Sunday, August 15, 2010

African Safari - Zambia and Botswana

I've recently come home from an extraordinarily productive photo tour, on safari in southern Africa, Zambia and Botswana specifically. Organized by our friends at Explore Africa,, this tour began at Lion Camp in Zambia, and then went on to Selinda and Jao camps in Botswana.

Here is a brief photo diary of the trip and its many, many highlights:

Our first camp was Lion Camp in Zambia. We specifically chose that because the game viewing is so very good there. Elizabeth at Explore suggested it, knowing that we would likely get enough stellar images the first few days that part of our photo imperative might be satisfied. She was so right! The first night we witnessed a leopard killing an impala. Good for us and our photo-ops. Not so great for the impala. Of course, that was on top of all the other general game (in the bush and along the rivers) we shot during the day.

The second night we witnessed another leopard kill, and the third night a lion kill. This kind of trifecta of predation I've never seen anywhere else on safari, and this was the 8th safari we've conducted in both southern Africa and East Africa.

Leaving Lion Camp and Zambia we flew into Botswana, cleared customs and then were flown via private aircraft to Selinda Camp, a private game reserve and lodge owned and operated by renown wildlife photography and cinema team, Beverly and Dereck Joubert. We'd met on safari three years previously, when I was leading a tour to Mombo Camp in Botswana and the Jouberts had just to shoot some stock footage. Coincidentally, the same day we'd earlier seen a beautiful scenario of a young leopard cub and mother in a nearby den. Dereck began filming this cub as it grew, for over three years actually, an experience which eventually evolved into a film, Eye of the Leopard, for National Geographic.

from our 2007 visit to Mombo

I've always been impressed with the Joubert's visions of Africa, so intimate and respectful of the wildlife, and I figured if they felt the game opportunities were motivation to run a camp here, I would confidently follow their lead. Selinda did not disappoint!

A brief tip of the hat to Explore again for the air arrangements. We had private aircraft for our group of 19 at each camp, and they operated on time with the utmost courtesy and professionalism. When you are far away and in remote locations, that is great comfort.

Selinda offered the opportunity for game viewing from vehicles or boats, and because there is so much water in the Delta where they operate, Derek has chosen vehicles equipped with snorkels so they operate in water deeper than the floorboards. From hippos in the river to lions prowling the high grasses, this was an very productive camp, that operates at the highest level of service.

The highlight of our Selinda experience was watching a pride of lions with their young leaving for a night's hunt. We photographed them in the gorgeous late afternoon light and into the dark as the searched for game, and eventually rendezvoused with the dominant male lion.

Like Selinda, Jao Camp is one of the premier safari properties operated by Wilderness Safaris. I've come to expect nothing but the best from a Wilderness Safaris property, and since Jao offered both excellent game viewing and an upscale spa ambiance, this is where we chose as our final camp.

This was a year of exceptional rain in the Okavango Delta, not while we were there, as is was beautifully sunny the whole time. But earlier in the year they had their most rain in several decades, and it meant that some of the roads near camp that might normally offer game viewing were underwater. However, the best game opportunities are but a 45-minute boat ride away anyway, at Hunda Island. Here we saw vast plains of grasses with elephants, giraffe, zebra, and of course the cats, both leopard and lion.

Being a Delta camp, Jao delivers the water activities quite well, including stable boats large enough for 8-10 photographers, and less stable but more intimate merkoros (like narrow dug-out canoes, but made of fiberglass these days) to offer a water-level view of the the vegetation of the Okavango.

Thanks to Explore and Lion Camp, Selinda, and Jao. This was the greatest safari experience yet, and we look forward now to the next one, hopefully soon!

To see the amazing images our 17-year old daughter Alexa took on this same safari, please visit my earlier blog post from July, here at It is easier to simply scroll up to the "July" tab on this page, and click on "Alexa Shoots Africa". Yeah, I know, she kicked my butt. I'd say "beginner's luck" but she had a terrific shoot on our last safari too. She has a great eye for composition, very instinctive.

Neosport ad

Last summer I had an assignment to shoot a photo for Neosport wetsuits, an image to be used in an upcoming ad campaign. The timing was coincident with one of my Digital Master classes in Key Largo, and since one of the topics for discussion was working with models, I had my friend Cody Wagner and his girlfriend Katie Wieland come out with our class aboard Ocean Diver's Santana for a photo session on the City of Washington shipwreck.

I shot Cody and Kate at a photogenic bit of wreckage, while Gary Yoss (a student in that class) took some photos of me. Actually, I didn't even know Gary was shooting while we worked, so it was a pleasant surprise when Gary came back to this year's Digital Master class and brought the photos he'd taken a year previously.

The Neosport ad will run in the next issue of Alert Diver, and I've just now come back from the Clarksville, TN Quad Graphics plant after a 60-hour press-check on our magazine (I'm the publisher of Alert Diver).

I thought it an odd coincidence that the ad and the Behind the Scenes shot of the ad being photographed would all show up essentially the same week, a year after I clicked the shutter release.

Thanks to Gary Yoss for the UW shot of me at the City of Washington, and to Peter Winkler for the shot of the ad being proofed in the viewing booth on press.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Digital Masters course, Key Largo, August 2010

Last week we hosted a group of dedicated and talented underwater photographers, participating in my Digital Masters course in the Florida Keys.

I only do two of these courses each year, in the summer, in Key Largo, at a time calculated to offer the highest probability of stellar sea conditions. This year we hit it perfectly in both June and August, enjoying slick calm seas most days, and extraordinary marine life encounters. There's a lot of good diving in the world, but I can't think of anywhere else on the planet I'd rather go to teach photography than Key Largo in the summer. It is that good, and that easy for travel.

As always, our friends from Ocean Divers provided the diving services. Photoshop guru Eddie Tapp was on hand to introduce new techniques in Photoshop CS5 particularly well suited to our challenges in underwater imaging.

Here below are some of the images I shot during the week. We have now announced the schedule for next year as well, at