ARCHIVE 296 – TIMBER (MONO)

 

 


.
Stack of mangrove poles; Lamu, coastal Kenya; July 1978.

The (Western) human eye scans images from left to right, and from top to bottom. Here, my eye enters the image from the left, and then travels right along the parallel poles, until arrested by the vertical pole and its binding, at the far end – positioning the vertical pole on the right of the picture does not work so well.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO; Silver Efex Pro.
.
.
.

ARCHIVE 290 – THE VIEW SOUTH FROM BABOON CLIFFS

 

 


.
The view south from Baboon Cliffs at Lake Nakuru, Kenya; 27 Apr 1980.

Looking out across the lake on a calm day – which, in this area of convectional rainfall, can often turn into a towering thunderstorm later in the afternoon.

Nakuru is a soda lake in the rift valley’s floor and this view looks southwards down the rift.  The hills on the horizon, below the white clouds, are a group of small volcanoes, and the freshwater Lake Naivasha is just over the horizon to the left of them. 

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens and polariser; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.

UPDATE: the polarising filter – arguably the most useful filter of them all in these digital days – produces the very deep blue of the sky at upper right, the good definition of the clouds below that blue and (even in this ancient, scanned slide), good clarity of view off into the distance. 

.
.
.

ARCHIVE 289 – LUO FAMILY

 

 


.
Luo family on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

The backdrop is the painted wall of a wattle and daub hut, the smooth surface layer of which is starting to flake off on the far right.  Minor points, maybe that I’ve only really appreciated now, after all these years, are the Vicks poster and the kitten.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO.

UPDATE: The people in Kenya were in the main very friendly and hospitable.  I very much enjoyed my years in that country.  Again – once again – I wish that I had photographed more of the people that I met there.

.
.
.

ARCHIVE 288 – THE KAISUT DESERT AND MT MARSABIT

 

 


.
A small settlement in northern Kenya’s Kaisut Desert, looking northwards towards the distant highlands of Mt Marsabit; 1981.

The settlement consists of a few buildings with mud walls and corrugated iron roofs and some hemispherical mud huts.  Each group of buildings is surrounded by a fence of dead thornbush, within which stock animals are kept at night.

The desert is unusually green after recent rains.  Each conical hill in the distance is a small volcano, and the massif on the horizon is Mt Marsabit, a national park of entirely volcanic origin.  Marsabit rises over a thousand metres above the surrounding plains and, in its higher reaches, supports dense forests that derive their moisture from the clouds that frequently cloak the high ground.

I love the colours in this picture.  Agfa CT18 was an excellent but quite slow film which tended if anything to err towards brownish hues perfect for many Kenyan landscapes.  I used to slightly underexpose it to further saturate the colours.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO.

.
.
.

PEOPLE 258 – THE THIRD LARGEST LAND MAMMAL, AND ME

 

 


Photo credit: Bill Stripling

.
Years ago, I used to lead bird and general wildlife/nature safaris in Kenya.  It was hard work, not least because, rather than relying on a driver, I did all my own driving, of which much was either on bad roads or on no roads at all.  But I greatly enjoyed the work, because the company I worked for provided tours for naturalists, and these could be anything from out and out birders, to those wanting to see the large mammals – and especially the large predators – to those who wanted to see and hear about a bit of everything, including geology (my university subject) and Kenyan peoples and history.   We handled a lot of groups from museums and nature/conservation societies.

And sometimes the itinerary took us to Meru National Park, which is situated in low, hot, thornbush country to the northeast of Mt Kenya.  And there in Meru, in those days (the late 1980s), there was a small herd of White Rhinoceros that I think had been given to Kenya by another country – I think South Africa – as a diplomatic, goodwill gesture, and which the Kenyan government kept under the watchful eyes of some armed National Park staff in Meru.

.


Photo credit: Bill Stripling

.
Now there are two types of rhinoceros in Africa, the White and the Black, and they vary vastly in general temperament.  The Black Rhino, which is native to Kenya, is aggressive, violent and extremely dangerous – they kill people, and fiercely attack vehicles.  You really don’t mess about with a Black Rhino, you treat it with enormous respect.  But the White Rhino is really something else.  Its not so aggressive and, living long term under human care, these few animals in Meru were more docile still.

So, on safari, I would take my clients to walk amongst and be with the world’s third largest land mammal (after the African and Indian Elephants), which was a wonderful and intriguing experience.  For their part, the rhinos ignored us completely – to the point of calmly walking through you if you were foolish enough to stand in their way.  But we could touch them – it was like laying your hand on a rock-solid, cold, stone wall – and, being young and stupid, I remember going round to the front end, getting hold of the fabled horn and shaking the creature’s head – whereupon I was unceremoniously tossed aside very much as you or I might impatiently wave away a nuisance fly – which was, of course, exactly what I deserved.

Amazingly, after all these years (this would have been sometime in the period 1987-1989) I recall the name of the photographer – Bill Stripling.  He took these shots and, after the trip, was kind enough to send me these large prints, and also lots of the other excellent wildlife shots he took during the safari, which I’ve housed in an album and which I treasure.

What else is there to see here?  Well, the two pictures were obviously taken at different times of the day, as the light in the second one is very yellow – it must have been around sunrise or set.

