In the remote and beautiful Ethiopia. I create photography for my love of the human experience.
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In the remote and beautiful Ethiopia. I create photography for my love of the human experience.

Although these days I am known mostly for my wildlife photography, there is certainly another love that rests deep within my heart. In fact, I have had a wedding and portrait studio for just north of forty years. Other than three years in the US Navy, I have made my living as a professional photographer my entire adult life. It actually goes beyond that, my teenage years were spent with a camera in hand and photographs on the mind. In my teen years, one of my first jobs was developing and printing black and white images in my father’s portrait studio. With over seven thousand weddings, countless business portraits, and more family portraits than I can shake a stick at, photographing people has been and continues to have a major influence on my love of photography. My style and approach in my work has been to combine my technical and emotional development in both portrait and wildlife photography. In every image that I create, I try to dive deep into the world of that which is flowing through my lens and into my own interpretations and experiences of life. In other words when I photograph a lion in the wilds of Africa, I look for a lot of the same emotions, expressions, and feelings that I search for when I am photographing a human deep in the valley’s of remote Ethiopia. When I photograph people I find myself searching for the depths of hidden thoughts and hard to reach messages that are often found in wildlife. I try to bring out the expressions and messages that rest deep inside the human mind. Through the very creation and development of my own interpretation of life, I look for ways to bring the depths of another living creature to the eyes that view and interpret the photograph that I have created. For me, this journey has been and continues to be incredible.  I truly believe that all living things are filled with deep thought and important messages. Messages through expressions, colors, tones, and textures, that can enhance our own life experiences in so many ways. In my journey to narrow the scope of my imagery to emotional impact and the viewers connection to the photograph, I use the technical assistance of a very shallow depth of field and the compression of telephoto lenses. This technique leaves little distraction in my images, allowing the viewer to quickly reach my intended connection to the depths of the subjects thoughts, feelings, and the very story of the photograph. 

Canon R3, Sigma 60-600

Canon R3. Sigma 60-600. 1/250, F6.3, 267mm

I have led many journeys to the remote and wild parts of beautiful Ethiopia. Both wildlife and tribal photography have drawn me to this visually stunning and culturally fascinating destination. With so many journeys under my belt, one would think that my selection of camera gear would be a breeze. However, I am embarrassed to admit that I am still highly challenged in this department. I suppose when it comes to selecting what lens to take I start out with them all. Once I realize that my camera bag is so heavy that I would have to travel with a crew of sherpas, I begin the dreadful process of narrowing it down. 

The destinations subject matter and the mode of transport are of course, huge considerations when it comes to making my final lens choices. Another important factor that I have to consider is where I will be traveling to before and after a specific location. I will often go from one country to another with very different goals for each location. Often I will be traveling from a wildlife location to a tribal portrait location with no time to head home and trade out my lens for different types of photography. In my situation, it’s important for me to select lenses that offer a variety of uses. 

Tribal Photos

Canon 1dxmk3. Sigma 105 Prime. 1/40, F2.8, 105mm

Canon R3. Sigma 60-600. 1/200, F6.3, 222mm


If I had to narrow down my gear to just one lens, it would be the Sigma 60-600. I have been using this lens as my main go to lens since it was released in 2018. I have used this lens for just about every type of photography I do. In fact I have even used this lens on weddings. I teach several workshops a year in locations where we use bush planes and are restricted to under fifty pounds of weight including clothing and personal items. The first lens I go for when packing my camera bag is my Sigma 60-600. It is by far the best all around lens I have ever used. It is a bit heavy at just under six pounds, however that six pounds is pure usable focal lengths and very sharp. My Sigma 60-600 has been the best all around lens I have owned and used in my 40 plus years as a professional photographer.  

Kevin Dooley Photographer

Canon R3. Sigma 60-600. 1/400, F5, 139mm

I truly enjoy using my 60-600 for portrait photography. Having the various focal lengths allows me to both be interactive with my subjects when I am looking for a specific pose and expression. On the other hand when I am photographing with a more candid approach I can easily maintain a distance and still reach out and get nice close images. I love how the compression of the telephoto lens builds a very soft, creamy background. In most cases, unless I am using a wide angle lens and telling a story, I personally like to keep my images simple and clean, often using the wide open side of my aperture choices.  The easier it is for a viewer to look at at a photograph the faster the photograph will grab and hold the viewers attention. 

Kevin Dooley Photos

Canon R3. Sigma 60-600. 1/640, F6.3, 204mm

 I never travel with just one lens, I am a firm believer in having a back up system. I use the Sigma 150-600 C as my back up lens. It is very light, very sharp and although it’s missing that 60-150 focal range, it is the perfect back up lens. Gear can be dropped or broken and a back up is vital when investing in a destination type photographic journey. That being said, when traveling to Ethiopia for Tribal Photography, in addition to my 60-600 lens, I prefer to pack and use two other lenses. My Sigma 16-24 and my Sigma 105 Prime. 

Kevin Dooley photographer

Canon 1dxmk3. Sigma 105 Prime. 1/125, F1.4, 105mm

Back in the days when I was doing a lot of wedding photography I used an 85mm 1.2 prime lens. I loved the slight telephoto look combined with the minimal depth of field. The wide aperture also allowed me the ability to photograph in low light situations without having to introduce an artificial light source. I wanted to maintain that ability, yet with just a slight bit more compression in the background. So I decided to with from the 85mm to the 105mm. It is a dream lens for sure. I love using it. 

