RIP Ximpoko

I recently learned some tragic and disturbing news, and further reading today has confirmed it’s true.

Ximpoko, a very large male lion who inhabited the Timbavati region of greater Kruger National Park in South Africa, was killed by trophy hunters in July of 2013.

Ximpoko was one of the first male lions we ever encountered in the wild.  He was a magnificent lion, and was considered to be the largest in the Timbavati.

Ximpoko and another large male lion (possibly Mabande at the time), had formed a coalition, and they roamed the region as nomadic males.  They were not siblings, and were not even from the same pride.

We spent time with Ximpoko and his companion in their natural habitat on Saturday, 6th October, 2012.

Here is an image I captured of Ximpoko, showing him in life:

The King's Face

The King’s Face

The Timbavati, South Africa, and indeed the world, is a lesser place due to the horrible and unnecessary loss of Ximpoko.

Some creature I struggle to regard as human sought entertainment at the expense of the life of an amazing lion, and an endangered species.

Ximpoko deserves to be running around the African savannah, continuing his lineage, not hung on someone’s wall as a decoration.

This was not nature’s way.

I hope that when Ximpoko’s killer meets his maker, he is shown no mercy.

Lens Cleaning Tip

Today I decided to drag out my lenses and give them a clean.

They really didn’t need much in the way of cleaning, as I always keep them clean, and generally give them a clean after use if the nature of the shoot warrants it.

When I looked at one or two of my lenses, I discovered that the black rubber focus or AF stop ring was almost grey due to either dust, scuffs or both.  The textured surface of the control rings on lenses, as well as the material from which they’re made, makes the use of a blower or dust brush ineffective at cleaning them.

I decided that in order to get into the grooves of the rubber rings, I needed to scrub, so I opted for a soft-bristled toothbrush, which I dampened and then used to scrub ‘along the grain’ of the rubber rings.

I found that did a good job of restoring the rings to their black colour, and makes them look as good as new.

As for my technique for cleaning the optical surfaces of my lenses, I firstly use a rocket blower to blow off any surface dust, and then I use a soft-bristled brush to physically wipe off any remaining surface dust.  Finally I use a LensPen, which has a soft, carbon-tipped, triangular-shaped cleaning pad which effectively cleans the glass and gets into the nooks and crannies where the edge of the glass meets the barrel assembly.

The 50mm Focal Length: Boring

For years I have held a strong distain for the 50mm focal length.

Inexplicably, I hitherto had never ranted about it here.

To me, 50mm is an utterly useless and boring focal length, and I do not quite understand why so many people bother with it.

On the 35mm camera system, 50mm is considered a ‘standard’ focal length, meaning that its focal distance is approximately equivalent to the diagonal length of the focal plane (film or sensor).  A 35mm sensor or film frame measures 43.3mm diagonally.

The problem with the 50mm focal length, for me, is that it is neither wide (which I love), or long (which I love).  It doesn’t provide an interesting view in the form of a wide vista of a picturesque scene, and it doesn’t provide a close view of the details of a distant subject (such as the face of a lion or leopard from a distance).

Perhaps what appeals about 50mm to many people is the fact that one can buy a fast prime cheaply.  A 50mm f/1.8 lens is very inexpensive, which gives people an easy and cheap entry point into the world of fast lenses and prime lenses.

Decades ago, 35mm SLR cameras came with 50mm lenses — 50mm was the ‘kit lens’ of the day.  Sure, there are 50mm lenses with wider apertures of f/1.4, f/1.2, f/1 and even f/0.95; but the purchase price exponentially rises with each third-, half- or full-stop.

While I find 50mm useless on a 35mm camera system, I also find it useless on an APS-C camera, as the focal length provides a field of view equivalent to 75mm (Nikon) or 80mm (Canon), which for general photography, and indeed many specific types of photography, makes it a ‘no-man’s-land’ focal length, and quite an uninteresting one at that.

It’s good for portraiture in terms of framing, but it is to be remembered that it is still a 50mm lens, so it is not as effective at achieving flattering portraits as an actual 85mm lens.  All an APS-C camera does, when a full-frame (135-format; aka 35mm) lens is mounted on it, is crop the view (ie, the smaller sensor cannot ‘see’ the entire, larger imaging circle of the lens).  The focal length is not magnified.  The only way to get the magnification of a longer lens is to use a longer lens.

Perhaps people who engage in street photography or portraiture (with an APS-C camera) might find 50mm useful, but in my experience, it’s not at all useful for anything I shoot.  I love my 85mm lens, but it tends to get used only for portraits, and it gives me the actual benefits of the focal length, including, but not limited to, the framing.

So there you go: a few thoughts on what I consider to be the most boring focal length in the known universe.

Instagram Presence

The image-driven social networking site Instragram has been on my mind for a while, and I have been mentally debating with myself whether to establish a presence there.

