Safari in Serengeti and Ngorongoro, Tanzania

The Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are some of the best places in the world to see wildlife. The photographs I present here are just a few of the many species that roam these beautiful areas in Tanzania. To be able to see animals roaming freely is thrilling and heartwarming, and I never lose my excitement for seeing them in the wild.

Notes on the photographs:

The wildebeest migration is represented in the first photograph below, as a stream of wildebeest walk silhouetted against a cloudy and rainy sky. The late afternoon sun bathes the lions in golden light as they walk along the road and drink from a stream. The young lion sits peacefully enjoying the view. The paws of a resting lion are "huge." A zebra walks past lions laying in the grass without a care in the world, while two lions give my tour group a passing glance. A giraffe peeks out at us above the treetops, while another one stares directly at us. A leopard walks almost hidden in the tall grass, while a family of rock hyrax gives me the "once over." Look closely at this stream and you'll see it is teeming with hippos. One hippo "opens wide" allowing us to see his canines and razor-sharp incisors.

Birds of Africa

Although I do not consider myself a “birder” in the strict sense, I am fascinated by colorful and unusual birds that I see around me. Photographing birds is not easy to do since you need a long lens (telephoto) and the ability to focus and track birds as they move. The longer the telephoto lens the harder it is to hold the camera and lens steady to prevent blurring. My Nikon camera and telephoto lens weighed over 6 pounds! For me, that was a heavy load, and yet I did manage to get quite a few focused images. Since my trip to South Africa, I traded in that heavy camera for a more manageable weight Olympus OMD EMI MKII, which I used on my recent safari to East Africa (Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda).

Knowing when birds will fly away requires patience and concentration. Most of my photographs are of birds that are stationary although I was always hoping I would be ready when, and if, they were to fly away. I captured thousands of images of birds on my African safaris oftentimes using the continuous auto focusing selection in my camera’s menu. I also photographed birds at the Audubon Society’s Hawk Walk in Greenwich, Connecticut last September. The hawks and owls (spectacled and horned) were magnificent.

Some of the images presented here are of Lilac Breasted Rollers, Secretary Birds, Tawny Eagles, Lanner Falcons, Goliath Herons, Flamingoes, Yellow Billed Hornbills, Shoebill Stork (a rare and rather prehistoric looking bird), Malachite Kingfishers, Ostrich, Ruppell’s Starlings, Cranes, Vultures and others that I don’t know the names of are presented here. If any of you know the names of the birds help me out by writing them in your comments.

I have entered several of these photographs in the National Audubon Photography Awards competition. I will keep you informed of the outcome.

The Maasai

Spending an afternoon with the Maasai, an indigenous ethnic group living in Kenya and northern Tanzania is always a treat. This was my second visit to a Maasai village, the first being during my visit to Tanzania in 2009. The village we visited in January was set in a very beautiful area of rolling hills making a perfect backdrop for photos of the villagers who were waiting for us to take us on a tour of the place they call home.

We were treated to the traditional adumu or jumping dance performed for all tourists, by the young men of the village. You can see them lined up in the photos in this post and each one jumps straight up accompanied by male and female chanting. Seeing them reaching heights of almost 20 inches is truly impressive. I was on my belly photographing the men from ground level and it appears that they jump even higher than that.

While you’re at it, take note of the round homes in these photos, called Inkajijik in the Maasai native language of Maa. Built by women of logs and straw and covered in mud and cow dung they are impermanent since Maasai are nomadic livestock herders. To protect the cattle at night the group of round homes called a boma are encircled by a fence of thorny bushes.

As part of every visit to a Maasai village tourists are invited and encouraged to buy arts and crafts made by the women of the village. Replicas of warrior shields and drums, beaded jewelry, baskets and much more are available for purchase and all sales helps the community. There is one photograph below that shows the women sitting in front of their arts and crafts display framed by large bushes.

I hope you enjoy these glimpses into traditional Maasai life and the portraits I captured of these amazing people.

Animals and love and affection

On my safaris over the years, I have seen animals display what appears to be kindness, concern, and affection, love, for others of their kind. Today’s photos show various species, embracing, cuddling, licking and grooming their progeny, siblings and leaders - a mother providing a protective embrace, a baby kissing its mother, one brother licking his other brother, a mother reveling in the care of her newborn cubs, elephants guarding their young and a member of a group of chimpanzees grooming the leader.

Enjoy these photographs, taken in South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, and see if you don’t agree.

Street Scenes In Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda

I had the fortune to travel through three East African nations on my most recent safari - Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda. If you've been following my Facebook page you've seen my postings of photographs of gorillas and chimpanzees taken on treks in Uganda. My earliest posting of photographs from that trip was from Tanzania. As a break from seeing photographs of animals (of which I still have many to share), I thought I would give you a glimpse into the life of the people from those countries. We drove through towns, not big cities, to get to our destinations. People everywhere go about their daily lives taking care of their families, going to the market, herding animals and talking with friends. Not having the privilege of spending time in these towns, I could only capture scenes of this activity from the safari vehicle as we went from place to place. I particularly enjoyed seeing women dressed in kanga fabric clothing. So colorful and bright you couldn't help but notice them regardless of the activity they were engaged in.

