When you put it all together, all the lessons, all the tips and tricks and the skills that you’ve learned to create not only that one image but every image after that one, well that’s when the real fun begins. Photography is a constant battle of keeping up and forging ahead. Nothing just happens overnight and patience is the real key to success in this business. With constant hard work towards the future more and more projects start to present themselves. I know this to be true when I was asked to go to Africa last year.
This is one area where I’ve never given much attention too but it’s a really important one so I’m glad there are those out there that spend the time and actually photograph insects. As you can imagine this realm has some pretty good challenges to it. The most obvious being size but others such as lighting and holding still are all part of the equation. Well Millipedes are quite common where we were in Africa and being over six inches long they are kinda hard to miss. One of the most interesting features of Millipedes are there natural defense mechanisms. These guys contain a type of cyanide that it uses to protect it’s under side with by using ozopores to secrete the liquid. While there are many secretion types that various sub species contain non are really pleasant. Nevertheless these little guys till remain a staple for diets of many species throughout the continent.
When I went to Africa I was thinking about two things, the people I would be working with and the critters. I’m often thinking about that experience especially now that it has been several months and certain details are starting to fade. That’s the reality of travel, these little nuisances get lost over time. One reason why it’s so important to keep a journal or at the very least notes. While on safari I wanted to photograph everything! Not knowing when I would go back, every click had to count. One of the critters we had multiple opportunities with was the Leopard Tortoise. This very well camouflaged tortoise we would see from time to time walking through grassy areas. Surprisingly they are quite fast and did a good job of making it to cover before we could photograph them. Their thick shell is their natural defense system and is strong enough to survive most predators. The Ground Hornbill is one of the predators that has a strong enough bill to get through the shell. Well this little guy didn’t have anything to worry about with us nor did his little buddy. After a few clicks he went on his way.
With the new year comes many challenges that every photographer has to face. Lately I’ve been asked two questions in reference to the end of last year and the beginning of this one, the first one that I felt like talking about is whether I got all of my images done from Africa? Well “done” is a mixed bag and raises another point. While all of my images are safely backed up and properly filed, I haven’t gotten every image finished yet partly because I don’t want to finish every image. This is a decision that every photographer has to make after every shoot is how much time do we spend finishing our images? For me, Wildlife images are simple because I don’t do anything to them in post. But when coming back from a trip with 30K Wildlife shots, you have to be kind of picky.
The point I’m driving at is as you continue to improve your technique you have to also be able to narrow down a selection, knowing full well which images will fulfill each purpose in your business. The blog, the presentation, the prints and the articles all need images. Having the images finished and properly selected is the only way to stay ahead. Finding the time to accomplish all of that is always the challenge.
It’s the beginning of a New Year. Isn’t it an amazing feeling knowing that another year has passed and we have a whole new year to look forward to making so many things happen. The possibilities are endless and the adventurous are everywhere. 2014 was a great year for myself and my family and it’s one of those times when it’s good to reflect on how good it was and what there is to look forward to.
I had the great fortune of going on many trips to many places that I had never been before, and many more that I had been. As photographers we have the privilege and the challenge of constantly trying to come up with the next big thing. To improve upon our own work so that others may learn from what we have accomplished, while capturing the history of what we are witnessing. With the new year comes the challenge of learning from last year to make this one better.
Whether we can see or not see the path that leads forward in this career, all we can do is keep working. Photography isn’t just about following your passion but about taking on anything that comes your way. Being able to rise and fulfill any job you wouldn’t normally do, can be more rewarding than anything else you have done.
During this year we will meet new people and add more stories to the already bursting hard drive. Take time to enjoy those moments with those people you care about for often the best moments are fleeting. It is those times that we truly need a camera in hand.
Above else, make sure you have a wonderful place that you can call home. For at the end of the day, at the end of the next trip, you need that special place to return to. Have a Happy New Year, may it be filled with joy.
There is humor in every form of photography, all you have to do is look for it. One of the joys of Wildlife photography is seeing those silly moments that give us a chuckle. This Grey Go Away Bird, which the name itself makes me laugh, was sitting by the side of the road just relaxing on a sunny perch. He was very cooperative and stayed in his spot for about ten minutes. I didn’t realize it at first glance but the stick behind his head was bugging me. It was just jutting into his head and it annoyed me that it was in the photograph. Then it clicked, he was scratching his head! This whole time he was just perched there scratching his head on a twig. I think he was enjoying it too.
This was one of those species that I really wanted to see just because you see them everywhere. The Oxpeckers area common bird species that harvest insects from the mammals that roam through Africa. This is a Red Billed Oxpecker to be specific and we msotly saw them, although a few Yellow Billed showed up during the week. They are a unique species as they are found everywhere on every mammal. Giraffe’s, Elephants, Rhinos and even Impala’s had them on their backs. The one species that had the most around them were the African Buffalo.
In a large herd of buffalo the Oxpeckers seem to be all over the place, but often they group up on one of the more insect ridden members.
Now when I say intrusive they really are. They look in every nook and cranny for parasites, literally. Biologically they actually provide a very important role cleaning the larger mammals of these parasites. They actually help keep large herds healthier. The part that I find interesting is that the most of the time the buffalo and other mammals don’t even care or notice that these little birds are bouncing around them. Not to mention where they are getting their meals from.
Well it’s Turkey Day and normally this is when I would post a photo of a turkey and call it good. Well I was thinking about it and that just didn’t seem like enough, especially when I had other ground birds to go with it. This is the Crested Francolin another common ground bird we found at the preserve. Although it technically isn’t related to the turkey at all, it’s still an allie.
Continuing with my quest to capture as many species as I could I wanted to be sure to photograph the ground birds. Now we saw a lot of these little guys along with other spurfowl, but we didn’t always stop for them. This time we did. When we were down there it was Spring and the vegetation hadn’t come in yet so these little guys really did blend in well with the background. All it took to make them pop was a little flash of light and in the evening light with there black and white stripped head, they popped out really well, so much so that no matter what size in the frame your eye goes to it.
Our first experience when arriving at the game preserve, outside from the drive in from the airport, was a couple of very interesting birds that look more prehistoric then just about any other birds that we saw. The Southern Yellow Billed Hornbill was one of many different Hornbills that exist in the area and is quite distinctive with it’s large bill. They are omnivorous eating just about anything they can find, including fruits, insects and lizards. The Red Billed and Yellow Billed were some of the most characteristic and common of all the birds that we saw but every opportunity we got to stop and work with them was taken. Even the most common birds tell an important story for the overall picture.
One of the most beautiful creatures that we saw during the whole trip was the Leopard. It’s so hard to describe how amazing it is to be five feet away from these elegant cats and they just simply don’t care that we were there. We photographed Leopards on fourteen different occasions and saw eight individuals. This female was saw a couple of times and is about seven years old.
Leopards and Lions are very much nocturnal so during the day they just sleep, mostly up in trees. During the dusk and dawn light they start to be more active and after the sun goes down the spotlight comes out so we can find them. With wildlife photography it’s always about the eyes. The one rule that we have to follow is that the eyes have to be sharp. With these cats the eyes are so powerful that they alone become the subject and many times I was looking for ways where I could compose and just see the eyes.