Kevin Dooley Safaris

Canon 1dxmk3. Sigma 105 Prime. 1/40, F2.5, 105mm

Early in the morning when the beautiful people of Ethiopia are starting their day, I love to spend time with them photographing and learning about their culture. This is a time when I will often use my Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art Lens. I will normally take a low camera angle and photograph the mornings activities with a natural and candid approach. Often these days start very early, normally just as the sun is making its appearance for the day. I find myself photographing in very low light conditions and using the lenses 2.8 aperture quite often. As the light improves I may also use an aperture setting that allows me a bit more depth of field . However, I truly enjoy using the wide lens with a minimal depth of field. 

Kevin Dooley Photographer

Canon 1dxmk3. Sigma 14-24 Lens. 1/320, f2.8, 14mm

Tribal photography

Canon 1dxmk3. Sigma 14-24 Lens. 1/640, f4, 14mm

Ethiopia Tribal Tours

Canon 1dxmk3. Sigma 14-24 Lens. 1/150, f2.8, 17mm

Ethiopian Tribal photos

Canon 1dxmk3. Sigma 14-24 Lens. 1/30, f2.8, 14mm

In conclusion, I am a huge admirer of the line up of Sigma Lenses. I do have my favorites and the three lens that I use when photographing the tribes in wild and remote Ethiopia are  right at the top of favorites list. I try to select my lenses to match my style of photography and these lenses meet those needs. I use gear that is an extension and a pathway of expressing  my personality. My gear is a tool and a connection to the  expressions of how I view and share the world through my photography. I am very specific to select the gear that fits into my style and my technique. These Sigma lenses are the very windows that allow me to enjoy, feel, create, and share my love of photography. 

Tribal photos Omo Valley

Canon 1dxmk3. Sigma 105 Lens. 1/5000, f7.1, 105mm

I am excited to head back to the remote parts of wild Ethiopia where we find and photograph tribes that still live and practice their traditional cultures. We have spent years establishing relationships with these wonderful people and the experienced guides and interpreters that accompany us on these life changing journeys. I love sharing this amazing adventure and teaching the techniques of people photography in such an inspiring and interesting location. 

Ethiopia tribes

Canon R3. Sigma 60-600 Lens. 1/640, f5, 79mm

Sigma The Jaguar
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Sigma The Jaguar

Sigma USA

All Wildlife Images made on a Canon R3 with a Sigma 60-600 Lens

The sunrise over the Cuiaba river was the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of rich Brazilian coffee. I glanced to the southwest and felt a twinge of excitement running through my body. Another beautiful day in the wild Pantanal is about to begin. My safari group has had a wonderful start to our jaguar safari. With two days of some of the very best jaguar sightings I have experienced, we have already photographed several beautiful jaguars . Today we will travel several miles up the Cuiaba river and connect to one of my favorite areas of the wild Pantanal.  The narrow and winding upper Caxiri Channel. An area that is normally full of wildlife. The large caiman hug the shorelines in search of fish and the many birds offer such wonderful photographic opportunities. The capybaras sit upon the river banks and occasionally swim and feed along the waters edge. All this activity keeps our cameras busy, however, it also provides both food and the perfect habitat for the jaguar. Today we will explore and enjoy the wild and beautiful Pantanal.

Pantanal Safari
Caiman Pantanal

Our boat captain was a very quiet man. Often protecting his face with a bandana and his eyes with dark sunglasses. Due to my lack of speaking his native language and his inability to speak mine, we became experts in the art of hand gestures. However, there was one word that we both shared with full excitement. “Jaguar”. I have always had a fairly good knack for spotting wildlife but, compared to our boat captain, my ability of spotting Jaguars in the thick jungle was not even close to the his abilities. He was also an expert in navigating our boat through the river channels of the wild Pantanal, often having to avoid fallen trees and masses of floating vegetation.

Pantanal Tour

Enjoying our journey up the Cuiaba river, stopping to photograph monkeys, birds, and caiman, along the way, we eventually reached the mouth of the Caxiri channel. A narrow and sandy opening led us into the channel and we began our adventure down the winding and narrow waterway that would eventually empty back out into the main river. A few years back I had seen two jaguar brothers in this area and I was hoping to find at least one of them again. I was curious to see how the young jaguars had grown and flourished. Just shortly after stopping to photograph a family of capybaras I glanced to the river bank in front of us. We were entering a very sharp turn and the river bank was tall and steep. As I scanned the thick vegetation upon the tall river bank, I spotted a jaguar looking straight at us. Before I could get a word out our boat captain beat me to it. “Jaguar, Jaguar”, he said. 

I had my Canon R3 with my favorite Sigma lens, the Sigma 60-600, resting on my lap and ready for action. I quickly brought the camera to my eye and managed to get a few images before the jaguar moved into some thick bushes. I immediately realized that this must be a shy jaguar and possibly a jaguar that has not been spotted or photographed previously. We slowly worked our way around the river bend and continued to look for the jaguar. With no visual, we decided to wait a few minutes and see if she reappeared. I saw an area on the riverbank that looked to be a trail through an opening that came to a stop at the rivers edge. I asked the caption to slowly back the boat up so that I could see down the trail. In doing this we spotted the jaguar laying down on the trail just far enough back that we could not see her from our previous position. Again I began to photograph her and at this moment our other boat arrived. The  guide and I came to the conclusion that this was a new jaguar to the area. She was shy and did not stay around for too long. We felt she was a jaguar that had not been seen or photographed before. 

That evening we touched base with the wildlife biologist and compared the images to the jaguars that have been discovered in the area. There is a complete list of photographs of the various jaguars along with their given names that help the biologists keep track of the jaguar population in the Pantanal. After confirming this was a new jaguar to the area, I was allowed to submit the photographs and present a name for the new jaguar. 

