Tag: video

For the Love of Elephants – Sheldricks and Amboseli

“It is easy to love elephants….because they will love you back”
– Caretaker, Sheldrick’s Elephant Trust

The anticipation was growing, and by the time we pulled up the dirt road at Sheldrick’s we could hardly contain ourselves. The day had come, the moment was near – we were all about to meet our adopted baby elephants face to face!

Two days before I left home to lead this very special Travcoa’s 2011 President’s Journey: Grand Safari to Kenya & Tanzania, my September 2011 issue of National Geographic arrived in the mail, featuring an entire article on the very elephants we were about to meet, titled Orphans No More. The baby elephant featured on the lead page was in fact Travcoa’s own adopted elephant, Shukuru!

We gathered round the feeding stations where caretakers held big full bottles.  Then, the first group of baby elephants came happily down the path toward us.

It all happened so fast – these were the youngest bunch, still learning their way, and the next thing we knew there was milk everywhere as the babies eagerly emptied the bottles fumbling and slurping for every last drop.

Then, they were escorted out as quickly as they came.

But wait! The next group was not far behind, and these babies had been around longer and had somewhat better manners as more of us got to hold bottles and meet our own adopted elephants.

Then these adorable kids were allowed “playtime” to wallow in the mud for a bit while we watched and took pictures and oooh’ed and awwww’d.  They were simply so darn cute we just wanted to bring them all home with us.  I somehow I managed to keep myself from running in to the mud to play with them….that probably would not have been so great for my camera, which I was using to make possibly the cutest elephant video ever:

Wait, there’s one more baby elephant bow….
 

They are a tough act to follow, for sure.  The good news is, you don’t have to travel all the way to Africa to foster an orphaned elephant! You can read all about the elephants and select your own online here, at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphan Project.

But should you already be in Kenya,  then there’s no better place to learn more about elephants in the wild than Amboseli National Park, and a visit to the Cynthia Moss Research Station (Amboseli Trust for Elephants).  If we could have stayed all week, we’d never have tired of hearing stories from Field Researcher Vicki Fishlock, who hosted us and enthralled us with her knowledge and enthusiasm.

Of course, there is no shortage of opportunity in Amboseli to observe elephants in the wild, and sometimes the encounters are quite close!

Whether up close or from a distance, spending some time watching a matriarch and her family is a real treat, especially when there is a very young one at her side.

I think I could go back to Africa again and again and again and never tire of watching elephants. But for as much wonder and heartfelt joy that I get watching elephants in the wild, nothing will ever compare to the few precious moments experienced with the orphaned elephants at David Sheldricks. That was truly one of the greatest highlights of my life. And guess what….I’m already planning a return in 2012.

Calcutta the Beautiful

When you think Calcutta, do you think slums, poverty and filth? Or do you imagine art, joy and beauty? A visitor to Calcutta will see what they want to see, but the camera never lies. It’s all there. Open your eyes.

              
Children of Calcutta

Upon landing by air in Calcutta, I couldn’t help but notice the lush green surroundings – a rather surprising twist on my preconceived image of a sprawling, polluted, crowded city in West Bengal.  I was whisked away by a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle to the luxuriously comfortable and air-conditioned Taj Bengal, where I looked out over a green landscape dotted with purple bougainvillea and bright red flame trees. I was further enchanted by lovely tweeting birds nesting in the plants of the window box.  I grabbed a few quick shots with my iphone….

…before pulling out my camera gear to charge batteries, change memory cards, wipe lenses, and do all that not-so-glamorous maintenance work of a travel photographer.

So this is Calcutta. Through the window….it looks like a beautiful dream.

While it’s certainly more comfortable to sit in an air-conditioned room or vehicle watching everything from behind the glass, you’ll barely scratch the surface.  And it’s easy to be bothered by the heat, groaning every time you step out into it and focusing only on how uncomfortable you are. I’ve seen it happen, I’ve watched, and listened to, others do this. Three words: Get over it. The people of Calcutta live in this heat every day, with no A/C in their homes, cars or rickshaws. Your body will acclimate, you’ll adjust, and you’ll be glad you made the effort to accept it and immerse yourself into everything that is Calcutta.

