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Wildcats in Africa: an article about cheetahs

Очередной выпуск моего авторского Блога. 
The life of wild cheetahs in Kenya, a report from a photojournalist. Interesting story and beautiful photos

Блог #49 | Republic of Kenya - beautiful pictures from the habitat of cheetahs


Блог #49. Life of a gheetah family in Kenya. Foto от MatchFixingBet.Ru




Traveling to Kenya to document an animal family's dynamics


Блог #49. As adults, cheetahs climb trees. Foto от MatchFixingBet.Ru


When my usual adventures to
far-off places were curtailed
due to the pandemic, I was
determined to photograph
something (anything, really), so I spent
an extended period photographing a sin-
gle stretch of beach in Northern Califor-
nia. That process of shooting one single
subject—although challenging and often
frustrating—pushed me creatively in ways
I’d never experienced before.

The result was not only a series of photo-
graphs that I loved but also a deeper exam-
ination of the single-subject concept, as
I discussed in Outdoor Photographer in
May 2021. In the summer of 2022, as I was
packing my bags and heading for the wide-
open savannahs of Kenya’s Maasai Mara
National Reserve, I wondered if I could
use that same idea to photograph wildlife.

My portfolio reflects the extensive
hours I’ve spent photographing animals,
and reviewing those images told me that
I tend to get the safe shots: zoom all the
way in, fill the frame, wait for the moment
and press the shutter. If I’m honest with
myself, I think I lean on those shots
because I’ve spent so much money and
time to get to those places to make pho-
tographs of those animals that I want to
make sure I come home with something.

But that’s not necessarily the best plan.
In looking at my past work, I realized
that I wasn’t taking many risks—and with-
out risk, creativity suffers.

So, on my return trip to Kenya, I gave
myself a challenge: I’d only photograph a
single family of cheetahs. This constraint
meant I needed a variety of shots showing
different aspects of their lives. It became
clear to me that I wanted to move beyond
getting a few cute headshots that would be
good enough for social media. I wanted
to tell a bigger story.


Planning Is Everything


Although the single-subject idea helped
make the actual photography more
focused, I found it took more intense plan-
ning than my previous trips. Flexibility
was crucial to capture a diverse portfolio
of a single family, so I packed everything
from my wide-angle lens to a super tele-
photo. I also spent time studying other
photographers’ cheetah photographs—not
to copy them but to be inspired by the
range of possibilities.

Since animals do their own thing, you
can’t truly plan what shots you want to
make. Instead, you need to come up with a
philosophy to guide you. Renowned wild-
life photographer and friend Paul Nicklen
talks about his 20/60/20 rule: spend the
first 20% of your time getting the easy
photographs out of the way; then spend
the next 60% pushing yourself to make
photographs that really stretch both your
technique and your vision; and finally,
spend the last 20% trying for crazy “once-
in-a-lifetime” shots.


Trusting The Process


Блог #49. The speed of cheetahs is legendary. Foto от MatchFixingBet.Ru


Fifty hours after leaving my home in
California, my guide, James, and I were
out looking for cheetahs in Kenya. I’ve
learned that there’s nothing more valuable
than working with a local guide no mat-
ter where I travel. James has lived in the
Maasai Mara area all of his life and knows
the land and the habits of the animals. Not
only was he able to find the cheetahs, but
I could also tell him which images I was
hoping for so that I’d have the best chance
of making them.

On our first game drive, I found the
subject for my project: a resident cheetah
family of a mother and three cubs. I shot
like crazy, thrilled at my luck in finding
the cats on my first day. When we returned
to camp, I couldn’t wait to download and
review my images.

Performing this step after every outing
is a crucial part of my process; it helps
me look for any technical issues and crit-
ically view the images as a body of work
to ensure the photographs I’m making are
telling the story I want to tell.

And yet, it was that step of the process
that brought my excitement crashing down.
My initial image review was wildly unim-
pressive. Every frame was just another ani-
mal portrait, the same thing I always shot:
clean, nice light and good expression.

It turns out I’d covered Paul Nicklen’s
“first 20%” on my first evening. So, I
ticked “cheetah yearbook photos” off my
list and vowed not to shoot any more of
those on this trip. Instead, I’d push both
my technique and my vision far out of my
comfort zone.


Making Rules


Блог #49. A cheetah’s spots are distinctive out in the open. Foto от MatchFixingBet.Ru


It would have been easiest to swear off
using my long lens, but since it’s impossi-
ble to know how close you’ll be able to get
to an animal, I knew that wasn’t the right
approach. So instead, I came up with five
shooting rules to help guide the process:

• The cheetahs should be a smaller part
of the photograph.
• The animals need to be actively doing
something and not just sitting there.
• Vary the focal lengths in scenes for
more story options.
• Try to tell the story of the cheetah in
its environment to show where and
how it lives.
• Most importantly—don’t give up.

The last rule is critical (and the one
I had to consciously remind myself of
most often) because I’d come back on
many days without much that inspired
me. While the images were different from
my typical portraits, I just wasn’t thrilled
with the results.

But instead of chucking them into the
trash, I started thinking of them as “sketch
images”—ideas of what I wanted to cap-
ture that I hadn’t successfully executed.

Having that visual gave me something
to work toward on the next game drive.

Sketch images became one of the best
learning tools to help me build this body
of work.


Narrowing Focus


Focusing on a single subject allows unex-
pected things to happen. For example, the
cheetah cubs decided our vehicle would
be the perfect prop for their game of chase
one morning. It started as running past the
vehicle but quickly escalated to running
under it, doing laps and at one point, stop-
ping to stare at the odd mammal with a
camera to his eye who came to watch them
every day. Most of the time, the animals
were far enough away that I needed at
least a 200mm lens to frame a scene, but
in this instance, looking into the eyes of a
cheetah through a 24mm lens is something
I’ll never forget!

As my image reviews progressed, I
refined my rules. Once I was comfortable
that I had a subject covered, I became
more focused and could concentrate solely
on a specific behavior, such as the mother
grooming a cub or cheetahs playing. This
eliminated my desire to chase every single
bit of action so I could concentrate on
refining my images.


Tell A Bigger Story


With any photography trip, there’s always
a fear you’re missing out on something
because there’s no way you can shoot
everything. And as I sat on the plane
headed for home, I couldn’t help but
reect on the adventure and ask myself
if the experiment was worth it.

Unquestionably, it was. Not only do I
know a lot more about cheetahs than I did
when I arrived, but also my images are
much more expressive. I’ve also learned
to think about “bodies of work” instead
of individual images to tell a bigger story.

A body of work is rooted in a definable
idea and tells a story; it has a beginning,
middle and end, and every element in the
series builds on the theme. Discovering
the power of bodies of work means I no
longer want to concentrate on making that
“perfect Instagram shot.” I’m much more
interested in using multiple images over
time to tell a story with greater nuance and
depth. I now use this approach in my wild-
life photography and in my underwater
and landscape photography as well—this
process works for all genres.

To think in terms of bodies of work,
you don’t need to travel to Africa or any
other far-off locale; the ideas I’ve shared
in this article also work for local projects.
Building long-term relationships with
parks or animal shelters is a great way to
get access to subjects to learn about them
and potentially use your photography to
help those organizations tell stories and
raise awareness.

So, whether you’re shooting around the
world or around the corner, be prepared,
plan and think about creating a body of
work that’s broader and, perhaps, more
meaningful than a single frame.<

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