All of the images below were taken while driving through Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I did taking them.

Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda

Two days after our trek to see the gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park we headed to Kibale National Park to see chimpanzees. We had a ranger who accompanied us into the forest and for the first hour and a half, we were watching chimpanzees in the treetops munching fruit and scurrying rapidly on the forest floor. Our group leader then realized that we were supposed to be seeing habituated chimps when the ranger mentioned that these were non-habituated ones. We would have to go back to the entrance to the park and cross to the other side of the road to start our trek there to see the habituated chimps. Once there, it was much easier to see the chimps up close here because they weren't scurrying away as we got close to them and we could move around them to get better views since the forest was much flatter in parts. We saw other groups of visitors and guides but there was plenty of room for all of us. It was a magical experience to be in the forest with another of man's closest relatives, seeing them play, eat and groom each other seemingly oblivious of their curious human visitors. The alpha male, Totie, was seen being groomed and looked to be thoroughly entranced by the attention (see photos below).

Our tour came to an end the following day when we headed to Entebbe, an 8-hour drive through Uganda's stunning countryside. We said good-bye to four members of our group that evening that were returning home or going on to Zanzibar, Tanzania. I stayed another two days and, with Kathy, visited a wildlife conservation center, took two boat rides on Lake Victoria to see birds and to visit the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a 95-acre forested island that is home to 49 orphaned chimps rescued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The Jane Goodal Institute and the Born Free Foundation are two of the 6 trustees committed to the welfare and conservation of the wildlife on the island. The island also allows overnight stays and has accommodations for researchers for extended periods of time.

Enjoy the photographs!

Kakano - Silverback of the Bweza Family of Gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

Kakano, the silverback of the Bweza family of gorillas that we visited on our gorilla trek, was busily occupied eating leaves during our entire hour’s visit. He was not perturbed one bit during my close encounter with him, either. It was, in fact, as if he could care less. Good thing for me! Guess he was having too good a time watching the young ones swing in the trees, fight each other, and smack into and grab the legs of the human visitors. What a fabulous time!

My most recent safari to Africa - Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda

I returned home on January 30, 2019 from my most recent trip to East Africa and it was magnificent. My lifelong dream of seeing and being with gorillas and chimpanzees in their native habitats came true on this trip.

My small tour group of 6, led by photographer, Kathy Hertel Ricker, traveled to Uganda, one of only three countries in the world that gorillas call home.

Having long admired the work of three women primatologists - Dian Fossey who studied gorillas, Jane Goodal, chimpanzees, and Birute Galdikas, who continues working with orangutans, I was determined to see the great apes up close at some point in my life. When Kathy offered her tour including trekking to see gorillas and chimpanzees in addition to safaris in Tanzania and Uganda, I couldn't resist. When Dian Fossey began studying gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda in the mid-sixties, there were only about 200 gorillas alive. Today, due to conservation efforts in Uganda, Tanzania and the DRC (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) there are close to 1000!

The momentous day came on January 24, when my tour group got the opportunity to trek to see the gorillas in the Rushaga area of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We were accompanied by a guide, 2 park rangers, and hired porters. Trackers radioed our guide the location of the Bweza family of gorillas. Suddenly, I saw to my left in dense vegetation and black object - a gorilla. I think I was so stunned I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was so close to me. Of course, that's what this trek was all about, but even after hiking for almost 2 hours it seemed so sudden. For the next hour (you are limited to just one hour with the gorillas once they are sighted) we moved in the dense vegetation standing on a slight slope observing some three-year-old gorillas playing and swinging in the trees, while the silverback, Kakano, sat quietly observing the youngsters' antics while eating leaves. One young chimp was especially feisty that day smacking and knocking into people, even knocking me down. What an experience I had that day!

Here are some photographs of the young gorillas I saw that day, including the real feisty one. Will post photographs of the silverback in my next post, and chimpanzees after that.

Enjoy!

EXHIBITION NEWS

Art Design Consultants (ADC) has selected my photograph, The Mittens at Sunrise, for their Art Comes Alive 2018 exhibition in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Art Design Consultants’ annual art competition and exhibition ACA, Art Comes Alive is nationally recognized as 'The Academy Awards for Artists'. There is no other event that celebrates the visual arts by awarding over $250,000 to artists in a variety of categories including purchase awards, gallery contracts, publishing contracts and more!” The competition was open to all artists living in North America. 

I was represented in this exhibit in 2017 with my photograph, Stairway to Heaven. I am so very pleased and honored to be once again included in this juried exhibition. Opening night is October 6, and the exhibit runs through November 30th, 2018. 