I always saw it as a site for mostly non-photographers to instantly publish random images of anything and everything, captured on the move with a mobile phone-based camera.

Picture girls posing in front of mirrors, plates of food, cats doing amusing things, etc.

I wondered if it had any value for fine-art photographers.

I also considered that it would be yet another presence to maintain, and frankly, I have a minimalist approach to Internet presences.

Fortunately, to my delight, I have discovered that many serious photographers I follow also established presences on Instagram, and they’re posting many of the images I see on more photography-focused sites.

So, this week, I took the plunge and established my own presence on Instagram.

It’s something new for me, and the way it works is vastly different to any other imaging site on which I have, or have had, a presence.  I’m slowly getting used to it, but I’m sure there’s a whole world of great images out there for me to discover, and I sure have plenty of my own to publish there.

Image Statistics

For quite some time, I have been wanting to gather the EXIF data from all of my published images, and produce some statistics on various criteria such as exposure settings and equipment used.

During a recent period of renewed creative energy in the form of computer programming rather than photography, over the past month I finally developed automated code-based functionality in my site to extract, analyse and present what I consider to be some interesting statistical data about my collection of published images.

By its very nature, some of this data can be quite dry and geeky; but the results do show some interesting facts in terms of exposure and equipment preferences, and in some cases the results were surprising to me.

Note: If you don’t care what equipment I use, what exposure or stylistic photographic preferences I have, or you don’t care for numeric data generally, it is advisable to skp this long article; but if that kind of geeky thing does appeal to you, keep reading.

Presently, my site gathers data and presents tabular data, which lists from most frequent to least frequent, the numbers of images captured:

  • with a particular camera;
  • with a particular lens;
  • with a particular telephoto extender;
  • within a particular focal range;
  • at a particular focal length;
  • at a particular shutter speed;
  • at a particular aperture;
  • at a particular ISO sensitivity;
  • during a particular year;
  • during a particular month; and
  • on a particular day.

I have also produced what I call a ‘time trend’, in the form of a table showing the number of images shot by month and year.

In this article I am going to break it down and explain the trends I see.

What this exercise has shown me is that the raw numeric data alone does not tell the whole story; there are some ‘human’ elements which can explain why a certain exposure setting or piece of camera equipment rates higher or lower in popularity than would otherwise be expected based on my knowledge of my preferences.

So, let’s look at the trends.

At the time of writing this article, there are 1,600 images in my gallery, which were shot over an eleven-year period from 2005 to 2015.


I have owned three digital SLR cameras in that time.  Here is the breakdown by camera model:

# Camera Images
1 Canon EOS 5D 893
2 Canon EOS 5D Mark II 519
3 Canon EOS 20D 188


The Canon EOS 20D was my first DSLR, and I owned it for over three years.  I shot many images with it, but over the years I have deleted some of the images I published, as in those early years, I was an ‘anything and everything’ kind of photographer without much discernment.

My Canon EOS 5D lost its life to a rogue wave during a seascape shoot in 2010, and on the same day I replaced it with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.  I owned it longer than my Canon EOS 20D, and owned it for a similar amount of time to my current camera (the antiquated but still as-useful-as-it-ever-was Canon EOS 5D Mark II), but much of what I shot with it was during a period of frequent activity and rapid development.  In other words, I shot a lot, and got better at it.

Most of my best work has been shot with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, but over the past few years, as further analysis will show, my output in terms of quantity has significantly decreased, but my output in terms of quality has significantly increased.

This explains why my current camera is the least used.


I have owned many Canon EF lenses over the years, some of which I have sold.  I have also ocasionally used a few lenses I have never owned.

To me, the lens usage statistics are more interesting, and there are some surprising results, which can again be explained by ‘human’ factors or circumstance.

Here is the data:

# Lens Images
1 Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM 562
2 Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM 181
3 Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM 173
4 Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM 161
5 Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM 100
6 Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM 98
7 Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM 93
8 Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM 78
9 Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM 36
10 Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM 34
11 Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II 31
12 Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM 24
13 Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM 17
14 Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM 3
15 Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM 3
16 Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM 2
17 Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM 1
18 Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L 1
19 Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM 1
20 Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM 1


It’s no surprise to me that my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM is the most frequently used lens of the 20 featured, as my main forms of photography over the years have been those which lend themselves well to ultra-wide focal lengths.

I have shot a lot of architecture, cityscape, landscape and seascape images, particularly since 2008, so that lens occupies the top spot in terms of usage.

What could be considered surprising, but in hindsight not so surprising, is the presence of the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens in second place.

I sold that lens nearly seven years ago (and ceased using it up to a year before I sold it), but I bought it in 2005 on the day of its release, and, as explained earlier, I shot anything and everything in those days.  It was my ‘walk-around’ lens, and hence it got a lot of use.  The last published image I shot with that lens was in November of 2007, which was a long time ago now; yet still features prominently due to my experience and the development stage at the time.

