20 Tanzania pics from Bill & Carolyn

Mar 11th, 2008, 10:13 PM
  #21  
 
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Great synopsis and incredible photos! I recognize some of the animals in your pictures and I will be posting the laymen's version of some of them. Unfortunately no honey badger for me, I'm very jealous of that sighting and brilliant photo!! Cheetah are brave in protecting their young and at more than 3 times the size of the HB you would hope she would put up a little discouragement but I'm sure she had no desire to take a real tumble with the ratel. There are certainly some very good cheetah mum's in the Ndutu area.
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Mar 12th, 2008, 09:22 AM
  #22  
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Bill and Carolyn,

I really enjoyed these photos and you were blessed with some incredible sightings.

Among the best work seen on this forum.

Best regards,

Johan

 
Mar 12th, 2008, 09:29 AM
  #23  
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safarimama - too bad about the unprofessionalism of those driver/guides. Please name names

Lynn - Was it you who mentioned that a government big shot was urging some of the poor behavior so reporting the guides would end up only hurting the individual guide?

I'm going to write up a separate web page on cheetah etiquette, with some pics of jeeps doing it the wrong way, but just to clear this up for now ... on our first afternoon at Ndutu (Feb 23) we drove out to Makao plains to look for Maxi (the mom with six small cubs) and found them with many jeeps around.

For awhile things were OK even though there were 18 jeeps viewing her, but when she began to hunt eight of the jeeps peeled off and kept getting between the mom and the gazelles, which is illegal and dumb. Four of the jeeps were from a small-to-mid-sized company, two were from a big company, two I didn't recognize (no names on the door panels I could read). The other ten jeeps, including ours, stayed back to wait out the hunt, which is the right way to do it (once she has killed then you can move up for photos).

I photographed a couple of these jeeps between the gazelles and cheetah, showing license tags, thinking I would email this info to these companies and ask them to speak to the drivers.

Later I was told it would be very unwise to do this because one of these companies is partly owned by someone high up in politics and that he could easily cause problems for the company we used and possibly for me as well. I was convinced not to publicize the names of the companies and I won't.

I did get the names of several companies that over the next few days acted properly towards the hunting cheetahs and will list those later, though in the end it comes down to individual drivers (I'm sure many drivers in the companies who 'sinned' are more careful than the guys I filmed).

As an aside I think one root problem was over-crowding, as drivers became competitive and once one guy acted stupid then others followed to keep clients happy. Several people complained to the NCA rangers and the next AM a Cheetah Project researcher was on the scene asking people not to re-start engines and not to follow mom when she hunted and things were well-behaved.

We decided it is hypocritical to complain about crowding and pressuring the animals when we were the 15th jeep in the pile, as we are part of the problem too, so we did not go after these cheetahs again for almost a week, until we had heard they had moved well south and few jeeps could find them.

After making this decision we were lucky enough to find the mom with three tiny cubs, I think very few people even knew about these, and we had them to ourselves for two hours, which is the way it should be. So if there's a crowd don't complain about crowding if you decide to join in it too, but rather go off and try to find different critters on your own. I know this is easier to do when you're there a week like us instead of when you're there for two nights with one full day and you gotta see the amazing six cubs (which is extremely rare), but you shouldn't complain about it if you are part of it, I feel.

We did return to south of Makao March 3 after hearing people couldn't find the six cubs, and working with one other jeep we found the family far south and got our best photos of them, including mom killing a gazelle. This was a high-quality sighting shared by one other jeep, much better than the overcrowding we experienced earlier.

I think if the overcrowding continues (there were several new tented-mobile campsites this year and two sites adds about 50% as many jeeps as the entire Ndutu lodge) they will have to shut down off-road driving here to protect it, which will effectively kill it as a prime photo destination for me.

Bill
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Mar 12th, 2008, 10:34 AM
  #24  
 
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Wonderful sightings and pics, as always, Bill. Can't pick a favorite, although the wildebeest one makes for very nice art work.

Interesting that when I was in the Ndutu area Jan 28-Feb 1st, I didn't encounter the hoards of other vehicles both you and Predator Biologist experienced. May have still been a little early yet for the masses.

Then again, I only spotted 4 different cheetah in that particular area during my stay. No cubs, either.

And I have to add, my driver/guide was just average, if that. I was terribly disappointed with his experience level and his knowledge. And a bit on the lazy side. I will not be recommending him to anyone, for sure!
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Mar 12th, 2008, 10:42 AM
  #25  
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Thanks for these Bill.........though with your reporting of the behaviour of these guides, I think that Southern Africa it will stay.
 