Sigma the Jaguar

Why would we name a wild animal?  The Pantanal holds the largest concentration of wild jaguars in the world. The importance of studying and maintaining a healthy population of jaguars is vital to the continuation of this rare and beautiful species. Each jaguar is unique in appearance, having specific and identifiable markings and patterns helps the researchers and biologists to keep track of the well being of each individual jaguar. Such important details such as age, reproduction, habitat, diets, and interactions with each other as well as other species can be studied. The jaguar population within the Pantanal is a very important indicator to the over all health of the jaguar species. Therefore it is much easer to keep records and study information on a specific jaguar when it has a given name.  

Jaguar Photos

Why would I name a jaguar “Sigma”? I tried to share my reasons in writing this little piece of how I feel about my Sigma 60-600 lens. My travel companion and friend, indeed I am so grateful to you. The joy I have had, the happiness I have felt, the accomplishments you have given to me. So trustworthy and solid. In all that you have shown to me, close and clear, wide and fulfilling, bright and crisp. With approximately a million images, three cameras, over eleven country’s, and several years of being my main lens, I do believe you deserve this special award. So in your honor I have named this amazing wild and beautiful jaguar “Sigma”. 

Wild Jaguars

Being blessed with the honor of naming a wild jaguar with the purpose of helping their  population flourish goes beyond my wildest dreams. To explore such amazing places as the wild Pantanal, is an adventure beyond words! As our week in the Pantanal continued, we would end up having photographic opportunities that were incredible. With every outing both morning and afternoon we found and photographed many different Jaguars. If this journey is an example of how the Pantanal gets better and better each and every year, I can not wait to see what next year brings in the wilds of Brazil. A true wildlife photographers dream place. 

Jaguar Pantanal
Sigma Jaguar
Wild Pantanal Birds
Canon 100-500 or Sigma 60-600
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Canon 100-500 or Sigma 60-600

Two amazing lenses

Canon 100-500 vs Sigma 60-600

My personal experience with these two lenses and the one I prefer. 

On a recent brown bear photography adventure to Alaska, I was blessed with the opportunity to take both a Canon 100-500 L and a Sigma 60-600 Lens. I have been using the the Sigma 60-600 with a Canon mount as my main lens for several years. I have one of the first 60-600 lenses and received it just shortly after its original release from Sigma. My first experience with this lens was a wildlife safari in Ethiopia. Prior to that, I was using the Sigma 150-600 sport, a Canon 600 prime and a Canon 300 prime. I am a professional photographer and have close to a million actions on my Sigma 60-600 lens. I have recently purchased the Canon R3 and have been using the Sigma 60-600 with the Canon Mirrorless adapter as my main lens. Having been impressed with the size and weight of the Canon 100-500, I decided to give it a try and see how it stands up to my Sigma 60-600. Both lenses are very impressive and I highly recommend both of them. However I did find that one of the lenses had a defining edge for my photographic use.  


Canon R3

                                                                                                                                                           Canon R3 and Sigma 60-600 Lens 

Canon R3

                                                                                                                                                   Canon R3 and Canon 100-500 Lens

Focal length

This is a no brainer for me. To have one lens that has a focal length from 60mm to 600mm is a dream come true for a wildlife photographer. I can not express how many times I have gone from wide to full telephoto in a split second. Photographing the same subject and in the same environment at so many different focal lengths is such an added advantage. When wildlife is on the move, the ability to track and photograph an animal from 600mm to 60mm without having to switch lenses is such an advantage. At this point I am not sure I could ever go back to using a prime lens, they are just to restrictive for my type and style of photography. I find it highly frustrating when my gear limits me and I have to think about changing lenses in the middle of a wildlife experience. Although the Canon offers the amazing focal range of 100-500, I much prefer the 60-600 and I would have a difficult time switching to a lens that was limited in these focal lengths. I find myself using 600mm a lot. Therefore I personally will have to give this one to the Sigma. 

Canon R3

                                                                                                                                                           Canon R3 and Sigma 60-600 Lens 

     Canon R3 and Canon 100-500 Lens 


There is no question that the Canon 100-500 is a much smaller and lighter lens. For this reason I will have to give the ease of traveling and the lack of arm fatigue to the Canon. For a person who requires lighter gear and is looking for a lighter camera system the Canon lens is a true warrior. It is very similar in size and weight to the Sigma 150-600 C lens. The Sigma 150-600 C is also a great choice for a photographer looking for a lighter and easier lens to handle. However I personally found the Canon lens almost too light. It was a bit more difficult for me to keep still and on my subject. Especially on a moving boat. I particularly noticed this when I was using the tracking and the AI servo. These camera settings can be a little tricky for me if the lens is moving around a bit. I am sure one can overcome this issue with a bit of practice. Taking into consideration that I am very accustomed to using a heavier lens the 60-600 just felt better for me. However I can certainly understand the convenience and ease in using the smaller and lighter lens. So I would have to give this one to the Canon.  The Canon weighs in at approximately three pounds and the Sigma comes in at almost twice the weight at 5.9 pounds. 

Canon R3

   Canon R3 and Sigma 60-600 Lens 

Canon R3

     Canon R3 and Canon 100-500 Lens 


The Canon RF 100-500 has an aperture range 4.5-7.1 and the Sigma 60-600 has a range of 4.5-6.3. Although my sweet spot on my sigma 60-600 is 7.1, I do often enjoy the extra light and bokeh I get from the 6.3 aperture setting. In wildlife photography we often find our most active times of the day to be early morning and late afternoon. Of course the light is the most beautiful in the early and late hours of the day, however it is also not as bright as the mid day hours. Having an extra stop of added light is a nice advantage with the Sigma lens. Often wildlife is surround by trees, branches, bushes, and other objects that can be distracting from the main subject. With a lens that offers a 6.3 aperture it can be easier to control the amount of distraction a sharp background can cause. For this I will have to go with the Sigma. When you add a 1.4 teleconverter it really makes a big difference in usable light. 

