Category Archives: Uncategorized

Saligo Bay meets the Formatt Pro Stop

Hi guys,

Its been a while but as you can imagine i have spent the last five weeks catching up with family and even managed to fit in an unexpected trip to Kenya in between.

Anyway, as one door closes another door opens.  Instead of lions and giraffe my photographic world has expanded to a whole new level which includes infinite landscapes and infinite weather conditions!!!

So i have a whole new set of skills to learn and master and a whole new way to gain enjoyment out of photography.  Which is nice.  I miss the big game and savannah landscapes but there is the sheer breathtaking joy of the west coast of Scotland and its seascapes’s.  Taming these vistas and rendering their beauty on a LCD screen is the next stage of my learning.

Many moons ago i was fortunate enough to be handed a Formatt Pro Stop filter and allowed to make the make the most of it.  Which was harder than i first thought.  10 stop ND filters are not for every image and need practice to understand what will work and what will not.  From my experience you need to frame as much movement as possible to make sure you get the biggest effect as possible in the final frame.  Ideally sea and sky together work best.  Or instead fill the frame with as much movement as you can find be it a stream or waterfall.

But in East Africa i too often fell short and didn’t quite get the images i had hoped to capture with the 10-stop.  Bring on the west coast of Scotland and the opportunities begin to explode.

And here is the great thing about a 10-stop filter.  It opens up a whole new way of seeing the world and a whole new range of photography.  I had set out to Islay to drink some of the world’s finest whisky and capture epic coastlines in 10-stop glory.  And i tried!  But instead of the epic coast line i got something altogether different.

130308 Islay

And something different to most other captures of Saligo Bay.  Go on to google images and type in Saligo Bay.  Stunning images and lots of them.  But none like the one i managed to get with the 10-stop.  What do you think?

It is not always about being novel, but it is satisfying to create something new.  In terms of technique i also used a Hitech 0.9 Hard ND filter to hold back some of the sky.

I like the smothered sea and sky framing the sharp detail in the rocks.  I am not completely satisfied with the composition but i got one shot of this before having to take shelter from the rain.  But i think the idea is there!

I was scared i would lose the excitement of capturing the moment after losing the big game but i think the world of landscape (alongside the world of 10-stop filters) might just be satisfying enough!!

Stay well,

Chris

Von Hohnel’s Chameleon

Hi guys,

After an incredible ten days in the north and east of Uganda it was time to make the long journey back home.  Luckily the way home included a fortuitous stop at Sipi falls.

We had the great pleasure of staying at Sipi River Lodge which fast became one of my favourite lodges in Uganda.  A lovely tranquil spot beside one of Sipi’s many waterfalls, lovely banda’s and a main lodge you wish was your home.  Oh, and they also have Von Hohnel’s Chameleons in the the garden!!!

You probably know by now that i love chameleons and after seeing a Von Hohnel’s in Kenya seven years ago i have been desperate to find another one to photograph.

And i found one in Sipi.   A lovely little thing, great colour, and very relaxed.  I spent the best part of the day sitting on the verandah of the lodge and intermittently getting up to check the angle of the sun and the position of the chameleon who seemed to spend most of the day sleeping.

I got some lovely images and had a lovely couple of days unwinding at Sipi after all the travelling through Karamoja.

I hope you enjoy.

Stay well,

Chris

Karamoja – into the unknown!

Hi guys,

Well after seven magical days in Kidepo and with very heavy hearts we bode farewell to N’ga Moru and headed into the unknown.  After more than fifteen years living in Uganda and feeling like i knew most corners of the country it was an incredible feeling to start out on a new expedition into uncharted territories.

Karamoja and the Karamjong have received unflattering press over the years.  The stereotypes given to the Karamajong (wild, uncivilised) are typical of those given to almost all other non-agricultural people.  Whether you are hunter gatherers or pastoralists, the dominant, largely agricultural society will tend to paint you in a not too complimentary light.  But this is largely just perspectives, and often that which is demeaned by one group is the envy of another.

So with the dream of the complete unknown off we went to discover.

And crap, it was too bloody easy!!!  Before we knew it we were thrown out of the bottom of Karamoja like a child’s chute and were sitting in Sipi drinking ice cold beers and asking why we had not spent more time in Karamoja.