I will not go into detail about all 20 of these lenses, particularly those with which I shot less than a handful of images, as those lenses were borrowed or tried; but I did want to draw attention to my two super-telephoto lenses, as by nature of my overall subject matter, they’re not commonly used, but some particular circumstances have made them surprisingly prominent.

The first is my Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM.  I have owned it since 2007, but it gained its most significant usage half a decade later in 2012 when we visited Africa for the first time and fell in love with wildlife and the photography thereof.

In the early days it was used sparingly and for nothing particularly serious.  A few years later I went through a phase of aviation photography, during which it was used more; but our South Africa trip in 2012 was where that lens came to shine.

That leads me to my Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM.  It presently sits in 8th place, yet it is my most recently-purchased lens — I’ve only owned it for over a year.  What drove it so high up, relatively, was our trip to Kenya, where I used it, by my rough estimate, 98% of the time.  I took two other lenses  (16-35/2.8L II and 70-200/2.8L IS) and also used a 300/2.8L IS for a few shots, but the 400/2.8L IS pretty much lived on the camera.

This example shows how a lens, which has spent the least amount of time in my rig, can achieve such relative prominence due to one significant event; namely, a wildlife safari in Kenya.

Telephoto Extender

There isn’t much to say about the prevalence of my Canon telephoto extenders, as there are only two models, they work only with particular Canon EF L-series lenses, and in my case, I tend to only use them with my two longest lenses.

All that can be said is that of the two telephoto extenders, the Canon Extender EF 2x II features more prominently, which can be explained by the two Africa trips we have done.  On the first trip to South Africa, I used it with my 300/2.8L IS, giving me 600mm of focal length (ideal for wildlife photography); and on the second trip to Kenya, I used it with my 400/2.8L IS, giving me an even better 800mm of focal length — absolutely wonderful for frame-filling images of big cats and birds.

# Telephoto Extender Images
1 None 1,448
2 Canon Extender EF 2x II 98
3 Canon Extender EF 1.4x II 54

Focal Range

This particular category is amongst the most interesting to me.

In developing my statistics gathering and reporting system, I initially only looked at actual focal lengths; but further into the project (actually, after ‘completion’), it dawned on me that breaking down focal lengths into distinct focal ranges would be more useful and revealing than reporting on single focal lengths alone, especially as the presence of zooms can mean lots of isolated cases of esoteric ‘no man’s land’ focal lengths appearing (such as 33mm or 98mm).

I used Canon’s definitions of focal ranges as the baseline for my own categorisation of focal ranges, and crunched the data to produce the following table:

# Focal Range Images
1 Ultra-Wide (16-23mm) 485
2 Short Telephoto (70-135mm) 350
3 Wide (24-35mm) 285
4 Medium Telephoto (136-399mm) 227
5 Long Telephoto (400-800mm) 196
6 Standard (36-69mm) 57


I have known for years where my preferences lie in terms of focal lengths.

I like ultra-wide and ultra-long focal lengths, and not much in between.

My architecturecityscapelandscape and seascape images were mostly shot with an ultra-wide lens, which easily explains the occupation of the number one position by the ultra-wide category.

The second spot is occupied by short telephoto ranges, which I specifically use (particularly the 85mm and 135mm focal lengths) for portraiture and still-life.  I have many portrait images in my gallery, which allows that focal range its prominence.

The standard focal range is my least used focal range, which is no surprise, as for years I have regarded the 50mm focal length with complete disdain, and have also boycotted ‘standard’ focal lengths, as, quite frankly, they bore me.  Given the standard focal length of 50mm more or less replicates what the human eye can natively see, it has no interest, as it’s neither wide and expansive, or long and detail-revealingly tight.

While I have owned both a standard zoom and a 50mm lens in the past, for most of the time I have had no lenses with focal lengths between 35mm and 70mm.  I just have no use for them, and my subject interests do not require or lend themselves to such focal lengths.

Focal Length

As outlined in the previous section, statistics about focal length ranges are more useful and revealing than statistics about individual focal lengths, particularly as there are over 700 available amongst the lenses I own or have owned; but for the sake of completeness, here are the statistics:

