8. Tour

September 8th, 1994 - September 19th, 1994

Slowly but surely the end is drawing near for the year of photos in the Masai Mara. I want to dedicate 50% of this tour to the Leopard family, with the youngsters who are 9 ― months old; and the other half is dedicated to the spectacular migration of the white bearded Gnus who actually have to cross the Mara River by the tenth of thousands – much to the joy of the crocodiles.

I would like to do the next and probably last tour for this project toward the end of November / beginning December, in order to take the missing pictures for the Masai Mara book – Maasai and their Manyattas, more aerials of the region and to close whatever gaps there may be on the subject at the time.

If possible, to top it all off, for the Leopard book a picture with the female Leopard together with her two kids, who will be exactly one year old then. That would be a nice ending for the Leopard story.

On the last tours the Sensia – 100 and Profia – 100 films have really paid off. They are, simply said, great. Although I canīt see any difference between the two, except that the Provia costs almost twice as much.

September 9th, 1994

Unfortunately I missed another great situation again: last week a strong Elephant died in the Musiara Swamps and for 2 – 3 days, hundreds of Vultures sat on and in him. It must have been an interesting picture of the reality of life. There were so many Vultures gathered around the Elephant, because the dead Gnus in the river were missing. There is no spectacular migration of the Gnus this year. Apparently the grassland of the Serengeti is so lucious, that the herds are saving themselves the far travels. One less photographic chance.

September 11th, 1994

The photographer thinks and nature guides. So the huge migration of the white bearded Gnus is cancelled for this year. Only five sad Crocodiles were lying at the Mara River today, waiting for their feast and not understanding why they have to go hungry this year.....

It seems that my Leopard plans are also going down the drain on this tour. During the first three days I didīnt even have the hint of a chance to take a half way decent picture. Only a picture of verification from Taratibu was possible on the first evening, that showed her now at the age of 9 ― months. Hopefully the situation will get better. The grass is still so high that the Leopards are hardly to be found at all. What I really need now, is a nice big kill from the mother Leopard, hung up in a tree. That way I would have the three of them covered for 1 or 2 days. Right now it looks very bleak for a nice picture of the family.

September 13th, 1994

Good grief!!! How quickly situations change. Following five intensive days of searching for the Leopards and frustration from morning to night, we find the female Leopard in front of us, sitting on a termite hill. Unfortunately the sun has disappeared already and the camera says with the Fuji Chrome – 400, at a focal length of 2,8 only 1/15 sec. and to top it all off, the kids are climbing up beside their mother,..... Family portrait!!!!!!

In my despair, I quickly throw in a roll of Provia – 1600 to at least get a few pictures of this unique situation at a focal length of 2,8 and 1/60 sec. during day light. How will this turn out?? After that I was able to take some flash pictures with the Kodachrome – 200.

This is the situation I had dreamed of and waited more than 8 months for! That the mother and the kids would finally be together in a relaxed photogenic situation for just a little longer period of time in order to take a nice family picture. Why did it have to happen in the dark?

It is just like a painted picture! I have them practically at eye height, since they are lying on the termite hill. They are lying and sitting picturesquely and looking directly in my direction – it is exactly the picture I always wanted to take and which is more frequently seen with Cheetahs and hardly ever with Leopards. I hope the slides keep what the situation has promised. (Leopards, page 135).

September 14th, 1994

Why canīt Leopards act like Cheetahs? When you leave a Cheetah family at 7pm in the dark, you can be sure that they are at exactly the same spot when you get back in the morning at 6am. With Leopards you only know that this is the exact spot where you donīt have to look for them. Last night at dinner in the Mara River Camp I had told colleagues about my eveningīs encounter and so this morning we started with three vehicles to find the Leopard family again. Jean-Claude Ferrero from Australia, Anup Shaw from Nairobi and Tom Brackefield from the States were helping me this morning in my search. So it was a pretty international group of wildlife photographers that started before dawn early in the morning.

The three Leopards couldīnt have gone far during the night, because first of all, since Friday - five days ago - they had moved 2 Km from where I saw them last and secondly, because yesterday they had left a pretty gorged and satisfied impression.

So we searched the area from 6am with 4 experienced wildlife photographers and another 3 vehicles from Governors Camp for three hours without finding a trace of the Leopards. In spite of the fact that the mother normally wanders with the two between 6 and 8am or the two have to play by themselves, we saw nothing of them. Leopard photography very often is a very time consuming and frustrating business.

This afternoon, about 3.30pm we luckily found Mangáa. We stayed with him until dark and I had an opportunity to try out my new positioning light.

It is known that with the new generation of electron flashes, the auto focus of the camera automatically adjusts the picture in the dark, using a reddish beam from the flash. Outside this works only at a distance of up to 5 m. That is why I had taped a see through red foil over a strong flash light, that way I was able to adjust the camera on a distance of up to 10 – 15 m. Red foil, because the animals do not get as frightened or irritated as they do with white light.

Now I bought myself a spotlight for hunters that only cost DM 39.50, from Kettner that you can connect to the cigarette lighter of your car. I had taped a red foil over it again and Mangáa did not react at all at a distance of 10 m, to this red spotlight and I was able to set the AF in complete darkness with this red spot of light. Up to a distance of 20 – 30 m it is no problem any more to work with AF in the dark.

I ended this tour 5 days prior as planned. The Leopards really frustrated me this time. I saw Paradise only once and the youngsters only every three days, when they were staying in a very unphotogenic ditch. Since mom wasīnt around they were very being very careful and to be seen only for two hours in the morning and one at night. Between that, during the time of 9am to 4pm I actually wanted to work with the white bearded Gnus, but unfortunately that was cancelled this year. And I just didīnt feel like working with other animals in the sunburned Mara with the sun glaring down.

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