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?

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.

Review: The Masters of Nature Photography

mastersnaturephotography

The Masters of Nature Photography is a hardcover book published via the Natural History Museum (UK) and is very closely linked to the globally renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. I bought this book a month ago but an article today by the Guardian (tdlr; welcome, but incomplete) prompted me to revisit it and write up the thoughts it provoked in me.

It’s unusual, but this is one book where the photographs are outshone by the words. You’ll have seen many of the wonderful images before, and the Guardian article exhibits them nicely, but this isn’t the point of the book. The point of the book is to explain, to give insight into the encounter, or the challenge, or – and I felt this particularly in a 21st century, high capability culture – to get a sense of how difficult things were in the past, even just 10 years ago with low ISO film and constrained decision making ability. It is the text that should warrant your investment in this book, rather than the photographs – particularly you, the photographer, but also you, the awe-struck citizen who admires the dream-makers.

Keen wildlife photographers will known Rosamund Kidman Cox well, who provides the introduction (and I assume some oversight!) to the book – Ros was editor of BBC Wildlife magazine for 23 years and has been involved in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competitions and particularly the annual compendiums resulting from the competition, as well as a very welcome fixture at the annual WildPhotos conference held at the Royal Geographical Society in London. A comment she makes in the introduction appeals to me:

“Though the tools they work with are far better than in the days of film, tools are just tools. Knowledge and experience, and vision and passion, are still the most crucial elements.”

The book spans 30 years of wildlife photography and picks out only 10 photographers – each choose 10 of their favourite images. 10 photographers is a small number, but they are 10 who delineate almost the whole spectrum of wildlife photography, with different (conflicting?) views, different equipment, different vision, and different risk levels.

I dare not spoil the prize that awaits the purchaser of the book too much, but some personal highlights – just 5 of 100 images – of humility, integrity, and steely arrogance stand out:

  • “Sometimes I look at this picture and think I can’t believe I shot it” (Ice Wolf, Jim Brandenburg, 1968 on Kodachrome 64 (I would think the same today with a 5D3 on 4000 ISO))
  • Baby Clowns by David Doubilet – if I have seen this photograph before I don’t think I can have spent enough time on it to understand it at all. When I first saw the photo – in the book, the typical layout is one image facing text on the opposite page – I might still have skirted over it, which says more about me than the photographer or designer – we are too fast, too quick to decide on our indulgence in a new thing, too quick to dismiss. This is an utterly, utterly astonishing photograph which brings tears to my eyes and shows astonishing vision, both technically and emotionally, on the part of the photographer.
  • “The last mega-mammals on Earth, running out of time” (Twilight Of The Giants, Frans Lanting, 1988 and a near-perfect shot for many new photographers to dream about)
  • “I moved around until I found a good angle and then waited a few hours until the swans had finished resting” (Volcano Swans, Vincent Munier, 2008 – great photographers wait, and it’s because they know something always happens; you have to be in the right place, time will sort itself out)
  • “It was too late.” (Whiskey, Michael “Nick Nichols”, 1989 – I can’t even look at this photograph, let alone think of creating it.)

There are many more, and photographers I haven’t mentioned who are no less deserving of inclusion in the book but for whom I’d rather people read the book and give each page time to sink in. This isn’t just a coffee table photography book, it’s a compelling journey through the minds and the eyes of the photographers who have awakened a renewed sense of natural belonging, risk and hope, and who have successfully brought it into the public eye, in part through such valuable events as WPOTY. For the new and aspiring wildlife photographer I would be likely to recommend this book above almost others in that it gives both breadth and depth – for the experienced wildlife photographer, well, if you aren’t continually aspiring and haven’t seen anything new recently then I’d go and seek out that, and take the book with you to inspire your journey.