Mar 12th, 2008, 11:19 AM
  #26  
 
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Thanks as always for sharing your superlative photos, Bill and Carolyn. I also appreciate your report and recommendations for game viewing without the crowds. I agree that turning off the radio and just heading out to find what you find is a great way to go.
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Mar 12th, 2008, 11:36 AM
  #27  
 
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Bill, in my opinion, this year was the first time that I have felt like guides were spending too much time congregating near each other. I have been going down to Ndutu since 2002, and each year I spend a considerable amount of time in Tanzania in the January and February months. If we had not come across the mother and her six cubs, I doubt I would have noticed anything different this year. The most number of vehicles I saw around her were 3 vehicles other than my own. So not too bad. I am amazed that you had 18 there. I suspect this was due to the earlier sightings before your arrival. Completely human nature, as we all want to make our customers happy. Safari guides are no exception.

Let's hope that the guides can act in a more professional manner when put back in a similar situation. I really don't want Tanzania to turn into another Kenya with too many vehicles everywhere. It is bound to happen, but hopefully we can police it better going forward.

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Mar 12th, 2008, 04:56 PM
  #28  
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Tom - What would you say is the typical shutter speed and ISO of the photos?

Tom, most of the wildlife shots were taken with a 500 mm f/4 lens, usually with a 1.4x converter (700 mm f/5.6) so I need a pretty fast shutter speed because of the lens length and I adjust ISO to get it.

So in good light I would typically go with maybe 700 mm, f/5.6 (ie wide open), 1/1,000th sec at ISO 250. I try to keep the ISO no higher than 320 to minimize noise but if it has to be higher to get a sharp image then I raise the ISO.

Examples:
sec birds were dancing about and shaking the snake so I went 1/2,000th sec at 500 mm, f/5.6 ISO 250. I recall aiming for 1/2,000th here because of the subject motion.

badger w/ cheetah happened too fast to adjust anything but I was at 700 mm, f/5.6, 1/1,250th sec, ISO 250 ... if I knew in advance this would happen I would probably have gone to ISO 320 just to get a bit faster shutter speed but 1/1,250th was OK.

volcano image with ashes plume was taken in dim pre-dawn light so I had to increase ISO ... 120 mm (70-200 mm lens), f/4, 1/15th sec (IS really helps here), ISO 1,000 then I ran the image thru a noise reduction filter, which I prefer to avoid but here I had little choice. If I were shooting from a tripod I could have shot at slower speeds and lower ISO but this was hand-held from the roof of the jeep (beanbag).

dead wildebeest in lake, another pre-sunrise shot, I shot this one several times at 1/20th sec at 700 mm (IS REALLY helps here ... I asked everyone in the jeep to hold their breaths and not move) at ISO 250 and also at 1/80th sec ISO 1,000 and was able to use the 1/20th one (about 1 of 3 were sharp enough), which had better colors.

So there is no simple answer but basically you need a certain speed to get a sharp enough image and once the lens aperture is wide open you might have to jack up ISO to get the speed. The cameras we mostly use (Canon 1D Mark II and III) have relatively low noise at high ISO so we can get away with higher ISO than with smaller sensor cameras (Carol also has a Rebel XTi for hand-held shots and it works best at ISO 200, gets noisy fast at higher ISO).

Hope this helps ... ideally you could shoot at the lowest ISO setting (100?) and f/11 for best lens sharpness and depth-of-field and still be at 1/2,000th sec but there is never enough light for this.

Notice many taken by your charming Mrs. Hilton

Usually I slog thru my images first and use them for the bulk of our web pages, which is misleading and unfair to Carol because hers are typically as good or better , but I get to them late ... this time I looked thru HERS first and so she has 75% of the ones on this first-cut page, which she deserves. She has been published in some pretty good magazines like "Outdoor Photographer" and after only a few months on Pbase one of her galleries is in the top 75 Most Popular all-time (out of several hundred thousand galleries on Pbase) ... http://www.pbase.com/hilton_photography/color_mx ... so she deserves to have the most posted (though my honey badger shot was better than her honey badger)

Bill
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Mar 12th, 2008, 05:21 PM
  #29  
 
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Absolutely superb as always! My hat is off to you and Carolyn. I am very dismayed to read about even more crowding and poor behavior on the part of guests and guides.

And horrified by the hyena shots. How terrible.



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Mar 12th, 2008, 05:48 PM
  #30  
 
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Thank you Bill H for your extensive response to our concerns.

With Andy Biggs stating this overcrowding was a first, perhaps we can chalk it up to the unusually large cheetah litter. Since that is such a rarity, maybe the hoardes behaving badly will also be a rarity. I think you also hypothosized this, Bill.

I hope we can find out about the 6 cubs as they grow. I know how unlikely it is for them all to reach adulthood, though.
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Mar 12th, 2008, 06:28 PM
  #31  
 
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Bill - Thanks for explaining your camera settings with the photos. I've pretty much concluded that if the photo is not sharp, it is worthless (unless artsy type). So I'll give priority to shutter speed. Then aperture then ISO.

