It has been a tiring run of 14 day migration photo safaris in Masai Mara and hence I didn’t have time to update this space. The last fortnight has been interesting as we tracked and worked on Kaboso (the leopard) with her 2 cubs on multiple occasions. We were fortunate one evening to catch Amani (the cheetah) with her 3 young cubs as she has spending a lot of time in the conservancies outside the park but decided to venture in the park that evening. The marsh lion cubs were also under our constant radar but during our search for the cubs, we bumped into another lioness in the pride who revealed her 2 little secret fur balls and our guests got the first photo record of these tiny month old lion cubs.
Here are some images to sum up the entire fortnight. Gearing up for another fortnight in the African bush.
In the second phase of Migration Uncut 2017 photo safaris with me, we witnessed some amazing river crossings in the Mara river. Bahati made some superb appearances and Malaika and cubs gave some excellent photographic opportunities in the rain. One of the highlights was a sub adult cheetah trying to cross the Mara river. Fortunately he gave up as soon as he stepped in the water as the river was flowing at a rapid speed and there was no way it could cross.
Post Mara I took my guests to Bogoria and Samburu and millions of lesser flamingos greeted us in the lake. Samburu blessed us with some awesome leopard sightings and of course the endemic species like the reticulated giraffe and the gravy’s zebra.
Here are some images to summarise to fortnight. I am now gearing up for the start of the Indian photo safari season with tigers of Ranthambhore in October. Stay tuned to www.naturewanderers.com for more photo safaris at Corbett during the winters.
I am mid-way through the annual Masai Mara Migration Uncut 2017 photo safari series. The weather has been a bit erratic in the Mara this time but we have made making effective use of the low light, showers and the bits of sunrises and sunsets to create very dramatic images for our guests. Lions and cubs have been one of our key focus areas as the cubs at the Double cross are too small and tracking them have been a challenge. We have had multiple productive sessions with them. Looking forward to some good river crossings in the coming days as I wait for a fresh batch of guests from India.
We are now in the migration season and as I gear up for my annual Masai Mara migration photo tour series, here is a recap of some memorable moments I have had in the Mara with our guests during the last 7 years of the Nature Wanderers Migration Uncut series.
From effective utilisation of morning and evening light situations to river crossings to hunt sequences, every day in Mara requires planning and I take this opportunity to thank all our guests over the past so many years for believing in me as their photography guide.
Looking forward to continuing more exciting adventures in August – September 2017.
We wrapped up week 4 at Migration Uncut 2016. The trans Mara is teaming with wildebeests and the yellows of the Savannah are sprayed with black dots stretching right up till the horizon. Such sights are visual treats during the migration season. The week saw some river crossings yet again and the crocs did have a good time in the Mara river. A cheetah at the doorstep of our camp kept us busy on a few mornings by sprinting across the grasslands in search of his breakfast. The highlight of the week was a good session with a leopard at Double Cross. The young female I photographed as a cub last year has shaped up quite well by occupying a territory close to her mother’s area. We caught her mating in August 2nd week and this week she stalked majestically one evening but failed to catch the gazelle she was targeting.
Here are a few images summarising week 4.
My bookings for Migration Uncut 2017 are open. Feel free to send me an email on email@example.com to reserve a slot and be a part of the African photography fiesta.
It was a good start to our annual Masai Mara photo safaris as we are close to wrapping up week 1 of Migration Uncut 2016. We photographed some good river crossings, lion cubs and cheetah action this. The weather has been clear and we have had some great sessions with various subjects in the morning and evening light.
Leaving for a game drive now and sharing some images that wrap up this week.
Post a hectic 13 hours a day grueling schedule in the African bush, the 2015 edition of our migration campaign in Masai Mara, Amboseli and Tsavo came to an end. The last leg our Mara campaign gave us some great cheetah action, a few superb river crossings were halted because of brutal crocodile and lion assaults. The ofcourse continued making use of the morning and evening light searching for subjects that can make good images.
It was great to see a clear view of the Kilimanjaro when we landed in Amboseli and elephants against the backdrop of the majestic peak made it a perfect frame. I was particularly impressed with the dedication showed by my fellow photographers in Tsavo where they experimented with some unique perspectives of red elephants by burying themselves underground for 2 days. The tons of wide angle perspectives from Tsavo were a real treat for photography.