Canon R3

   Canon R3 and Sigma 60-600 Lens 

Canon R3

     Canon R3 and Canon 100-500 Lens 


This was a very difficult decision I found that under different circumstances such as light and subject matter, I went back and fourth on which lens I preferred. Over all there might have been a very slight edge to the Canon lens. However not enough for me to consistently notice. I would say this is 50/50 to very slightly the Canon lens. 

Lens Elements

This one goes too Sigma for twenty five in nineteen groups. The Canon lens is 20 elements in 14 groups. More is not always better, but the Sigma does have more. However the Canon only zooms to 500 and the Sigma zooms to 600. 

Canon R5

Canon R5 Sigma 60-600

Canon R5

Canon R5 Sigma 60-600

Canon R5

Canon R5 Sigma 60-600

In conclusion 

These are both amazing lenses and I would highly recommend them both. This comparison is from my own personal use of these lenses as a wildlife photographer. I have been using the Sigma lenses for many years and have had amazing luck and quality with them. At this point I prefer the Sigma 60-600. Mainly because of the focal length and the aperture. I must admit that it is tempting to use the Canon because of the weight and smaller size. However at this point in time that difference does not out do the other advantages that I have found in using the Sigma lens. 

Costa Rica wildlife photography. My Top five tips to photograph wild Costa Rica
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Costa Rica wildlife photography. My Top five tips to photograph wild Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a top destination for wildlife photography

There are many reasons why I enjoy Costa Rica for wildlife photography. It is a close and very fulfilling destination, I can reach Costa Rica in less time then it takes me to get to Alaska. I truly enjoy the tropical environment with beautiful beaches and wonderful seafood. The wildlife is prolific with many species of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and amphibians. Its a great location to photograph with both telephoto lenses and macro lenses all in the same day. The food is amazing and the lodging and the guides are top quality. Just like any wildlife photographic destination, there are some specific things that a photographer can be prepared  for that will enhance the over all quality of the adventure. Here are five pointers that I personally think can help a photographer to have great success in the amazing place. 

Costa Rica photo Tips

Get In Shape

Wildlife Photography in Costa Rica does not normally require long hikes and steep climbing in high altitudes. Although some walking is required and it will definitely pay off to walk and exercise daily.  Starting several weeks before your journey to this stunning location, participating in  morning and evening walks will give you a head start on being in condition for hiking in the rainforests. Most photography trips will provide transportation and only a minimum amount of walking may be required. It is a good idea to ask your tour leader if steep mountain hikes will be part of your itinerary. The mountains in Costa Rica can very steep. A very important consideration about getting in shape for photographing wildlife in Costa Rica is exercising your upper body, back, neck, and arms. Most species that are photographed in Costa Rica are found high in the trees. Holding heavy cameras and lenses up and pointing them towards the wildlife for long periods of time can be a bit tiring. Working on your upper body core strength can help you to maintain these camera positions for a longer period of time.  Remember to always consult your doctor about any exercise routines. Our tours in Costa Rica do not require much walking, however we do often encounter wildlife in the trees and often have to photograph them with the cameras pointing up. It is no fun missing an image because you are fatigued while trying to  hold your camera in the correct position. It is also important to remember to breath properly when holding up your camera. Learning to breath continually and staying steady is a great skill to master. 

Costa Rica Monkeys

Be Prepared for Rain

The areas where a photographer finds the majority of species to photograph is in the rainforest. Of course they call it the rainforest for a reason. September and October can be very wet. We do our Costa Rica photography tours and photographic workshops in late June. This time of year normally gets enough rain to add beautiful depth and saturation to the environment. The cloudy skies will also provide some relief to the bright spots of light that can appear through the tree canopies. However, we rarely have rain that lasts the entire day. Having good rain gear for your camera and lens will keep you from having to stay indoors and miss some photographic opportunities during the rainy times of the day. It is also a good  idea to have quality rain gear for your self, including a rain hat and water proof closed toe shoes. I personally use the Think Tank camera hydro cover. They are amazing.      I also bring several lint free cloths that I store in Zip Lock Bags for drying lenses, cameras, and eyeglasses. Another tip would be to bring a small portable umbrella. 

Understand how your camera works

I often experience the frustration of a photographer with a new camera having difficulties with all the different settings. Today’s new cameras can be very complicated and learning how to use  them is vital to enjoying and being successful with your photographic outings and tours. It can be expensive to go on exotic photography adventures. Such investments deserve a wonderful time and the ability to get amazing photographs. Study the owners manual, download it and bring it along on your photographic trips. It is vital to set up your camera with your top features of importance for easy access when you are doing your photography. Once your camera is set up the way you like it, stick with it and let those buttons become second nature to you. For me personally I have my camera set up for easy and quick access to my three most important and often used features. ISO, Camera Tracking feature, and Continuous focus. I want to be able to access these features quickly and not waste time looking for them. We all have different priorities and shooting styles, try to match yours with the set up of your camera. Learn it, and practice it at home. 