Karamoja sped past as a dream filled with incredible people and spectacular landscapes that put Kidepo to shame.  Why so fast i hear you say?  Well, road conditions can vary and in the rainy season roads can be down for weeks, even months maybe.  So off we would drive to each new town and arrive way before we planned and so continue on to the next town early in case we found problems at the next stage.  And by the time we realised that it was all good roads and way to easy we were out at the bottom and desperate to turn around.  And also we all had jobs to get back to by Monday!

In addition, the sun is intense in Karamoja and we weren’t stopping for shots because the light rendered everything bleached and white.  And not wanting to drive in the dark, it was impossible to get to some locations at the right time to get the shots i wanted.

In short this was a reconnaissance trip.  I used to say that if i won the lottery i would get straight on a plane and fly to Lamu for a couple of months.  Now i know that i will fly to Kaabong and spend days and weeks in a car and on foot traversing some of the most incredible scenery i have ever seen.

Anyway my images were disappointing simply because the lighting was bad, too harsh, too contrasty, just not representative of what we were seeing and i didn’t have the time to get things right.

I will go back to Kaabong one day and take all the images i missed this time.  The journey can be difficult at times.  There are no real hotels in the north of Karamoja, no real restaurants.  And take plenty of fuel. But Karamoja is not somewhere to pass through on your way to Kidepo, it is a destination all on its own.

In the meantime here are a few shots of some very nice people who were happy to let me take some shots of them.  Probably the first and last time you will see ‘people’ shots on this site!!

Stay well

Chris

 

Kidepo, Kidepo – Bring on the rain!

Hi guys,

So in the last post i gave you lots and lots of lions which are renowned in Kidepo and fitting of the attention.

But actually I was desperate to get to Kidepo, not for the animals, but for the landscapes and to try out my new 17-40mm lens which should have been wide enough to fit in the huge vistas you seem to only get in Kidepo.

Well it kinda worked out!!!  I ended up using my 70-200mm more than the 17-40mm which is an awesome lens, just very specific.  And regardless of what lens i did use i got some of my favourite and most breathtaking landscape images yet.

Enough talk,

For those who are interested, the top row features images taken with my 17-40mm and the bottom row features images taken with my 70-200mm.  The 17-40mm is a spectacular lens and the sharpest i have ever worked with.  The last image on the top row, when zoomed in to 100%, is so sharp that it shows a vehicle and six giraffes at about five kilometres away.  The panaroma on the bottom row is a composite of six individual images stitched together and measures about 3 metres long by half a metre tall.  It is obscenely big and will hopefully fit on a wall one day in its full size and with all its detail.

Now, landscape photographers are a funny old bunch, never satisfied with what they have got.  Sunny days are bad and just too bland.  Cloudy days are equally dull and boring.  What we really want is something in between.  The sun after the rain or vice versa.

I expected Kidepo to be dry but it wasn’t, it was wet with rainy almost everyday.  And glorious rain, the kind that comes in an isolated cloud that you can watch move across the sky and wait for it to appear in your shot.  And blue skies behind these dark clouds highlighting the passage of rain.  Huge skies filled with colour, contrast, and such wild drama.

As usual i tried to get the big pictures, the leopard and cheetah shots, and every game drive i regretted not spending more time sitting on a hill with a beer in my hand and watching time pass in one of the most spectacular locations the earth has to offer (my love for Kidepo grew with every beer i drank).

I always wish i had taken the pictures i forgot to or were to late to get.  I always try and see how i could have done things differently.  If i had the time again, i would have stopped chasing the animals and spent a moment in my life which i will never get again and just enjoy the widest, biggest, most dramatic landscape in Uganda.

Not to say that i didn’t!  I love these images.  I just didn’t get enough of Kidepo’s big dramatic skies.  I dont think you ever can.

Now there are a few lucky people who get to live in Kidepo but for the rest of us it is just a holiday romance.  But as the roads and accommodation get better that romance gets easier and easier to sustain, on a regular basis.  If you haven’t been go, and if you have been, go again.  I spent all these years complaining that Kidepo was just to far away. How petty that will sound when i am living in a different continent!

And with the Gulu/Kitgum route becoming old hand we decided to return to Kampala via the treacherous/dangerous Karamoja route!!!  A route which turned out to be the most exhilarating drive of my life, through some of the most spectacular scenery in Uganda and amongst some of the nicest people i have met.  I thought Kidepo would be our last big hurrah in Africa but as it turns out Karamoja had a few things to teach me yet.