Once you’ve successfully crossed over into the realm of being completely at one with the hot sticky humid environment of Calcutta, you’re home free. You’re no longer just a visitor…. you’re a part of life….

The afternoon was dedicated to visiting the “must-see” of this off-the-beaten-tourist-track city, Mother Teresa’s Ashram.  No words can describe the overwhelming emotion of visiting not only the Ashram itself, but the nearby orphanage established by Mother Teresa.  In her words, it is a refuge for…

“The hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” — Mother Teresa
 
To step into a room where knee-high children with big brown eyes hold their arms up to you, longing desperately to be held and carried, and to be told “please don’t pick them up” was a real test of my maternal heartstrings. But I found an agreeable compromise by sitting on the floor to read a book while the kids climbed onto my lap and leaned over my shoulders and watched my face as I was able to engage and love them without too much emotional bonding.  This was an undertaking not for the weak of heart, and all I could think about was finding my strength in compassion and focusing on the power of love. Pure love. The Mother Teresa kind of love – love for all, and attachment to none. I somehow made it out without adopting a dozen children – although not without shedding a dozen tears. Photography was not permitted in the orphanage and I would have left the camera anyway. Some things are to be experienced with only the widest aperture of heart, not lens.

The next day, Calcutta revealed even more beauty than I could ever have imagined, with a visit to the Calcutta Flower Market on the banks of the Hooghly River.  I always make a point of visiting local markets wherever I travel, for purposes of both cultural immersion and photographic opportunities.  To simply walk through snapping pictures does not the experience make – the photographer must engage all the senses, listening and smelling and touching, in order to capture the image that tells the story.

I’m not so sure I succeeded in just one shot, and I really wish cameras were equipped with a scent-mic, in order to record smell.  Sound, however, can be shared in a video clip, which also gives a good sense of the pace of activity in the flower market.

Now, what the video doesn’t show, and the camera can’t really capture, is the temperature. It’s hot. The outdoor temperature is in the upper 90’s (and it’s early).  As if the heat in itself weren’t enough, it’s humid too. Like, candle-wax-dripping-wet humid. Now imagine that heat and humidity while under tarps in a crowded space, where you can’t walk more than a few steps without brushing, or being brushed by, a hot sticky body of someone else. And there’s your sense of touch put into words.

Still with me? Good. I spent way more time exploring this market than I had anticipated, and I savor every moment of that experience. The hustle, the bustle, the voices, the sounds, the scents, the odors, the feel, the life…..oh, the life.  At times it was like walking through someone’s hot tired breath, but with wafts of freesia and roses.  I was fascinated by vendors who spent hours of their market day just sorting and picking through flowers – imagine, doing that for your living.  Working with flowers, nature’s beauty, and never taking a single one for granted.

                                Calcutta Flower Market – Images by Kymri Wilt

As it turns out, there are flowers and art everywhere in Calcutta, sometimes obvious, other times, not so obvious.  Here, a streetside tattoo artist creates flower tattoos on the arms of a young man, which are then dusted in bee pollen to prevent infection.

A trip to the northern quarter of the city called Kumartuli, also known as the potter’s village, revealed more arts and more body parts. Here sculptors and artisans work to create clay idols of Hindu gods and goddesses, for use in shrines and festivals all over India…and the world.

               

So now, if the thought of Calcutta conjures up images of joy, beauty, and art, then I have succeeded in shedding light on this amazing and wondrous city of India… with my images, with my words, and with my heart and lens wide open.  Namaste.