Here are some of the many moments witnessed in the past 10 days:
The Great African Migration is much more than the simple river crossing which you are visualizing. Here are a few numbers to sweep you off your feat! The true spectacle of the migration is 1,245,000 wildebeest, 200,000 Burchell’s zebra, 18,000 eland and 500,000 Thomson’s gazelle filling the entire stretch of Mara landscape.
When the savannah turns golden red in the month of July, and the zebra start pouring in across the river, the first herds of the wildebeest arrive and the feasting for the Mara’s predators and scavengers, begins.
The African Lion is the supreme predator of the Mara landscape and is a treat watch during the migration time as with a sizeable prey base spread across the Mara, the lion prides hunt strategically in the early morning or late noon hours giving you the chance to photograph these rare moments from close quarters in great light.
Often regarded as a shy, nocturnal animal, sightings of leopard in the Mara can occur even in the middle of the day and last for several minutes.
Although not as muscular as the leopard, the cheetah is built for sheer speed and is the world’s fastest land mammal and has been timed at 110 kilometers per hour. The Mara is one of the best places in the world to shoot a cheetah in full action as they often seek a vantage point on a fallen tree, termite mound or even car bonnet, to look out across the savannah for their next prey.
Canon Photo Mentor and Nature Wanderers Escort – Shivang Mehta – has lead multiple photography groups to Masai Mara for the Great Annual Migration. In addition to photography, his days in Africa are planned in order to understand the movement and behavior of big cats and other African wildlife. Prolonged patience, hours of wait and meticulously planned safaris have ensured that he extracts the best from an action packed day in the Mara.
Join Shivang Mehta for his 2014 Masai Mara expedition and discover the hidden secrets of the Savannah during this years Great Annual Migration.
The best part about photography in Masai Mara is the even light conditions. A slight cloud cover during the Great Wildebeest Migration months makes the light soft and apt for photography. Unlike Indian terrains, the Savannah lights are devoid of any obstructions and as a photographer you hardly miss any details while shooting in these conditions.
Post spending almost 12-13 hours on the field everyday, you hardly get 5-6 hours of light conducive for photography. The noons are normally spent with subjects lazing around in harsh sunlight and in anticipation of some action which may or may not happen on that particular evening. It was some of these noon hours during which I spent some time with some common subjects in Mara to create high-key images over a period of 2 weeks during the Wildebeest Migration of August-September 2013… Experimentation in photography is always great fun as it was in this case as well..
Here are some of the Highlights of Masai Mara from 2013 (click on the images to view the full screen on flickr):
As wildlife photographers we remain glued to our camera eye piece hunting for that fine intrinsic moment that tells a compelling natural history story. Well the eyes are trained for this and the outcome in the form of images is quite satisfactory but what we miss in this entire process is to absorb and connect with the animal and human emotions around us. During my recent visit to Mara this was one emotional incident that forced me take my eye off the camera and be sensitive towards what was happening around me.
The wildebeests kept piling along side the banks of the Mara river. The gathering gradually grew from hundreds to thousands and within a couple of hours around 30,000 wildebeests were waiting to take the final plunge countering the deadly crocs lazing around in the muddy river, for all the 30000 odd eyes could see was the lush cover of grass on the opposite side.
The stage was set and so were the audience. Around 50 vehicles were lined up on each side of the river with more than 100 photographers concentrating hard with fingers on the trigger. Suddenly a group of zebras stormed towards the river and the wildebeests who had been waiting for someone to take the first step followed them. This was yet another river crossing as the Great Annual Migration was underway.
Amidst the sounds of those 100 odd camera shutters a faint sound towards my right attracted my attention. A wildebeest stampede on the opposite side of the river forced me to remain focused and I kept shooting ignoring all the background disturbance. However this particular sound on my right was persistant and continued to distract me.
I finally took me eye off the camera and saw that a lady somewhere in her 50s was intently watching the proceedings at the river along with her 2 sons. Tear drops were rolling down her cheeks as she hugged her elder son and lifted the younger one on her shoulders so that he could get a clearer view. The families eyes were lit up with a mix of excitement, emotion and anticipation and by this time I had literally forgotten about the big river crossing which went on and on…
And finally after around 20 minutes when the last group of wildebeests made their way to the river she greeted both her sons with a statement that made my eyes moist. “We saved our entire life to witness this son… Now I can lead the rest of my life with peace for we have seen the nature’s biggest wildlife spectacle.”
For me it was a mere river crossing. Just another set of subjects and activity for pictorial documentation. For some it was their dream for which they have waited for years. It was indeed a special and privileged moment for me to be alongside that vehicle that day and feel the emotions that go hand in hand with sightings in the wild!
I wrote this after coming back from Masai Mara last year and thought of posting it today because a lot of our participants accompanying me to Mara this year wanted to know about the equipment preparation to be done for the much awaited tour!
Photography in Masai Mara was a subject of my research as soon as I firmed up my plan to lead a group of photographers for the Migration Uncut camp in Aug 2011 along with my dear friend Aditya Dicky Singh from Bagh Safari. Aditya had been constantly giving me his briefs on photography in Mara from his 2010 visit and in December 2010 I started seeing the works of a lot of photographers who have covered Mara and specially the Great Migration in the past. Some of the internet articles were quite informative but what really helped were the photo stories as it was great to see the frames, compositions and perspectives taken by photographers from across the globe.
After all this research, I landed in Nairobi with 2 Canon 7Ds and a Canon 50D along with my Canon 500mm f4, a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 and my 10-20mm wide (these were the broad level basic equipments I carried). I was actually in two minds whether to carry the 24-70mm f2.8 rather than the wide for the ultra wide habitat perspectives but preferred the 10-20mm fir I thought it would be useful for landscapes and I would use the 70-200 for the habitat shots.
I learnt my first lesson on photography in Mara within a few hours of my entry in Masai Mara. My first safari started a bit late and as I took a short round under fading light conditions, I was shooting at an ISO below 1000 (around 500 to 640 to be precise). Though the sun was touching the horizon, the Mara terrain is never short of light. The savannah is open landscape and light falls directly on the subject unlike forests of India where the light is diffused because of the thick vegetation.
My second lesson was within the first 2.5 hours as in this short span I had already exhausted my 8GB card which I thought will last because I was going for a short round. It will be wrong to say that you can’t afford to be trigger happy in Mara. You can’t avoid it! For there is just too much of action around you and you just can’t resist the photo opportunities. Especially in the months of Aug and Sep, if you are staying at the right location (which enables you to be in the heart of the action areas) the action eats away all the tucked up memory! The main culprit is migration photography. A big river crossing comprising anything between 5000-10000 wildebeests has the potential of consuming 8GB of memory in 10-15 minutes. Using 4GB cards in Mara is not a good idea for you lose crucial moments while changing of cards. Safer bets would be high speed 8, 16 or 32 GB.
Crossings are tricky to shoot for the action is fast and you don’t get time to review your photos. But the flip side is that if you quickly glance through your shots to check if the exposure, focus and frame is right you can get back to work since the herds give you opportunities to shoot again. Typically you may mess up the first crossing you witness because if you witnessing the phenomenon for the first time in your life the excitement of coming face to face with the one of the biggest wildlife spectacles on the planet overpowers your photography and you end up with screwed up pictures. Yet again, if you are staying at the right location in Mara, there are high chances that you will witness more and more crossings and with each crossing you gradually realize the dos and don’ts as far as crossing photography is concerned.
It was after 3 hours that I pulled out my second body with the 500mm to shoot a lion pride that because that was the first subject at a distance. Mara is probably the best place in the world to create stunning habitat perspectives. The accessible terrain increases the proximity to your subjects including big cats thus opening doors of experimentation and innovation. Having spent a week under such shooting conditions I realized that 60-65% of my wildlife shots were taken using a 70-200mm f2.8 lens. I used my long lenses at times to create tight compositions and for taking those tight river crossing shots but the variable zoom was the pet lens for me. I used it to high effect while shooting critical action sequences like lion hunting as well.
In our group of 12 Nature Wanderers participants, we have as many as five 100-400mm users and I am very happy with the quality of images that all our participants have produced.
Essentially Mara as a location has the potential of giving great image to photographers using all sorts and all strata of equipments. So just carry enough batteries and cards so that you don’t run out of ammunition.