Jackson’s Chameleon: Love at First Sight

Jackson’s Chameleon: The Three Horned Chameleon


When I travel to Africa and meet my guides for the first time, one of the first questions they ask is, “What are you hoping to see?” I always enjoy the startled expression that briefly lights up thier face when I say,”a chameleon.” I love chameleons and photographing them is very high on my wish list when I go on safari. I have had some very lucky encounters with South Africa’s flapneck chameleon-the lizard that first seduced me and ignited this love affair. This past November in Kenya I met his formidable cousin the Jackson’s chameleon and I fell hard. I realized very quickly I was a loose and easy woman when it came to loving little green reptiles.


Trioceros jacksonii

Trioceros jacksonii, the three horned chameleon, gets it’s name from trioceros, a Greek derivative from the combined terms tri which means three, and keras which means horns.  These little lions are known for their fierce defensive displays where they can be seen hissing and lunging at their opponent, as well as doing battle with their unique and formidable horns. These unique looking lizards with their little mitten-like hands have wonderous eyes shaped like a dotted turret with a pupil. The male’s have three horns protruding from thier crest and their long and speedy tongues, extending 1.5 times their body length, can fully extend in .07 seconds.

Jackson’s chameleon Socializing

Jackson’s are solitary lizards and outside of their mating season will stick to themselves intimidating each other if territories are compromised. But when the days get hotter and longer and it is time to find a mate, males will begin a series of displays to initiate courtship with a lady-Jackson’s. As they sway and dance, lifting their spiny backs higher, they might stretch up their neck and open their mouth wide, displaying their powerful jaws hoping to convince her of their hunting prowess. They will also rapidly change colour creating a vibrant display meant to win her heart. And if a female happens to have eyes for two males, it will come down to a joust with horns to determine who will move on to the next round.

wight_missus_U7A9101_U7A9101Female Jackson’s moving along an acacia thron branch

The native home of this intriguing reptile is Mount Kenya, with it’s varied vegetation and high insect population. At some point, humans transported Jackson’s to Hawaii, where they have now made a home, thriving amongst the rich vegetation and plentiful insect population. Sadly, chameleons of all varietals are a very popular exotic pet and far too many of these creatures are now captured in the wild and then shipped around the world for private ownership.

Leapin’ Lizard

A male Jackson’s taking a leap from branch to leaf. (For larger images click here.)


Creative Challenges

They certainly charm the camera, but are a challenge to capture. First, you have to find them and they are very well camoflauged. In the dark shadows of foliage, the small horns are long enough to throw off your depth of field! Trying to steady yourself as you reach in between branches with terrible light and relying on very low f-stops to compensate for slow speeds, they are a difficult to capture “end-to-end”–but I certainly never tire of trying! These photos of both a female and male Jackson’s were taken in Nairobi National Park, where they are not endemic, but where they have been living freely after being rescued and released in a wild but managed area that provides what they need. I feel blessed to have met them both.


Why not check out Flapnecked Chameleons: Emerald Wonders.

If you like brightly coloured creatures, check out my post Photographing the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog.

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New Beginnings

“If all you can do is crawl, start crawling.” Rumi


New Beginnings for 2015

What better way to bring in a new year than to celebrate some of the little lives I have been privileged to photograph in Africa. It is always special to watch young animals making their way in the world with exuberance and curioisty and I love the creative challenge of capturing their energy and innocence. They are endlessly amusing and I am aware of striking a balance between following their antics through the viewfinder and sitting back and enjoying the show. Either way, it is difficult not to feel joyful in their presence. They are so deserving of our respect and protection. We must not fail them.

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To all of you reading, thank you for your continued support and encouragement with my work. I wish you a very Happy New Year filled with curiosity and delight!

For more young animals check out:

Casper the blond grizzly bear cub.

Black-backed jackal pups.

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Safari Silhouettes

“Here I am, where I ought to be.” Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

gazelle safari silhouetteCapturing Iconic Safari Silhouettes

African sunrises and sunsets are deeply emotional. This magical time of day awakens a deep-rooted desire for peace and tranquility and reminds us of the earth’s capacity for unimaginable beauty.  On my recent trip to Kenya I thought I would try my hand at photographing backlit subjects, attempting to capture the silhouettes of iconic wildlife that move with grace through these dramatic beginning and end of days.

eagle safari silhouetteThe early and late-day light changes so quickly that when you do find that picturesque spot briefly exploding in a celebration of colour, there is no guarantee that someone will show up to the party. But when the light, location and subject align for an instant, you have an opportunity to capture a truly emotional and dramatic moment–an instantly recognizeable African moment. A safari silhouette.

wildebeest safari silhouetteelephant safari silhouettehyena safari silhouetteThese are a few of my first attempts with backlit silhouettes and they have encouraged me to push further and continue to experiment with the magic of backlighting. There were lots more that made it into the trash bin, but these few bring back grateful memories of my time in Kenya.

Now, I just need to get back to Africa to practice…

elephant safari silhouetteFor more on my recent trip, check out Missing Kenya.

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Missing Kenya

I have been home for 3 days and am missing the wide-open spaces and inky black skies of Kenya. I replay the orange-blue sunrise and hot, dusty sunsets and listen for the echoing whoops of heynas at night. I return again and again to the faces of so many wild lives that passed their days before my eyes…and I am thankful.

lion_MG_6712elie_MG_7363 (1) eagle_U7A8405wight_zebras__U7A7852


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