Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 1st Sep 2014
Samburu National Reserve in northern Kenya is a unique place to photograph African wildlife. It has a very dry climate, cool in the evenings and early mornings but it can get very hot during the day. A number of unusual species are found in theis reserve which is one of the reasons I love to visit Samburu.
You do not have to drive very far to find amazing landscapes and wildlife encounters.
When you first arrive at Samburu (normally around midday), it is hot the sun is harsh and most animals are huddled in the shade. You start to think "why did I come here ?" However, towards the end of the day the temperatures begin to fall and the arid dry looking landscape turns into a wildlife paradise bathed in a very warm and pleasant soft afternoon light. Thankfully the nights are pleasantly cool.
The Lions in Samburu are not so numerous but they are regularly seen.They have a different look to them - "sleek" might be a word to describe them ! Their fur is not very long and they seem to have larger ears than other lions. Fully grown adult males do not have much of a mane at all and they have an unusual menacing look to them.
Apart from unusual looking lions, Samburu is home to the Gerenuk (an antelope that is capable of standing upright on its back legs for extended periods in order to feed on leaves), the Reticulated Giraffe is another special animal of the area. Grevy's Zebra, Beisa oryx and the strikingly beautiful Vulturine Guineafowl complete a very unusual list that you will not find together in any of the other reserves we visit.
On one of our safaris we had an amazing experieince where a lioness almost caught a Gerenuk right in front of us. The speed of the chase is what was so amazing to see and in this article I wanted to go through the scenario and break down and discuss some of the things that go on during such a high speed event and to point out some important aspects of high speed action photography.
The Gerenuk got away !!
Apart from capturing a record of this hunt, some interesting information can be extracted from the exif data in the files:
Time from when she began her charge to the last frame was 2.5 seconds
My 10 FPS (frames per second) camera captured 17 images
A 3 FPS camera would only have managed around 6 images
So does your cameras FPS ability count ? - absolutely - especially when wildlife is in action. Remember to leave it on HIGH all the time - there would have been no time on this occasion to have changed the frame rate on the camera.
Having a "freeze the action" camera setting in mind for such scenarios will enable you to capture the story you want to tell with the settings you choose - don't leave it up to your camera. Learning to shooting in Manual Mode will force you to become very familiar with your cameras buttons, settings, shutter speeds, ISO's etc.
If for example I had been in AV Mode and the last subject I had photographed was a hippo resting in the sun on a river bank. ISO at 200 and aperture at f8, my sudden arrival at this lion sighting would have caused excitement and I would most likely have forgotten to change both my ISO and aperture, resulting in very slow shutter speeds. Intentionally choosing a slow shutter speed is a different story.
Getting to know your camera and how to set it up and prepare for different scenarios will give you more freedom to experiment and explore different and more creative options. Use the technical capabilities of your camera to capture what is in your minds eye - not necessarily what you see through the view finder.
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This was simply an outstanding photographic safari all round – by far the best that I have been on! As a keen enthusiast photographer, looking to step up a level with view to entering 2 competitions later in the year, I could not have hoped for more. Excellent ! The family based Wild4 team is personable and friendly and went the extra mile all the way through. They are very well organized and their prompt and helpful responses to queries pre-trip ensured they were easy and a pleasure to deal with. Stu Porter can pitch his photographic tuition at any level and his attention to detail and enthusiasm was spot on throughout this trip. I was surprised by just how much I learn’t because I was quite comfortable with my photo technique on arrival. I have easily adopted his full-on manual approach, every bit of which he was able to justify - a revelation! I am quite picky, but I cannot praise these guys enough and I will be back. Very many thanks to the whole team.
I found Wild4 through an article in Popular Photography magazine about how to choose a photo safari. They were one of five recommended in the article. After checking them all out, I saw that Stu and Wild4 offered the kind of experience that I wanted: 1) Small groups of dedicated photographers 2) Variety in wildlife viewing 3) Tuition on photography and wildlife behavior 4) Good communication and organisation. I can say that Wild4 met and exceeded all expectations on all points (and then some). 1) We used one vehicle for three photographers. Stu is a trained photographer himself, so his goal was always to get us into the best position with the best light. Having only three on the tour meant plenty of room for equipment and the ability to shoot from either side of the vehicle when surrounded by a herd of elephants! It also gave us the flexibility to be patient and wait for the shot. 2) The three places we visited each provided a unique experience and wonderful variety in scenery and wildlife viewing. 3) Stu's tuition was excellent. It was there if we needed it but never pushed. Tips, reminders, anecdotes on wildlife behavior. All given with patience and good humor. 4) From the first email, the communication was timely & clear. Justyna was a joy to work with and handled the back-office part of the tour seamlessly. It can't be as easy as she makes it seem. Wild4 didn't provide the wildlife or the spectacular sunsets that we experienced, but they put us in position to enjoy and capture a little piece of it in our cameras and in our memories. Our Safari was amazing and I would not have changed a thing...well, maybe I would have eaten a little less. If you're looking for a Photo Safari, there is nothing to consider. Just go ahead and contact Wild4 Photographic Safaris. You will not be sorry.
Doug Croft, USA