Lion Hunting

So big game hunting is in the news, again.  This time a woman named Melissa Bachman, host of an American TV show focussed on hunting, has stirred controversy after she posts photos of herself on Facebook beaming behind the carcass of a dead male lion.

Here's a link to the story: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/melissa-bachman-pictured-dead-lion-2798136

This subject certainly strikes a chord with me.  I've spent many hours in the bush of East Africa patiently watching lions as they play, sleep, reproduce.  There's nothing like being in the presence of a lion, an increasingly endangered animal that some consider on the brink of extinction (in the wild, at least).

What really gets me about people like Michelle, though, is the conservation shield they absurdly hide behind.  "Think of all the money in permits we pay!" they cry.  "We fund so much conservation work"!  What nonsense.  Only the most deluded person can believe someone like Michelle Bachman is in it for the conservation.  Look at the photos and videos of her with her victims.  Look at the mile-wide smile and the way she relishes in what she's just done.  This is about the perverted joy she gets in killing, nothing more.    If she cared about conserving anything, she could just cut a cheque and that lion would still be breathing.

So, in honour of Michelle and those like her, I'm going to share a few lions I've shot myself.  With my camera, of course.

 

 

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Vancouver Skyline

I've been taking a lot more skyline shots recently.  With a one year old at home I haven't been taking the time to venture off into remote places looking for new (to me, at least) landscapes to photograph.  Instead I've been sticking close to home and looking for new angles of my city's awesome skyline.   

This one is shot from Kitsilano, looking north east towards downtown Vancouver.  The north shore mountains look large behind the city.

 

 

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Fireworks!

Fireworks are tricky to photograph, I've decided.   With Vancouver's Celebration of Light fireworks competition on and a really cool vantage point available, I thought I'd take my first crack at it.  It was definitely a learning experience.  Trying to time the exposure properly became brutally important as fireworks get blown out so suddenly and ruin the photo.  Also, not knowing what to expect makes it tough from a composition standpoint.  Suddenly another batch of explosions go off and what you thought you were capturing changes.

The Celebration of Light is a contest that pits several countries against each other, each with a different night to perform on.  These photos are from Canada's attempt. 

 

 

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A Safari Sunrise

Didn't have a lot of great sunsets on this trip to Tanzania.  Most late afternoons the rain clouds would roll in for some amazing night time thunderstorms.  The sunrises, however, were often spectacular!

This was in the Ndutu area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania.  Beautiful flat top acacia trees everywhere.  I think I may have made our Maasai guard a bit nervous as I ventured farther from camp to look for nice compositions of these trees.  Really loved how the colours turned out.  It's important to stay all the way through sunrise, as the colours change from minute to minute.

Shot on a 5d Mk3 with the 16-35L.

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Christmas in NYC

New York is probably my favorite city in the world to visit.  Paris is probably a very close second.  I love busy cities, I love density, I love being in the centre of it all.  New York really has no equal in this respect.

I spent New Years in NYC which was something I was truly looking forward to.  There's something iconic about New York during the Christmas season.  We've all seen the movies set in NYC during the holidays and there's certainly a magical quality about it.  The weather was actually relatively mild while I was there and so I tried to get out and take photos as much as I could.

The biggest problem was dealing with the crowds.  NYC just doesn't slow down.  Ever.  Especially at Christmas.  The toughest part of this photo was clearing enough space for me and my tripod and then waiting for a window of time large enough to get a clear shot.  

I've been to New York a few times now, but always in the winter.  Would love to head back when the weather is warm.

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The Lions Over Vancouver

We're finally getting glimpses of summer here in Vancouver and it isn't a moment too soon.  This photo is from Queen Elizabeth Park, a beautiful sanctuary in the city that is really popular with tourists and locals alike.  Went up there to try out the new 70-200 f2.8L mkII I just picked up.  Wanted to try and compress the scene to emphasize how close the core of the city is to the mountains that loom over us from the North.

Many visitors to the city are amazed at seeing a cosmopolitan city, home to more than 2 million people, so close to nature.  We're truly spoiled here.

The Lions are two peaks situated in the North Shore mountains that overlook the city.  They served as inspiration for our Lions Gate Bridge as well the famous Lions Gate Studios.

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Photo of the Day

Karoun is a village (can we still call it a village with all those new buildings?) in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, a few hours drive from Beirut.  My roots here go back several generations and it's always a pleasure going back for a visit.

