Untamed Images Blog

    Adventures in Nature Photography

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    Monkey Business


    A very young grey langur (a type of Old World Monkey) pauses momentarily on a rock wall in Bandhavgarh National Park in India.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 200 mm, 1/1250 sec at f/4, ISO 800

    When we had no luck with tigers, there were usually monkeys or other animals around to keep us engaged. This little guy was quite playful, bounding back and forth along the top of a rock wall near the roadside. At times he would stop and stare directly into my lens, allowing me to capture images of his expressive countenance. This youngster demonstrated an obvious sense of curiosity as well as a high degree of comfort around people in their vehicles, but he never strayed too far from the safety of his mother’s protection — just in case!

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    Sloth Bear!


    A rarely-sighted sloth bear ((Melursus ursinus) rears up on its hind legs as a vehicle loaded with tourists looks on. Bandhavgarh National Park, India.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 217 mm, 1/160 sec at f/4, ISO 1600

    On our first Indian game drive (they call each game drive a “safari” in India), Alison and I were really anxious to see a tiger – any tiger. Two hours into the drive we had detected no sign of a tiger — no footprints seen, and no monkey or deer alarm calls heard. Even though it was very, very early in the trip, I was beginning to contemplate just how unlikely seeing a tiger might be. After all, we were mostly in dense jungle, confined to the jeep road, and tigers tend to be most active at night. Could we have traveled halfway around the globe on an exercise in futility?

    All of a sudden, Vijay, our naturalist and driver, announced, “Sloth bear!” I must confess: up to that point, I had only a vague notion of what a sloth bear looked like. In a strange coincidence, Vijay, who has seen countless tigers in his lengthy career, had told us story the previous evening about one of his favorite sightings. It involved a sloth bear, not a tiger. He described a sloth bear encounter in which the bear was very cooperative, even getting on its hind legs to rub its back on a tree situated right on the edge of the road. It made such a lasting impression on him that he had memorized the tree in question and has been referring to it as “the bear tree” ever since. His story was captivating, but the way he recounted it made me think that our chances of having a similar sighting were about as good as encountering a unicorn.

    In Bandhavgarh National Park, India, a sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) moves through a bamboo forest.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 400 mm, 1/320 sec at f/4, ISO 1600

    Yet, here we were: the lone vehicle in close proximity to this shaggy, black, dust-mop of an animal as it shuffled through the dry forest. Its path roughly paralleled the road, where we were able to follow it, allowing our encounter to stretch beyond thirty minutes. At some point, a couple of other vehicles joined us, but our viewing opportunities were not diminished. Twice the bear reared up on his hind legs and rubbed himself on a tree in full view of our vehicle. Was it scratching an itch? Scent-marking? Striking a pose of intimidation? It is impossible to know for sure, but at certain moments each of those explanations seemed the most apt.

    Amazingly, with this sloth bear encounter, we had seen our unicorn, or lightning had struck twice, or [insert favorite rarity cliche here] had occurred. How greedy will you think me when I admit the following: While I felt extremely fortunate to have had this wildlife encounter, there was still a voice in my head intoning, “Where are the tigers?”

    A sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) sniffs a tree trunk in Bandhavgarh National Park, India.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 200 mm, 1/160 sec at f/4, ISO 1600

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    Link 7


    A young male tiger calmly stares at the camera in Kanha National Park, India.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF600mm f/4L IS II USM +2.0x at 1200 mm, 1/100 sec at f/10, ISO 400

    We found this tiger on the far side of a large water hole on our second day in Kanha National Park. Our naturalist and jeep driver, Vinod Ayam, immediately recognized the cat as Link 7, a young male who had recently been spending time in the vicinity while trying to avoid several mature (and dominant) male tigers. Link 7 was named after a road in the park that was at the epicenter of his mother’s territory when he was born.

    After a few minutes Link 7 walked slowly to the water’s edge, waded into the water, plopped down to cool himself, and began drinking while continuing his soak. After he’d drunk his fill, he got up and briefly patrolled the earthen bank between the water hole and road before lying down on the bank right in front of us. Everything he did was in slow motion. No wonder — even though it was still morning, the temperature was climbing rapidly towards the day’s high of 110°F (43°C), making it one of Kanha’s hottest days of the year.

    He was completely at ease in our presence, despite the fact that half-a-dozen jeeps were being repositioned just yards away from him in order to give their occupants a better viewing angle. Our jeep was positioned perfectly, and I relished the opportunity to capture a frame-filling portrait of this tiger’s striking face. We spent nearly an hour with Link 7 before his siesta was rudely interrupted by the approach of one of the aforementioned dominant males. When Link 7 became aware that Rajaram, was nearing the water hole, he ran off in the opposite direction in a hurry, leaving all notions of slow-motion movement (literally) in the dust!

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    A tigress on her way to water stops and stares in central India's Bandhavgarh National Park.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF600mm f/4L IS II USM at 600 mm, 1/500 sec at f/4, ISO 800

    Alison and I returned home last week from a trip to two of India’s best National Parks for tiger sightings. Before leaving, we weren’t even sure that we’d be lucky enough to see a single tiger, given the fact that tigers spend a large fraction of their time in dense jungle and tend to be more active at night than during the day. But the prospect of seeing this magnificent animal in its natural habitat had us willing to roll the dice. As it turns out, we were quite fortunate. We saw fifteen different tigers including a mother with four older cubs still under her care.