Costa Rica wildlife

Use the correct camera mount at the correct time

Costa Rica can be very thick with ground cover as well as thick bushes and trees. Using a tripod will work in some cases, especially when doing river tours or photographing at eye level. However having three legs on a tripod can get caught up in the debris that often covers the forest floor. Another issue with a tripod is that often you are pointing your camera towards the tree tops and its vital to have a tripod that will extend to or slightly past eye level. It can be difficult to lean over and photograph upwards all at the same time. A monopod is a nice alternative to a tripod as it will help to relieve the fatigue that comes with shooting for long periods in upward positions. A gimbal style tripod head is very important as it will give you a  fluid motion when photographing flying birds. I recommend the ProMediaGear Kevin Dooley Safari Gimbal.  Most likely you will encounter weight restrictions on your domestic flights. A top quality carbon fiber tripod is an investment that will come in handy in many photographic adventures. I use ProMediagear tripods and monopods. They are tuff, lightweight, and very reliable.

Camera and Lens fogging can be an issue

Lens fogging can be a huge hindrance and should be addressed in environments with extreme tempertaure changes and high humidity. I have found that it really comes down to giving your gear time to acclimate to the conditions your are photographing in. The humid and wet climate of Costa Rica combined with air conditioned lodging and transportation can be a sure way to experience lens fogging. It is so nice and refreshing to enjoy a good nights sleep with air conditioning. However when going from your air conditioned room to the hot and humid outside air, it can be a problem for your lens. Make sure you have plenty of time for your lens to get acclimated to the outside conditions. When I leave for breakfast I leave my camera and bag outside in an area that I can keep an eye on it.  I do not leave my camera and lens in the camera bag. My camera bag is very weather resistant and I want my lens to get acclimated to the same conditions I will be photographing in. I leave the zippers on my camera bag slightly open so they can get some circulation. Just be careful to make sure the zippers are secure when carrying the bag. When traveling in the transport to the areas where we photograph I try to keep my window partly open and the air circulating. I use a few different camera bags. One of my very favorites for this  type of adventure is the Think Tank Backlight. . When traveling I do keep my camera and lens handy and ready. You never know when you will see something you might want to photograph. 

Red Lored parrot

What lenses do I bring

I take two lenses to Costa Rica. In most cases the domestic air travel will limit the over all weight you can travel with. I also prefer to keep things simple and spend my time photographing, Not trying to decide what lens to use. I am a huge fan of using top quality zoom lenses for travel photography. If I can get great images from one lens that will offer many different focal lengths I am all in. I much prefer to have the opportunity to compose and create my photograph in the camera. A good zoom lens will allow the photographer to create several different images at different focal lengths without having to move and possibly frighten the wildlife. My Sigma 60-600 is in my opinion the perfect wildlife photographers lens. It is everything I need in one package, from a wide environmental image to a close up portrait all with the same lens is a dream come true.  I can go on a wildlife expedition and get everything I need from just one lens. It is supper sharp, very reliable, water resistant, and functions very quickly. The other lens that I take to Costa Rica is the Sigma 70mm Macro, although most of my images are done on the 60-600, its so much fun to go in supper close and discover the details in the smaller subjects. A link to the Sigma 60-600.

Costa Rica Rainforest
Costa Rica Photography
Nature's Best Photography
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Nature's Best Photography

Natures Best photography

Benjamin Mkapa Photography Awards


After a few attempts to write this blog, I am finally feeling like I have a better handle on the over whelming emotional impact that winning such an award can have. Although I have had the blessing and been fortunate enough to win several photographic awards over the last few years, this one was certainly one of the most important and meaningful to me. The amount of time and effort we as wildlife and nature photographers put into our much loved craft is simply a statement of the love and passion for wildlife and photography that most of us have.  Indeed some winning images in any photography competition can be of luck. Of course being in the right place at the right time and having your camera settings set to capture the image can easily happen every once in while. However in most cases a winning image in such a prestigious photographic competition will be made up of a lot of skill, patience, hard work, and talent. I find this to be particularly true for those photographers who can consistently do well in photographic competitions and win in more than one category or with multiple images.  This is when it goes way beyond getting lucky and the true skills involved in constantly creating great wildlife images becomes evident. Indeed many hours , hard work, great joy, a love of wildlife and nature, a love of photography, and dedication and the will to never give up, make up the workings of most winning wildlife photographs. There are so many factors that impact wildlife photography, and I think this is such a good thing. I have been a professional photographer that has made a living only from photography for over forty years. Mostly wedding, commercial, and portrait photography have been my main source of income. Wildlife photography has also been a part of that, however that is not my main reason for continuing in this journey and adventure. The simple fact that wildlife photography consistently offers so many challenges and the knowledge of most likely never fulfilling my dream list of desired images keeps my passion alive and never ending. So many factors come into play when creating wildlife photography. Subjects that do whatever they like, weather conditions that can be unpredictable and sometimes very uncomfortable. Traveling to remote places in hopes of finding subjects that may or may not be there. Dealing with government officials, border crossings, and traveling conditions that you may not be comfortable or familiar with. The ever changing lighting conditions and of course guides that may or may not understand the excitement and desire to obtain great photographs. In fact in many cases we as wildlife and nature photographers are up against so many odds that it is amazing that we are so successful in obtaining the images we manage to get. It takes a very special breed of person to constantly pursue images that are on the edges of impossible to get. Indeed I do believe this is the very reason why so many of us dedicated wildlife photographers are so addicted to the challenge.