And also there’s the younger me, with beer gut already evident, and around my neck the Zeiss 10x40B Dialyt binoculars that took such a hammering on those safaris, and which I still have.  Also the more discerning of you may notice my slightly big-breasted look – I mean, just how fetching could I get? – which resulted from the fact that, for reasons of security, I always used to carry all of the tours’ petty cash, in cash, in the breast pockets of my safari shirts – I was a walking bank, with a chest that slimmed down as the tours went on.  Is that exotic or what???!

And now I suppose, because I try to be honest on this blog, I should tell you the full story of these rhinos.  I apologise in advance for the sadness of what I am about to relate.

I was accompanying a party of British birders, and took them to see these rhinos.  And then, later on on that safari, we bought a local newspaper and learned that, soon after our visit, all of these animals had been killed by poachers, and their horns stolen.  I can imagine the scene.  A few National Park guards, most probably armed with British Lee Enfield .303 rifles of WWII vintage, up against superior numbers of poachers armed with AK47s – I expect the guards ran for their lives.  I would have run too.

But, sad ending though this may be, after all these years I still retain wonderful memories of being able to be so close to those great creatures.

(You can enlarge these images by clicking onto them – they will open in separate windows.)

.
.
.

ARCHIVE 272 – BOY ON A FARM

 

 

adl364newx
.
Young Luo boy on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; Apr 1979.

He is standing in front of the painted mud wall of a hut and is vastly amused to be having his picture taken – what a pity that those weren’t digital days, so that I could have showed him the result – or that I didn’t carry a polaroid camera with me.

Looking for rare birds – I was an out and out birder in those days, photography was very much a subsidiary thing – I remember entering villages deep in the western countryside where the africans seldom encountered white people, to be greeted by little children running at my VW Beetle, shouting “mzungu, mzungu!” – “white man, white man!”.  They crowded around me, looking at my skin and touching it with wonder and great curiosity – and all around were excited grins and smiles like the one above.

Olympus OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO.

UPDATE: this picture was taken 38 years ago and, getting older as I am, I find myself looking at this broadly grinning face, a face from my distant past, and wondering what has become of him.  For a start, is he alive, has he survived?  This is after all the Third World, and an area brutally infested by malaria – which I myself was struck down with – so that nothing can be guaranteed.  Assuming that he is still alive, he will now be in his 40s, perhaps with a family of his own.  So has he stayed on these far western farms, or maybe been drawn by the lure of the cities – nearby Kisumu, or even far off Nairobi or Mombasa?  I can have no answers here but am nevertheless left with one certainty: being a geologist and naturalist, most of my Kenyan photography was of the spectacular landscapes and wildlife – but now, with hindsight, I wish that my photographs had a more of a human element, that I’d taken more photographs of the Kenyans themselves.

.
.
.

ARCHIVE 266 – STORM AT NAKURU

 

 

adl380x
.

A large thunder storm heads down the rift valley in Kenya, and looms over Lake Nakuru; the late 1970s.

Large storms like this are common in and around the rift and, this being convectional rainfall, especially so in the afternoons, i.e. after the sun has been going long enough, sucking moisture up into the heavens.

The birds in the water in the foreground are flamingos, and the flying birds further out comprise three pelicans on the left, followed by yet more flamingos.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

OM-1 with 75-150 lens at 150mm; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO.

.
.
.

ARCHIVE 260 – CAPE EAGLE OWL

 

 

adl340eex
.

Cape Eagle Owl, Teleki Valley, Mt Kenya; August 1978.

Trekking up to the summit of Mt Kenya, we were spending the night in a hut in Teleki Valley.  We were at an altitude somewhere around 14,000 feet and, even here on the equator, nights this high up are very cold.  I was out for a last look around before darkness fell, when suddenly this wonderful creature was staring impassively out at me from the valley wall.

A telephoto would obviously have been the thing, but the light was failing fast and I was using slow colour transparency film – so my sole option was to go at it with my 50mm f1.4 lens.  I crawled towards it very slowly, firng as I went in case it should disappear, and here is the (enlarged) result.

This is a fairly radical enlargement of a colour slide over 30 years old and the grain is starting to take over.  But the bird’s left eye shows ok and the deterioration in picture quality is starting to push this image towards something more impressionistic and painterly – or is that just wishful thinking???

OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO.

.
.
.

ARCHIVE 257 – THE SHORE AT LAKE NAKURU (MONO)

 

 

adl378dx
.

Dead trees on the shore of Lake Nakuru, in central Kenya; 27 Apr 1980.  These trees grew beside the lake, but then were killed when the lake’s highly alkaline waters rose and flooded their roots.

Despite the fact that its over 30 years ago now, I can still remember taking this shot, which was originally in colour.  I remember placing the nearest tree on the right of the frame, and liking it because it was partially sunlit, and because it was leaning into the frame.

Looking at it now, my eye is taken from this leaning tree, out across the bright sky reflections in the shallow pools of water, to the tree with a dense canopy, which looks rather like an upside down ice cream cone.  This tree is also leaning into the frame, while being silhouetted against the bright sky, and just about at a compositional strong point in the picture, on the junction of the upper third and the left hand third.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO; converted to monochrome in Silver Efex Pro.

.
.
.

ARCHIVE 253 – ELEPHANT AT THE NGULIA WATERHOLE (MONO)

 

 

adl188bx
.

Elephant at the waterhole beside Ngulia Lodge in Tsavo West National Park, Kenya; probably the late 1970s.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

OM-1 with 75-150 Zuiko lens at 150mm; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO; converted to mono in Silver Efex Pro.

.
.
.

%d bloggers like this: