds looking around. In this instance the Topis were a little bit lax on the job. One walked further away to eat and the second came down off the mound and was also munching away. When the Topi looked up it seemed that the cheetahs realized it was full grown and not realistic prey. What was realistic was a small wildebeest juvenile just nearby but just far enough away from the other wildebeests to be interesting. The cheetahs now had a plan. For the next bit of time we watched as they went down low in the grass, inched forward, came up to survey the situation, go back down again and silently communicated between themselves. Finally they were close enough to make this particular attach……whoooosh and they were off in unison and took down the baby wildebeest. One pinned down the back legs, and the other got the windpipe and strangled the animal. I felt pretty lucky to experience this and was mesmerized by the process. I never figured we would see this play out differently two more times. Working together the cheetahs were able to get close, make a bigger kill and not have to expend too much energy. The other two were solitary cheetahs, the prey was much further away, they were more out in the open and they needed to do what cheetahs are known for, go all out on the full run.
The second kill was a baby Thompson Gazelle that was staying close to the mother. Adult “tommies” can outrun a cheetah but the smaller children can’t. Once the cheetah realized that the tommie across the field had a small child with her, the decision was made. First the stalking, and then the dead on full run. I wasn’t prepared for the run and how fast the cheetah really is when they go into “overdrive”. I was able to get off a couple of really bad shots.
The third time as we watched the story unfold I was determined to try out video. The cheetah was so fast that I lost focus in the video….I’m going to leave it in the final cut (not ready yet) because it does give an idea of the speed. As we watched the third one, we radioed to our travel companions on what was transpiring. They arrived just after the cheetah had made their run and was munching on a baby Impala. As we looked out of our roof hatch to speak with our friends, Sallie Jo said “holy ****” there is a Leopard! It went into the bushes. Since we both had already seen a cheetah dine on two other critters we were more interested in the leopard’s behavior than the cheetah. Well, the leopard knew exactly what was going on and wanted to hunt “the easy way” by stealing the cheetah’s kill. Eventually the cheetah realized she was being stalked by the leopard and again I caught some of that on video but in the last picture you can see the cheetah trying to eat but looking to where she knows the leopard is lurking. In the end, the leopard did not get the kill. This was most probably because of the humans in the area. When something interesting is going on, it is amazing at how many safari vehicles will eventually come up on the scene and stay for a while. The thought in this case was that there was too much activity going on and the leopard decided to leave the kill and not go after it.
I’ve got some video of this as well but seeing as I am a complete video newbie….it may take a while….first I need to just get it off the card!
There is no joy and pleasure at watching a kill and one animal devour another (posing with a bloody snout). What is fascinating is watching the entire eco system and seeing how the animals, live their lives and how interdependent they are on each other.
I’ve been thinking about how to write about my trip and post different pictures that I made. What I’ve found is putting together my favorite images into a gallery doesn’t really allow me to delve into some of the different animal behaviors or to illustrate my thoughts about what I saw and experienced. So, I’ve decided to do things a little bit differently……
I spent last night copying over all of my images to my home desktop machine where I can work on large 30″ monitors and evaluate/edit the images more carefully. It’s just getting light here in San Francisco (even if I have been up for several hours) and I still haven’t made it to the market to get some fresh food but am going to head out shortly before I get to work with the images.
I’m headed home from a fabulous trip to Kenya. Getting back takes a long time thank goodness for wifi on the layovers. Right now I’m in the lounge at Zurich airport with another 4 hours to kill. I took about 10,000 exposures on this trip. Granted I have multiples of many shots but shooting at 600mm or more in light that wasn’t always cooperative meant that I shot a lot in burst mode so I could assess later which was the sharpest shot. What does all this mean….I have a monumental editing task ahead of me! I did try and process a few shots with quick laptop edits each day so now that I’m back to a wifi network I can post those. One note that was amazing was cell phone/iPad coverage….FANTASTIC. Now I just need to work on a good way of uploading pictures from the iPad into a gallery for the blog.
OK here are some…..much more to come (images and thoughts) over the coming days.
One sad update…..Mumbushi the elephant that we fostered and is pictured in my last post sadly died a few days ago. Again I will write more about it when I arrive back home.
It only took about 29 hours from the time I left my apartment in San Francisco until my arrival at the hotel in Nairobl. The only thing I can say about driving in Nairobi is that it is totally insane. First up there is a ton of traffic, second up they are building a lot of new roads and it is a mess with a mix of new and old roads. Ever driven on a highway with 5 cars across but no lane markings? Five lanes is not normal it was just a small section. What is normal are crazy roundabouts that with people seeming to go in all different directions.
We had two twin boys now nicknamed the “double boy’s” that couldn’t sit still on the flight from Zurich to Nairobi. To blot them out I put my headphones on with loud music and a blanket over my head and managed to sleep for a good chunk of that flight….unfortunately, last night it left me pretty wide awake when I should have been sleeping (3AM-7AM Nairobi time.)
So in a few minutes I will desperately try and get some sleep. I have more to post from today but I will start out with two shots of our adopted foster child Mumbushi. He is now three months old and we saw him this AM and then again for feeding and bedtime with his keeper. He is tiny! Smaller than I expected. He elso still seems sort of sad and traumatized (His parents killed by poachers).
Tomorrow AM we head up to Samburu and really start our safari.
Capture One added RAW support for my camera today. Yippeee! (still no Adobe support) I had taken this shot in Chinatown and I decided to give the RAW file a try with the new software version. Thank goodness there is support now as this was to be one of my main cameras for Kenya and shooting RAW + jpeg is just a waste of space and slows the camera down a bit.
Speaking of Kenya my friend and I are now foster parents to MUMBUSHI a two month old orphaned elephant. He was found by a farmer wandering alone. Elephants are very family oriented and need their mother for feeding for two years. His parents were most likely killed by poachers. Sallie Jo and I will visit him at the orphanage on our free day in Nairobi. My own pictures to follow in about a month.
In exactly one month I will be headed to Kenya for a photographic safari. I have no experience photographing wildlife with long lenses (600mm +). So, the only real practical way to get experience is to visit the zoo. The morning was really foggy, the wet windshield wiper kind – welcome to San Francisco in July. The good news on the fog is it certainly evened out the light. Just made shooting a giraffe head in white sky a little bit difficult but I actually like the shot.
I managed to get a few interesting shots. It was very difficult to get rid of buildings, wire mesh and all sorts of other man made items in the frame. There is one shot there that gives a very good idea of why I’m not a fan of zoos but….my big lesson from today’s outing…..I CAN’T WAIT TO GET TO KENYA!