The next time you are out photographing wildlife, I encourage you to look for behaviors and poses that imply human emotion. We are naturally drawn to imagery that mirrors our own emotions. Sadness. Happiness. Shyness. Joy. Anger. If your photograph implies any of these, then viewers will respond very positively to your pictures.
In the example above, we arrived on scene to find a giraffe resting in the shade of an acacia tree. My first instinct was to position our vehicle to photograph the giraffe from the front so we could have a better view of its body. After thinking about the image for a minute, I realized that the giraffe was rubbing its head against the tree. This behavior made it appear as if it was shy or timid. Rather than snapping a standard full-length grab-shot of the giraffe, I worked a bit harder to find a way to show emotion.
Maybe the image of the giraffe’s head poking out from behind a tree implies a game of peek-a-boo with a young child. Or, perhaps it implies an adult looking around the corner to see who might be there before coming out into the open. Either way, it is a much stronger image.
Sometimes, the most important parts of a photo story are the images showing details that might otherwise be forgotten. This photo of a buffalo skull and rib cage help fill in the larger story of a safari without showing the obvious fight between predator and prey. It graphically demonstrates the harsh reality of life on the African Plains in a very graphic way.
This buffalo was killed by a pride of lions, then hyenas and vultures came in to finish off the job. Days later, all that remained were the rib cage and the skull. They serve as a stark reminder of the dangers to wildlife in the wilds of Tanzania.
The next time you are on a photo trip, work hard to find additional elements of the scene that fill in details of the grand story.
Four of our 2016 photo workshops are posted and ready for signups. We’ll be going to Tanzania, Galapagos, Iceland, and Prague. I’m looking forward to seeing you and I know you are going to love these photo adventures and workshops. Great photography. Great food. Great people. I take great pride in putting together incredible journeys to the most incredible locations on earth. Join me in 2016!
Our Czech Republic and Prague workshop is a new destination for us in 2016. We’ll be traveling to during the second week of October, 2016 and our goal is to take advantage of the fall colors . Imagine photographing the Czech Republic’s castles, forests and cities with the backdrop of vibrant colors. It will be beautiful.
2016 Workshop Information Pages
Email me at [email protected] if you have any questions. I’ll get right back to you!
Here’s an excellent article from NBC News regarding the ebola virus. It should help rest some fears for those of you considering travel to East Africa for a photo safari. The most important points of the article are related to how the ebola virus spreads and that it is not easy to transmit.
Here’s a direct link to the article: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ebola-virus-outbreak/why-are-americans-so-scared-ebola-n188806
We have a full schedule of adventure photo trips planned for 2014/2015 and would love to have you along. Photography adventure trips with Mike Hagen and Visual Adventures are great fun and very educational. We’ve taken care of all the trip details so you can focus solely on getting the best shot in the best light.
Our Iceland and Galapagos trips for August/September 2014 are already sold out, but we have space available for Cuba in October, Tanzania in November, Iceland in February and India next April. Stay tuned for more 2015 trips to be announced soon!
All of our workshops can be found at this link:
Here are our upcoming international trips for the remainder of 2014 and early 2015:
Aug. 12-20, 2014
Iceland Photo and Bird Adventure (SOLD OUT)
Sep. 5-14, 2014
Galapagos Photo Adventure (SOLD OUT)
Oct. 4-12, 2014
Cuba Photography and Cultural Tour
Nov. 4-15, 2014
Tanzania Photo Safari
Feb. 9-15, 2015
Iceland Winter Photo Adventure
Apr. 29 – May 11, 2015
Northern India Tea, Landscape and Wildlife Photo Adventure
The baobab tree is an amazing sight to behold. In Tanzania, these massive trees grow primarily in Tarangire National Park and are known for their funny upside-down shape. According to the legend of Bushmen, the baobab tree offended God, so he plucked it out of the ground and planted it back upside down, leaving the roots exposed to the sky.
Baobabs are succulents and store massive amounts of water in the trunk (sometimes up to 26,000 US gallons) in order to endure harsh drought conditions. Their massive swollen trunks consist of soft spongy wood, saturated with water. They hold so much water in fact, that they’ve been known to survive for ten years with no rain. Interestingly, the diameter of their trunks changes throughout the year in relation to how much rain falls or how long the dry season lasts.
