Martin Creasser Nature Photography
2007 Calendar Project
In September 2006 I again visited Kenya and again some of the images that I took were used to
make a 2007 Calendar, which was sold to raise more funds for the RSPB and Nature Kenya. Below you can see a thumbnail
of each of the twelve images that were chosen by my work colleagues, and some background narrative to accompany each one.
The final amount raised through sales of this calendar is £7,026 which, as with the £6,000 raised last year has been split equally between the two charities.
I have already planned my 2007 trip to Kenya and obviously hope that I can raise some more money with a 2008 calendar
January - Lilac-breasted Roller
Letís start the year as we mean to go on with a riot of colour! Taken in the Masai mara, this is one of 5 species of Roller in Kenya
and is probably the commonest. Despite this I didnít get a shot that I was happy with throughout the whole of my 2005 trip.
I was more successful this time and managed to get a few acceptable shots. There is still room for improvement next time however,
if only I had more control over the weather and could guarantee every evening a sunset as beautiful as the one on our first day in
the mara, when I took the Cheetah which is the August image. Ah well, Iíll have to try again next time!
February - Elephant
This was taken in Samburu which as well as being fantastic for Leopard is also a great place for Elephant. In Samburu they
are extremely tolerant of safari vehicles and if you stay quite and turn off the engine they completely ignore you so you
can see some wonderful natural relaxed behaviour. This was not the youngest that we saw, some of which could only have been
days old and were still tottering about precariously. It seemed to be trying to imitate one of the adults, which was kicking
the grass and simultaneously pulling it out in large chunks with its trunk. It certainly hadn't mastered the technique
and at times looked more like it was dancing as you can see here.
March - Malachite Kingfisher
This is one of the 7 species of Kingfisher that have been recorded at Lake Baringo, and one of the three that I photographed
on this visit. Each morning at 06:30 I set off with two guides and a driver in a small boat to cruise around the edges of the
lake where the Kingfishers fish from low vantage points. On spotting a kingfisher I would tell the driver how to approach the
bird and when to cut the engine. We would then glide very slowly into position, and, when ready, I would ask him to stop the boat.
In some instances when the water was very shallow, he would get out and push the boat into position, despite the abundant crocodiles
in the lake! He wasnít worried about crocs but Hippos were a different matter! The bird is very tiny and difficult to approach, so
this exercise was repeated time and time again, 2 hours per day, (by 8.30 the light is too harsh to control), for three days, until
I was confident that I had enough decent shots. During this time I had to be very focussed on this one species to get the quality
of shots that were acceptable, there were so many other distractions on the lake that I could have easily been tempted by, that
I knew I had to ignore until I was satisfied with the shots I had. I still didnít get THE shot I wanted but this oneís nearly there!
April - Lion, 'Mommy'
This image was taken in the Masai Mara and is one of over 1100 Lion images that I took and the first of two in this calendar.
This was the most popular image within the procurement team with over 90% of people who voted picking this as one of the images
that they thought ought to be in the calendar. I had spent all morning photographing a pride of Lions around a Wildebeest kill.
The pride was quite large with a number of adult females and young of various ages, the younger ones were fantastically entertaining,
more interested in playing with bits of the Wildebeest than eating it (as you can see on my website). This shot was taken as they
were moving away from the kill. The cub was trying to play and the look of disinterest on the adults face at the very moment she
snubs the cub is priceless.
May - African Black-headed Oriole
Orioles are difficult to photograph as they spend much of the time in the tree canopy. I was very fortunate with this individual
at Lake Baringo, which was having a territorial dispute with its own reflection in the rear view window of our safari vehicle,
behaviour that I have never seen before in such a species. It was so fully engrossed with its dispute with the would be intruder
that it allowed me to approach much closer than it would usually allow. This shot was taken when it flew up into the trees to have
a rest from the fight. I will put some other shots of it attacking its own reflection in the mirror on my website.
June - Leopard
This image was taken in Samburu, a reserve which is hundreds of miles away from the Masai mara and offers the best chance of
getting good images of Leopard. This time our driver, Mwashi, had heard over the radio that a Leopard had been sighted on the
other side of the river so we headed off to take a look. By the time we got to the location the Leopard was on the move heading
towards us, it passed straight by us in the opposite direction followed by the attendant safari vehicle entourage. As we were
nearly at the end of the safari, Mwashi had already learnt that I donít like to chase a subject but prefer to get ahead of it
and let it approach me (This happened on the first night with the Cheetah (August image). He said he was fairly sure where the
Leopard was heading and suggested we go ahead and get in position, I agreed. We turned round and drove straight past the line
of vehicles slowly following the cat, leaving both 50yards behind. We quickly arrived at a small clearing with a large fallen
down tree trunk to one side of it that was at the same level as the top of our vehicle. Mwashi parked next to the tree saying
that the Leopard would climb it so there we waited. Incredibly the Leopard appeared, sniffed around the edge of the clearing
and then ran straight up the trunk and immediately laid down looking straight at me Ė I am excited now as I type this, It was
just sensational! My shutter was already firing as I listened to the commotion behind me as the other vehicles arrived.
