Baby Leopard in Peril

My photo group was on the Serengeti in Tanzania during the last two weeks in May 2018.

Kopje, Serengeti, Tanzania, Africa.
Kopje, or rocky outcrop, on the Serengeti in Tanzania.

One morning while out on a game drive, we got a call over the radio that a baby leopard was in danger on a nearby kopje.  My driver, Tompson, picked up speed and told me what to expect.  Along the way, I translated all the terms and relayed the situation to the people in my Land Cruiser.

Here’s the situation we were racing toward.  A mother leopard left her young baby unattended on a kopje.  A kopje is a pile of rocks on the Serengeti plain.  The kopje has crevices between all the rocks.  Sometimes trees and bushes grow on top of the kopje or around the base of the kopje.

Olive baboon KAC0240

This is traditionally a great place to raise cubs and stash them while out hunting or sleeping.  The babies are usually pretty safe with nooks and crannies to sleep, sun, and play.

In this case, though, a group of olive baboons had gathered on the top of the kopje.  Baboons hate leopards.  That means the baboons will kill the baby leopard if they find it.  With no mother leopard on site, the baby leopard was in real danger.

We arrived at the kopje in a few minutes and found a group of twenty baboons on one side of the kopje.  After driving around the kopje, we found the baby leopard on the other side.  The baby was very young and agitated.  It paced, sat down, paced, and then sat again.  The baby seemed to know things weren’t right.

We photographed the baby leoparLeopard KAC4023d and keep watching for the baboons.  There was a good distance between the two so it seemed that the baby leopard was safe.

Then the baby leopard got nervous.  It started climbing across the rocks of the kopje and maneuvered under bushes.  It came into view then disappeared out of view.  But the baboons must have smelled the baby or seen movement.  Four large males started slowly moving across the top of the kopje toward the baby leopard.

The baby moved down the rocks and found a crevice.  Maybe it was the crevice where it was born or a roosting place with its mother.  The baby walked into the crevice, came back out, looked around, and then went back in the crevice.  We all encouraged the baby to get deep into the crevice but, of course, our words meant nothing to the young leopard.

The four male baboons started perching on the rocks outside and above the crevice.  The baby moved deeper in the crevice to escape the baboons.  The baboons peered into the crevice.  They moved closer to the crevice.  The baby leopard was surrounded.  If the baboons headed into the crevice, the baby was cornered.

Someone in the Land Cruiser next to me said “I don’t want to hear what comes next.”  Someone else said, “I don’t want to see what’s coming.”  My driver told me the baby was a goner and that there was no way the baby could fight off the baboons.

My driver suggested we pull the Land Cruiser back just in case the mother leopard was trying to get back from her hunt.  I asked everyone in the three vehicles if they wanted to stay and watch the kill or move back and let nature happen.

Everyone agreed that the attack was going to be horrible.  We had out photos of the baby leopard and everyone wanted to remember him as a cute, little kitten.

All three of our Land Cruisers pulled away from the kopje and we turned our backs on nature.  During lunch we talked but the baby leopard and everyone wondered what happened.  Our thoughts were really with the little guy.

When we left camp later in the day, my driver Tompson asked if I’d like to take the group back to the kopje to see what happened.  Tompson assured me the baby was dead but I decided we needed to go back.

A half-hour later we were nearing the kopje.  I started scanning the rocks for anything that looked like a leopard.  There were no baboons in sight.  Not one.

I stood up on my seat with my body out of the top of the Land Cruiser and started scanning the rocks.  High up on one of the rocks I spotted the profile of a feline.  “There she is,” I yelled.  Tompson spotted the mother leopard immediately and drove the Land Cruiser in photography distance.  The other two Land Cruisers in our group fell into position next to us.

Leopard KAC3964
Mother leopard with a fresh gash in her nose.

Mother leopard was laid out on the top of the kopje all pretty and content.  She had a fresh, deep gash from her nostril straight up her nose.  She’d been in a fight and she was the winner.

Tompson popped up on his seat and poked out of the top of the Land Cruiser.  He raised his arms high in the sky and yelled “You are a good mother leopard!!”  The mother leopard beat off the baboons and she took a beating while doing it.  Yet, was the baby alive?

My vehicle drove slowly to the other side of the kopje. There was the baby leopard!  It was out in the open and resting on a nice warm rock.  Baby was safe and Tompson gave the mother another “Your a good mother leopard!!” salute.

Leopard KAC3983
Mother leopard’s eye is on the right behind the bush.
Leopard KAC4054
Mother leopard bedding down behind a bush on the kopje.

Mother leopard didn’t take to our noisy group of photographers.  We were a good distance from her but were pretty excited that mother and baby were safe.  I suspect we were a bit noisy.