    We increased our chances for tiger sightings by planning our trip for late May and early June. These are historically the hottest days of the year in central India, but also the timeframe when tiger sightings are most common. We endured some searingly hot days in an open jeep, were constantly covered in a layer of fine dust, and were even soaked by several pre-monsoonal thunderstorms. However, any of those discomforts were quickly forgotten when a tiger came into view.

    We both thought this might be our one and only trip to India, but it was so rewarding that future trips to see more tigers, not to mention the other Indian wildlife, have become a real possibility.

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    A silverback mountain gorilla caught in a pensive moment in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +1.4x at 200 mm, 1/320 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800

    Today, March 3, 2016, is World Wildlife Day. I am taking a moment to remember one of my favorite wildlife encounters: gorilla trekking in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Being close to the gorillas and watching them in their natural environment was absolutely magical.

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    A lion stands over a kill in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, as more than a dozen spotted hyenas plan their next move to take it from him.

    Canon EOS-1DS, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS at 190mm, 1/30 sec at f/5.6, ISO 1250

    Today I share this photo, taken ages ago, in Honor of World Lion Day, because to me it symbolizes the indomitable spirit of the African lion. The year was 2004 and Alison and I were on safari in Kenya with our friends Stacy and Greg. Dusk was approaching and we were just about to head back to camp, but when we noticed hyenas moving rapidly, purposefully, across the savannah, we knew we had to follow them to see where they were headed.

    Read the entire post…

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    A young male giraffe struts his stuff in Etosha National Park in Nambia.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 239 mm, 1/3200 sec at f/4.5, ISO 400

    In late spring of this year, Alison and I spent nearly two weeks in Etosha National Park in Namibia with a group organized by our friends Gary and JudyLynn Malloch. We spent many hours parked near various waterholes and observed plenty of interesting animal behavior, but one our favorite things to witness were the giraffes when then would get rambunctious. Since there was no predator nearby at the time, and because none of the other giraffes present in the vicinity appeared agitated, it is impossible to know why this particular animal was so riled up. But it was pure joy to watch the strangeness that is a giraffe exuberantly kicking and bucking, reminding us in a way of an elongated rodeo bronco in slow motion.

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    A pair of klipspringers pause momentarily to investigate the human intruders passing through their remote Namibian neighborhood.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 400 mm, 1/800 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

    “Did you see those?”, Alison exclaimed, and I snapped my gaze to the rocky area where she was pointing. Somehow, while steering our 4-by-4 vehicle over a rugged gravel road in the middle of a vast, desolate — yet starkly beautiful — Namibian landscape, Alison managed to spy some klipspringers amongst the rocky terrain flying past our windows. She asked me if I wanted to try to photograph them and I excitedly replied, “Definitely. But I’ll need to find my camera first.” Because the roads we were driving between Windhoek (Namibia’s capital city) and Namib-Naukluft National Park (our destination) were so punishing that I feared my cameras would soon be bounced onto the truck’s floor, and because the areas we were traversing were so seemingly lifeless, I had packed every last bit of my photo gear inside my camera bag now locked in the pick-up’s covered bed.

    The klipspringer (which literally means “rock jumper” in Afrikaans) is one of the smallest antelope species in the world, and in my experience they are accordingly secretive and shy. Therefore, I was not optimistic we would see those klipspringers again after bringing the vehicle to a halt, retrieving my camera bag, attaching lens to camera, u-turning the vehicle and driving the few hundred yards back to the location of the sighting. Boy, was I wrong. There they were, standing on the same rock and being extremely cooperative as Alison positioned the 4-by-4 in the optimal spot. At first, they stared at us, then the buck apparently had other things on his mind and he began intently sniffing the doe’s hind end while she continued staring at our truck. Then, as if he realized that it was not the time for romance, the buck joined the doe in locking his investigative gaze on us.

    A few moments later, perhaps thinking that they tolerated our presence long enough, both klipspringers took off in a flash, zipping away through the rocky terrain at a velocity that seemed impossibly fast. Even though the encounter lasted only a few minutes from start to finish, it was totally unexpected and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to photograph this usually elusive antelope species. And to Alison a hearty, “Well spotted!”

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    The Grevy's Zebra, pictured here, is a endangered species of zebra found only in Northern Kenya and in small pockets within Ethiopia.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x at 700 mm, 1/1600 sec at f/8, ISO 400

    True confession: My latest image gallery comprising pictures from Northern Kenya has been online for a while, but until now I neglected to announce its debut on this blog. So, better late than never, right?

    The gallery includes images of such Northern Kenya specialties as Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, and Somali ostrich. The gallery also features both black and white rhinos, cheetahs, and lions.

    You can see the entire gallery here.

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    Click on any photo below to access a higher resolution version. Click again (or press the ESC key) to close high res version. Left and right arrow keys allow quick navigation to previous/next picture.

    A leopard lies in the grass digesting a huge meal.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 400 mm, 1/250 sec at f/5, ISO 800

    A leopard endures an onslaught of annoying flies while waiting for hunger to strike again.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 200 mm, 1/400 sec at f/4, ISO 1600

    The pictures below are the graphic ones. You have been warned! Read the entire post…

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