# Focal Length Images
1 16mm 430
2 35mm 137
3 85mm 125
4 24mm 102
5 135mm 98
6 300mm 93
7 600mm 73
8 200mm 66
9 400mm 51
10 420mm 43
11 105mm 37
12 70mm 35
13 50mm 33
14 180mm 30
15 800mm 24
16 23mm 14
17 25mm 13
18 40mm 11
19 18mm 11
20 17mm 10
21 27mm 9
22 21mm 7
23 28mm 7
24 100mm 7
25 19mm 7
26 140mm 6
27 95mm 6
28 130mm 6
29 32mm 6
30 26mm 5
31 560mm 5
32 115mm 5
33 252mm 4
34 165mm 4
35 145mm 4
36 73mm 4
37 67mm 4
38 125mm 4
39 29mm 3
40 173mm 3
41 90mm 3
42 185mm 3
43 120mm 3
44 20mm 3
45 75mm 3
46 22mm 3
47 80mm 3
48 88mm 2
49 45mm 2
50 58mm 2
51 195mm 2
52 160mm 2
53 65mm 2
54 78mm 2
55 150mm 2
56 170mm 1
57 270mm 1
58 220mm 1
59 31mm 1
60 168mm 1
61 72mm 1
62 96mm 1
63 55mm 1
64 104mm 1
65 153mm 1
66 148mm 1
67 84mm 1
68 98mm 1
69 190mm 1
70 110mm 1
71 60mm 1
72 33mm 1
73 30mm 1
74 360mm 1
75 92mm 1
76 47mm 1


The main points of interest in this table are the double-digit and triple-digit occurrances towards the top of the table.

16mm is by no surprise my most prolific focal length, due to my architecturecityscapelandscape and seascape photography.

Moderate telephoto and long telephoto focal lengths also tend to dominate, which is driven by my subject choice, and also the fact that most of my lenses are primes.  The use of telephoto extenders on the big lenses, and the use of focal lengths at the extreme ends of a few zooms, also contribute to the particular focal lengths and frequencies documented in the top 20 rows of the table.

Shutter Speed

My shutter speed usage is reported in a rather long table, too.

I haven’t drawn any analytical conclusions from this particular data, but apparently I favour 1/200th of a second.

Of interest towards the bottom of the table is the occasional very long shutter speeds I have used.

My longest exposure was just over an hour, and there have been a few over the years than ran for single-digit minutes, and one which ran for ten minutes.

The 30-second shutter speed has achieved sufficient prominence, and otherwise most shutter speeds are in the middle-of-the-road territory of up to 1/500th of a second.

# Shutter Speed Images
1 1/200th of a second 114
2 1/125th of a second 77
3 1/160th of a second 77
4 30 seconds 62
5 1/500th of a second 55
6 1/250th of a second 52
7 1/100th of a second 52
8 1/320th of a second 50
9 1/640th of a second 44
10 1/400th of a second 43
11 1/50th of a second 41
12 1/60th of a second 37
13 1/1,600th of a second 36
14 1/80th of a second 36
15 1/1,250th of a second 34
16 1/2,000th of a second 29
17 1/40th of a second 29
18 2 seconds 28
19 1/800th of a second 28
20 1/1,000th of a second 28
21 1/2,500th of a second 27
22 5 seconds 26
23 4 seconds 26
24 15 seconds 26
25 1.3 seconds 25
26 1/25th of a second 23
27 8 seconds 23
28 2 minutes 22
29 3.2 seconds 22
30 1 second 21
31 10 seconds 20
32 0.3 seconds 19
33 1/8th of a second 18
34 1/30th of a second 18
35 0.6 seconds 18
36 1/15th of a second 17
37 1/20th of a second 17
38 1/4th of a second 17
39 1 minute 17
40 2.5 seconds 16
41 0.5 seconds 16
42 1/6th of a second 15
43 1.6 seconds 14
44 0.8 seconds 14
45 6 seconds 14
46 13 seconds 14
47 1/13th of a second 13
48 20 seconds 13
49 1/3,200th of a second 13
50 1/10th of a second 11
51 25 seconds 10
52 4 minutes 8
53 1/8,000th of a second 8
54 1/4,000th of a second 8
55 1/5th of a second 7
56 1/5,000th of a second 6
57 0.4 seconds 6
58 45 seconds 5
59 5 minutes 4
60 3 minutes 4
61 1/6,400th of a second 3
62 6 minutes 2
63 1 minute and 20 seconds 2
64 19 seconds 2
65 7 minutes 2
66 1 minute and 30 seconds 2
67 1 hour and 7 seconds 1
68 3 minutes and 32 seconds 1
69 2 minutes and 28 seconds 1
70 10 minutes 1
71 6 minutes and 15 seconds 1
72 15 minutes and 24 seconds 1
73 15 minutes and 1 second 1
74 2 minutes and 43 seconds 1
75 29 seconds 1
76 10 minutes and 1 second 1
77 39 seconds 1
78 12 seconds 1
79 3 minutes and 7 seconds 1
80 55 seconds 1


The statstics about my aperture choices are quite interesting — to me, at least — as they show that despite my preference for having the widest aperture in a given focal length, I don’t always use those wide apertures.