All images by NBP, Kevin Dooley, and Eric Maripane

Entering Photography Contests

I personally believe it takes a lot of guts to enter your wildlife photographs into photography competitions where you will be competing against photographers world wide. Given todays high quality cameras and lenses, it is a very competitive world out there and winning photography competitions require very good images. To be brave enough to present your photographs to a panel of judges is no easy task. However it is a very positive and fun opportunity to be a part of a community that concentrates on both nature conservation and the betterment of the art of photography. I can not express the importance in entering photographic competitions to both build your confidence and to help you grow your skills as a photographer. Maybe even more important is that photographic competitions are a vital part of sharing the beauty of our wildlife and the importance of taking care of it. So many people in todays society will never venture out of the cities and see the world that exists in the wild places. Many people have no idea what it is like to watch a wild baby elephant play in the mud, to witness a grizzly bear in the wilds of Alaska fishing the winding rivers. So many people will never see a wild tiger or float the rivers of Brazil in search of the elusive Jaguar. With no reference to these amazing and life changing experiences, an understanding of keeping our wildlife and wild places strong and flourishing is unknown. It is the photographs that are shared throughout the world that bring these realities to the people who will never see them. The importance of wildlife photographic competitions that share the photographs with the world go way beyond prizes and the honors of having a winning image. These photographic competitions play a major role in the conservation of our wildlife. Every single person who enters these competitions is a winner in so many ways. One brave decision to enter a wildlife photographic competition is one brave decision to make the world more aware of our natural and beautiful world. When I hear a person say that I am not a good enough photographer or that I don’t believe in competitions, I am saddened that there is one less person out there to help save our planet. It is through the amazing photographs and the economic benefits that travel and awareness provide for our wild places that keeps up the interest and the desire to preserve these treasures.


Natures Best photography Awards
Benjamin Mkapa Wildlife Awards

What Images To Select For Photography Contests

It is never easy to know what photographs to select, I personally have difficulty picking out what images I think might do well in a photographic competition. I will often ask others to help me make my selections. I am often influenced by the difficulties that may have been involved in getting the photograph. Forgetting that the judges were not there and they have no idea what I went through to get it. I also find that I have to be careful not to pass up photographs because I have seen them several times and they have lost some of the impact to me personally. Therefore its good to get others opinions as we are often distracted by the details and story of an image. Remember that you need to get the attention of a judge and hold it immediately. The judges will often see thousands of images and you want your photograph to stop them in their tracks. Your image needs to have impact.

Most importantly do it for fun and do not take it to seriously, what one judge enjoys or likes could be completely different from one competition to another. 

Natures Best photography

What Wildlife Photography Means To Me

One of the reasons I wrote my book Wild Faces in Wild places, inspirations and stories of a wildlife photographer, was to share what wildlife photography means to me.  There is no doubt that I love photography. I love being creative and I certainly enjoy all the fun gear.  However my love of wildlife photography is really more about the experience of being in the outdoors. Basically wildlife photography is a great and enjoyable reason for me to spend time with nature.  I am most happy being in the wild places where my mind finds true peace and happiness. As my finger touches the shutter release of my camera body, my mind becomes free and my concentration is narrowed down to what I am photographing. It is a very happy and peaceful place for me. Wildlife photography has been one of the best and most inspiring parts of my life. Spending time in nature, observing, learning, loving, and taking care of our wild critters and places is what its all about for me. 

Natures Best photography Awards

The Images And The Prizes.

I was fortunate enough to have a winning image and five highly honored images in this photographic competition. What an honor it is for me to have done this well in such a highly recognized photographic competition. To have six of my photographs selected to hang in a museum of world renown status is beyond my wildest dreams. In addition to a beautiful Shona sculpture I received a cash prize and five award certificates. My images will also be published in a special edition of Nature’s Best Photography magazine. 

My Winning Image

Natures Best photography

My Highly Honored Images

Natures best photography
Art in Nature Awards
Natures Best photo awards
Natures Best Wildlife photography
Natures Best Photography Awards
Natures Best photo Awards

The Awards Ceremony

African Wildlife Awards

There was nothing more that I personally wanted than to attend this once in a lifetime Awards ceremony. However, I was on safari and could not make it up to Kenya for the couple of days required. I decided to ask someone to go in my place. The question was who I should ask?  I discussed the idea with my good friend and safari guide Eric Maripane of Mashatu Game Reserve,  since he was with me when I made three of the winning images. I decided he would be the perfect person to be at the awards ceremony. Eric has spent hours upon hours with me out on safari. He is my top choice of guides when we are in Botswana and he is also an avid photographer. Eric will go beyond the call of duty to make sure I am able to spend as much time as I need in the bush. Eric knows me and my personality well. He understands my passion of wildlife photography and he knows that I work extra hard to get our safari guests into fantastic wildlife sightings. He is very aware of the wildlife and always puts wildlife conservation first. Eric and I will often wait hours for an amazing photograph. He is from Botswana and I truly wanted him to experience the opportunity to meet the amazing people involved in the Mkapa Wildlife Awards. It was magic for me to watch Eric as he received my awards. In fact in many ways it meant more to me to see Eric at the ceremony than to have won the awards. Often the guides, lodges, and other folks involved are forgotten once an image makes it to this level. Without these amazing people and their efforts we could not reach these levels of photographic excellence. 


Kevin Dooley Wildlife Photographer
Kevin Dooley Photographer

Watch the awards on You Tube

A great big Thank you to Eric, Nature's Best photography, the African wildlife foundation, and all the folks who have done so much to help our wildlife.

