More Misadventures in Film Photography

A few weeks ago, we went on safari at Chitwan National Park. Chitwan has a good population of rhinoceroses and tigers, among other animals, and we were hopeful of some sightings. Normally, I’d take a digital camera for a trip like this, but my only long lens at the moment is a Nikon 70-210 mm, so I took the FM2,

It didn’t work out as planned. Besides the dust marks on the negative scanner, which can be fixed in easily in post, many of the negatives were marked with streaks and bizarre colors. It’s possible that the problem was with my film, but it’s just as likely that the developer’s technique and/or chemicals were off. In the future, I’ll develop my own color film. In the meantime, here are some images corrected as best as I can do.

elephants, flamingos, giraffes, hyenas and jackals

from cats and dung beetles we quickly move on through the next few letters of the alphabet …

first, a breeding herd of elephants, and they’re breeding. no, that’s not the baby elephant’s trunk in the last photo.

20130116_Tanzania_198 20130116_Tanzania_203 20130116_Tanzania_227

then onto flamingos. barely pink flamingoes, but flamingos nonetheless.

20130118_Tanzania_507 20130118_Tanzania_515 20130118_Tanzania_510

the giraffes are very graceful, in an awkward way.

20130116_Tanzania_283     20130116_Tanzania_277
20130116_Tanzania_310 20130116_Tanzania_294 20130116_Tanzania_280

jackals are part of the canine family, while hyenas aren’t, and if there were any “i” animals, i didn’t spot them. check out the teeth!

20130117_Tanzania_219 20130115_Tanzania_243 20130115_Tanzania_247
20130118_Tanzania_052 20130118_Tanzania_062

and that’s enough of the safari for now.

next: something that isn’t the safari.

dung beetles

yes, this is the fabled scarab beetle when he's working his day job.
yes, this is the fabled scarab beetle when he’s working his day job.

the cats are impressive predators, but if you want to see some real mano-a-mano combat, you won’t do better than the lowly dung beetle. dung beetles feed on dung, and they play with their food by rolling it into balls and pushing it into tunnels that they’ve built. brooding pairs also lay their eggs in the balls of dung as protection; the dung then serves as a food source for the beetle larvae. according to wikipedia, a male dung beetle can roll up to 10 times its own weight in dung; as an interesting side note, dung beetles are the only insects that navigate at night by the position of the stars.

despite the ample quantity of dung in the serengeti, dung beetles will try to steal each others’ dung balls, and this leads to heated battles (click on each image to enlarge it):

20130118_Tanzania_370 20130118_Tanzania_371
the battle is joined … … and the roller is victorious.
20130118_Tanzania_373 20130118_Tanzania_375
our challenger tries again … … and again is defeated.
20130118_Tanzania_378 20130118_Tanzania_380
this must be one hell of a ball of dung. knocked down again!


as you can see in the last post, the wildebeest are often accompanied by zebras; and if i’d been on this safari while i was in high school, i’d have majored in zoology at college and studied them. in addition to looking really fabulous – according to wikipedia, it really is white stripes and bellies on a black coat – they are remarkably social animals.  they move in herds (“harems”, usually one stallion and 5-6 mares) by themselves, but they also accompany other foragers on their travels.  we frequently saw lines of wildebeest plodding across the plain with a few zebras standing lookout:

perhaps it’s the uniform.

they’re also very vocal – we heard them whinnying and barking all night long. not the noise i’d expected them to make.

20130117_Tanzania_155 20130117_Tanzania_158 20130118_Tanzania_393
look at that face. one theory is that the stripes serve as camouflage. which body does the head go with?
20130115_Tanzania_266 20130116_Tanzania_308
honestly, these guys will hang out with anyone.

again, i could post a hundred photos of zebras, but i’ll do that later.

next: cats

wildebeest on the serengeti

the serengeti airport.

the serengeti ecosystem, in the north of tanzania and the southwest of kenya, stretches over some 12,000 square miles. the serengeti is the home of the maasai, and the name itself comes from the maasai word “serengit,” which means “endless plain.” apart from a few rocky outcroppings, a few forests, and the rare hill, the name describes the area pretty well: unlike ngorongoro crater, there is almost nothing to stop you from looking miles into any direction …

20130117_Tanzania_452 20130115_Tanzania_037 20130115_Tanzania_252
20130116_Tanzania_423 20130118_Tanzania_724 20130115_Tanzania_262

… that is, nothing except wildebeest. january is prime wildebeest migrating season, and the plains were full of them. by one estimate, 1.2 million wildebeest will travel through the serengeti during their annual migration, along with 750,000 zebra and hundreds of thousands of other game. we surely saw hundreds of thousands of them during our stay. (i lost count after eight.)

20130115_Tanzania_045 20130119_Tanzania_010 _DSC7483

i have more photos of wildebeest, but to avoid gnu overload, i’ll save those for another post, and end with this one of a wildebeest in full gallop instead.  500mm lens, 1/15 second at f/27 while panning – a happy accident.


ngorongoro crater – part 2

as i mentioned in the last post, the big five safari animals are the cape buffalo, the lion, the black rhinoceros, the elephant, and the leopard.  we saw plenty of elephants.

fig. 1b. the same elephant.
two shots of the same elephant.

generally, we saw the elephants in singles or pairs, but at one point we came across an entire breeding herd. the light was fairly harsh, so the shot isn’t quite what i’d have liked, but you have to take these things as you find them.

if there were leopards in the ngorongoro crater, we didn’t see any.  however, the real draw – in fact, the reason we were in tanzania at all – was the wildebeest.  also known as gnus, wildebeest migrate through east africa to follow the rains.  over the entire safari, we saw hundreds of thousands of these beasts, although the majority of them were on the serengeti.  we got just a taste of them (so to speak) here.


i took many more photos than just these, of course, but one of the next few blog posts will be stupid with photos of wildebeest, so i’ll leave it here for now.

next: even more critters.

ngorongoro crater

from dubai, we flew to arusha, tanzania, to go on safari.  we chose ngorongoro crater and the serengeti because the wildebeest migrate through southern tanzania in january, and who doesn’t want to see a wildebeest migration?  fun fact: ngorongoro crater was formed by a volcano that exploded and collapsed in upon itself 2-3 million years ago.  it is about 2,000 feet deep and 100 square miles in area, with unbroken walls all the way around the crater.

it's pretty damn big.

it’s pretty damn big.

in going through my photos, i see that i shot 49 photographs – at least half of which i’ve already deleted – of cape buffalo in 12 minutes so let’s get to them first:

20130113_Tanzania_061 20130113_Tanzania_069 20130113_Tanzania_076

the cape buffalo are one of the “big five” that you’re supposed to look for on a safari: the cape buffalo, the elephant, the lion, the black rhinoceros, and the leopard.  as it happened, we came upon the lion fairly quickly, although it wasn’t quite what we expected:


now i know that my dog isn’t sunbathing in the driveway: he’s practicing to be a lion.

the lionesses were a little more attentive, but this group had eaten recently enough that they weren’t in a mood to hunt … which isn’t to say that they didn’t think about it.

20130114_Tanzania_088 20130114_Tanzania_090 20130114_Tanzania_139

as it happens, we’d seen this group with their kill the previous afternoon, but we were too far away to get a good detail shot.  note the hyenas on the periphery; the lionesses had been eating for a while.

note the hyenas on the periphery; the lionesses had been eating for a while.

finally (for this post), the black rhinoceros proved to be the most difficult to find. as we drove through the crater, we managed to spy some off in the distance.  using the best rhino-enhancing software, this is what i got:

apparently, rhinos are pretty social creatures.

next: more critters.