My grandfather was an inventor, my father was an artist, and as a boy, I loved performing magic. So I like to think that these Photicular images are a direct result of generational influences, merging innovation, art, and magic.
Photicular imaging is an old technology--"lenticular," or "integrated" photography, done in a new way. Individual video frames are sliced into very thin, adjacent strips to create one master-image. On its own, it just looks blurry, as if all the images were overlapped, but slide a sheet of thin lenses over the master-image--and it comes alive in fluid, film-like motion.
The beauty of an animal moving is another kind of magic that has fascinated me since childhood: the thrilling grace of a cheetah as it streaks across the grassland, the incongruous gentleness of a fierce-looking silverback gorilla quietly chewing plants, or the delicate gait of a young zebra trotting across the savanna. (The Jungle Book and Man-Eaters of Kumaon were early favorites.) As Carol Kaufmann recounts in her essay, which opens this book, there is nothing more powerful than watching an animal in its natural habitat. That's why a safari seemed like a natural fit for the first Photicular book. For those unable to make the trip to Africa, I offer these images as a glimpse into the thrill of a safari and the astonishing sight of an animal in motion.
As the 10-seater plane approaches the dirt landing strip in the northwest corner of Masai Mara, Kenya's 583-square-mile national reserve along the Tanzanian border, a giraffe is waiting. The plane touches down, rolls closer, but the giraffe--a big male about two stories tall--doesn't move. He simply stares at the plane as the pilot veers to avoid him. A jolt comes not only from the rough landing on the bare earth, but from the shock of seeing that first animal in the wild, and at such close range.
Another surprise: refreshments on arrival, arrayed on a red tablecloth. The crew from our camp is there to greet us. "Welcome to the Mara!" says Milka our hostess, her white smile brilliant. "Champagne?" Not just yet. The small-plane flight and giraffe standoff have left me unsure of my footing. Salty banana chips prove soothing.
Milka introduces us to our guide, James, a quiet, dignified man in his 30s, dressed neatly in a pressed khaki collared shirt and shorts. He's a Maasai, and his village stands atop an escarpment that borders one side of the Mara. His face is polished ebony, his voice soft and steady, his English lilting, lyrical. His kind eyes make me feel safe, happy. We learn that James is his Christian name. Maasai choose one for themselves when they go to school. His given name is Massek, he tells us. We begin to call him that instead. This makes him smile.
Massek helps us into an olive-colored Land Cruiser, a rugged-looking vehicle with no doors or windows. Thick metal roll bars hold up a canvas. Plump tsetse flies stick to the roof above my head. I hit the canvas and they fly off. Who knows if they're carriers for the sleeping sickness. In spite of the inoculations I got before traveling here--six shots in total--nothing will prevent that dreaded disease.
Massek takes off along the bumpy road. More like a country lane, it's dirt, dotted with jagged rocks and large, smooth stones. The deep potholes and crevices, left over from the rains, cause us to jiggle and jostle. First timers clutch the thick poles. Will the combination of jet lag, caffeine, motion sickness, and malaria pills require us to pull over?
How could it? Every sense is so completely engaged and overstimulated, curiosity operating on overdrive, that my brain doesn't have time to notice something might be wrong inside.
En route to camp, we hear of a leopard spotting. A glimpse of the secretive leopard is a prize, even for seasoned guides. The cat, nearly invisible in the dappled afternoon light, picks the moment we drive up to emerge from beneath a bush. He walks in front of the vehicle and, for just a moment, stares into our faces before running off, out of sight.
Even Massek is visibly excited. He tells us this chance sighting portends good things for the journey. We haven't even checked into our room.
Tent, rather. We arrive at camp and are led to a living room-size, thick canvas tent on a platform built about a foot off the ground. Inside, the beds are actual beds--not cots or sleeping bags--and are covered with soft cotton sheets and thick, white duvets. The walk-in slate-lined shower contains soaps, sugar scrubs, and shampoos laced with herbs. Large bottles of mineral water stand ready on the double-sink vanity. Beyond the zipped-up mosquito netting, we have a private patio complete with leather club chairs that look out onto the savanna. Commuter traffic and busy sidewalks lined with rectangular buildings seem very far away.
Excerpted from Safari: A Photicular Book
by Dan Kainen
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