African Big Cat Cubs & Wonderful Experiences

Every morning and afternoon photographing in the Masai Mara is a grand adventure. The wildlife spectacle is truly astounding. Having led 16 tours to Kenya, I can say with certainty that we connect with baby animals in a very special way. Our last safari was filled with nearly daily filming of a large pride of lions. This particular pride had a pair of females alternating duties, caring for 6 small lion cubs about 6 weeks old. Needless to say we took every opportunity to film the antics of the junior members of the lion pride as they played, nursed, and wrestled one another.
Babies_blog_wMark Beers, who went on a recent Kenyan safari with me, relays a story reflecting on his experience and feelings when stalking a leopard providing for her cubs.

I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you what a great experience my trip with you to Kenya was. All expectations were truly exceeded. The camps we stayed in were fabulous with great food and nice people. The drivers of the vehicles were exceptional with their knowledge of getting us to the right places at the right time. The photographs I was able to get are my valued “trophies” of this safari.

I was thrilled to have been present for the entire sequence of tracking a leopard throughout the brush and photographing the true nature of the wild when that leopard took down a wildebeest in order to get a meal for her cubs. This was truly spectacular and my most treasured series of photographs from the trip. None of this would have been possible without the supportive leadership and guidance that you provided throughout the trip. The safari in Kenya was truly a life altering trip for me and I cannot wait to go back.
Thank you,
Mark Beers
91205_blog_wPlease join me, in collaboration with Donna Eaton Photography, in Kenya this August for a wonderful African safari. More information is available on my Kenya Photo Tour page. There are only 5 spots remaining, so hurry to make your reservations.

Cheetah Chasing Thomson’s Gazelles

This shot is all about being in the right place at the right time. We first encountered this hunting cheetah early one morning. Our guide spotted two small ears sticking up above the tall grass. He instantly knew there was a cheetah in the grass stalking a group of Thomson’s gazelles. We parked our vehicle, with the sun at our backs about 50 yards away. Waiting nearly two hours she finally started crawling ever so slowly and suddenly we were rewarded with a lightning quick run toward the grazing gazelles. Luck favors those that are prepared. In this situation I had time to discuss what to expect with my safari group, and many of us got great images. In a few seconds the spectacular event was over, and we had wonderful images and an unforgettable memory.
98014_blog_wEquipment & Settings:
Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 500mm F4 lens, F5.6, 1/1000th sec. Servo Tracking Mode, Continuous High Speed Capture Rate
Camera on bean bag atop safari vehicle

If you would like to join us in Kenya for a wonderful African Safari, please visit my Kenya Photo Tour page.

Using Teleconverters With Confidence

This fantastic moment was photographed as Burchell’s Zebras shared a drink in the Mara River.  The Masai Mara is world famous for incredible wildlife: often only a few feet from our vehicle.  In this case, we could not position our photo vehicle closer to the zebras. The solution: attach a 2x teleconverter between the camera body and 500mm lens for an effective focal length of 1000mm, thus ensuring a frame filling composition.  In this case, I closed the lens down to F22 to ensure the zebras were sharp throughout the scene.

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Tips for getting professional results when using teleconverters.
1.  Use a top notch, fast, prime lens:  Example: Canon 500 F4
2.  Avoid slow consumer grade zooms!
3.  Pay the extra dollars for the manufacturers brand that matches your lens.
4.  Stop the lens down at least a stop, which improves sharpness dramatically. This should not be a problem with modern digital cameras.
5.  Set ISO high enough to keep shutter speed higher than you think is necessary.
6.  Use image stabilization or vibration reduction if your lens or camera body supports this function.
7.  Micro adjust autofocus with each of your teleconverters to ensure proper   point of focus.
8.   Use teleconverters to turn a long telephoto into a super telephoto. If you always need teleconverters, you probably need a longer prime lens as a starting point.
9.  Fire off several shots in a burst. Remember this: If the shutter speed is slow, shoot three shots in a row.
10.  Gently squeeze the shutter button, don’t jab at it when the action heats up.

Equipment & Settings:
Canon 500mm F4 lens + 2x teleconverter
Bean Bag
Canon 1D-S Mark II camera body
ISO 500
F22
1/500th sec.
If you would like to join us in Kenya for a wonderful African safari, please visit my Kenya Photo Tour page.