View more:

Calcutta Flower Market Gallery

 India Image Gallery

Favorite Guidebook for India

Listening with the Lens – filming a documentary

As many of you know, last October I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Nepal as a videographer/filmmaker, to document the story of Loving Arms Mission Orphanage. It was a profoundly moving experience, much of which I have previously blogged about (see links at end of this post).


This was my first effort at documentary film making. When the opportunity arose, I had only a portfolio of still images and my passion and enthusiasm to offer…not to mention my camera – the Canon 5D Mark II, with the technology to shoot HD video in addition to stills. Fortunately, the experience mattered less than the ability to dedicate my heart, mind, and spirit into my work, and for me, that’s just a given in everything I do! So after only a short 2-day intensive film making workshop with Pat Darrin, and a significant investment in audio equipment, I was on a plane to Kathmandu.

Today, I couldn’t be more honored and proud to share with you these three shorts, produced and edited by the team at Loving Arms Mission. Each is about 6-8 minutes long, and all three are different. I had no idea what the final pieces would be like, there was no specific shoot list nor storyboard; I was entrusted with full confidence to simply shoot what I saw and let the camera “tell it like it is”, which is what documentary film making is all about. As I began taping, the story just began to tell itself, and all I did was listen…with the lens.

1) Stranger in a Strange Land Part II

Notes:
* THIS IS MY PERSONAL FAVORITE – the children are truly inspirational for their triumphs and resilience; and to see their joyous spirit now, their love for music, their complete comfort with self and others, well, listening with the lens couldn’t have been easier!
* 4:00 minutes in – this song echoed through the home as the girls rehearsed, learning the lyrics off an ipod

1) Stranger in a Strange Land Part I

Notes:
* .30 seconds in, camera on tripod, you’ll see me on the right – the joy of being welcomed into the family as “Auntie Kymri” and to both document and participate in everyday life at the orphanage was truly a special experience.
* 3:45 minutes in, this was how dinner happened every night, with all the children helping with the cooking and serving and cleaning. Shovah, the mother, is a wonderful cook of tasty and healthy vegetarian meals.

3) Stranger in a Strange Land Part III

Notes:
* Opening – the longer I was there, the more I relied on the tri-pod, because too often I’d be drawn out from behind the camera to be included in this amazing loving family.
* 4:50 minutes in – nice montage of still images to tell the story.
* throughout – more great scenes of life with the children

In the end, it is Kent’s words that sum it all up best, for himself, for the children, and for my own experience in the making of this film:

“…to embrace life without fear….is just a great, beautiful reward”

Indeed it is.

And, like Kent, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

More:
Kids Around the World: On Location in Nepal – my story in stills, behind the scenes
Goats and Gods – the celebration of Dashain and a vegetarian alternative to slaughtering a goat
Kathmandu, Nepal: Homecomings – the simple things which keep me feeling at home away from home
Kids Around the World: Orphans with a Home – my Nepali nieces and nephews
Landslides and Leeches: a trekking journal, Nepal – after the filming, the crew were rewarded with a 7-day trek, and here I share my journal and experience

Madikwe is for the dogs!


Wild Dogs, that is. Also known as African Hunting Dogs or Painted Dogs, these are elusive and beautiful canines, and are number one on my personal “Big Five” list for African wildlife photography.



Lucky is an understatement. Not only were they out, but they were out in the best hour of daylight. Not only were they out in the best hour of daylight, but they were active. Not only were they active, but they were actively hunting!

As luck would have it, a lone waterbuck wandered into their territory. Note the “deer in the headlights” stance.

As luck would have it, I managed to steady the video camera long enough to capture the scurry of excitement as they gathered the pack together to circle the buck.

As luck would have it, for the buck anyway, the rest of the pack were already finishing off their meal from last night’s kill, and with bellies full, they had little enthusiasm to join these few. After a feeble attempt to encircle the buck, the 4-5 dogs realized they were outsized by this buck, and allowed it to wander on through. But oh, the excitement to see and hear them ready for a hunt!

(Dedicated to Jambo, our own wild dog)

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