Archive for Masai Mara

Photo Editing

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2015 by chamimage
3 day old Elephant Baby

3 day old Elephant Baby

I had a recent epiphany about photo editing. In the past I have spent a lot of my time editing old folders of images that I felt guilty about not having finished with editing all of the images. The problem with that is that I have already gleaned the family jewels images from those folders so I am spending a lot of my time editing and Photoshopping my second best images.

Samburu Elephants

Samburu Elephants

That thought occurred to me as I looked at my Google Analytics one day and confirmed that Guanajuato, Mexico at night was still my most viewed image on my web site again for another week, as it has been for much of the past year. I don’t know why. But the point is that I also realized I had many more images of Guanajuato that I had never optimized.  Guilt be damned! I worked on Guanajuato images.

So now I let the fickle winds of supply and demand determine which images I will be editing, not guilt about old un-edited images. I check Google Analytics and my stock sites to see what images are being viewed, both my own site and in general. Today it was Australia, France, and elephants. I have elephants, so I’m working on elephants.

Elephant and Crocodile

Elephant and Crocodile

Being an elephant means you don’t have to bother about no stinkin’ crocodile.

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Epson 3880

Posted in Photo Gear with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2013 by chamimage
Queen Anne's Lace Seed Head

Queen Anne’s Lace Seed Head

I have been printing with the Epson 3880 printer for about three weeks now. So far I am impressed.

In previous blogs I detailed my efforts to rehab my Epson 4900. I lost the battle in the end. I don’t print on a consistent basis. I print like crazy for a gallery opening and then not so much for a few months. With the pigment based inks it is better to keep the ink flowing or the pigments settle and they can clog nozzles and lines. I went too long without printing on the 4900 and could never get everything unclogged and it needed a new print head. That would have cost about two hundred dollars less than a new 4900 and four hundred dollars more than the 3880 after the rebate. So I had to sacrifice the ink I had remaining for the 4900 (it is not compatible for the 3880) and get the Epson 3880.

Maasai Woman in Doorway

Maasai Woman in Doorway

My biggest concern was that the 3880 has eight ink cartridges and the 4900 has ten. The difference is that the 4900 has orange and green. So far I have not noticed a difference. I have one print (above image) with some oarnge-ish reds that I wish were richer and are out of gamut on the proof in Photoshop, but I haven’t finished fiddling to see if I can do better in post production yet. I would love to print that image side by side with both printers as it is to see if there is a difference.

The skin tones on the above images were perfect. I have made a lot of prints lately while catching up after trying to rehab the 4900 for six weeks (hey, I wasn’t going to give up) and have not been disappointed in any of them.

The 3880 prints 17 inches wide and has profiles for the Signature Worthy papers by Epson that I like.

Dislikes

My dislikes are minor. I wish there was a roll paper spindle.  I am now cutting sheets from the roll paper I had left over and it is a bit of a challenge. The paper doesn’t like to be handled so I wrinkle it. The sheets I cut are quite curled so I weight them down for a while before printing to avoid having the paper curl up and hit the print head and damage it. The make a de-curler, but it costs $360. The print of the top image is now completely flat after a couple of weeks after cutting it so the framer will have no problem with it. In the future I will just buy sheet paper. I did want to try the new Ilford Gold fine art paper, but it does not come in 17 inch sheets, only rolls.

The 4900 has a cool clear plastic window on the top and you could watch the printer working. It sounds minor, but I just saw a video where National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson commented that he also enjoys watching the printer work through that little window so I am not the only printer voyeur. The 3880 has an opaque black  plastic top cover. You can open the top cover during printing with the 3880, just don’t spill coffee or let dog hair in there.

The 3880 definitely prints slower than the 4900. I don’t think that should surprise anybody and given the price difference a 4900 purchaser would be disappointed if that were not the case. The print head on the 3880 is physically smaller and not as much ink gets put down on each pass. I am not a high volume, wait until deadline to print a whole gallery show kind of guy so it really doesn’t impact me if the printing takes longer. I have heard the Epson rep (Danno, I believe) and Jim Richardson say that printing in high speed (the head lays down ink in both directions) does not impact the quality of the result with the 4900. I have not heard if it does with the 3880 so always turn high speed off since the manual states that it will improve quality.

Likes

I like the paper feed better with the 3880. Thinner paper feeds from the top, which is quicker and less scary than putting paper in a pull-out tray on the bottom face down as with the 4900 (how does it not scratch the paper? It never does, but why doesn’t it?). The thicker fine art paper is also fed from the top in the 3880 via a second paper guide that has a less acute angle so the paper doesn’t have to bend as much. In the 4900 I fed the fine art paper from the front by hitting button that opened the platen and then feeding the paper into the printer, hoping it wouldn’t scratch or pick up ink somehow. It never did affect the paper, but sometimes I struggled to get the paper lined up perfectly straight and would get a paper skew warning.