The Mittens at Sunrise , Monument Valley, Arizona

The Mittens at Sunrise, Monument Valley, Arizona

A Visit to Walden Pond

On July 24, I went to Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord, Massachusetts on a commission to capture incredible images of the pond made famous by Henry David Thoreau. I walked the entire length of the path around the pond (1.678 miles) in 94 F weather. While bathers wore clothing appropriate for the beach, I was covered practically head-to-foot to prevent tick bites as I was told they were very active there.  From 2:30 pm to 5:15 pm that day, I tried my best to capture the essence of the pond that was Thoreau's inspiration for his book On Walden Pond, and that he described as “lovelier than diamonds.” The photographs I took of the pond will enhance the lobbies and dental rooms of two new dental offices in Austin, Texas. The owner of the dental offices lived near the pond in Massachusetts and swam it innumerable times. He wants the photographs as a reminder of his favorite place and for which he has named his two offices, Walden Dental.

These are some of the images I captured that day. If there is a photograph of a specific theme or place you would like to purchase and do not see in the galleries on my website feel free to contact me as I have an extensive archive of photographs. I may just have what you are looking for. 

Some exciting news!

I am happy to announce that I recently received an Award of Excellence from Manhattan Arts International HERStory 2017 art competition with my photograph of a father and his three daughters that I took in Egypt. Renée Phillips, curator of “HERStory 2017,” and founder/director of Manhattan Arts International, wrote the following about the exhibition: “HERStory 2017,” an online exhibition, features art by 63 outstanding contemporary women artists. The talent in this exhibition is extraordinary, expressed in the artists’ artwork and their accompanying artists’ statements. I encourage you to visit the artists’ websites where you can view their entire portfolios. Please contact them directly to purchase and/or exhibit their artwork." 
Visit this site to see the exhibition: http://manhattanarts.com/herstory-2017-art-exhibition/, and download a free pdf of HERStory 2017 here: HERSTORY-2017. The online exhibition runs through June 27, 2017.

The Foundation for Photo/Art in Hospitals has included me among their roster of contributing photographers with my photograph "Red Rock Crossing, Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona," for use in hospitals and healthcare facilities around the world. Elaine Poggi, the foundation's founder, and president supplies hospitals and healthcare centers with framed art that has the power to heal.  Promoting a sense of calm and hope for patients and workers alike amidst the stress and fear so common in traditional hospital settings is the healing power of art. I invite you to look at the foundation's site and read about the work it does for the healthcare field around the world at http://healingphotoart.org/.

Red Rock Crossing, Cathedral Rock

Red Rock Crossing, Cathedral Rock

The warm weather is finally here and my peonies are beginning to open and the Siberian irises are blooming right now. The bearded irises still look great but are getting near the end of their bloom. The tulips bloomed early this year for the yearly Albany Tulip Festival, but I captured them at the height of their beauty earlier this month. I love this time of the year for the opportunity to capture more of the stunning beauty of nature's wonderland. Come back often to check out new additions to my photo galleries.

Siberian iris and fly

Siberian iris and fly

A Comment from a Viewer

I was so pleased to receive the following comment from K. C. Williams, about my website that I felt compelled to share it with you:

"If you want to escape from politics for a little while, take a journey through the gorgeous photos on this website.

But if you want to make it a political journey, you can do that too. Glorious photos of people and ecosystems and art and architecture from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa might make you feel a connection to the world that is endangered every time someone proclaims "America First."

Your connection to the world is awaiting your visit to my galleries. So, go ahead, take-a-peek and enjoy the photographs that may help connect you to that big world out there.

Friend s, Luxor, Egypt

Friends, Luxor, Egypt

Consider visiting the RiverWinds Gallery in Beacon, if you live anywhere nearby to see my exhibit of doors and windows photographs currently on exhibit there.

Please consider leaving a comment about a specific photograph or gallery that caught your attention, blog entry or overall website impression and share my website address with your friends and family.

Welcome to my website!

I invite you to join me on a journey of discovery as I present photographs that explore and highlight the human condition, the beauty of the natural world and the man-made objects that are the outward manifestations of mankind. My enthusiasm for discovering the beauty of the world from the sand of a Middle Eastern desert to the ornateness of Mexican Baroque churches to a charming little girl and her pet sloth should be discernible from my images.

Visit the site often to see new images as I post them and let me know your comments. I will also be posting photographs to my Flickr account which is currently empty. Blurb, the publisher of my books, offers discounts from time to time, so check back frequently; check my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sbvazquezphotographicartist/; or click on the Facebook icon at the bottom of the Home page of the website.

Although you will be able to see all the photographs on each gallery page, you will need to click on an image to see it full-screen. Photographs are presented in photography blocks and you will not be able to scroll through all the photographs on a page in full-screen without clicking on an image in each block. All the galleries except for Europe and Africa, and Focus on Design have more than one photography block.

Please note that not all photographs on the site are available for purchase and therefore, will not have a Buy button in the lower left-hand corner of the image.

             Explore and enjoy!