Lake Natron Aerial Photos

Several years ago fellow photographer and friend Paul McKenzie showed me his aerial images of flamingos over Lake Natron. The patterns and colors were off the chart. Ever since then I have wanted to go and it give a try myself. I finally got a chance on this past Kenya trip and boy it did not disappoint.

Lake Natron is located on the border between Kenya and Tanzania. Greater and the near-threatened Lesser Flamingos wade through algae, leaving mud-like trails as they feed on the cyanobacteria known as spirulina that thrives in this alkaline water. The abundance of the spirulina isn’t the only reason Lake Natron is such an ideal habitat for these birds. Because of the caustic environment, the lake is a perfect place for the birds to seek shelter from predators. As a result, flamingos flock here every year by the millions to feed and breed.

Logistically this is a challenging shoot for sure. I needed to board a small plane with Paul, Jim (my friend) and Peter (our highly skilled pilot) and fly to a remote landing strip where we dropped Jim off to wait for us and took off the doors and flew to the lake area. In addition to suffering from motion sickness I am also afraid of heights–at least to some degree. I needed to survive very fast, tight g-force turns while held in place by a seat belt that had duct tape holding it together! Yes, duct tape! I made it through most of the shoot but at the last few minutes I had to stop shooting as turning to look down and over the lake proved to be too much for my stomach to handle. Just as the plane touched down I threw up in a bag located in the seatback pouch. Was it worth it–heck yes, and I plan to do it again next year but with a patch! BTW, Paul has the whole thing on tape as he used his GoPro to film us shooting.


Image © 2017/Denise Ippolito Photography

Image © 2017/Denise Ippolito Photography

Image © 2017/Denise Ippolito Photography

Image © 2017/Denise Ippolito Photography

Image © 2017/Denise Ippolito Photography

Image © 2017/Denise Ippolito Photography

Image © 2017/Denise Ippolito Photography

Image © 2017/Denise Ippolito Photography

Image © 2017/Denise Ippolito Photography

Image © 2017/Denise Ippolito Photography ~ What was interesting to me is that the reflection and the shadow are present.

Image © 2017/Denise Ippolito Photography

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38 Responses

  1. These are stunning! Such a fascinating place – the images with both flamingos and the big dessication features are amazing.

    Thank you kindly Jackson, I truly appreciate it.

  2. John A. Sunkiskis says:

    It’s not often that I look at a set of images and simply say “WOW!” This was one of those times; great job!
    PS Next time bring some ginger.

    Thank you so much, I appreciate your very kind words. I had a soft ginger chew in my mouth-it probably kept it at bay for as long as possible 🙂

  3. Lovely organic images of our planet with glimpses into its life processes.
    The Art of Photography at its highest.

    Thank you so much Brent, I really appreciate your support of my work.

  4. Carolyn Peterson says:

    Wow what patterns!

    Thanks Carolyn, that is exactly what I was saying the entire time 🙂

  5. Jo-Anne says:

    every image is a work of art. Love them all

    Hi Jo-Anne, nice to hear from you, I appreciate your kind comments.

  6. Sharon Hallowell says:

    Those are all pretty darn cool! Sorry you got sick at the end, but it was sure worth it for all of us!

    Hi Sharon, it was totally worth it but I ended up with a sick head ache for the entire day. Next time the patch!

  7. I too agree…. these are outstanding Denise. Sorry to hear the flight made you ill. Many of your images are wonderful depictions of the fractal geometry of nature mathematically described by Benoit Mandelbrot. Fractal forms appear everywhere in the natural world: plants, animals, and minerals, and they scale from the microscopic to the size of the cosmos.

    Hi Stephen, Thank you for commenting and enlightening. I absolutely loved the scene from the plane, it was otherworldly.

  8. Kallol Mukherjee says:

    Amazing work indeed . BTW which lens U’ve used for most of the shots ?

    Hi Kallol, I used the 70-200mm lens and a 24-105mm lens, both on straps.

  9. Kathy Graff says:

    Incredible images, Denise. I love the subtle colors and wonderful textures in the images.

    Thanks so much Kathy!

  10. Bryan Holliday says:

    Holy wow, these are incredible Denise! I sense an award-winner in this bunch.