 

The female moved deep into a crevice protected by a small bush.  She bathed her injured nose one more time and then fell asleep.  (People in my group would have given her all the Neosporin in their packs if she would have allowed us near her.) .

Baby leopard gave us a few more stunning photos and then fell asleep.  It lived for another day in the Serengeti.

Stay tuned for more adventures from our Strabo Photo Tours Collection trip to the Serengeti in May 2018.

 

 

Can You Recognize a “Good” Photo?

“A lot of photographers come into our gallery.  They wouldn’t recognize a good photo if they took one.”  This is a paraphrase of something I heard at a photography conference over the weekend.

“A good physicist recognizes a discovery when they see it and they know what to do with it.”  I heard this later in the weekend on the radio.  (I’ve paraphrased once again.)

Both statements got me thinking about the creative process and recognizing that creativity.

How do you know when you’ve taken a good photo?  Post below please so we can all learn.

Camel Caravan Morocco KAC7124 texture
Show shutter speed of a camel caravan in Morocco. One of my personal favorites.

Tanager & Other Birds — Ecuador Photo Tours

Tanagers are one of my favorite families of birds in the tropics.  They are colorful, rather large, somewhat slow, and plentiful.  The Ecuador birding field guide lists about 66 species with tanager in their name.  We didn’t photograph that many during our Strabo Photo Tour Collections trip in March but we got a lot.

 

Black-capped tanager; Tangara heinei; Ecuador; Mindo Valley
Black-capped tanager — Mindo Valley, Ecuador
Blue-capped tanager KAC9857
Blue-capped tanager in the Mindo Valley.  This was a new bird for me.
Blue-capped tanager KAC9864
Blue-capped tanager
Blue-winged mountain-tanager KAC9997
Blue-winged mountain-tanager
Golden tanager; Tangara arthus; Ecuador; San Tadeo; Mindo Valley
Golden tanager — Mindo Valley, Ecuador
Flame-faced tanager; Tangara parzudakii; Ecuador; San Tadeo; Mindo Valley
Flame-faced tanager — Mindo Valley. What a great name!
White-lined tanager KAC9389
White-lined tanager — See the white line?

We found a nice variety of birds along the way.  These are all from the Mindo Valley of Ecuador on the western slope of the Andes Mountains.

Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, Buarremon brunneinucha,
Chestnut-capped brush-finch
Crimson-rumped toucanet KAC9716
Crimson-rumped toucanet
Crimson-rumped toucanet KAC9740
Crimson-rumped toucanet — here you can see the rump
Dusky Chlorospingus KAC0091
Dusky Chlorospingus — Love that name!
rufous-collared sparrow KAC0035
Rufous-collared sparrow — so common but so pretty.
Swainson's thrush KAC9427
Swainson’s thrush on wintering grounds.  It will be arriving in my area of Texas in mid-April on its way to breeding grounds in the north.

 

Here are a couple more hummingbirds from the last day of the trip.  The birds in Ecuador are amazing.

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My 2018-2019 photo tour schedule is on the Strabo Photo Tours site or on my website.

Heart-shaped Lights for Valentine’s Day

Heart-sharped bokah, bokeh, blown out background, blurry background.
Let’s get romantic with some heart-shaped lights this Valentine’s Day

 

Heart-sharped bokah, bokeh, blown out background, blurry background.
Directions are below.
IMG_1441
A heart stamp from the craft store makes a nice heart.
IMG_1442
Grab a piece of black construction paper.  Cut it into this basic shape.  The circular shape should cover your lens opening.      Notice that the heart shape has been taped to the center.  That’s because my stamp doesn’t stamp very far from the edge of the paper.  I had to cut the center out of the main shape and tape a smaller piece of paper with the heart shape to the main piece. (This is good because you can remove the heart later and add shamrocks for St. Patty’s Day)

 

IMG_1443
Attach the black paper object to the front of your lens.  I use a hair tie. 
IMG_1444
You’re almost ready to go.  I’ve found that a lens in the 100mm range makes the best heart shapes.
IMG_1445
Switch to Manual focus.  Blur the scene in front of you.                  The view through the viewfinder is dark.  It might help to switch the camera to spot or partial metering.
Heart-sharped bokah, bokeh, blown out background, blurry background.
Bright lights work best.  This is a photograph is a busy street.  

Flashing Red Light On Canon Rebel

Question from a reader:  I was taking photos yesterday of my daughter at a gymnastics event.  A red light in the bottom right corner on my Canon Rebel kept flashing.  Once I saw the word “BUSY” in the viewfinder.  What was I doing wrong?

The red flashing light on your camera shows that the camera is accessing the memory card.

It’s normal to see a red light when the camera takes a photo. (Nikon users see a green light.)  The light should quickly go on-and-off  if all is well.

During a rapid burst of photos, the red light will flash as long as the camera is moving the photos to the memory card.  The camera has a memory buffer of 6-9 photos.  It’s holding those in memory and waiting to move them photos to the card.

