Club Night, Wildlife with Alan Hewitt - Tuesday 28th November 2017.

                         

On Tuesday 28th November 2017 Morpeth Camera Club welcomed Alan Hewitt, a professional wildlife and conservation
photographer who is based in Northumberland and runs a number of wildlife photography workshops and safaris in the
UK and abroad in Kenya’s Masai Mara.

He began his talk entitled ‘Wildlife with Alan Hewitt’ by explaining the ‘Big 5’, an historical term used by hunters of the
most dangerous animals they wanted to hunt, being the Male Lion, Elephant, Black Rhino, Leopard and Cheetah but
which is now a term used by photographers as being the most wanted subjects to capture on camera. He went on to
describe the Masai Mara ecosystem where great migrations take place and where anyone can pay a fee and enter.
There are also Conservancies in private areas that limit tourist numbers and are more peaceful the entry fees of which
go to a co-operative for children’s education, vets for the animals thus creating a sustainable model.

Alan captured many of his images in the private game reserve of Sabi Sands providing the audience with many stunning
shots which included the skin texture, eye detail and lashes of an elephant, a cheetah with cubs among the grasses, with
another devouring a newborn Thomson's Gazelle, a stunning family portrait of a pride of lions in golden light, a leopard
draped in a tree at dawn and a hippo emerging from water with spray. Comparing the behaviour of different animals such
as the elephant, black rhino, and Cape buffalo Alan described the cheetah as the supermodel of the Masai Mara who hunts
during the day on the Savannah, eats the bare minimum on a needs must basis whereas the lion will eat and eat until its
prey is finished.

The art of field craft is learnt by experience, he continued. If you seek out the prey first you will soon find the predator,
for a better point of view park in a dip so that the vehicle is obscured and the animal is at eye level, listen for distress
calls and you can be sure that there will soon be a chase, never run as you become prey, and most of all have respect for
the animals and keep out of their way. Alan went on to describe the exciting build up of a chase and the intelligence used
by lions to make their prey come to them which is totally instinctive and second nature. In the park most lions are given
names rather than a number. This makes them more identifiable and appealing to sponsors such as local schoolchildren,
names are easier to use in research into their movement and photographs are taken to monitor distinguishing marks
and behaviour.

Many anecdotes were told including a sighting of a pair of hyenas who were staring into his tent while he was inside and
how a herd of elephants had silently walked through their camp in the night while everyone slept. Throughout the show
Alan provided the audience with so many interesting facts such as how the Waterbuck with its reindeer like coat can
release hormones into its bloodstream, the taste of which is distasteful to lions. Alan then went on to list the ‘Ugly 5’, the
White Backed Vulture, the Hyena, Warthog, Wildebeest, describing behaviour and lifestyle, especially that of the Marabou
storks who frequent the inner city rubbish dumps. Brilliant photographs of Ostrich, Wild Dogs, birds and reptiles followed
with information relating to all.

Alan stated that although he loved animal portraiture he was gradually trying to evolve his photographs within context;
a wider view with animals in their habitat. We saw images of the iconic river crossing at Mara of the Wildebeest, who
have the impulse to cross to reach fresh grasses and Alan spoke of the cunning waiting crocodiles, which only need one
meal a year to survive, pick the moment when the river is teeming with the animals before striking, and kill just for sport.
Alan’s love of silhouettes were evident with scenes of giraffes together with native acacia trees, Great Heron and Eagles
set against magnificent sunsets, perfectly capturing the unique atmosphere of this wonderful region. Finally we saw
colourful images of his good friends, the Masai guides, together with shots of village family life, happily cooking and dancing.

On an evening of excellent photography and a myriad of facts and information, Alan’s love of wildlife and conservation shone
through and a short question and answer session where Alan generously provided technical details, opinions on poaching,
and use of weapons concluded his presentation. Chairman Mark Harrison duly thanked Alan for his very interesting talk after
which coffee was served.

Steph.