Here is the breakdown:

# Aperture Images
1 f/8 332
2 f/2.8 239
3 f/5.6 233
4 f/11 214
5 f/4 132
6 f/9 71
7 f/2 66
8 f/1.4 48
9 f/1.8 38
10 f/13 34
11 f/1.2 32
12 f/6.3 27
13 f/10 21
14 f/16 20
15 f/7.1 16
16 f/3.5 12
17 f/14 12
18 f/3.2 11
19 f/4.5 10
20 f/5 8
21 f/1.6 5
22 f/20 5
23 f/2.2 4
24 f/18 3
25 f/22 3
26 f/2.5 3
27 f/32 1


The fastest lens I have is f/1.2, and the two longest focal lengths I have don’t get any faster than f/2.8; yet f/8 seems to be my most frequent aperture.

Again, this is easily explained by my proliferation of wide-angle scenic images.  Even though I shoot these with my 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, I rarely ever use that lens’s maximum aperture; for in shooting architecturecityscapelandscape and seascape images, I want a wide view with a deep depth of field and rich, sharp details from foreground to background, which calls for narrower apertures.

The difference between f/8 and f/11 is not great, but unsurprisingly f/11 is in the top five.

Another common aperture I use is f/2.8.  I have four f/2.8 lenses, two of which are super-teles, which I almost always shoot wide-open.  I didn’t buy fast super-tele lenses to shoot at f/8!  My Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM also ostensibly gets used wide-open more often than not.

The moderate-to-slow aperture of f/5.6 also appears rather frequently, which I figure is likely to be the result of using my Canon Extender EF 2x II on my 300/2.8 and 400/2.8, giving me 600mm at f/5.6 and 800mm at f/5.6 respectively.

I also use f/5.6 frequently for portraiture.  Even though my Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens is my go-to lens for portraits, I don’t frequently shoot it wide-open.  Just because a lens can be shot at extremely wide apertures does not mean it always should be shot at such apertures.

Towards the bottom of the table are extremely narrow apertures, which I rarely ever use.  One must be careful to avoid diffraction caused by very narrow apertures, which leads to softening of fine details.  If a deep depth of field is required, there is little benefit in stopping down beyond f/11 or f/16 at wide focal lengths, as apertures of f/8 and f/11 tend to achieve a very acceptable compromise of sharpness and depth of field.

ISO Sensitivity

The statistical breakdown of my usage of different ISO sensitivity ratings was no surprise at all, but it remained interesting to see.

The top five spots are occupied, in order, a stop apart, starting from the lowest native ISO rating my cameras have offered.

I have known for years that I favour as low an ISO rating as possible, and for most of my photography, I can get away with this; but for wildlife and some other low-light photography (such as band/musician performance photography), I have simply needed to push the ISO rating to achieve acceptable shutter speeds to freeze movement in low light.

# ISO Sensitivity Images
1 100 835
2 200 342
3 400 170
4 800 58
5 1,600 35
6 50 31
7 320 24
8 1,250 22
9 500 19
10 1,000 17
11 640 13
12 3,200 11
13 160 11
14 250 6
15 6,400 4
16 125 2


According to the data, the most extreme ISO sensitivity rating I have used is 6,400.

Year of Capture

The next set of criteria I examined in my image statistics was time; specifically, which years, months and days of the week were more popular.

Again there are some unsurprising results, but a few others stood out as interesting.

# Year of Capture Images
1 2007 334
2 2008 304
3 2006 212
4 2012 189
5 2009 183
6 2010 113
7 2015 101
8 2011 67
9 2013 52
10 2014 33
11 2005 12


Over a ten-year period, my most frequent activity happened in 2006, 2007 and 2008.  It was during this time that I rapidly developed my interest in photography, and spent many weekends shooting, as well as travelling domestically on photography-centric trips.

I was also a more generalist photographer, shooting all manner of random subjects.  My style and subject matter preferences were only in their infancy of development.  All of this explains my proliferation at the time.

The year 2005 features as the least frequent year.  It was the year in which I first bought a DSLR.  I had been shooting digitally since 2002, but had not really established much of a presence online, and I didn’t consider photography a serious or even semi-serious interest.

From 2011 to 2015, my output took a serious decline in frequency.  I became less interested, de-motivated, occupied by other interests and priorities, and I had become extremely fussy about what I would shoot and when.

With the exception of 2005, for which very few images are still published online, my record low year is 2014.  I really shot very little, and my peaks of interest were few and far between, with only a few images here and there, most of which were captured during domestic trips we took, and during two photographic workshops I attended during the year.

I had stopped shooting seascapes — in fact, my last seascape image was shot in 2013.  Even now, I remain disinterested in shooting seascapes, and it feels like a photographically significant chapter of life which has more or less closed.  I know I can always return, but for now the desire remains lacking.

