A mother is a shelter


Serengeti, Tanzania, Africa After spending time at an elephant orphanage I’ve truly come to understand how important a mother and a family is for an elephants survival. This baby elephant who has not yet mastered the art of applying his own mud and dirt sunscreen is highly reliant on the shade of the mother in the harsh african sun. It never occurred that the mother provides so much protection just by standing there, just by existing. Of course this baby is also reliant on her wisdom, affection and milk. Should a young elephant become separated from it’s family, despite being taken in by people and being well fed, history has shown that pure grief over the loss can kill an elephant. Clearly this baby has her mother, she was so happy she could barely contain it as she ran around and swung her trunk all over the Serengeti.

Photographic Details: I wanted a photograph that visually expressed how large and important a mother can be to her calf. While the focus is on the baby elephant jovially swinging her trunk around, I wanted a background dominated by the body and textures of the mother towering over her, the same way a home would. Reminiscent of a classical portrait of a person with their home situated in the background if you will.

Canon EOS 7D 1/200s f/7.1 ISO400 400mm For #feelgoodfriday curated by +Rebecca Borg

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An elephantine case for HDR


Family of ElephantsSerengeti, Tanzania, Africa

As this family of elephants walked past us we were ever aware of the impending sunset. I took many photos of the elephants but what stood out were the ones with the leading elephant giving himself a dust bath as the sunset backlit the puff of serengeti ash. It’s these moments that I get very excited, the low golden light is paramount in photographing anything from wildlife and landscapes to portraits. This is where I knew I could get a stunning environmental portrait of this family, scenery and a sunset scene all in one. The major technical problem is the wide tonal range I was trying to capture: the bright highlights of the sun, clouds and landscape to the dark shadows of the elephants and foreground. This would be too much for my camera to take in all at once. I turned on the auto bracketing and multi burst shooting mode on my camera, holding down my shutter I rapidly fired off three exposures, one over exposed by two stops, one with normal exposure and he last under exposed. The three images combined provided me with an extra wide tonal range that captured everything I was looking at, this is what’s known as HDR, or High Dynamic Range. After firing off a few shots I thought, “I just +Trey Ratcliff ed it”.

Manual HDR version, click to enlarge:

Even before this I have already accepted HDR images as a legitimate photographic technique. A lot of people currently consider it “cheating” or “fake” the irony is that the images come out with a tonal range that more accurately reflects what a person would see in real life. To me, the fact that I use this technique is personal validation that HDR is here to stay and that this technique is just as good as any other a photographer keeps in their arsenal. This scene begged to be captured in a full range and this was the only way to do it with the available light. My first impression of HDR years ago appalled me, but no more than bad photography might appall me. These days there are plenty of great examples of masterfully processed HDR photos, and these photographers and the community in general is getting better every day. People tend to dislike images that are highly processed on a computer but then don’t complain about techniques that can be employed in camera. New cameras coming out will focus more on performance and image quality including doing HDR in camera, some with specialized sensors do it all the time. What will HDR dissenters think about that? When it becomes more about how the photo is taken it becomes a game, for me photography is about capturing truth and beauty, truly expressing the emotional power of being there, I couldn’t care less if the photography did headstands while doing it, it’s the photo that matters.

HDR Technique: I initially processed this in Photomatix, the de facto HDR processing software as far as I can tell. I like what it does but I don’t love the way it treats all the textures, coming out with too much contrast in unusual places, the software not being aware of the elephants natural smoothness it treats their skin like a texture that needs to be brought out, and it was too much. Other unusual artifacts produced by photomatix cause flaring on highlight edges and the images come out a little softer than I like, losing a bit of resolution. For this reason my final image was an HDR photo that I manually combined in photoshop. I layered each exposure on top of each other and kept each portion that was properly exposed for the final result. It ended up looking just the way I saw it without unusual artifacts and a more subdued contrast change. It will be interesting to see which image appeals most to people, so comment and let me know.

Photomatix HDR version:


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Elephant Sunburn


Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Animal Orphanage, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa This photo just taken hours ago is of a baby Elephant who lost his mother. Elephants are prone to sunburn too, and as a result the caretaker follows this little guy around with an umbrella on top of the sunscreen applied to him. In the wild elephants use mud to help prevent sunburn, but the young ones haven't learned how to properly slather on some wild mud sunblock yet. In addition a baby elephant is used to being in the shadow of his mother, being orphaned a caretaker with an umbrella is the next best thing to the sun protection his mother can provide.

To watch this little pachyderm bumble around while his caretaker hastily chases after him with an umbrella is hilarious, but entirely necessary to emulate the loving family environment that an elephant needs to survive. Without love and attention the elephants will to live wains eventually leading to death. It's this formula of creating a family of caretakers that created the first successful rearing of an orphaned african elephant, a program that has rescued over a hundred elephants from the loss of their families due to poaching.

