This Week At Angama #55

21 February 2019 | This Week at Angama |

Hot and sultry days make for tranquil and idyllic mornings with golden sunrises, velvety mist, and magical photographic opportunities – if you can find your subject. And if you can’t, get creative

Besides a few scattered, isolated evening thunderstorms this past week, which we hope herald the impending short rains, the days have been unusually hot. In turn, we have been graced with the most exceptionally beautiful mornings – which is saying something considering every African sunrise in the bush is a sight to behold and memory to be cherished. These conditions are what photographers dream of, and I had a particular photograph in mind: a family of elephants, backlit by the sun just as it crests the horizon, but shrouded in the early morning mist that hangs just above the ground for that precious half an hour after sunrise. And I knew just the place to go – a corner of the Triangle not far from Angama where there are always elephants serenely grazing to be found… Except when they’re not, which is almost never, but of course happened to be the day I went out with this particular shot in mind.

SUNRISE HERONSPhotograph by Tyler Davis

When I reached the location with perfect shooting conditions and didn’t find the elephants I had anticipated, I had to get creative. I looked for other big, charismatic subjects – there were some topi in the distance (but too far), and some herons made for the lovely image here. What eventually caught my eye were the widespread dew-studded strands of spider silk, some spun into webs, glistening in the sun (top image). It was stunning, like millions of jewels scattered across the savanna. What a valuable reminder to stop and appreciate the smaller things when on safari. [f 5.6, 1/5000, ISO 400]


SPIDER WEB APERTURE PLAY 2Photographs by Tyler Davis

One of the webs I found in the morning sun had a spider delicately balanced perfectly in the center, which made for a lovely image. I decided to take two photos, one with aperture wide open (first) and the other as closed as the lens would allow (second). I wanted to see the difference in how each photo “felt” and also demonstrate how aperture affects a photo – particularly the depth of field. Which version do you prefer? [f 20, 1/200, ISO 400] [f 5.6, 1/2500, ISO 400]

SUNRISE HIPPOPhotograph by Tyler Davis

I love Adam’s shot of a hippo from This Week at Angama #53. I know where he shot this photo and wanted to see what a similar photograph would look like, assuming there was an obliging hippo in the same spot two weeks later, right at sunrise and with a wider angle. It’s not quite what I had in mind and I plan to return to experiment more with positioning and varying camera settings, but I’m still happy with how it turned out. [f 4.5, 1/8000, ISO 400]

ESCARPMENT PANOPhotograph by Tyler Davis

While out for a drive with the Mara Conservancy’s CEO, Brian Heath, we stopped for afternoon tea and enjoyed watching a dense thunderstorm pummel the escarpment right at the border of Kenya and Tanzania. [Five images stitched in Lightroom, all at f 4.5, 1/320, ISO 200]

FULL MOONPhotograph by Tyler Davis

The moon was full this week, rising in the early evening and setting just before sunrise, and it was stunning. The hard part about taking photographs of a full moon is that it impossible not to, because it’s so beautiful, but rarely does it make for a compelling photo worth sharing. You either need to be an accomplished astrophotographer (which I’m not) and know what you’re doing, or have another captivating subject involved. In other words, I should know better – but I just couldn’t help myself. [f 5.6, 1/400, ISO 400]

TAWNY EAGLE MOONPhotograph by Tyler Davis

This is a much more interesting shot involving the moon. I’d hoped to play around a bit with this scene, even try framing the tawny eagle within the full moon, but this was the only shot I managed before it flew away. [f 5.6, 1/1000, ISO 400]

AFRICAN GREY HORNBILLPhotograph by Jeffrey Thige

I like this photo of Jeff’s – a subtly beautiful subject (a male African grey hornbill), well framed (using the rule of thirds), in a classic Mara tree. It’s always an accomplishment to capture a beautiful image of a subject seldom photographed. [f/6.0, 1/1250, ISO 320]

LION STAREPhotograph byJeffrey Thige

Fantastic emotion and expression on this lion’s visage – well-captured by Jeff. This is one of the up-and-coming Angama Pride males. [f/6.0, 1/1000, ISO 320]

TWISTY TRUNKPhotographs by Jeffrey Thige

Elephants are magnificent. This is undeniable. I could sit and watch a herd of ellies from sun-up to sun-down and be captivated the entire time. When it comes to photographing them, however, they can often make for frustrating subjects, as their size is a challenge to compellingly compose. Thus, unless the shooting conditions are unique or they are doing something unusual, elephant photos often fall flat. Here, Jeff managed two fantastic shots by catching individuals in curious acts. [f/5.6 1/640 ISO 400] [f/6.3 1/125 ISO 800 +0.33]

SAUSAGE CUBPhotograph by Tyler Davis

The Sausage Tree Pride is flush with cubs, including this one that I had the pleasure of trying to capture between grass blades. [f/5.6, 1/250, ISO 400]


Photograph by Adam Bannister

We noticed the first few controlled burns starting in Tanzania this week, with long plumes of smoke emanating from the horizon. We anticipate the Mara Conservancy will begin controlled burns in the Mara Triangle within the next month or two, as the grasses dry out a bit more but still before the short rains start in earnest. This is a reminder that at this time last year, Adam and I enjoyed watching massive whirling flocks of Abdim’s and white storks descend upon the front lines of a controlled burn in the north-central part of the Triangle, picking off fleeing grasshoppers and other insects. Fire is a potentially devastating but very much integral part of the Mara ecosystem, and always creates dramatic photographic opportunities.   [f 4.0, 1/2500, ISO 160, +0.33]

AUTHOR: Tyler Davis

Guide and birding fundi, Tyler was also one half of the regional director couple that lead the team at Angama Mara for the first five years. Being the birding extraordinaire that he is, he was known to let his attention wander during meetings. The trick to keep him focused was to place him with no direct view of anything feathered. Tyler ensures that we are a grounded and well-rounded team. He also sometimes forgets to take his binoculars off at dinnertime.

Leave a Reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*