Archives for September 2012

Kenya: Samburu National Preserve Day 1

from Wikipedia…

The Samburu National Reserve is located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river in Kenya; on the other side of the river is the Buffalo Springs National Reserve in Northern Kenya. It is 165 km² in size and 350 kilometers from Nairobi and ranges in altitude from 800 to 1230m above sea level.[1]Geographically, it is located in Samburu District of the Rift Valley Province.

In the middle of the reserve, the Ewaso Ng’iro flows through doum palm groves and thick riverine forests that provides water without which the game in the reserve could not survive in the arid country.

The Samburu National Reserve was one of the two areas in which conservationists George Adamson and Joy Adamson raised Elsa the Lioness made famous in the best selling book and award winning movie Born Free.

The Samburu National Reserve is also the home of Kamunyak, a lioness famous for adopting oryx calves.


I awoke very early the first morning in camp to the sounds of an elephant trampling the brush as it made it’s way past my tent.  It sent a thrill up my spine to have such a great wild creature so close and yet so unconcerned at my presence.  I enjoyed coffee in my tent while dressing and getting ready to hit the trail on our first game drive.

Patrick and Bruce are both world class spotters and were constantly on the lookout for good subjects to photograph.  Our first day alone provided us with a great variety of birds and mammals; some of which are unique to this region.

Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II


Unique to Samburu are Reticulated Giraffe which can reach up to eighteen feet tall…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II


They nibble at the tender leaves stripping the foliage from thorny branches of the Acacia trees with their soft muzzle and eighteen inch tougues, pruning the trees into beautiful shapes…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II


Males will mock-fight and it is beautiful sight to watch as they swing their long necks slowly and gracefully at each other.  It’s the thumping sound when they make contact that makes you realize that they can do damage with their short, rounded horns…

Nikon D4, AF-S 70-200mm f2.8 VR II with TC-20E III


We sat enthralled at their graceful beauty for quite some time while they continued their battle of strength and will…

Nikon D4, AF-S 70-200mm f2.8 VR II with TC-20E III


A pair of Little Bee-eaters posed long enough to fire off a couple of quick shots of them together…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II


A little patience and observation can yield some action shots as the Little Bee-eater will find a perch to “hunt” from.  When it sees it’s prey (insect) it will fly off the perch, catch the insect mid-air and return to the perch to eat.  So, by focusing on the perch, I was able to make a couple of action shots of it taking off…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II


We were entertained by a pair of male Grant’s Gazelle as they sparred.  Males will fight over harem rights.  To the winner goes the harem while the other “bachelors” hang out together in small herds waiting for their window of opportunity to take over an existing harem or to establish their own…

Nikon D4, AF-S 70-200mm f2.8 VR II with TC-20E III


We had a very successful first day with many subjects to photograph and simply getting our safari legs as well as figuring out the best methods of shooting from our vehicle.  I brought a ToddPod at Bruce’s recommendation and found it to be invaluable.  I attached my Wimberley head to the ToddPod and had all the conveniences of panning my big lens as when mounted on a tripod.  *Note: the ToddPod is specifically designed by wildlife photographer and veteran African safari leader, Todd Gustafson, to work with the safari vehicles that have removable hatch tops.

After freshening up with an eco friendly, outdoor shower we met for a Tusker’s beer and unwound with the other guests comparing highlights of our day.  After “happy hour” Bruce and I were treated to a lovely dinner with the companionship of Oria and Ian.  The conversation was both enlightening as well as inspiring and I enjoyed learning more about their Save The Elephants work and saddened to hear of an increase in poaching again.  After a wonderful first day and stimulating evening, we headed to our tents to turn in for the night.  After downloading my cards, charging my batteries and cleaning my equipment I drifted to sleep listening to the night sounds of Samburu.










Kenya: Nairobi To Samburu National Reserve

After our introduction to Kenya at Giraffe Manor we, loaded up the Toyota and headed off on our 345 km journey to Samburu and Elephant Watch Safari Camp where we would make our home for the next four nights.  It was late afternoon when we arrived in Samburu and made our way to our camp.  I found it quite fitting that the first animal we saw was an ele (elephant) since we were staying at Elephant Watch Safari Camp, home to founders of Save the Elephants and our hosts, Ian and Oria Douglas-Hamilton who have dedicated their lives to saving the elephants…

Nikon D4, AF-S 70-200mm 2.8 VR II


We also spotted a Cheetah hunting in the grasses and made a few images before moving on…

Nikon D4, AF-S 70-200mm 2.8 VR II With TC 20E III


One shouldn’t spend too much time chasing a cat on the hunt as it may interfere with a successful kill depriving the animal of a meal.  I trusted Patrick’s experience and knowledge about when an animal was approachable and when to leave them alone.  I was more than willing to miss a shot if it was in the animals best interest that we move on.

We arrived at Elephant Watch Safari Camp and were greeted with smiles, warm wash clothes to freshen up and a glass of fresh juice.  What a wonderful welcome!  We were shown to our tents to settle in before dinner.  Each tent was covered with a large structure with thatch roof to protect it from the rain and included an outdoor seating area to enjoy the beauty of our camp along the bank of the Ewaso Ngiro River…

Nikon D4, AF 16mm 2.8D Fisheye


Inside view of my tent with all hand made furniture and framing for the tent from local logs and branches found along the river banks…

Nikon D4, AF 16mm 2.8D Fisheye


Each tent offered an outdoor bathroom adds to the flavor of enjoying the great outdoors of Samburu National Reserve.  Water is solar heated in black jugs during the day and ready to be poured into buckets for a shower upon returning from our afternoon game drives.  The eco friendly environment encouraged me to conserve water by trying to use as little as possible and yet still have a satisfying shower.  It’s amazing how little water we really need…

Nikon D4, AF 16mm 2.8D Fisheye


Monkeys were regular visitors to my tent and I would arrive to find them swinging from the rafters, lining the window in my bathroom and everywhere in between.  I enjoyed watching their antics immensely.  My first night at Elephant Watch Safari Camp I listened to a big elephant crash it’s way past my tent mere yards away.  My heart raced with the thrill of the close encounter in the night.  I lay awake waiting for morning and our first game drive in Samburu.

My experience in Kenya was very heartfelt and emotional for me and I have taken the liberty to add creative touches to some of the images to better express my impressions.  The image of the cheetah was converted to B&W using NIK Silver Efex Pro 2.0 and then painting the cheetah back in color to emphasize it’s markings and color.  The images of my tents are three exposure HDR images converted to an old time, nostalgic theme using NIK Silver Efects Pro 2

A recent visit by China’s former basketball hero,Yao Ming, visited Samburu to film a special bringing public awareness to the rise in poaching and the senseless slaughter of elephants for their ivory tusks.



Excellent Photo Adventures Availability…Polar Bears Of Churchill

Polar Bears of Churchill  Nov 11-17, 2012


There is still space available on my upcoming Polar Bears of Churchill Adventure.  Due to the late time frame, I am offering a discount for those who sign up before Oct 1, 2012.  Contact Laurie at or 503-703-3872 for more information.

Nikon Announces The D600


Finally, the power of a 24.3 MP Nikon FX-format CMOS sensor in a compact, streamlined HD-SLR body. Create brilliant full-frame images and 1080p videos. Capture every detail in stunning clarity with Nikon’s superior 39-point AF system with Scene Recognition. Empower your inner filmmaker with cinema-quality HD video recording features. Nikon FX-format quality has never been more attainable.
View all about it here… Nikon D600
To pre-order yours call Eugene at Competitive Camera today.  (214) 744-5511  Tell him Laurie sent you.