From the good old days…appreciating what you have

In a underground hide we realise the enormity of the african elephant

So, I’ve been spending some time in our photography archives recently, reviewing images taken many years ago that have been since banished to the depths of my hard drive. My hope was that I might previously have overlooked some gems which, ten years on and with a different eye, I might choose to resurrect and share here on Taraji Blue.
Thankfully my effort was not wasted…

Our photos from years gone by are such a departure from what we normally do – but rediscovering the SLR film images from 10 years ago is inspiring me to capture and portray techniques typically lost to DSLRS. I have spent so long chasing the dream of pixel perfect, sharp images that I have often forgotten what it’s like to be artistic with my images.

This year’s Wild Photos conference taught me that a good picture isn’t always a technically perfect one – sometimes it’s a sense of place/environment or a sense of the moment which is more enthralling. People don’t just want to observe our travels and images – they want to feel a sense of what is it like to be there… What it’s like to stare a male bull elephant in the face from ground level or what it’s like to see a lion chase for the first time. Or what emotions flow though your veins when you see a rhino for the first time…knowing that their time on this earth is numbered. Only by feeling these emotions or connecting to the wild and rugged environment will they ever develop a passion for supporting and preserving the environments and animals we hold so dear to our hearts. That’s why we’ve decided to share some images which are far from perfect, but to me, they convey a real sense of being there. And that’s what matters ­čÖé

To see more images from our archives please visit our Kenya gallery online – and let us know what you think of this ‘retro’ approach to wildlife photography.

Another image resurrected from our archive, taken using a Canon film SLR in Kenya 2004

Making a world changing movement accessible to us mere mortals

A Rare Sight

I blame Chinese Medicine for the destruction and annihilation of so much of the world’s wildlife. I do! …Rhino poaching, tiger poaching, songbird poaching, the ivory trade, lion bones, tiger bones, shark fins, birds nests …I could go on. I BLAME CHINA!. There, I’ve said it. I don’t feel any better for it…but I do feel it’s my duty to start saying this more often in the vain hope that it might change just one mind.

I have been accused before of using Taraji Blue as a forum for whinging and not doing much about anything – not taking any real action…and this comment has stuck with me. I’ve often wondered what more I can do if being a mere lonely voice is not enough. I sign petitions, I try and inform as many people as possible about what’s happening in the world (good and bad), I support conversation locally and internationally, I take pictures of what I see to convey conservation messages, we make movies to inspire conversations and conservation, I donate to charities and I do my bit to champion the cause – I’ve written to MPs and I’ve boycotted places whose ethics I don’t agree with. I consider msyelf and ethical and eco tourist.

However I have recently had a bit of an epiphany. At this year’s Wild Photos symposium in London the idea was floated that, as photographers, it’s our role to communicate the message. To tell stories through imagery, to stimulate emotional reactions in people which, ultimately, can help to inspire conservation. This has become my mission. If, though our photography we can change just one mind or enlighten just one person to conservation causes in today’s world then I consider myself to have done a good deed and our photography is paying back.

This is ultimately why Alistair and I do what we do – and why we’re not going to stop speaking on behalf of mother nature and all animals who live under her skies. If you’re not interested, fair enough (more fool you!). But if you’re reading this post I urge you, on behalf of future generations, to share a core conservation message which impacts you most. It takes just one second and, who knows, maybe our voices might collectively reach China one day?

To soften or not to soften? That is the question

The Light of the Land

So the age old photography mantra is to capture sharp images. But since I have started taking infrared shots I have found myself experimenting with post processing like never before.

Some new effects which are gradually introducing themselves to my processing regime include boosting contrast to crazy levels, softness, graining and vignetting. (!) I know, I know… I said I would never post process to this extent, but I do love the way that infrared light challenges preconceptions about sharpness and detail. All of a sudden the detail almost does not matter – the light is the star of the picture, not the subject. And as long as I disclose how I post process, then surely there is no harm in a little creative experimentation?

That’s how I see my infrared photography… it’s more of an art form, a creative experiment, a play on expectations and the norm, it’s painting with monochrome – for grown ups :)Take for example the image to the left. ┬áThis is a very soft image, purposefully created in this way to accentuate the light and concentrate the focus on the bands of lights that help to illuminate the single tree.┬áI have purposefully framed the shot so that the light and the tree top are the main focus, complemented by the foliage at the foot of the shot and the dark endless African sky above.

Compare this to a sharper version of the shot (right). I like both, but I feel that the detail in the image to the right somehow detracts from the beauty and rawness of the image. Sometimes all you need is light?

But I’d love to know which you prefer!

Other infrared shots from Taraji Blue are available in our online infrared gallery.

A lone African tree captured in monochrome

Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park – A Taraji Blue Trip Report

We’ve been receiving quite a lot of requests for advice about African safaris recently, which has inspired me to reshare links to our trip report for the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park in South Africa.

We initially wrote this trip report as a HUGE thank you to everyone on the SANParks forums for their fantastic advice and support when we were planning the trip -without them this would not have been a trip of a lifetime. I urge you to join their forums if you’re planning a trip – their enthusiasm alone will have you counting down the days until your holiday starts ­čÖé

Enjoy – and safe travelling!

Humpbacks breaching, dassies pushing mountains and cheetahs hunting: our new South African gallery is online

An hour before sunset the plains of Africa are bathed in a glorious golden light

In June 2013 we did a self drive round the Eastern Cape of South Africa, taking in Addo Elephant National Park, Mountain Zebra National Park and The Garden Route National Park. It was a glorious trip to parks and places that were completely new to us.

Seeking adventure opposed to the big five allowed us to take a slower and more more ‘African’ approach to safari. We meandered through the parks daily, taking time to get to know our surroundings, wait for the right light and find out which animals lived where. Doing so enabled us to not only obtain some wonderful photos, but it also enabled us to concentrate on one subject at a time – whether that be the mega elephant herds of Addo, the PCGs of Mountain Zebra or the changing seascape and frolicking whales in┬áTsitsikamma.

I never expected to fall so much in love with the Eastern Cape, but it’s enchanting. ┬áThe coastlines are rugged, the sea is breathtakingly blue and the skies extend to the heavens seemingly forever.

We have shared the first batch of photos from our trip on the Taraji Blue website. For images of humpbacks breaching, dassies pushing mountains, cheatahs hunting and glorious huge moons, visit our new photo gallery on the Taraji Blue website.

Additional images from our previous trips to South Africa are also available on the Taraji Blue website.