The Alien Photographer
A few years back when I started photographing wildlife, I had taken some disappointing photographs of white pelicans. Basically, I was too far away. I decided to get closer to my subjects with the aid of camouflage attire and for good measure one decoy. I purchased a camouflage hat and netting, even painted my face like a soldier does. In additon to these items, I acquired a belly tube (boots that fisherman use), this I thought would allow me to venture closer to the pelicans in the waist deep lake.
Okay so there I stand at the edge of the lake, looking like some alien with this weird attire as the park warden drives up. I could imagine in his career there is a first for everything and I was probably it. So I am now under pressure to remain calm and cool with his eyes upon me, I therefore take my first step into the water. Unfortunately for me, the soil under the water is like quicksand and there I stand wallowing and mired in the soft sticky lake bottom which is like.super glue. My foot sinks down about 6 to 8 inches and won’t release. At this point I don’t want to lose my balance and drop my big expensive lens and camera body into the water. To my relief the park warden drives away, (laughing for sure) but I am still stuck. Over the next 5 to 10 minutes with panic about to set in, I managed to get out of the super glue soil and walk back to my vehicle. Then and there I decided to buy an inflatable kayak, which turned out to be a much better option for photographing the pelicans and other wildlife from the lake.
Lions Too Close For Big Lenses
Normally, as a wildlife photographer your subject is further away and you have to use your big lenses, you know the ones that are 2 to 3 feet long. Not so for my wife and me at Ngorongoro Crater, we had 2 lions come so close, that I could smell them. The lions were less than 6 feet (2 metres) away. I was able to take some video of them (very shaky) with my I phone from the open roof top. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMYEQFW0vyc
After about eight minutes one of the male lions left and I was a little more relaxed. I decided to carefully and slowly open the lower window ever so slightly and proceeded to do a second video from the lower window which was even closer than the open roof top. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQoEKyVFlsM
In December of 2011, my wife and I were in South Africa photographing a 21 month old female leopard. The young leopard was sitting at the base of a small tree in some tall grass, only her eyeballs were visible. We were positioned in the back seats of an open Land Rover vehicle. I was looking directly at her with a 300mm lens and she was looking at me. The next thing that I could see was her charging towards me and I just about crapped my underwear (excuse my English). My wife had a good laugh at my expense as I jumped back with a look of fright, fortunately the leopard stopped the charge.
Bengal Tigers Are Elusive
Most of the time leopards can be difficult to locate and photograph, but are easy marbles in comparison to Bengal Tigers. My wife and I travelled to India where our major focus was to photograph the Bengal Tiger. We visited Bandhavgarh National Park and Pench National Park where we did a total of 22 game drives over 11 days. Each drive lasted about 4 hours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In total we spent over 85 hours on the dusty, hang on to the seat of your pants roads looking for Bengal Tigers. We did see tigers on three of the 22 game drives. However, in actual viewing time, the sightings amount to about 4 minutes of which the tigers were only in the clear open areas where we could photograph them for about 2 minutes. Our net result was about 5 or 6 good images.
In Timbavati, South Africa it also took time and patience to see leopards, about 4 days. Then on our fifth and sixth days we found a couple of gorgeous leopards that we were able to view and photograph for 2.5 hours. Which is dramatic improvement compared to Bengal Tigers in India.