Mkapa African Wildlife Awards

My Gear

My gear.
Its really quite simple with me, the less gear I have to mess with the more I can concentrate on my images and my joy of the freedoms of nature. I carry two camera bodies, a Canon 1dxmk3 and have just replaced my Canon 1dxmk2 with a Canon R3. The main reason I carry two bodies is in case I have a break down in a camera body, and or I would like to have two lenses with me that are ready to pick up and use. I do not want to fumble around changing lenses out in the field. It distracts me, it increases the chances of picking up dust particles on my camera sensors, and it is time consuming when I should be watching and photographing my subject. I use two lenses for ninety percent of my images. My main lens on my main camera body is a Sigma 60-600, my back up body will have a Sigma 120-300 2.8 or a Sigma 500 f4 prime with a 1.4 converter. On occasion I will keep a Sigma 150-600 C on my second body. It is very light and easy to pack. This decision is based on two things, one being what I have packed , weight is always an issue when traveling. The other consideration is the decision between having a longer focal length or having a lens that will give me more light. Basically it is a choice between f2.8 or a 700mm focal length. If I have the opportunity to take all four lenses with me, I am likely to use the 500 with the converter in the morning when I have more light and the 120-300 2.8 in the evening when light becomes more of an issue. Although I will loose some light gathering capabilities in using my 60-600 zoom, I much prefer having a zoom lens over a prime and for me personally the flexibility in focal lengths far outreaches the advantages of a prime. I use ProMediaGear carbon fiber tripods and the Promediagear Kevin Dooley Safari edition Katana gimbal head. I use ThinkTank MindShift backpack style camera bags. I really try to keep my gear at a minimum, it is strictly a tool for me, an extension of my body that needs to feel natural, and does not interfere in my ability to be in the zone of everything wild that is happening around me.

Sigma 60-600
Brown Bear Photography in Alaska
By in

Brown Bear Photography in Alaska

Alaska in July

I can not believe that July in Alaska 2021 has already come and gone. Just a few weeks back I was packing and recalling the incredible experiences we had in Alaska in 2020. Both our July and our September of 2020 Alaska safaris were stunning. Jam packed with bears, great weather, and lots of photography. Indeed another year has now passed and our fishing bears of Alaska safari for July of 2021 has now come and gone.  We were blessed with so many bear sightings, a bit of rain, beautiful clouds, and wonderful days of being in the wild.  I am convinced that the bear populations are really doing well. We saw a abundance of cubs and the bears were very healthy looking. It makes me so happy to see nature in such good condition. 


I am so thankful to the folks who join us on these amazing adventures.

I am so honored to get to travel with such wonderful people. I have gained some of my best friends through Tricia and I’s safari company. I received these two beautiful messages/reviews this morning. I am so thankful.

I contacted Kevin Dooley with Idube Photo Safaris earlier this year. I told Kevin I was looking for a photography adventure in Alaska. Fortunately for me Kevin had an opening due to a medical cancellation. Kevin told me that this photo workshop was on the Alagnak River at the ATA lodge, a first class lodge with cabins and excellent accommodations. Kevin also assured me that the salmon fishing and bear photography would be an adventure of a lifetime. Kevin fulfilled this promise! This trip was incredible. The accommodations at the lodge, the guides, and the staff were 1st class. I am a seasoned, experienced photographer and I can tell you this: my trip was awesome and beyond my expectations.
Kevin is a gentleman, world class photographer, and the best I have ever found in the business! You can’t go wrong with booking your next photography trip with Kevin Dooley and Idube Safaris.
Jerry Fleck
Grand Junction, Colorado

If you are contemplating going on one of Kevin Dooley’s photo safaris, I would, without reservation, highly recommend your choosing the one that speaks to you and going. I went with a small group on the Fishing Bears Photography trip in Alaska. For me it was an opportunity to fully commit to nature, the bears, photography, and editing. For others, they had the opportunity to fish, take pictures, or relax in any combination they chose. Kevin, made sure everyone’s request for the day was honored. Kevin made himself available to answer all questions and helped everyone with anything they needed. The guides were amazing at siting bears and anticipating their behaviors. I was able to disconnect from my job and the news of the world, which provided me with a profound experience that did not leave me the moment the trip was over. Rather it has reenergized me, and pointed me in a direction I value. I also feel my photography will improve and reflect what I have learned.


ProMediaGear Gimbal
Sigma 60-600

ProMediaGear Gimbal and Tripod

Those who know me well  know that I am a fanatic for ProMediaGears tripods and gimbals. They are tough and reliable.  Alaska has a tendency to put your gear through all sorts of weather and can be a true test for the quality of your gear. I have been using ProMediaGear products for several years now. I am completely amazed at how tuff it truly is. In the photos above you can see my Large carbon fiber tripod and the Kevin Dooley safari addition of the Katana Jr. Here is a link to the Green Kevin Dooley Safari addition Gimbal.

Wild Brown Bears

What a wonderful time we had

July in the land of the midnight sun is a time when the great brown bears of the far north are very busy putting on as much weight as possible. This year was no different. We had days of photographing over thirty different bears doing what bears do in July, fishing for the Sockeye salmon and putting on as much as nine pounds of weight per day. The banks of the cold and fast rivers were trampled down with well worn bear trails. Occasionally an occupied hideout would expose the big brown face of a massive Grizzly trying to hide behind a few tree branches so the fish would not spot him.  The older and more experienced bears have occupied these spots for several years and will often fight over the best fishing spots. I love photographing these bears as they often are full of character and expression. Each one telling a story of his or her life through the scars, the eyes, the very way they position themselves. It is so important that we all do our part to take care of the wild places and the wild bears. By visiting these remote locations and helping folks see and experience the wild first hand or just by photos and stories, we are helping preserve and save our wildlife and wild places. 