Elephants love the bark of the trees and you’ll often see them tearing off long strips of bark to chew on. This behavior is especially evident during the dry season as elephants work to obtain moisture from the trunk’s water reserves. Most baobab trees in Tarangire National Park bear deep gouge marks and even giant holes through the trunk from the abuse they take from elephants.
One thing you can’t miss is how large these trees are. The photograph here shows a young elephant using its tusks to tear away some bark. This elephant is probably seven or eight feet high, so you can see that the tree trunk is close to 30 feet in diameter.
Baobabs take hundreds of years to reach their large dimensions and some are known to be many thousands of years old. In fact, one of the largest baobabs in Africa has been dated to be more than 6,000 years old. Most baobabs don’t look fully “baobab-ish” until they are at least 600 years old. When they become a thousand years old, many trees begin to hollow inside, providing refuge for animals and people as they travel the African wilds.
Tarangire National Park hosts one of the world’s greatest populations of African elephants, with more than 5,000 roaming the park. It is said to have more elephants per square mile than anywhere else in the world. This park is the perfect place to photograph the world’s largest land animal next to one of the largest tree species on earth.
For this image, I used the Nikon D800 coupled with the Nikkor 200-400mm f/4. For support, I rested the camera on a Gura Gear Anansi bean bag. As always, I used the Peak Design leash system to keep from dropping the rig from the Landcruiser.
Serengeti, Tanzania, November 2013 –
As our intrepid group of photographers rounded a bend on the dirt road, we happened upon a cheetah slowly walking through the tall grass. His head was high, as he strained to see beyond the golden grass obscuring his face. Soon, another cheetah appeared out of the grass, then a third. Our group’s excitement increased and all of us brought our cameras up to the ready position to take photos, as we fully expected the coalition of three cheetahs to run off into the vast grasslands. Fortunately, the cheetah brothers decided to hang around for a while and pose for us.
The first cheetah ducked behind a termite mound to rest in the shade, but the other two laid down with their back to each other and lazed in a relaxed pose. They took turns looking right, then left. At one point, the brother on the right stuck out his arm and put his head on his sibling’s back. The two projected supreme confidence as they scanned for signs of prey in the morning light.
Finally, the sun was too much for the second brother and he dropped down below the termite mound to enjoy his time in the shade. For the last cheetah, the reclining position was just too comfortable to leave, so he hung out for a while longer, enjoying the sun and lounging like a boss.
Most people don’t think about this, but wide angle lenses really do deserve a spot in your African safari camera bag.Nikonians.org just posted my new article in The Nikonian eZine issue 56 on using wide angle lenses on safari.
Long lenses like the Nikon 200-400mm f/4, 400mm f/2.8 or the 600mm f/4 always get the big billing, but I contend that it is just important to bring along a super-wide to round out your kit. In the article I suggest a number of ideas for using these lenses and offer specific recommendations for the Nikon 14-24mm or the Nikon 16-35mm.
Click through to the magazine to read more: The Nikonian eZine 56
Most of the shots in the article were taken during our two 2013 safaris. Our next trip to Tanzania is set for November 4-15, 2014.
The January 2014 Visual Adventures newsletter is live over at our newsletter page here:
In this month’s newsletter:
– Stuff I Like This Month
– January GOAL Assignment: Direct the Viewer’s Eyes
– New Camera: Nikon Df
– Digital Tidbits: Photoshop CC Perspective Warp
– Story From the Field: The Eagle That Refused to Die
– Book Review: Dynamic Posing Guide
– Workshop and Business Updates
Our September 2013 newsletter is posted with lots of tips, new workshops, and one or two new photos. In this month’s newsletter:
– Stuff I Like This Month
– August GOAL Assignment: In-Camera Processing
– Digital Tidbits: Four Things (Almost) Every Photo Needs in Lightroom 5
– Photo Techniques: Autofocus Tracking with a Cluttered Background
– Photo Techniques: Vertical Panoramas
– Digital Tidbits: Quick Tip On File Renaming
– Workshop and Business Updates