Safari photographer Jim Griggs and his wife Cindy will present photos and their experiences at a presentation in the Ida Long Goodman Memorial Library at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29.
The leopard was just 50 feet away when the photo was taken. Wildlife photographer Jim Griggs and his wife, Cindy, will share their Africa safari experiences at the Ida Long Goodman Memorial Library from 7 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, including the time they spotted a leopard up close.
The couple will spend an hour showing images and sharing their experiences on their photo safaris to Tanzania in East Africa.
Most of Griggs’ safari photos were taken in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and his presentation will feature photos from his 2017 trip. He has traveled to several foreign countries and all 50 states but it is Africa that has gotten into his soul and draws him back.
“Africa is the root of civilization. It’s one of the few places I’ve been where it’s still wild. There’s no roads, no buildings and no fences. It’s just the wildness of it that intrigues me,” Griggs said. “It’s in my blood and I can’t stop.”
While he has been to Serengeti many times, he said he can go to the same area but it’s never the same.
As a photographer, Griggs’ goal is to get people to look where he wants them to look on his pictures. He considers photography a combination of art and technology but it’s the composition that intrigues him.
He got his first 35-mm camera in high school. A soldier needed $5 to get home and sold his camera to Griggs for $7. In college, he worked at the newspaper developing and making prints. When the image begins to appear then the stop and fix are added, he was fascinated.
“It’s just magic. It got me hooked,” Griggs said.
When he got out of school he was making $830 a month for Texas Instruments. He took his camera to a go-cart track and shot six rolls of 36-exposure film. He developed the prints and took them back to the track and was able to make $400 in just two hours.
“It was just awesome,” said Griggs, who realized photography was what he really wanted to do.
The adventure of it all is intriguing. He leads others on photography safaris and has experienced amazing moments. He witnessed a rare cheetah attack, twice in one day. The attacks only last about four seconds and they only feed every four days.
On another trip, his group was at Kliens Gate entrance to Serengeti and they saw a pride of lions with 37 in the pride and 17 were little cubs meaning it was a very healthy pride. Cubs would come over next to the vehicles and lie down and look them over. They were there for just over two hours.
In that same trip, lions were walking through their camp and one laid down in the front porch of a tent.
Sometimes there’s so much to see that you have to force yourself to focus on just one animal and take pictures.
Sometimes Griggs tells the people in the group to put the camera down and just take it all in, smell the air. When they look at their photos, they can still smell the air and remember the breeze.
A turning point in Jim’s photography career was meeting Boyd Norton, an early conservationist photographer and author. Cindy worked with Norton’s wife and the two couples got to be good friends. In 2001, they went with Norton on one of his trips to Serengeti and fell in love with it. It led to their passion for photography safaris in Tanzania, Cindy said.
Griggs had a preconceived notion about Africa but when Norton said Serengeti looked like the Kansas Flint Hills, it changed his perception of Africa and his life, Cindy said.
Since 2007, the couple has been to Serengeti eight times. They have also visited Ngorongoro Crater in northern Tanzania. It is the largest unbroken crater in the world and is a microcosm of almost all the animals in Tanzania. They have everything they need to survive and don’t have to migrate.
While Griggs’ photos are striking and breathtaking, he does get help from animals. There have been tours for 60 years in the Serengeti and the animals don’t perceive the vehicles and humans as a threat. They get very close to the vehicles and are not concerned about them, said Griggs, who took a leopard photo and was only about 50 feet away. For many of their photos, they don’t need a telephoto lens but he does have one to get the subject even closer, Cindy said.
On one memorable occasion, an elephant came right up to the vehicle and sniffed the people. The safari members were not concerned about this behavior. Cindy would not say the elephants are friendly but they are just used to people.
However, even though these animals will come close to the vehicles, they are still very much wild animals and people need to stay in the vehicles at all times. If not, things could change in a hurry.
“If we got out of the vehicle, as Jim says, we would be in the food chain,” Cindy said.
It’s difficult to describe the experience of seeing these animals in the wild. It’s hard to put it in English.
“It brings me close to God’s creation. It puts me in a place where I am not at the top of the food chain,” Cindy said. “It leaves Jim and me with a desire to help protect the area. It’s one of the reasons we do our programs.”
Griggs has been an instructor with Wilderness Photography Workshops for 11 years. In addition to workshops, he leads photography trips and has given lectures in Serengeti, Tanzania, Tambopaat Rain Forest of Peru, Galapagos Islands, Alaska, Hawaii, and Jasper National Park. He has visited all 50 states, Scotland, Russia, France, South America, Mexico and the Galapagos Islands. He gives instructional programs for beginner and advanced photographers.
Griggs’ photography has been used by National Geographic, The Nature Conservancy, The Sierra Club, Wyoming Wildlife, hundreds of other publications, books, websites, museum dioramas, billboards, postcards, calendars and any- thing to do with photography.
The Griggses will celebrate 50 years of marriage in 2019. Their last safari to Tanzania is scheduled for 2020. They will also visit the Galapagos Islands
Their business is Selective Focus and their website is selective-focus.com. Many of Griggs’ photos are on display and available for purchase.