The year 2012 is the exception to this long-running ‘lull’ period, in that a massive trip to South Africa was the main contributor towards my output that year.  I also had some frequent and productive seascape shoots that year as a result of a photography group with which I was quite actively involved at the time.

The present year, 2015, remains a low-output year, except for one event: our Kenya trip.  I shot thousands of images in Kenya, and have published 95 images at the time of writing.  Otherwise, I have shot only six images, and it was late in April before I shot the first!

Month of Capture

The breakdown of months is interesting from an academic viewpoint.

Here are the details:

# Month of Capture Images
1 June 270
2 January 193
3 October 167
4 April 157
5 December 141
6 May 134
7 March 112
8 September 104
9 July 95
10 February 92
11 August 71
12 November 64


I cannot offer any explanation as to why June is in the top spot; even though most of 2015‘s images were shot in June, it would still be a popular month.  In my part of the world, it’s winter, and pre-dawn seascape shoots during winter mean being cold and wet.  Unappealing!

January’s number-two place makes sense, as I tend to take time off work in December and January, and apparently I’ve been out and about over the years.

November is the least popular month, which is interesting, as 2015 has been a low-output year in terms of quantity, and November is only a month away!

Day of Capture

There isn’t much of interest or surprise in the statistical breakdown of days.

When I was a frequent (weekly, even!) seascape shooter, Sunday was my day.  Saturday follows very closely behind due to its status as a weekend day which is generally busier than Sunday.

# Day of Capture Images
1 Sunday 583
2 Saturday 561
3 Friday 145
4 Wednesday 103
5 Tuesday 85
6 Monday 72
7 Thursday 51

Time Trend

Lastly, I have produced a table showing the number of images shot by month and year.

I haven’t looked much into what this indicates, as the year and month breakdowns already discussed paint a better picture; but it remains never the less an interesting exercise to see how my actvity during the same month over an eleven-year period can experience peaks and troughs.

Time Trend Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
2005 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 2 3 0 2 12
2006 3 22 2 22 12 42 7 6 19 20 13 44 212
2007 65 0 66 5 17 19 19 9 46 27 32 29 334
2008 30 36 20 34 16 52 24 14 13 14 8 43 304
2009 30 16 9 31 24 28 12 5 4 11 5 8 183
2010 5 5 9 13 11 13 15 16 15 2 3 6 113
2011 8 3 0 15 8 4 6 5 1 10 3 4 67
2012 27 8 6 28 12 13 10 4 1 80 0 0 189
2013 21 0 0 1 19 3 1 2 0 0 0 5 52
2014 4 2 0 4 13 1 0 6 3 0 0 0 33
2015 0 0 0 4 2 95 0 0 0 0 0 0 101
Total 193 92 112 157 134 270 95 71 104 167 64 141 1,600


In conclusion, it has been an interesting exercise to gather and analyse my image data to see which cameras, lenses, exposure settings and points in time were most and least significant; and if you’ve read this far, congratulations, as this indeed is a long, dry article which analyses the sorts of information about which most people would not care.

For me, the data I now gather and report can be useful in recognising trends in my photography over the years from an EXIF data viewpoint, but it essentally remains little more than an academic exercise which was rewarding from a creative and geeky viewpoint.

Kenya: So Where Exactly Were We?

For the past few months I have chronicled our adventures in the Maasai Mara region of Kenya on a day-by-day basis, detailing in words and pictures the incredible experiences we had.

For those who have not been to the Mara, it can be difficult to picture the geography and understand how vast it is, and just how scattered were our various sightings.

When I travel, I like to record the precise details of every place we visit.  I use a smartphone app which does not require cellular network connectivity (but will use it if present), but uses the phone’s GPS receiver to record the coordinates of wherever I am.

At each place we visited, and at each wildlife sighting or other stop we made, I recorded our position and the details about what took place there.

When we returned, I plotted all of the details onto a Google map, breaking down the locations by days, game drives and other activities and places of interest.

We were based in the Mara North Conservancy (MNC), which is a privately-managed, 28,000 hectare region of the greater Mara ecosystem, located close to the Mara River which forms its northern-most border.

Neighbouring conservancies (also known as private concessions) and reserves are Lemek Conservancy to the north, Motorogi Conservancy to the east, Olare Orok Conservancy to the south-east, and the Maasai Mara National Reserve to the south.

We stayed at the magnificent Elephant Pepper Camp, a luxurious semi-permanent eco-lodge, which is positioned to the south of the C13 road, with Mara Rianta to the west and Aitong to the east.

To the south of MNC lies the Maasai Mara National Reserve, which itself is over 1,500 square kilometres in size, and which forms part of the greater Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, spanning both Kenya and Tanzania to the south.  On one of our days, we departed Mara North and headed into the main reserve, where we encountered wild cheetahs for the first time.

