3. Tour

December 19th, 1993 - January 8th, 1994

December 21st, 1993

Do you know the difference between Marx and Mess in the former, real existing communism? Marx is the theory and Mess is the reality.

Apparently it is not any different with test reports in photo magazines. Shortly before my departure at the Frankfurt Airport, I bought the brand-new January issue of "FOTO MAGAZIN", with a detailed report on all slide films.

The Ektachrome Elite – 100 and the Panther – 100 were praised to high heaven as the absolute slide film and both received 5 stars.

In spite of that, I did not find one wildlife photographer in the second part of 1993 who was pleased with the Elite/Panther films. All complained that the films were too harsh and too high in contrast, that the sensitivity wasīnt right and the colors had a yellowish / brownish tint. But the "FOTO MAGAZIN" presented the films with 5 stars......

I had personally tested the Panther – 100 during Tour-1, and ruefully returned to the Fuji Chrome – 100 during Tour-2 just for that reason, that the Panther was disastrous and definitely had a brownish color tint.

So if the regular Panther – 100 is too brownish, how is the Panther-X going to be, that the Kodak people call "warm colored"? There seem to be light years between photographic tests published in magazines and the actual photographic day to day use.

Unfortunately the Leopard lady moved to another cave a day before my return on Tour-3. It is the fourth cave in so many weeks. The babies are now exactly one month old and this morning they were to be seen for the first time outside of their new dwelling.

The new cave is not as good as the previous one from a photographic point of view. It is higher up on the hillside and farther away.

That is barely enough for the 600mm focal length and certainly too bad. In spite of that, I was able to shoot a comparatively interesting picture right on the first morning, as Paradise took one of her young into her mouth and carried it a little ways.

Suddenly at 9am there were two Elephants behind the cave under a clear blue sky. Now if the Leopard lady "Paradise" would be so nice as to look out of her cave for a moment this would be the "Super Shot".......of course she didīnt. (Leopards, page 55).

Tour-3 was to take three weeds and primarily dedicated to the young Leopards. Letīs see what else will happen. In any case, the beginning wasīnt so bad ...

December 25th, 1993

SHOOT!! The Leopard is almost every morning with her two youngsters, licking them and is busy with them, but always half hidden by rocks and bushes, so that it is impossible to take a reasonably good shot.

The Lions have turned the area close to the airstrip of Governors Camp around Bilaschaka into a slaughter camp. It is unbelievable: the ditches and the Lionsī surroundings are covered with cadavers and almost every morning they kill a Buffalo or a Zebra or both.

The fantastic Cheetah mother from October with her 4, now exactly 5 months old, youngsters has reappeared. With her four being at this age, she will certainly leave most of her prey alive so that the little ones can learn how to hunt and kill on the living object.

This must seem pretty cruel for delicate dispositions, but it is important survival training for the youngsters. Of course this happens preferably during the morning.

So actually I should be at three places simultaneously again during the time of 6 to 9am. What to do? The lady Leopard with her two young is most important for me, then there are the Buffalo killing Lions and after that the hunting and teaching Cheetah.

In any case, I will dedicate the first 10 days of the 21 day tour completely to the Leopard, then maybe 5-6 days for the Lions and the rest of the time will be "sacrificed" for the Cheetah.

Maybe I will modify my plans for the book, since I am now –maybe-- receiving a chance to accompany a Leopard mother with her two young for the time period of one year. According to my knowledge, no one has ever done that before. Maybe I will call the book "Masai Mara – the Leopard and the nature paradise" ?

Plans changed again!! Because the Leopard is presently retreading to a place during the day, that we canīt find but the Lions on the other hand are creating a virtual massacre among the Buffalo, I will use the next days for trying to catch a "pretty" picture of how the female Lion kills a Buffalo. (Masai Mara, page 80).

And it really worked out to take some attractive photos of Buffalo-slaying Lions. They later turned out to be very successful photographs. Hunting magazines used them for cover pictures and they were even printed in BBC-Wildlife Portfolio Five.