I trekked up to a water tower situated high above the village for this shot.  It was a hot day and the breeze up there coupled with a beautiful sunset was welcome relief.

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A Lone Female Lion. Or is She?

This beautiful female was moving through the tall grass towards us.  Where she was heading, I don't know but she was moving with purpose.  The Serengeti had received lots of rains and with the grass so tall we were fortunate to spot her, and more fortunate to have her walking towards us.  It wasn't until she was almost on top of us before we realized she wasn't alone!

Shot this with the 70-200 2.8L MK2. I make a point of putting the 500mm down and trying to get more contextual shots.  While it's nice to be able to get right in on the subject and fill up the frame, often I find the more interesting shot involves putting the animal in her environment.  Tells a better story, often times.  That and I think the 70-200 mkII is perhaps the finest zoom lens in the world.

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Babies Everywhere!

I timed my latest safari to Tanzania to coincide with calving season.  You see, when the million+ strong migration of wildebeest and zebra hit the Ndutu area of Tanzania in February, they all have their babies at the same time.  I think it has to do with a "safety in numbers" philosophy.  With so many babies being born at once, all the predators can't possibly get to all of them, ensuring most of them survive.

I was hoping to see lots of babies and of course the predators that follow them, and I wasn't disappointed.  There were plenty of young wildebeest and zebra finding their footing in the bush, and still lots of very pregnant adults looking ready to burst at any moment.  

We spent one evening at a local watering hole watching giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and warthog all stop for a drink.  It was peaceful and serene; one of those places that cause you to lose track of time.  At one point a group of zebra came for some refreshment, including a very young foal.  I watched them for some time before capturing this photo.  I'm happy with the way it came out.  I felt the composition was balanced around the foal and I was happy with the reflection as well.  

Shot on my 5D Mk3 using Canon's new 500mm f/4 Mk2.

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Dreaming in Tanzania

One of the reasons I hauled my big tripod/ball head combo all the way to Tanzania is I wanted to try out some star photography.  Living in Vancouver, I simply can't see that many stars due to light pollution.  I knew being out in the bush in East Africa would give me opportunities for night photography that I just don't get at home.  

This shot was taken at the first camp site I stayed at, in the Ndutu part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  We were situated among some beautiful acacia trees and I wanted to try and incorporate them into the shot.  

To get lots of stars, you need a lens with a wide aperture (f/2.8 or wider is preferred) and a wide angle is nice to capture as much as possible.  This photo was a 30 second exposure which was long enough to capture lots of stars but not so long as to start capturing star trails.  ISO was at 6400.  

I had a lot of fun messing around with this and am considering taking the next step.  To get your ISO down for cleaner shots, you need a longer shutter speed.  To do that and avoid star trails, you can buy equipment that will actually move your camera along with the rotation of the earth, such that the stars will stay put during your exposure.  Now you can do a 4 or 5 minute exposure at a much lower ISO and still come out with more detail and a cleaner image.  Definitely something I'm considering though it'll mean getting out of the city more and finding some dark skies!

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Leopard!

Everyone has their favorite cat on safari.  Lion is easy; they’re the biggest and the baddest.  Cheetah is a great choice too.  They’re lean and graceful and if you’re lucky enough to see them run it’s truly a sight to behold.  I think, however, that many people’s favorite changes when they catch their first quality glimpse of a leopard.

Maybe it has something to do with how elusive they are.  Lions maybe lose a bit of their appeal the 10th time you’ve seen them strewn about in the middle of a dry river bed, the same place you saw them sleeping 6 hours earlier.  Just like your cat or dog at home, they can relax in the most bizarre, unflattering positions.

A leopard, however, is a much more rare sight.  They’re often shy, solitary animals that find refuge high up in acacia trees.  I sometimes wonder how many hidden leopards I’ve driven past, totally oblivious.  When you first glimpse one, however, it’s a moving experience.  The look in the eye is intense, and the spots on their coat too beautiful to appreciate all at once.

I also love how incredibly comfortable a leopard manages to get way up in a tree.  If you’ve seen a lion haul itself up a tree, you realize not all cats are as skilled for the task!

There is an elegance a leopard possesses, unmatched in the African bush.  This girl was found in the Ndutu region of Tanzania on my most recent photographic safari.  Click the pic to see a larger version.


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