Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

December 2003

Question of the Month

What is the BIG LIE?

As we do every fall, Mary and I just returned from leading several safaris to Kenya. This year, our numbers were down, but tourism in general was also quite noticeably down in Kenya.

If you follow current events, you know that last year an hotel popular with Israelis was bombed in Mombasa. You may also know that British Airways canceled flights into Nairobi for several weeks, from May until early July of this year. The US has issued a travel advisory about going to Kenya, implying that the threat to Americans and to American tourists was substantial.

These are all scary things, and the threat to BA was real. By June, however, that threat was eliminated. Still, the US travel warning stays in effect and this has severely impacted upon Kenya's tourism economy - causing layoffs, closures, and general hardship.

So what? You'd rather be safe that supporting a country, right? That's true for all of us, but the fact is, Kenya is safe. The Big Lie is the perpetration that tourists are at serious risk visiting this country. While I cannot discount the possibility that a SAM or Stinger missile could be fired at a plane taking off or landing from Nairobi airport, I can also certainly not discount the possibility of that same event occurring at JFK, Newark, LAX, or any other US airport. In the field, at our safari camps and lodges, Americans are most welcome, and are viewed with an appreciation for being here, and recognizing the true facts, despite the negative press.

How did this tourism warning affect our shooting this year? It improved it. In some parks, on some days, we were the only vehicles visible as we worked black rhino, or leopards, or gnu river crossings. It made for one of our most successful seasons ever.

If you're fearful of terrorism, so much so that this fear impacts upon your life and your plans, then worry about going to Las Vegas and being poisoned at a buffet, or gassed through the ventilation system; worry about blowing up while shopping at the Mall of America or vacationing at Disney World. Don't go to a stadium to watch a ball game, don't … Get the picture? Read some 'terrorism genre' novels and you'll get an idea about how vulnerable we are at home should terrorism strike.

While another missile might be fired at a Nairobi-bound jet, what are the odds that a non-US or non-Israeli carrier is going to be a target? Pretty darn slim, be reasonable! Once you arrive, typical safaris spend less than a total of 24 hours in Nairobi during their entire stay. The remaining time is traveling to and through the game parks, where you'll have the best wildlife photography available anywhere in the world.

This polemic Question of the Month is generated because we see the suffering this unwarranted fear is causing upon the Kenyan economy, on our friends - staffers - waiters, bellman, cooks, room stewards, and it shouldn't be. It makes us angry, and we surely know that if the parks are empty, if no revenue is generated to support these parks, they will be in jeopardy of being lost.

The Big Lie? It is nonsense. If you ever wanted to visit Kenya for a great wildlife photographic safari, there is no better time than now.



Previous Questions of the Month




 Camera Techniques

 In the Field

How would you meter these images?

Why should you know Manual Mode? 

 The Sunny 16 rule -- is it worth knowing today?

  How do you shoot silhouettes?

 How would you meter these challenging images?

 Who should go Digital,
and when?

 What do we really think about digital photography?

 What do we think of the Canon D30 digital camera?

 How long will film be around?

 Should you have a depth of field Preview button on your camera?

 Using Zoom lenses with tele-converters and extension tubes -- can you use both together?

 What the heck is the Scheimpflug Law?

  Reciprocity Failure

 What is the Best Composition?

 Are Image Stabilization Lenses Worth the Money?

 Hyperfocal Distance

  How do you determine distances?

 Flash and Tele-flash Techniques

 What is the most versatile remote release camera firing system?

 What the heck is a Plamp?

 What is the best flash for closeup and
macro photography?

 How do you shoot high-speed action images?
 How did I photograph that flying wasp?

 What is the Fotronix's
Flash System?


 How do we carry our film when traveling?

 How can you attract insectivorous birds to your feeding stations and bait sites?

 How do you make things happen in wildlife photography?
 What is our Favorite bird-shooting location?  What are our Five Favorite Shooting Locales?  Which binoculars do we just love to use?

How Easy is Whale Photography?

 What is the best
Game Caller?
 Is NANPA for you?  What is NANPA and how will it benefit me?

 Is it time for a summer NANPA Summit?

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