Monthly Archives: January 2013

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