July - Little Bee-eater
This image was also taken in the Masai Mara. Once close enough and accepted by the bird it began to behave as if we were not there.
I really do love Bee-eaters, their fantastic colours and behaviour make for great photography and birdwatching. As their name suggests,
they do eat bees, but they will also take other flying insects, launching themselves from prominent Ďfavouriteí perches to snatch the
insect in mid air before gliding back down to the perch. This bird was quite a contortionist, striking up all kinds of poses as it
followed the insects around that were flying above it.
August - Cheetah
I was very excited to get this shot of a Cheetah on the first evening of our safari in the Masai Mara, not least because
I didnít get any shots last year, but also we had only arrived in the mara a few hours previously. It was one of three male
Cheetahs that were strolling along oblivious to the safari vehicle mayhem they were causing as people followed them (apparently
Cheetah had not been seen for a few days prior to this so most of the mara were present). Chasing animals doesnít work for me,
itís not what wildlife photography is about but I realise at some times there is no other way. So in situations like this I prefer
to get ahead of the animal and let it come to the camera instead of chasing behind it. In this way the animal can then decide how
close it feels comfortable. This approach doesnít always work as animals are wild and unpredictable, but in this case it did.
Before taking the shot I had noticed that if the Cheetah continued on its current path, it would pass directly by a raised mound
of soil, and with a bit of luck the Cheetah might be tempted to climb it to get a higher vantage point as they often do. So, I
asked Mwashi to drive ahead and take up a position that would be good if the Cheetah climbed to the top of the mound. As the
Cheetah approached, it stopped for a few heart stopping moments and then it climbed onto the top of the mound and briefly sniffed
the stones on the top of it, probably the scent of another cat that had passed previously, before continuing. The fact that the
bank was raised and the cat was at eye level to me in the back of the safari vehicle creates an image that has a real close-up
and personal feel, showing totally natural behaviour, as if I were lying next to the animal but it couldnít see me. This combined
with the clear background and the incredible late evening sunlight for me makes for one of the most stunning images of the trip.
September - Lesser Flamingo
This is one of the two Flamingo species to be found in Kenya. This photograph was taken at Lake Nakuru, which can only be
described as one of the natural wonders of the wildlife world - over a million Flamingoes feed in the shallows of this soda
lake in the Great Rift Valley, turning the lake pink when viewed from a distance. Flamingos have a very unusual feeding method,
they turn their head and bill completely upside down and swish the bill from side to side in the water, extracting small organisms
through specialised filters in the bill. Whilst trying for close-ups of this feeding action, as the sun rose I saw this solitary bird
silhouetted in the distance with the mist rising off the lake in the background. I managed only a couple of shots before other out of focus
birds in the foreground wandered into the frame and the moment was gone.
October - Hippo
The Hippo is a dangerous animal and more people are killed in Africa by Hippos
than any other animal. Seeing the size of their gape and their dental equipment it is easy to see why. If you are close to
a Hippo and it gapes like this, it is warning you to move away by showing you the weapons it will use on you if you donít. So
when in a boat where there are Hippos it is best to keep well away and on land never get between one and the water, which they
will always rush back to if they feel threatened. Although it seems as if I were close, this image was taken in the Masai Mara using
a long lens and I was actually some distance away up a fifteen foot bank on top of a safari vehicle so I think this is more a yawn
than a threat.
November - Lion, Young Male
This young male is the second of two Lions featured in the calendar. He was again part of a pride of several animals, but I donít
think the same pride as the one in the April image of the calendar, as this pride didnít have as many young cubs. Unfortunately
they were doing what Lions do best during the day when not at a kill Ė not a lot! This wasnít my second Lion choice for the calendar
but it was the second favourite of the rest of my team who voted for their favourite twelve images, so democracy won out in the end.
Taken in beautiful morning light, I have to admit he does look impressive.
December - Black-faced Vervet Monkey
This image was taken at the exit gate of Lake Nakuru NP. I saw this mother and baby and popped out of the vehicle for ten
minutes to photograph it, as we waited for Mwashi to check the vehicle out of the park. When I got back to the vehicle Mwashi
told me that when he had returned to the vehicle he had found the rest of the troop of Monkeys had taken the open roof as an invitation
to get in and have a look round. Fortunately nothing was damaged or taken, but it shows how inquisitive and opportunistic these animals
are in their search for food.
More images of this and other Kenya trips can be seen in the Kenya image Galleries.
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