For more on the animal orphanage see http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/

Sneaky elephants


Serengeti, Tanzania

On our short drive to the airport from our camp in the Serengeti we had to drive through a patch of jungle. Not really thinking about being on safari being our last hours in this wonderful place we were delighted by the sight of a hornbill bird bouncing around on a bunch of fallen trees scattered around the forest floor. That’s where we heard a loud crash behind us. This elephant was meters away this whole time, silently browsing. It looks like he decided he was too lazy to reach for the leaves atop a tree, therefore it was much less exhausting to topple it. This elephant just glanced at us while he gingerly picked a few leaves off his fallen prize then moved on to find something fresher.

It’s destructive habits like these that cause tension between the increasing human populations in Africa; people and elephants are more in need of land than ever, and the amount of it is shrinking.


Photographic Details: In my haste to photograph this I swung my lens around from the bird to the elephant. With no time to waste I pressed the shutter only to get some underexposed images from the previous settings I had. Thank goodness for RAW and lightroom, I was able to recover the details without any image degradation! Canon 7D 1/250s f/6.3 ISO800 400mm

If you like this, do me a favour and please share!

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A Critique: Silhouette of a family, BW or colour?


Serengeti, Tanzania, Africa. For todays post I want to do both my regular photo story but I also want a critique. The main question I want to know is do you like the colour or black and white version better? And why?

This was taken in the last few hours of this years photo safari. We were all ecstatic that just a few hundred meters from the airport we were still being greeted by scenic views and tonnes of wildlife, talk about a great send off for our final day!

Photographic Details: This troupe was making their way across the Serengeti and the backlighting isn’t ideal for photography. I began to think “well okay backlighting is tough for detail, so let’s focus on getting a silhouette”.

I like how easy it is to tell by their body language that this herd wasn’t just grazing, they were heading somewhere and on a mission. By working with the silhouette in mind I’ve taken advantage of the pros of this type of lighting instead of fighting against the cons. Canon EOS 7D, 100-400m L lens at 190mm, 1/320 shutter speed f7.1

So let me know, BW or colour?

Click on the thumbnail to open the gallery [gall columns="1" postcount="2" ]

More details on my photo safaris here: http://www.kylefoto.com/photographic-african-safaris/


I have to share some fantastic comments here that critique these photos better than I ever could!

Out of 31 we have 20 for colour and 9 for bw.

Your comments go beyond just this simple question though, all this talk about the context of the images, how or where someone is displaying these photos change the photos, and how the intention of the photo changes which image is more powerful.

+Kerry L +Brad Ganley and +Louisa Catharine Forsyth mention how the power and impact of the animals is much more pronounced in the BW version, that there is more emotion associated with it. +Jorge henrique Cordeiro hits the nail on the head with the black and white version being art but the colour version being more truthful to what africa actually looks like.

+Shawn Clover highlights that the blue and orange in the colour photographs are complimentary, likely a reason for the favour in the colour image.

More importantly this stellar interaction speaks to the intelligence and engagement of this community, you guys are incredible!



Thirsty baby elephant orphans


Hooray it’s #thirstythursdayDavid Sheldrick Animal Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa

Many animals including Rhinoceros and Elephants may become orphaned by poachers or loss of habitat. People have tried to raise elephant orphans and in doing so become a mother figure to the elephants. Some of the first attempts at raising these extremely social animals ended in tragedy as the need for love from a family had not been accounted for. This was unfortunately discovered when one of the pioneers of raising these animals Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick left for a week for wedding arrangements, only to return to baby “Aisha” in such a state of despair that she died in her arms.

Click for Larger image 

The Sheldrick animal orphanage now employs a large “family” of caretakers, each one loving and caring but the elephants are discouraged from becoming too attached to any single person. Instead the elephant is attached to the family as a whole to replace the orphans lost mother, which prevents any grief that the elephant may feel should a single caretaker be absent. This among other discoveries has led the orphanage to successfully raise over 80 elephants and return them to their community in Tsavo National park.

All these growing elephants are very hungry and require a lot of nourishment, the thirst for milk is palpable when caretakers bring out the jugs. The cows milk is not enough, and additional supplements of coconut is given to them to provide them with the correct fats that they need.


I took two photos of this, once with the bottle full and the other with it empty. My camera records the time each photo is taken, I want you to guess how many seconds it takes for this guy to chug the milk down and write your response in the comments. The answer the question is at the bottom of this post in white text, highlight the bottom of this post to see.

I will be returning here again on my next photo safaris in february and september next year! http://www.civilizedadv.com/trip_pages/trips/2012/KT120907.html



See also my african gallery here.

Please check out the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust website to find out more about what they are doing, and share this to get the word out! It’s my hope that I have inspired you a little bit! http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/


Highlight between here for the answer: [ This guy drank 5 litres in 9 seconds! What a machine!]