The Mara is 270km west of Nairobi, and takes 45 minutes to reach by light plane, with numerous airstrips being spread around the Mara, two of which we used being within a few hundred metres of each other.

The Mara North Conservancy and the Maasai Mara National Reserve are both quite famous, and were extensively featured in the superb BBC series Big Cat Diary.  One particular leopard was filmed at a spot called Leopard Gorge, which lies to the south-west of Elephant Pepper Camp, and, incidentally, was the location of our first leopard sighting in the Mara.

So, here is a map which shows where exactly we were, with images captured at many of the places.

Before and after our Mara visit, we were based in Nairobi, and predominantly travelled to various places of interest in Karen and Langata to the south-west.

I hope readers find interest in seeing where we were, and gain a greater understanding of an undeniably fantastic part of the world.

Maasai Mara: Day 7 of 7

Our final day in the Mara had arrived, and we had one morning game drive before we would need to depart Elephant Pepper Camp and the fantastic people, animals, places and experiences that had made up the previous week.

The day was quite subdued, and there was that ever-persistent feeling we had experienced before on our final day in a magical part of Africa: the feeling that we had little time left, and that the peak of our adventure had well and truly passed.

We would be flying back to Nairobi later that day, and the pace of life was going to change.

Like every other day, we started early, heading out into the Mara plains in darkness.  We didn’t stop anywhere for a landscape shoot on this particular morning, as the sky was not promising, and we’d achieved some very pleasing images on previous mornings.

Francis took us in a northerly direction, across the C13 and to the region half-way between camp and the Mara River.

We found a solitary River Pride lioness in the scrub.  She was resting in a clump of bushes, and while I had my lens trained on her, the photography wasn’t looking likely to eventuate, and as it turned out, I didn’t fire a single shot.

The lioness didn’t seem to be in the mood for modelling, and she stayed in the thick clump of bushes, offering us only fleeting sightings as we circled around the bushes to gain a better view.

Usually when one sees a solitary lioness, it indicates the presence of cubs that are being kept away from the pride until they’re older; but we didn’t see any signs of other lions in the area, although almost certainly other River Pride members would have been not too far away.

It’s always a pleasure to see lions in the wild, and we’d had lighting sightings on every day we spent in the Mara, except perhaps for day six.  I can find no reference to lion sightings in my records for that day, so if we did see one, it was fleeting.

We had seen big cats on every single day, however, and being cat fans, that was enormously pleasing.

We soon left the River Pride lioness, and headed back east to the spot along a Mara River tributary at which we had witnessed mating leopards on the previous evening.  We wanted to see if we could find them again, as mating leopards can spend time together in the same general area for several days.  There was a chance we would find them.

Unfortunately, we didn’t.  If they were in the immediate area, they were well hidden; or perhaps they’d moved further north or south along the tributary.  We certainly didn’t see them, and our last sighting was on the previous night when they’d crossed the water into thicker scrub.

While Francis was slowly navigating around the area in search for the leopards, we saw something we didn’t expect.

To the left of the vehicle, just over eight metres away, a dik-dik emerged from the scrub.

The dik-dik is a very small, rapidly-moving antelope.  We had not seen one before, so naturally we readied ourselves for some photography.

I was fortunate enough to land one image of the dik-dik as it paused momentarily under the cover of the thicket.



The dik-dik stayed for perhaps a minute before darting off into the distance.

It was an unexpected but pleasant sighting, and I landed just the one pleasing image of the antelope looking straight at me.

Once the dik-dik had exited the scene, we soon did the same, and crossed the river, heading in an easterly direction.

Still in the same general area where we had seen the two leopards the night before, a lone hyena emerged from the distance, making his way closer to us in the fairly open grasses.

Hyenas and leopards are eternal enemies, and a leopard will flee if the presence of a hyena is detected.  Hyenas are certainly known for stealing leopard kills, and in fact, stealing anything they find; but more critically, hyenas will kill leopard cubs.

If the leopards were anywhere nearby, we had little chance of seeing them, particularly due to the presence of the hyena.  We didn’t capture any images of the hyena, but it was pleasant enough just to see him scouting around during the quiet part of the morning, with us being the only other evidence of life in the immediate area.

Soon enough, we headed north-west, to a spot along the Mara River trib, north of where we had seen the leopards.

Within a short time we had found a pod of hippos wallowing in the muddy waters.

We were very close, and it was the closest distance to a hippo at which we’d ever been.  We had seen hippos in Mpumalanga snd KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, but they were much further away, and more submerged than the animals we had just encountered.

It seemed that the hippos were somewhat uncomfortable by our presence, as there was grunting, sizing up and restlessness apparent.

I captured an image of a large hippo in his element.

Master of My Domain

Master of My Domain

This hippo was definitely the master of his domain.

