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Winsted chaplain takes African photo safari
Jan. 28, 2013

Photo showing at St. Mary’s chapel Sunday, Feb. 3

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – He flew in a private plane, saw all sorts of wildlife up close, and met people from exotic villages, but the best part of Father Eugene Brown’s African photo safari was “coming back with all the pictures.”

Brown, who serves as chaplain of St. Mary’s Care Center in Winsted, is having a public photo showing (with refreshments) at St. Mary’s chapel Sunday, Feb. 3 at 2 p.m.

The 1-hour-and-45-minute presentation features about 500 of his top photos and about 40 video clips.

“It’s a slideshow, but the video clips are interspersed,” Brown said.

The eye-catching scenes range from waterfalls and rainbows to elephants and impalas.

“I’ve been doing photography over 40 years, but most of it has been church events indoors, with flash,” Brown said, explaining that shooting outside was an exciting challenge.

“Indoors, you control the light, whereas, outdoors, you look where the light is coming from,” he said.

Luckily, Brown had National Geographic-certified photographers Jack and Rikki Swenson as his guides.

“They gave us advice, like, ‘that Cape Buffalo has a very dark hide; reduce your exposure by half a stop,’” Brown said.

Brown’s first guided photo tour was to the Galapagos in May 2011.

“After that, I got to thinking, I would really like to go to Africa,” he said.

He decided on two 11-day, back-to-back photo safaris to Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. Including pre- and post-trip extensions, the entire adventure lasted 29 days (Aug. 4 through Sept. 2).

“That was definitely my dream trip,” said Brown, adding that, at 78, he was the oldest photographer who attended.

Brown’s group traveled to game reserves and parks via private plane, and used safari vehicles to search for wildlife.

The vehicles are designed to travel in shallow water, over small trees, and up steep hills, but they can get stuck on occasion.

“Our driver got stuck, and we kept sliding closer to this slimy green pond,” Brown recalled. The driver ended up calling in a second vehicle to pull him out.

“We weren’t allowed to get out until the second vehicle arrived, because there were lions about 100 yards ahead,” Brown said.

Although it’s dangerous to travel on foot, the animals are used to seeing photographers in safari vehicles, and it’s safe to get within 25 to 30 feet.

“On the last afternoon we were there, I watched a pack of eight lionesses, ruled by three male brothers,” Brown said. “An impala was chased in, and I have six minutes of video where they devoured that impala. You could hear them growling, and in six minutes, there was nothing left but the horns.”

Throughout the trip, Brown and the other photographers typically began their search for cheetahs, leopards, giraffes, and other animals at dawn. After lunch, they’d head out again until dusk (around 5:30 p.m.).

“On the drive back, we’d shine a spotlight to see any nocturnal animals,” he said, explaining that with an ISO of 204,800, his camera is capable of taking photos in low light.

One highlight of Brown’s trip was visiting a village of about 7,000 people in Zambia, near Victoria Falls.

“I have video of a woman named Lumba,” Brown said. “She was talking to us, describing the village. They have a king and queen who are brother and sister.”

The king is supervised by a council, which can provide warnings if a decision is made that goes against the council’s advice.

“After a certain number, they have a right to kill him,” Brown said. “They can put poison in his food, and if that doesn’t work, they can bury him in the ground alive.”

Brown has several more African memories recorded on his DVD set, which will be available for $15 at the photo showing Feb. 3.

Large prints (13-inches-by-19-inches) will also be for sale, at $10 each.

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