All that in the next post.

Stay well,

Chris

Kidepo Valley National Park – There be lions there, lots of them!

Hi guys,

A somewhat belated but happy New year to everyone.

As we reach our final weeks in Uganda we made our last pilgrimage to Kidepo Valley National Park to stay at the lovely N’ga Moru Wilderness Camp.  Now for many, Kidepo has long been regarded as the secret jewel in Uganda’s and Africa’s crown.  Recently the news got out and Kidepo was voted as one of the top ten national parks in Africa by CNN who went on to describe Kidepo as possibly the most picturesque park in Africa.

Sounds ideal for a photographer!  But what makes Kidepo magical is its exclusivity.  Long inaccessible by war in the north and problems in the east, Kidepo has previously been the haunt of the rich and famous who could afford to fly there. But now with general peace in the north and east and a road system that allows for travel in a day from Kampala, Kidepo is accessible in alls its glory to riff-raff like me.

And whilst it takes a few years for people to catch on to its wonders, people like you and i can get almost exclusive access to a world of breathtaking beauty.

As a result i just cant fit all my images into one post and will need to split them up.  In this first instalment i will focus on one of Kidepo’s strengths, Lions.  Not only are there many lions in Kidepo, but they are also very handsome looking lions with almost blonde manes, and are scarily relaxed around vehicles and photographers.

On on our first full morning game drive we managed to drive about 25 metres from our tent before coming across this pair of young mates.

What a photogenic pair!  These guys are both quite young and the male looked like he needed to gain a bit of courage and possibly arrogance before he takes on the mantle of King of the plains but lovely to see such healthy and fit lions.  This will become more evident when you see the next gallery of two males we found the next day sleeping by the rubbing post waterhole in the park.  These are examples of true Kings, one slightly past his best and one at the peak of his years.

I have struggled with lions in the past.  Well finding them for a start and then when you do find them it is not easy to get a great composition without too much clutter.  Ishasha is great as often they are in trees, but otherwise you get lions in tall grass, lions on the road, lions behind a bush etc.  These two sightings both had great uncluttered backdrops and although the light wasn’t great, it was incredible to see the life of a male lion in three very different stages.  The young male all sheepish and fresh.  The awe and strength of a male in its prime and the haggard remains of a King in the twilight of his life.

Kidepo is a magical place. On our last visit we had been able to see leopard, secretary birds, caracal, ostrich and everything in between.  This trip had none of these but was smothered in lion sightings, and great lion sightings.

Kidepo is special, Kidepo is breathtaking, Kidepo is all our childhood dreams of Africa in is raw glory.

More posts to follow!

Stay well,

Chris

Akagera Revisited

Hi guys,

I hope the New Year has been as good to you as it has been to me.  Heather and i spent an incredible two weeks in the north and east of Uganda and i have come back with some breathtaking images.

But first i have some images from a brief 24 hours in Akagera National Park in Rwanda.  I love the north of Akagera and rate it as one of the best photographic locations in East Africa.  Largely because in the crater in the north you have limited opportunities to go off track and this makes the world of difference.  Being able to position a car five metres in another direction can make all the difference between good light and bad light.  And being able to spot game and then position your vehicle in the ideal location is a lovely way to watch wildlife.

I hate badgering an subject, i.e. driving up to it, taking some images and then when it moves on, driving up to it again and again and again.  What i prefer is to be able to watch an animals movements, anticipate where it will be and then position the car so that it passes on the right side, in the right light, and so you get the best images without stressing the subject.  Sometimes if you park you vehicle right and wait the animals will get curious and come up to you.

Back to Akagera.  One of the biggest draws in the northern section of the park are the Masai Giraffe which are almost always present and about a dozen in strength.  And this was my goal for the day, so the first hour or two was fairly frantic trying to find them, which doesn’t sound hard given their size but is surprisingly difficult.

And then through the frustration came another bucket list image, Crested cranes courting, in good light and with no background clutter in the frame.  I love Crested cranes, who doesn’t. But i do find them rather twitchy and have struggled to get great images of them.  Ok ones but not great ones!  This couple were warming up in the morning light and the male put on a lovely little display.