December 29th, 1993

Head and Hind pictures

Many years ago, two trees grew together and offered a splendid unity in the savanna to look at. Right above the ground, there were two large holes that gave this little group of trees a special character.

Two months ago I had already tried to photograph "him", once from west to east with moon behind and on the next morning at the same time about 6am from east to west, with the rising sun through the two holes above ground. I didīnt like the result of either one very much. ( see page 73 in the book "THE ART OF WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY").

That is why I drove there at noontime to see if I could find a better photographic solution for this subject.

I tried different focal lengths and stand points and determined at the end, that the best and most pleasant effect would be accomplished by shooting the tree about 30-40 minutes before sunrise – with the well known fore glow of the morning - with a 20mm lens, very low to the ground, since the two holes between the trunks so near to the ground would only then be able to be caught just right.

Apart from that, very important: There canīt be cloud in the sky, since that would destroy the clearness of the composition.

The implementation of such takes is relatively easy after that: You start driving about 5am several mornings in a row, so that you arrive at the motif about 5.30am and then you wait and hope that you have a beautiful cloudless and deep red sky before sunrise.

This was a planned picture, which practically emerged out of the head and just had to be taken without having the photographer make compromises in view of focal length, points of view, perspective and composition ----- Ideal conditions and real photography.

My second picture that I worked on at the same time, was a sheer camera hunt in comparison: the already mentioned Lion/Buffalo pictures. In the savanna around the Bilaschaka area two herds of Lions with maybe 20 young - as previously described – had occupied a ditch overgrown with flowers and bushes, about 2000 meters long and where they were able to regularly slay 1-2 Buffalo, Zebra or Topi a day.

Only, exactly when and where was never clear. Whether during the early morning with good light or during the lousy weather in the afternoon, in the brush or the ditch without chances of photographing it, or outside in clear sight – it was all pure chance.

The only thing to do was: to circle the bush every morning at 6-11am and hope you just happen to get a good chance. Sometimes I get the feeling that a camera hunt is just the opposite of photography....

Experience is everything – Strategy and Tactic

If, as a wildlife photographer, you come to Eastern Africa for 25 years, then you certainly have gathered a great amount of experience with the wild animals of this region. Of course this helps you to avoid mistakes and to evaluate or foresee certain situations. I clearly realized this once again during this 3 week tour.

On the second day, I drove around a grove and saw that two female Lions had hunted a Cheetah – I was close enough to apparently be able to get both types of felines on the picture.

The reason for this situation was that the Cheetah had tried to distract the Lions from her young.

The next morning, two Lions killed a Buffalo and it took them 90 minutes, which was more than enough time for pictures. But that morning I had decided to shoot the Leopard while hunting – with no luck I might add.

During the first two weeks of this tour, I had deep blue skies with brilliant sunshine every day from early to late.

On the 15th day the sky turned monochrome gray and the light was more than dull.

And just on that day, a hunting eagle had caught an Abdimstork and flew with the live prey to a beautiful tree limb only about 5 meter high.

This would have been a magnificent picture, with the white eagle in the sun, blue sky as background and the still live stork - who even lifted his head a few times and opened his beak - in his claws.

This way, it was only a washed out documentary of a white eagle against a pale sky in dim foggy light and to top it all off, overexposed..... horrible.

Buffalo killed by Lions can be recognized by the turned up head and the mouth with the white rows of teeth that is pointed toward the sky.

A Vulture sat very picturesque on such a head. As I was putting on the 1,4 x converter to take a frame filling picture, a colleague of mine stopped with his car beside me and stuck out – much too hasty – his long white 600mm telephoto through the car window. The Vulture didīnt like that at all and flew away, before I could take the better picture.

F4s, 4.0/600mm. With the 1,4X converter, it would have filled the frame.