If you take 10 photos in a row, the camera moves some to the card and then some to the buffer. Those in the buffer wait in line until it’s time for them to move to the card.

You’ll see BUSY in the viewfinder if you take too many photos and the buffer fills.  The camera won’t take any more photos until the buffer clears out and has room to store another photo.

You’re likely to see the flashing red light and BUSY in the viewfinder if you held the shutter button down and took a lot of photos.  Those photos need to process out of the buffer and through to the card.

Solution — get a memory card that records faster.  How fast?  That depends on the camera.  A 20MB camera that takes 7 fps (frames per second) is going to record 140MB worth of photos per second.  A card that records 64MB per second can record roughly three frames a second.  The other four frames are going to sit in memory.  That means you have three frames recording to the card while four photos are waiting in buffer.  That’s usually okay since the buffer will clear in a second or two.

 

The card on the left records 150MB/s.  That’s seven photos per second using a camera with a 20MB file.  This is almost more card than the Rebel needs.  Someone who shoots sport or action regularly might need this, though.

The card on the right records 45MB/s.  That’s two photos per second using the same camera.  Too slow for someone photographing sports or action.

The card you need depends on what you photograph and what camera you use.  I get my cards from Hunt’s Photo and Video.  Ask for Alan Samiljan (781) 462-2383 or email him at asamiljan@huntsphoto.com    His hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday, 8:30-5:00pm eastern

Let’s Bring Birds Into Our Lives

Pine warbler KAC9274

January 5th is National Bird Day.  It’s a great day to think about bringing birds into our lives.

Backyards big or small can be a haven for birds.  Birds will come to a large grassy lot with trees or a balcony with container plants.

Birds are attracted to a space that has three things:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
red-bellied woodpecker
Shelled sunflower seeds in a feeder with red-bellied woodpecker

Food is the first big consideration to bringing birds into your yard or balcony.  Shelled sunflower seeds are a favorite because the hulls have been removed and no waste falls to the ground to attract mice and rats.  Shelled sunflower seed is a bit more expensive but the food goes a long way because there is no waste.

Avoid packaged birdfeed that contains millet, milo, and wheat.  Watch for little white seeds common in bird feed that comes from a grocery store.  Northern cardinals, blue jays, and Carolina chickadee don’t eat these seeds.  Blackbird and grackles do, though.

Birdfeed from area nature stores such as Wild Bird Unlimited, feed stores, and locally owned garden centers is usually fresher than that found in big box stores.

Birds like suet.  Suet is a mixture of seeds, nuts, and fruit held together with a peanut butter matrix.  Carolina wrens, pine warblers, and red-bellied woodpeckers love suet cakes.

Pine warblerppKAC3731
In warmer climates, use suet cakes made with a nut butter matrix versus white fat.

Avoid suet cakes held together with a whitish or fat-based matrix.  These are designed for cooler, northern climates and spoil in our heat.

Bird baths are a great way to add water to your habitat.  Traditional concrete bird baths are best.  Birds only need an inch of water to drink or bath.  Concrete bird baths last twenty or more years.

Eastern bluebird. bathing in shallow pool.
Eastern bluebird. bathing in shallow pool.

 

The rough surface of a concrete bird bath gives birds something to grip in the event they need to fly quickly away to avoid a predator.  Glass or ceramic bird baths are pretty but the bathing area needs to be rough.  Toss in a few handfuls of dirt and let a bit of algae grow.  This creates a natural surface that birds prefer.

Shelter is the last item needed to create a bird habitat.  Birds need a place to hide when a hawk or cat enters the area.

Place feeders and birdbaths five to ten feet from a tree, shrub, or potted plant.  Birds won’t cross a vast open area to feed or bathe.  Place plants on two sides to create an ideal habitat.

Consider natives when planting around feeders in a yard or on a balcony.  Yaupon and American beautyberry are lovely to look at and provide berries for our birds.  Golden dewdrop  (Duranta) is a large showy plant with purple flowers in summer and golden berries in fall.  This can be grown in a container or in the ground.  Porterweed (Stachytarpheta) is another favorite.  It’s cold hardy and produces lovely purple blooms from spring to the first frost.  Butterflies also like golden dewdrop and Porterweed.

 

#nationalbirdday

 

 

Holiday Lights Through a Crystal Ball

There is still time to order a crystal ball before all the holiday lights are packed and put away.

This is the one I ordered through Amazon.  

Click here to see a gallery of my photos with a crystal ball.

Crystal ball, reflection, reverse,
Christmas tree through the crystal ball.

Crystal ball, reflection, reverse,

Magical Winter Lights KAC1400
F/stop at 22.
Magical Winter Lights KAC1419
Holding the crystal ball to see all the lights in the background.