The gallery by Carolyn is stunning, thanks. And so different than wildlife photography. Everyone, if you haven't seen it, it is a wonderful lesson in form, color and composition. Thanks again.

regards - tom
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Mar 13th, 2008, 03:04 AM
  #32  
 
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Hi Bill and Carolyn,
Congratulations on the absolutely superb photos. We are thinking of going to Tanzania next year and would like to know what safari company you chose. You obviously had a guide who understands the requirements for photographers. Do you consider Feb/Mar the best time of the year for the northern circuit?
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Mar 13th, 2008, 08:37 AM
  #33  
 
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Love the photos, especially six cubs while Maxi goes hunting, and of course the honey badger. The Web site is just great too and thanks for sharing all your tradecraft so willingly.
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Mar 13th, 2008, 08:56 AM
  #34  
 
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Wow. What breathtaking pics. I haven't been on here for a while, and I am glad I came here today.
It was awful to see the pic of that poor hyena.
I would imagine that that injury would become infected. What that poor animal must have endured to escape the snare is hard to imagine.

I cannot pick a favourite picture. They are all absolutely breathtaking. Love them. I cannot wait for my first ever safari to Tanzania in late October/November this year.
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Mar 13th, 2008, 11:22 AM
  #35  
 
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Absolutely fantastic and breathtaking photos!! Thank you for sharing.

This seems to have been a wonderful trip and I am happy to have nearly planned my trip in august.

Bill, I hesitate to ask this because I am not into photography at all: we have a simple sony alpha with a 80-300mm which is an old one from an old minolta and I was told that the sony alpgha would make it a 420mm. We do not have anything else yet. What would you recommend to buy (converter?) to have better options as a hobby photographer on holidays?
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Mar 13th, 2008, 12:01 PM
  #36  
 
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Absolutely INCREDIBLE, Bill & Carolyn!
Whenever you decide to publish a coffee table book, I'll stand in line for it!
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Mar 14th, 2008, 02:08 AM
  #37  
 
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Welcome back Bill and Carolyn.
That was indeed a splendid trip. However, you should try out Uganda's Ishasha tree-climbing lions near Queen Elizabeth national park and Kidepo national park's cheetahs, the following companies do offer great packages www.safari-uganda.com Great Lakes Safaris or www.toursinuganda.com African Secrets and www.toursgorilla.com Uganda Gorilla Tour Company
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Mar 14th, 2008, 04:46 AM
  #38  
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divewop - Interesting that when I was in the Ndutu area Jan 28-Feb 1st, I didn't encounter the hoards of other vehicles both you and Predator Biologist experienced. May have still been a little early yet for the masses.

Interesting ... our first two trips to Ndutu were both late January (2006, 2007) and we rarely had to contend with other vehicles, surely nothing like this year. So I think Feb is peak season, with many large tours (several groups with 6 jeeps for example) ... when one jeep in a tour spots something they radio the others so this contributes to the feeling of over-crowding. This is one reason we like to travel alone now or with only one other jeep, and turn off the radio and find our own critters.

But the presence of at least two new tented campsites there is a worrisome trend to me.

Then again, I only spotted 4 different cheetah in that particular area during my stay. No cubs.

We didn't see cubs in 2006 (we saw 7 adult cheetahs around Ndutu but zero cubs) but in 07 we did see three mom-cub groups well east of Ndutu, so having two or three big families with cubs close to the lodge was unusual, maybe because the big lion pride was fractured by the removal of the three Lion Kings? Dunno ... the fourth mom/cubs group we saw this year was far to the south where few jeeps go (we saw five cheetahs there last year too) and I don't think any other jeeps had seen this while we were at Ndutu (the drivers eat together and share sightings).

I think David had photos of two mom-cub groups that were taken in late January this year, about the time you were there, but I remember he said the mom with six was on the Serengeti side of the border (I asked because I was hoping to see them) and maybe your guide didn't mention them to you because you'd have to pay $50 pp to cross the border?

Also interesting that David saw a mom with three large cubs and when we got there this mom had FOUR large cubs since a big male cub had 'adopted' them and joined the family group.

At any rate what we saw with so many cubs was very unusual and we feel very fortunate to have seen them all.

Bill
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Mar 14th, 2008, 09:27 AM
  #39  
 
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Bill,
I'm knocked out by the Tanzanian and the Mexican pics. Please tell Carolyn that we appreciate her work.
Looks like another successful trip for you.
Thanks for sharing.
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Mar 14th, 2008, 02:17 PM
  #40  
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Carolyn & Bill

your photos are PURE JOY

aby
p.s. have you used flash on some bird closeups?
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