Two days later, a similar situation with a symbolic character of life and death: A baby Lion was climbing around on the head of a dead Gnu, just to climb down of course, before I had the right focal length and turned the camera for a vertical shot.

This morning was especially funny: for two weeks I have been trying to get a somewhat decent picture of the Leopard mom with her now about 5 weeks old young – up to now to no avail. All pictures are more or less bungled.

This morning I had an excellent situation for the first time: The Leopard was lying on a photogenic rock with pretty green shrubbery behind her, the light was wonderful and she called to her young to come and play with her.

And me? I was jammed amongst a bunch of about nine tourist busses and had no chance to get a half way decent photo angle and by the time I had fought my way free, the Leopard mom had decided to send her babies back into the cave and to go to the dead Kongoni that she had slain two days ago, by herself to eat a few bites of meat.

Totally frustrated, I drove to a herd of 11 Lions to see what they were up to this morning. There, I was greeted by a hugely smiling colleague from India who told me that three ladies from the herd of Lions had cut down a buffalo in clear sight and wonderful light conditions about an hour ago.

One Lion on the tail end, one at the head and one on the back of the Buffalo had clung there so long that the time would have been enough to take 30 slides.

Why donīt I have any ulcers by now??

January 5th, 1994

Strategy, Tactic and Time

This third tour was concentrating more and more on two species: Leopards and Lions. During the course of the week, the work turned out to be focused on the following rhythm: the mornings from 5 to 8/9am Leopards, then the Lions and toward evening Leopards again.

Organized this way because Leopards were most active during 6-8am and 6.30 to 7.30pm and Lions slew mostly Buffalo, Zebras and Topis, but preferably at night i.e. between 4 and 5am when you canīt be in the preserve – but in addition to that they have a second primary active time to capture prey between 8.30am and 1pm.

In these three weeks, I have watched Lions for about 100 hours and followed or searched for them, as well as having spent 100 hours watching Leopards.

During the first 85 hours I didīnt bring about anything decent. I just couldīnt find the key to getting a successful picture of the mother with her babies. Until finally I was able to observe a good scene – which I wasīnt able to photograph – where the Leopard mom was on a rock and playing with her young about 8am.

I had three mornings left, to get a good shot of this situation, if it would repeat itself. With a second restriction: the sun couldīnt shine during this picture or it would turn out too harsh and restless.

The chance to get a really good picture of the family within the last three days was not very good. In order to get this small chance, I had used 18 days and 100 hours of time. It is very difficult to take good photos of Leopards.

It wasīnt any different with the picture of a Lion. During the whole 100 hours, only two possibilities had been accounted for, where and how to work best. All Buffalo kills up to now had been either at night, in the brush or you got there too late. There wasnīnt a set strategy for the planned picture called "Three Lions kill a Buffalo" as for the Leopard family picture, where time, angle of camera and everything was scheduled ahead of time and the Leopard just had to act on it.

There was a simple tactic for the Lion picture: To take every free minute that could be spared from the Leopard and spend them with the largest herd of 4 females and 7 young Lions and hope that they would decide to hunt down and kill one more Buffalo – during the day and in clear view.

Three days later

The last three days were sensational. On the third to the last day, I finally got the desired picture, where the Leopard mom was posed photogenic on a rock with the green brush behind her, playing with one of her babies. (Leopard, page 71).

The next to the last day brought something unusual: Paradise allowed her older daughter Beauty to play with one of her small siblings (Leopards pages 65 and 69). In all of the literature in the world about Leopards I have never heard or read about – not to mention ever seen a picture of – that a Leopard mother allowed an older daughter to play with the younger babies.

The last day ended quite well also: It is hard to believe, but the three week tour was to end at lunchtime since the plane to Nairobi would leave at 3pm. At 10.45am three Buffalo were heading directly toward the herd of 11 Lions who of course killed two of them. During this, I was able to take a picture where you could see how a group of Lions practically killed two Buffalo simultaneously – and that about just before closing time.


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