“There’s an exact moment for leaping into the lives of wild animals. You have to feel their lives first, how they fit the world around them. It’s like the beat of music. Their eyes, the sounds they make, their head, movements, their feet and their whole body, the closeness of things around them – all this and more make up the way they perceive and adjust to their world.”
This year I’ve decided I want to get back into my photography by going on an ‘artist date’ every couple of months. Fortunately, I have a wonderful group of creative friends and it’s usually not too difficult to convince others to join me in these types of outings. First up this year was a trip to the Melbourne Zoo to photograph the wildlife. I was joined by Megan Jackson (whose wonderful photographs can be seen at Stardust and Melancholy) and we had a brilliant day. We patiently observed the wildlife, took lots of photographs, and enjoyed our stroll around the zoo.
“It was their individuality combined with the shyness of their behavior that remained the most captivating impression of this first encounter with the greatest of the great apes.” Dian Fossey
On the evening prior to my gorilla trek in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park, I checked my camera and realised that the battery was dying. I reached into my camera bag for the spare that I’d purchased before my trip and tried to put it in my camera. But it wouldn’t fit; the battery was too big.
I have no recollection of buying this battery; I just remember grabbing it when I packed and thinking great, I don’t need to get a spare battery. Perhaps it was for an old camera. But, in that moment of sinking realisation, I was devastated. For years, I’d dreamt of returning to Africa specifically to see the mountain gorillas. I wanted to take amazing photographs of these incredible animals and now I was faced with using a tiny digital camera without a zoom lens.
“They say that somewhere in Africa the elephants have a secret grave where they go to lie down, unburden their wrinkled gray bodies, and soar away, light spirits at the end.” Robert McCammon, Boy’s Life
Elephant, Chobe National Park, Botswana
One of the most exciting wildlife encounters I had was in Botswana, when a herd of about 100 elephants surrounded our safari truck.
I know, it sounds unbelievable; but we came across this herd just as they were coming in from bathing (and playing) in the Chobe River. The safest course of action was to stop the vehicle, turn off the engine, and just wait until they were gone. So we sat inside the truck, whispering excitedly as the entire herd came within a few metres of us.
The bull elephant, in the photo above, stopped right beside the truck and turned back, as if to look at us inside the vehicle. The silence was deafening.
“Are there any mythical beasts which aren’t simple pastiches of nature? Centaurs, minotaurs, unicorns, griffons, chimeras, sphinxes, manticores, and the like don’t speak well for the human imagination. None is as novel as a kangaroo or starfish.” William Poundstone, Labyrinths of Reason
If there’s one place in Australia where you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a kangaroo in the wild, it’s the Grampians National Park. I’ve been there dozens of times and seen kangaroos on every occasion. On my most recent visit, in July this year, we set off on a short hike to Venus Baths – cutting through the Halls Gap camping ground – and immediately saw kangaroos hanging around. On our return, there were even more of them foraging in the grass.
“The only way to save a rhinoceros is to save the environment in which it lives, because there’s a mutual dependency between it and millions of other species of both animals and plants.” David Attenborough
For the last couple of months I’ve been struggling to write. Fortunately, this has given me the extra time to de-clutter my life and, as a result, I’ve inadvertently re-discovered old books; random scribblings on paper and cards; and so many pre-digital photographs.
In particular, the photographic prints bring back so many memories. It’s not that I’ve forgotten them; it’s just that, these days, I rarely look at old photographs.
And while those memories remain tucked away in my heart, I’ve decided to share them on my blog. I think this might also be the inspiration I need to get writing again. After all, photography was always my first love …
“Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them; for those experiences have left an indelible impression, and we are ever and anon reminded of them.”
Henry David Thoreau
Seeing carpet wildflowers in Western Australia
Cycling across Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Crouching next to a mountain gorilla in Uganda
Trekking to Machu Picchu, Peru
Seeing the sunrise at Wilsons Prom, Australia
Hiking on Great Wall of China
This is my 100th blog so I’ve decided to celebrate by sharing 100 travel experiences through my photographs. When I think about my travels I think of all the wonderful people I’ve met, the amazing places I’ve seen, and all the fun things I’ve done – many outside my comfort zone.
Travel has broadened my horizons, opened my eyes to other cultures and beliefs, and has taught me tolerance, acceptance and adaptability. In the words of Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
I feel so lucky to have all these memories … as well as many, many more!
An understanding of the Natural World and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment. Sir David Attenborough
Sunset over Yellow Waters Billabong
A cruise on the Yellow Water Billabong in the Northern Territory’s Kakadu National Park is one of Australia’s best wildlife experiences. The wetlands are located at the end of Jim Jim Creek, which is a tributary of the South Alligator River (the largest river system in Kakadu). The river channels, floodplains and swamps are home to fresh and saltwater crocodiles, and an abundance of birdlife. My cruise there was an incredible few hours, particularly as we spotted both species of crocodile and my favourite two birds – the Jabiru and the Comb-crested Jacana. Below are some photographs from that afternoon.