I must admit the 3880 also gives me some paper skew warnings with the fine art paper, but I credit that to using the cut, curled roll paper that is harder to feed in straight.

Like the 4900, the 3880 has both photo black and matte black ink cartridges installed so switching from one to the other occurs at the flip of a switch. Gone are the days of my trusty old 2400 where you had to physically switch the black ink cartridge (that 2400 is still making prints for a friend of mine, after all of these years). The 3880 is said to switch the ink automatically depending on which paper you designate in the print dialog. Truth be told, I have never brought myself to actually trust the printer to switch the ink yet. I guess I’m a control freak when it comes to printing. I want to switch the inks myself and know that it is done and ready to print when I hit that print button.

The 3880 weighs forty pounds and I can easily move it myself. The 4900 weighed 150 pounds and was too large and bulky for one person to move (I did, but I shouldn’t have). I almost killed my retired neighbor when I recruited him to help me carry the 4900 downstairs and out to the car to take it for its final ride to the repair shop. Sorry, Roger. The college kid next door wasn’t home.

The 3880 is very economical with ink. I have made quite a few prints and even though the ink cartridges are smaller than the 4900 cartridges, I don’t seem to be seeing the ink levels go down nearly as quickly. The 4900 does do more head cleaning on a routine basis so maybe that is where the ink goes.

Love my 3880 so far. I miss my 4900, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

The Lions

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , on June 10, 2013 by chamimage
Lioness

Lioness

I have just finished reading Man-eaters of Tsavo, by J.H. Patterson and Out of Africa, by Isak Dineson (aka Karen Blixen) back to back. Tsavo is about Kenya in the 1890’s and Out of Africa is about Kenya in the World War I era.

What is striking about these books is the attitude toward the animals. I tried my best to keep the era in which they were written in context, but both books were a blood bath for wildlife, especially lions.

At least in the Tsavo book the body count probably favored the lions. The author was an engineer putting in the railway from Mombasa to Nairobi. While building a bridge over the Tsavo River they were haunted by a pair of lions that found preying on humans easier and safer than trying to bring down 400+ pound hoofed animals. Despite their best efforts at building thorny barriers around the tents, the lions consistently broke through in the middle of the night and tidily extracted an Indian worker from a tent.

Yawning Lion

Yawning Lion

At one point or another, lions tried to jump through an open window in a box car; entered a box car through a sliding door and when it closed behind him he carried the human out by breaking through a window; tried to rip the corrugated sheet metal off of the top of a train station to get at the human inside. I wouldn’t plan on reading this book while on safari and sleeping in a tent in the bush.

The author waited night after night with his gun, but the lions always managed to strike a different camp than he was guarding…until they didn’t. He finally ends up killing both of those lions plus a good ten or so others, just for sport. As well as at least one of pretty much everything that moved on the savanna. I think the hippos thwarted him. And the rhinos should have rightfully killed him a couple of times.

But those were the days when birders took a gun in the field with them so they could kill the bird for a closer look. Animals were plentiful and, despite the lesson of the bison, there was skepticism that there could ever be a shortage of wildlife.

Karen Blixen is famous in Nairobi for Out of Africa. Seemingly everything is named Karen after her there. There is a Karen Blixen Museum. She also liked to take her gun in the field and especially liked to shoot lions. At one point she waxes poetic about the lioness silhouetted against the horizon. So regal. Then she shoots it. Whenever she was out and about with her boyfriend and they came across lions and he asked if they should stop and shoot them, the answer was always yes. Sigh. Context, Thomas, context.

Interesting that in the Tsavo book Nairobi was no more than a train station when the author first arrived. Then a market sprung up, but plague occurred so he burned the market to the ground. It worked to stop the plague outbreak. Not sure why. I guess it scattered the rats (and their fleas) and the humans.

By the time Karen Blixen came along fifteen short years later Nairobi was bustling. I had not seen the movie Out of Africa.  I tried to watch it once, but I have this aversion to Meryl Streep for some reason, and lasted only about ten minutes before I had to turn it off. I have seen the coffee and tea plantations north of Nairobi and it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I could totally live there.

Masai Mara

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2013 by chamimage
Cheetah

Cheetah

Usually when I get an image request from my agency I find it is so specific that I don’t have the image. “A male deer in autumn with a western mountain range in the background; north of the 45th parallel and west of the Rocky Mountains. Must be a deer tick of the genus Ixodes in his left ear and he must be situated 45 degrees to the camera facing away”. I exaggerate, but not much.

This week I found out how much work it creates when the opposite happens and the image request is vague.

The request was for a vertical image of the Masai Mara for a magazine cover. No problem. I have 5,957 images from Africa. About 80% are from the Masai Mara. About 10% are verticals (I don’t shoot as many verticals with four-footed animals, which may or may not be running horizontally). That leaves something like 477 images to locate among the 36 subfolders that may contain them.

Masai Mara Sunrise

Masai Mara Sunrise

It would have helped, I decided, to at least know what genre of magazine this was for. Is the emphasis on travel, on wildlife, on birds? There was no way to narrow it down. I was allowed to submit ten images.

Marsh Pride Male

Marsh Pride Male

I just tried to submit a balance between wildlife and scenics. I decided birds were not likely to be chosen in a non-birder magazine. Not enough Mara atmosphere. That being said, my last cover shot was of a lilac-breasted roller from the Masai Mara, but that was for Birder’s World. It could have been perched on the back of a rhino and their readers would only have noticed the bird.

Stormy Mara Sunset

Stormy Mara Sunset

The above image was from the first afternoon game drive on arriving at our camp in 2010. The thunder clouds move in every day around 2 pm off of Lake Victoria in the fall. Convection currents, I’m told.

Common Ostrich female

Common Ostrich female

In the end it looks like they have short-listed a couple of rhino photos. My experience with rhinos in the Masai Mara is that they are heavily poached so they run like hell as soon as our Land Rover came into view. All of my rhino photos are from Lake Nakuru where they graze like cows along the lake shore. Lake Nakuru is a small reserve for flamingos, black rhinos, white rhinos and Rothschild giraffes. A poacher might slip in at night by foot, but any gunshot would be heard by a nearby lodge and reported. And the poacher might well be eaten by a leopard long before he saw a rhino.

Sunset, with Vulture

Sunset, with Vulture

On a somewhat related note. I quit Getty Images, so will soon have sole possession of many of my best images again, including some Masai Mara images. I recently sold three images from Italy for a sum that made me realize that my best Italy images were on Getty and I would probably be better off having them back. No more exclusive agreements for me.

On an entirely unrelated note. There was high drama at Yellowstone Park this week with a fox den in the picnic area that everyone has been visiting. A badger came along and the ensuing battle with the fox vixen was photographed by Max Waugh. See his photos at http://forums.yellowstone.net/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=16236. The badger made it into the den despite the fierce defense of the vixen, but the pups escaped out a back entrance. The parents dug a new den uphill and then stood vigil on the den with the badger still in it. Last report was not good. The badger picked a moment to escape the old den and made a beeline into the new den with the pups in it. It seems doubtful there was time to make a back entrance to the new den and the pups may be gone. This stuff happens every day out there, it is just not often happening in a place where we witness it. This is all being reported on Facebook so ‘like’ Max Waugh’s page (and Deby Dixon’s page) if you like that sort of thing. I wondered, at first, why the fox parents didn’t move the pups further away, but then realized the badger would have just followed them. They couldn’t travel all that far with such young pups and they would be vulnerable the whole time they were traveling. It was best to stay put and play it out the best they could.

 

Spotted Hyena

Posted in Natural History with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2013 by chamimage
Young Spotted Hyena

Young Spotted Hyena

The spotted hyena, the most common of the four species of hyenas, is a remarkable animal. They are so remarkable, in fact, that they are heavily studied by researchers who wonder how they do what they do.

First of all, they live in matriarchal societies. The female outweighs the male by twenty pounds and is two inches taller than him and she dominates him. Even the juvenile daughters of dominant females bully the males. There is no mistaking the dominant female – she is the biggest, most aggressive (and that is saying something) and nobody messes with her. Hyenas are not a touchy feely group.

They are the most efficient predator, eating everything on a carcass, even if it is mummified. Most predators eat about 40% of a carcass. Spotted hyenas can digest bones, teeth, horns and hooves. That is a pretty good survival advantage and may be why they are the most abundant predator where they live. With all of the predator on ungulate homicide going on in Africa on a daily basis, it is nice to have someone to digest the skeleton, otherwise we might be waste deep in skeletons out there.

Young Spotted Hyena

Young Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyenas can be beautiful.

Ugly Hyena

Ugly Hyena

Or not so much. A spotted hyena can run 37 miles per hour (60 KPH) and take down a wildebeest by itself. But they rarely do if not starving. They would rather be opportunists and steal food or kill off sick and wounded animals. Or eat what others leave behind. They are so apt to squabble at a carcass that they attract other hyenas and lions with all of the noise.

Hyena Bath

Hyena Bath

They are capable of being a bit goofy. It was a hot morning, I’ll give her that. And she had just gorged on a wildebeest carcass and who doesn’t like an after dinner soak..