Alaska Landscape Photography
Alaska Bush Planes

The Sigma Lenses performed incredibly well on both the Canon 1dxmk3 and the Canon R5

I have been a fan of Sigma lenses for many years. My collection has grown and I am using Sigma Lenses exclusively as of now. I have several Sigma lenses including the 105 Prime, the 14mmm Prime, 70mm Macro,  the 14-24, the 120-300, the 500 Prime, both 150-600’s and the 60-600. I use these lenses in both my portrait photography and my wildlife and nature photography. These lenses have made many journeys around the globe and have proven themselves many times over. They are tough, reliable, and extremely sharp. My Sigma 60-600 is my main go to lens and I could not imagine my life without it. This was my first time to use the Canon R5 and I was amazed at how well it performed with the sigma lenses as well as how responsive the lenses performed. . Fast and accurate. Sigma has really worked hard at designing and making some of the very best lenses available. I am so happy to have these lenses as my traveling companion as I spend my days out in the wild places. I am so grateful to Sigma South Africa for believing in me and honoring me with displaying my images and Bio. They have gone beyond to help me in times when I needed a repair or a lens. A wonderful group of people that always have time to share a story or two with me, and to talk about the amazing Sigma lenses. 

ProMediaGear Gimbal

A beautiful Fox Encounter

Waking to the morning sounds of Alaska are both refreshing and encouraging. The soft sounds of the flowing river and the songs of the many birds are a pure symphony of nature. One morning I woke and peaked out my cabin window, the sight of a small female fox just a few feet away caught my eye. I dressed as quickly as I could and grabbed my camera. This little canine seemed to be as curious of me as I was of her. I had a wonderful time photographing this beautiful animal. I enjoyed seeing her different expressions in the way she carried her ears and in her eyes.  What a gift from nature we have in all these wonderful animals. Canon 1dxmk3 and a Sigma 60-600 Lens. 

Fox photos
Fox photos
Idube photo Safaris
Idube photo Safaris

Using the Canon R5

Canon was kind enough to send me an R5 to review and enjoy. I absolutely loved it. The focusing system is completely addictive and beyond amazing. Quickly locking on the bears and followed through with unbelievable accuracy.  Combined with my sigma lenses, I had a very very low rate of missed images do to being out of focus. I am excited to look into the upcoming Canon R3 as I understand it has  similar weather proofing capabilities as the 1dxMark3. I have no doubt that one of these cameras will be in my kit soon. The handling, and button response were fantastic. Although I have just begun to go through the over twenty thousand images I created on this journey, so far I would say the image quality is very similar to my 1dxmk3. The colors, tones, and noise levels at different ISO’s are seeming to also be comparable to my 1dxmk3. Although I have to really sit down and compare the images from each camera side by side. It is a bit strange for me to look through the electronic view finder and that is so far my only dislike about the camera. Of course any mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder will present a bit of a different looking image in the viewfinder. It takes some getting used to. 

The Amazing Bears

Brown Bear photography
great bear Photos
The best Bear photos
Bear Cubs
Great Bears

The bears can be be quite entertaining at times. Of course most of their effort is spent trying to catch the next meal, however bears will be bears and when they stand on their hind legs and search the area over, they can perform some amazing gestures with their paws. When two adult bears cross paths, as photographers we wait in anticipation. Could be that they both make way and keep a safe distance from one another. On the other hand there could be some sort of interesting interaction that often makes for great photography. This particular bear saw another bear at a short distance and decided to stand up and show a display of wonderful paw gestures. I am often amazed at these wonderful animals. They are such a joy to watch and photograph. I was so taken in as this beautiful bear changed from one bit of body language to another. All through the use of his arms and paws.  Nature is so authentic, so rewarding, so soothing and healing. God has truly given us such a gift in the wonders of the wild places. May I be gifted with the ability to notice and explore this truly incredible journey into life and living. These images were created on a Canon R5 and a sigma 150-600 C Lens. 

Slow shutter speeds an fast moving rivers

We decided to have some fun slowing down our shutter speeds and trying to show a still bear and moving water. What a challenge it is to get the bear still at such slow shutter speeds. Of course a lot of frames were taken to just get a few images of a sharp and still bear. Was a fun way to use our photographic skills and get a few creative images.  Canon 1dxmk3 and a Sigma 60-600 Lens. 

Slow Shutter speeds
Bear Photos
Bear photography
Moving water Photography

A few other critters

We do not often see moose when the bears move to the river banks to fish. The moose understand the danger and stay away from the large concentrations of the feeding bears. This Boy gave us under a minute and was gone. We sure had fun with the Eagles and the Mergansers. Saw lots and even had the opportunity to photograph some babies. Making High Key Eagle photos was also a lot of fun. Canon 1dxmk3 and R5,  Sigma 60-600 and 150-600 Lenses
Moose photography
Moose Photography
Eagle Photos
Merganser Photos

A beautiful lodge and amazing staff

The lodging, guides, staff and the food was as good as ever. There is something about sleeping in a cabin in Alaska that is so therapeutic. The sounds of nature, the smells of the pine trees, the sights of the beautiful wild flowers and the  green rolling hills. The tall snow capped mountains in the background. The huge sky often filled with dramatic clouds.  I truly enjoy this adventure, it is a life changing experience that always fills me with the  true reasons of living and experiencing life as it should be experienced, in true harmony and wonderment of nature and Gods finest creations. We are so fortunate to live in a land where we can visit and enjoy nature. Two openings for 2022. A few spots are still available for July of 2022.  We are limited to our number of guests and these will fill up fast.  I sure hope you can join us on this life giving experience in wild Alaska. It is truly like no other . I am so great full to the amazing guides, staff, and wonderful service we received from the amazing group of kind folks in the photo below.  

ATA Lodge Alaska