Traveling Photographer

The least enjoyable part of what I do involves travel. To the airport, wait in line, wait in line, wait in line, sit on a crowded plane, wait in line… you get the picture. But the travel is what makes many of the fun things possible. And that now includes another photo safari to Africa, which I just returned from.

I’ve been lucky enough to lead four safaris to Africa now, and each one’s been special in its own way. This was my third trip to Tanzania – the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. The advantage of having been before is that not only am I able to focus on the needs of the clients, but when I am shooting the animals, I’m looking for more than just a nice close-up. And that’s something I always suggest to those on the trip – get

The reflection of the hyena after drinking is what caught my eye, as a different kind of picture. Nikon D7000, 200-400mm f/4 lens, ISO 200, f/4 at 1/2000, EV -.7. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

your nice animal shot, but then look for interaction, what the animals do around each other. That usually makes better pictures.

The first couple of days of the trip were perfect examples of this. We had some great opportunities to shoot many different animals, from elephants to lions to leopards. And then once we had those, we could slow down a little, be more choosy on what we stopped for, and look for the unusual. For me, the first opportunity came when we followed a hyena to a pool of water. It drank, then laid down to cool off. Those all made nice shots, but when it stood up to leave, what I saw, and then shot, was the reflection.

The next morning we visited the Hippo Pool, where large numbers of hippos gather to… well, it mostly involves lots of bubbles. We went early so we could stay as long as we wanted. And we got the usual shots of yawning, mouth displays and babies with adults. But just as

I loved it when the elephant smeared the mud all over its head. And it seemed to enjoy it too! Nikon D7000, 200-400mm f/4 lens, ISO 250, f/4.5 at 1/1000, EV -.7. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

we were thinking of leaving, a fight broke out between two older ones. There was even blood in the water, though when they stopped it appeared neither suffered any serious injuries.

And that’s the way the rest of the trip went for us. Moments – elephants slathering themselves in mud, hyenas socializing, male wildebeests defending their harems, a pair of ostriches doing a mating dance. As our guide Yusuf told us, no trip to the Serengeti is ever the same. The animals and the land are always changing. And that change, those moments, are what makes it so special for a photographer.