During the time we spent with the hippos, the warmth of the early morning light descended upon the landscapee, and with the sun behind us on the eastern bank of the trib, the nice pink and brown colours of the hippos stood out.

As we slowly moved around, the hippos were becoming agitated, and it looked like there was going to be a fight for dominance between two of the larger males.  The mood was icy, and we were expecting and hoping to see something exciting; but alas, it never eventuated, and the hippos calmed down somewhat.

We continued to watch and photograph, and eventually, one of the hippos exited the water and began grazing on the western side of the trib.  It was our first time seeing a hippo out of water.

Hippo on the Bank

Hippo on the Bank

He certainly was impressive, and it was nice to see him out in the open, grazing on the short grasses 28 metres away from us.

The light became warmer as we watched the hippos, so towards the end of our time with them, I captured a few images of the richly-coloured animals semi-submerged in the muddy water.

I'm Watching You

I’m Watching You

This hippo was definitely keeping an eye on us!

Soon enough, we headed back to camp.

It was a quiet morning game drive, which could come nowhere near the excitement we had experienced with such sightings as male lion brothers bonding, mating leopards, the Cheli Pride feasting on a zebra, and a magnificent leopard in an elephant pepper tree; but we had experienced some new sights and sounds on this quiet morning.

We headed south, back to camp without stopping for any further images.

Back at camp, we had breakfast, and began the unpleasantness of packing and getting ready to depart.

We still had a few hours before our flight, so we spent time at camp in the lounge.  We had met a few other guests over the previous few days: a mother and daughter from Florida, who were travelling in different parts of Kenya and Tanzania, staying only for a few days at different lodges; and a Hong Kong Chinese couple, for whom this was their first trip to Africa.

Both pairs of guests were also due to depart that day, so we said our goodbyes and set about the uncomfortable business of lingering, knowing that we had little time and that there was little we could do but wait until it was time to head to the airstrip.

The mood at that stage was somewhat sombre.

Eventually, it was our time to leave.  We were the last to leave, and this wasn’t the first time we had experienced the loneliness and flat, empty feeling as everything and everyone around us had departed.

Time was running short, and we had to depart, as there was only one flight out of the Mara, and if we missed it, well, we’d have to stay another night.  What a shame that would be!

We had a few group photos with Mario and Francis, Patrick and Sophie (the resident managers of Elephant Pepper Camp) and the other staff.  Then it was time to climb into the 4WD for the last time, and head north to Mara Shikar Airstrip, which was very close to where we had been with the hippos earlier that morning.

When we arrived at the airstrip, there were no signs of life, and the plane wasn’t on the ground, or anywhere in the air nearby.  We started to become concerned, as we were the only people there.

Francis got on the radio, and it turned out that our flight was leaving from Mara North Airstrip, which is only a few hundred metres west, perpendicular to Shikar; but it takes a good five to eight minutes to get there.

We scrambled back into the 4WD and Francis gunned it, as we had only a few minutes to head the long way around in order to get to a place that was a few hundred metres due west of where we had just been.

Francis drove very quickly, and I felt like he was going at 80-90km/h; but I looked at the speedometer, and we were travelling at 40km/h.  In the Mara, that’s fast.  We were so used to edging our way around at a very slow speed — probably barely more than 10km/h most of the time — that 40km/h felt like motorway speeds.

A few minutes later, we arrived at Mara North Airstrip and boarded the plane just in time.  Shortly thereafter, we were in the air, departing a place we did not want to depart.  Barely a word was spoken on the 45-minute flight, as we looked down over the plains, still emotionally immersed in what had been a magical week.

Mario had originally planned to stay overnight in Nairobi, but during the morning he had been in contact back home, and he needed to return to Spain to sort out some paperwork; so he changed his flights, and rather than spending a night at the Boma Hotel with us and travelling around Karen and Langata with us on the following day, he flew out of Nairobi that night.

We had one more day in Kenya the next day, but our time in the Mara had concluded.

It had been a magical trip, and here and now, writing about it over three months after, I still long to be there, and cannot get the place out of my head.

It feels so familiar now, and writing about these adventures, though a long process, has kept the memories very much alive in both of our minds.  Watching the BBC series Big Cat Diary, which was shot in the Mara, and which made Leopard Gorge famous, also keeps the place fresh and familiar.

Life is so fast-paced, that despite being in a completely different environment, experiencing things that are far from routine, it really did not take long before the pervasive strength and persistence of real life dragged me, kicking and screaming, from a world in which I would rather be; so keeping the Mara alive and fresh in my mind is not only desirable, but altogether necessary.

From that trip, I still have more images, and a lot of video, to process; so there will be more from our trip to publish; but just as our trip to the Maasai Mara concluded, so too has this series of articles.

I hope readers have enjoyed hearing about our time in the Mara, and that those who haven’t been there before will be inspired to go there.

It really is a special place.