Young Hyena

Young Hyena

As an endocrinologist, what fascinates me most about spotted hyenas is, of course, their hormones. Raging hormones. The females are so virilized they grow a pseudo-penis (see above). Their vagina is blocked by a false scrotum and testes. The males actually have to breed with them via that Phallus/urethra/birth tract. Yes, they have babies through that thing. Ouch. No other species of hyenas has a pseudo-penis.

At UC Berkley they keep spotted hyenas at a field station so they can study what the heck is going on here. What they have found is that spotted hyenas have a genetic defect in production of a protein called sex hormone binding  globulin (SHBG). Most of the testosterone and estrogen that is produced is normally stuck to SHBG and a small amount is actually bioavailable unbound free hormones. Since spotted hyenas make five to ten times less SHBG than normal, they have all of these unbound hormones activating receptors and causing all manner of havoc. Like pseudo-penises and scrotums and testes in females. Isn’t endocrinology fun?

Hyena Cubs

Hyena Cubs

Even hyena cubs are cute. Like any babies, watching a hyena den is like watching a room full of monkeys. It is hard to take sharp images when you are laughing.

 

 

Idle Time – The Devil’s Workshop

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2012 by chamimage

River Crossing

As I was working on this image this week I tried to remember what motivated me to find this composition. The answer, I discovered, was boredom.

Wildebeest always cross the Mara River in Kenya at mid day. They mill around and mill around for hours until one of them, or a zebra, gets up enough nerve to be the first in the water. Or not. Some days it just never happens. It is really an amazing example of herd mentality.

But you sit for hours in the hot equatorial sun waiting for it. So I photograph bee eaters on a nearby bush, and crocodiles down by the river, other Land Rovers, and compositions of the wildebeest themselves.

I’ve done slow shutter speed blurs, selected focus with narrow depth of field, close-ups of horns and faces. You name it. What is the quote? Idle time is the devil’s workshop?

Valentine’s Lily

Valentine’s Day is a good time to photograph cut flowers to break out of the winter doldrums.  I put a blue matte board behind the vase and set it all up on the dining table with flash and window fill light. This being Oregon, it was probably raining outside. Boredom.

European Ground Beetle

I found this guy when I was removing the leaf mulch from my flower beds in February. To make it a bit of a more comfortable project, I brought him into my shop and photographed him on a couple of leaves I set on my work bench.

I don’t have an iPhone, but can imagine the photographs I would take in the various waiting rooms and lines I find myself in if I did. New York photography instructor Katrin Eastman says her dentist has gotten used to coming back in the room to find her photographing his dental equipment with her iPhone. Given idle time, painters sketch, writers write, readers read, photographers photograph.

Clouds

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2012 by chamimage

Samburu Clouds

With apologies to Judy Collins – I really don’t know clouds at all.  I was looking for cloud images recently and came across this one. As usual it evoked some pretty strong memories.

When I went to Africa fo the second time in 2010 I had thousands of images from my previous trip under my belt so was ready to be selective about what I shot. Not just any lion would do; he had to have a wind-blown mane.

Fabio

I ran into a little problem with this philosophy on the days I had Chris in the vehicle with me. Chris was one of those guys that shot pictures of clouds. And wildebeest. Millions of wildebeest. Our vehicle couldn’t get 100 yards down the track without Chris wanting to stop and shoot some more clouds and wildebeest.

Clouds don’t change much in the course of 100 yards, and either do wildebeest, so it got kind of old really fast. I found myself wondering silently if they didn’t perhaps have clouds in Boston that he could photograph when he got home. Nobody complained out loud beyond the muffled groan. The thing with Chris was that he had an inoperable brain tumor. This Africa trip was a bucket list endeavor.

I’m not sure if the tumor made him see things differently, or if the prospect of his situation just made him see the beauty in the mundane. It was interesting to watch Chris experience Africa and be overwhelmed by everything, including clouds. He bought every kind of souvenir you can imagine.

I felt kind of bad that he was from the city and he seemed to miss everything. If we saw a leopard, he couldn’t see it until it was too late. He always seemed to be in the wrong place and pre-occupied with the wrong things when something interesting happened. When asked in the morning by the driver what he wanted to see that day it was always the same – “Lepaard”. All day it was “When are we going to go find the lepaards?”

By the time we hit Samburu three weeks into the trip he must have been rubbing off on me because I was photographing the heck out of the clouds. And we finally found a beautiful leopard on the last evening that even Chris couldn’t miss out on as she sat right next to our vehicle waiting for her oryx dinner she had spotted from up a tree to come back into view. Maybe she somehow knew that he just really needed that moment before he left.

Leopard