    Hi Bryan, thanks so much. Will you be in Bosque this year?

  11. Herman Lugo says:

    Congratulations! You did it, girl! Quite an adventure plus great images.

    Thank you you Herman, I felt that it was quite adventurous even for me 🙂 But I was so happy to be back on the ground.

  12. Neil Hickman says:

    I agree with Bryan and Andrew. If the first image is not an award winner, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!

    Hi Neil, thank you so much. Unfortunately Paul will be entering the same contests and he has a boatload of images like that one. But if he wins I will be elated as he totally deserves it.

  13. An awe-inspiring set of images… the first one in particular is jaw-dropping. Thanks for sharing these.

    Hi Brian, thank you so much, it was my clear favorite 🙂

  14. Mary Estlick says:

    What a brave, powerful soul you are! These images are truly phenomenal! Great job, and thank you so much for sharing!

    Awe.. Mary, you are too kind. Thank you so much for taking a look and for your kind comments.

  15. Vicki Santello says:

    Brava Denise! I remember very clearly your fear of getting into the doors off helicopter in Sossusvlei when we were together in April! I’m glad you didn’t get sick then and so sorry you hit the wall on this flight. Good for you for pushing your limits! Congrats on the images! They are all wonderful for their patterns and uniqueness. Lake Natron is high on my list to visit : please let me know when you (and Paul?) plan to go back so I may join you !!!

    Hi Vicki, I sent out an email with our second trip announcement this morning. Thank you so much for your support, yes, it was more difficult than I originally thought but I am so glad I did it.
    hugs, denise

  16. Evelyn Young says:

    All are outstanding but I particularly like the second to last with the shadows of the flamingos.

    Thank you so much Evie, I appreciate it.

  17. Cris Hamilton says:

    Way to go, Denise. These are amazing. Not surprised you got sick, knowing how poorly you felt on the boat to South Georgia a couple years ago!!!! I especially love the shots (#3 and 5) showing the trails in the water made by each flamingo. Would love to join you for this as well. You rock!

    Hi Cris,
    Thank you so much, yes, I was sick on my first So. Georgia trip but took the patch for the second and made it through perfectly. I will most likely use a patch if I go up again.

  18. Kitty Kono says:

    Everyone a masterpiece.

    Denise, I remember sitting in that little plane with you coming back from Katmai and I felt the same way.

    You are something else!!

    Hi Kitty, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

  19. Ann says:

    Amazing images Denise! You are forever on the move to locations I can only dream about.

    Hi Ann, thank you, I appreciate your taking the time to comment, I miss my friends in Canada!

  20. Nancy Bell says:

    Spectacular!! I especially love the 1st image and the ones with the flamingos looking like they are doodling (#4 & #6)! I was also super impressed with those past images of Paul’s with the flamingos. With your vivid description of the flight, I’ll just have to admire from here! You get the photographic badge of courage for this! BTW, what lens did you use?

    Hi Nancy, I used the 70-200 and the 24-105mm for these images.
    Thanks, denise

  21. Bob Melnyk says:

    WOW…!!!! Beautiful images and sounds like a fantastic trip…

    It really was a fantastic trip, thanks so much!

  22. Bryan Holliday says:

    Yes, I’m planning on Bosque over Thanksgiving weekend again this year. Will you be going?

    Hi Bryan, I have a group Nov. 27-Dec, 1st, so yes, I’ll be there-just not for Thanksgiving. Maybe I’ll see you?

  23. Kris Morgan says:

    Awesome! Amazing! Fantastic! Fabulous! Wonder-Filled!!!
    Wishing I could have joined you both in the Masai Mara and on your little flight. The Patch and spare duck tape sound like a great plan!!!

    Thanks Kris, Thank you so much. yes, I will bring more duct tape for my next venture!

  24. Maggie Reuss-Newland says:

    These are amazing images. I love the colours and the abstract details. Phenomenal beauty.

    Thank you so much, I appreciate the kind words.

  25. Suzette says:

    Incredible shots Denise, probably my favorite that I’ve seen from you. Thank you for sharing!

    Thanks Suzette, I appreciate your kind words!

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