And then we found the giraffe!  Six adults and a very young baby, probably not more than a week old.

Now most wildlife photographers want big subjects that can fill the frame, but there is big and then there is giraffe big.  I cant say that i am completely happy with my giraffe work as a whole and find them a huge challenge to shoot right.  But practice makes perfect and if i had to spend everyday working with these graceful animals i would have no complaints, at all!

Hope you enjoy.

Stay well,

Chris

 

Best of 2012

Hi guys,

What a year it has been and how fast it has flown!!  Heather and I put an incredible amount of work in at the lodge this year and our work there takes up most of my memories for the year.  But if i remembered not taking any images over the year i am horribly mistaken.  2012 was probably the best year i have had as a photographer and i have plenty of new images for my portfolio.

A large number of my favourites are of subjects which i have struggled to get over the years.  The famous Shoebill Stork is so rare that sightings are hard to come by and animals like eland and dwarf mongeese are jittery at the best of times. And some of my other favourites are hard to come by because they require serendipity or a good chunk of luck!  In this category i have to include catching a Spotted bush snake and its prey, a scorpion on a rock, and the image of Mt. Stanley.  How i managed to get up to 16,000 feet to take this image is anyone’s guess!

And of course a big section of these images are included simply because the subjects are so beautiful.  This group includes the Malachite kingfisher, Splendid starling and both chameleons. Lastly are the images of the Bush hyraxes and African grey hornbill, otherwise known as Hamish and Betty, which represent some of the animals i shared my life with over the last year and kept Heather and i company.

I am not sure what 2013 will bring, but if i am half as lucky as 2012 i look forward to spending more time in some of Earth’s hidden corners, camera in hand.  And fingers crossed, i might even succeed in capturing some of the images in anything like the wonder which nature provides them in!  Here’s to continuing to stay lucky and striving to make my images better than they are.

I would also like to mention my favourite photographer this year, Marius Coetzee, who has been hugely inspiring over the last twelve months.  Marius continues to take some of the most dramatic and rich images of Africa i have seen with his last trip to Ethiopia is a case in point.  And his ability to move from portait to landscape and on to wildlife is inspiring.  I urge you to check out his work at 500px and strive to view the world with the same eyes he does.

I can’t thank you enough for following my work over the last twelve months.  I wish you all the best for 2013 and hope you all get to capture some stunning images in the coming year.

Best wishes,

Chris

 

Queen Elizabeth revisited

Hi guys,

A few weeks ago i was able to host my parents on their first ever trip to Uganda and Africa.  After a few days in Lake Mburo where they were fortunate enough to see two leopards (one on a walking safari and another on a night game drive) and a few days in Kisoro visiting some of the communities i have worked with we all traveled to QE.  I know i have posted at length about the Kazinga channel but i know of no other activity that can pack in quite as much as it does.  And in such a short space of time.  If you want to perfect your camera technique the Kazinga channel is the place to be.  From the moment you sit on the boat until you get off you will have your camera up and your finger twitching!

Enough of the big game are seen to keep you excited, plenty of old favourites are around, and often there are a few little gems which keep you on your toes.

I always return to old subjects because you just never know when you are going to better a previous image.  Malachite kingfishers are easy to shoot but harder to fill the frame.  Pied Kingfishers are plentiful but hard to expose correctly, especially with bright backgrounds.  And crocs are always a challenge to find new and creative ways to frame them.

Well i tried in all four cases and was pretty happy.  Unfortunately bad weather and roads spoiled our chances of seeing lions but we did get a lovely sunrise and just about managed to get a shot of a shy Eagle-owl.

Stay well,

Chris

Mihingo Lodge, Lake Mburo: Part II

Hi guys,

More excuses and more extended absences!!!  Well no excuses really just apologies.  Our lives have taken another twist and after a crazy but beautiful year we are now no longer the managers of Mihingo Lodge.  Instead we hope to move back to the UK or more probably Canada and among other things use our management experience to manage a whole different proposition entirely.  Yes, family calls, and its time to say good by to Uganda and hello to a whole new bunch of experiences and places to photograph!

We had an incredible year, learnt a huge amount, and will walk away with some amazing memories.  And just one or two extra images!  Here are a few;

So, the new year will bring new adventures for us all, and before we leave this incredible country we have a couple extra trips and post planned!!

Stay well,

Chris