Good light and good times

30 09 2014

So often on safari you find yourself in the most glorious afternoon or morning light with no animals to photograph. The opposite also applies, where you find yourself with a leopard, tiger or any other animal for that matter, and the light is horrible. Only on a few occasions, do all the right variables come together and produce a magical sighting!

We were on a photographic safari recently, and had the good fortune of spending a couple afternoons with a small family of cheetah. The mother and three eighteen month-old cubs were on the move, looking for something to chase. The mother had a different agenda to her three boys. She had the unenviable job of trying to feed four large cheetahs, while the young lads were just keen to chase anything, and try their luck at hunting. They had caught and killed their own prey before, but that must have been luck, because from the chases that we saw it didn’t look like they knew their trade very well.   The family spotted a herd of wildebeest and zebra at the far end of an open area – perfect terrain, but not perfect prey. The zebras were way too large, even if all four cheetahs pooled their efforts, so they were out the game. All except two of the wildebeest were fully-grown, also effectively taking them out of the question. The only real options for the hungry cheetahs were the two sub adult wildebeest hanging around the edges of the herd. All four cheetahs were stealthily moving in, when two of the young males started chasing each other. The mother sat down patiently, and waited for them to finish their game of tag. Eventually, they remembered what they doing, and re-focused on the matter at hand. They covered the distance between themselves and their quarry with ease, almost fooling us into thinking they were on the right track when all three just burst with excitement and ran at the herd. They had no real plan, they just ran. They chased the confused wildebeest all over the clearing, in all directions. As embarrassing as their attempt was, it was wonderful for photography, because for around ten minutes (a cheetah chase usually only last about 10 seconds if you are lucky) we had three cheetah chasing wildebeest around, in the open, in the afternoon sun! The shutters went crazy trying to pick up as much of the action as possible – this was camera heaven!

They came nowhere close to actually catching any of the wildebeest, but they would have learnt a few hunting lessons, number one being patience.

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A well kept secret

30 01 2012

So the little leopard cub that was so photographically obliging a few months ago, (, was holding onto a secret – one which was revealed in the last light of a great afternoon safari!

I had been down to the den site numerous times to see if I could get a few more shots of the little fella, but was unsuccessful every time. On what seemed like a pointless bet, I gave it one last throw of the dice, and came up trumps!
I caught a glimpse of a leopard as I was approaching the rocky outcrop, but it seemed a little too big to be the star of the Cute vs. Cute showdown. When I got within a decent distance, it turned out it was the mother of the cub, and as a bonus, the now slightly larger cub was out and about, annoying it’s mother tirelessly. The two leopards groomed and played with each other for a glorious half an hour, providing many great gigs worth of photos!
Almost instantly, the fun and games stopped. The cub bolted off behind the rocks, and was out of sight. The mother paid no attention, so I waited with her, hoping the cub would come back, and the clicking of the cameras could continue.
The little spotted head appeared from behind the rocks, and I aimed the camera in that direction… While I was looking through the lens, a second little head appeared! The little blighter has a sibling!
The clicking went into overdrive, and I was sure that someone’s shutter was about to catch fire!
The happy threesome got a little more mobile with their playful antics, and the light was fading fast, which made things a touch more difficult. I did manage to get in some good shots before they moved off through the rocks though, which will keep me happy until I manage to find them again!

Cute vs Cute: Part 1

16 09 2011

Two sightings have produced one very difficult choice. Which one is actually the cutest?

In part one of this showdown, we have, (said in ring side announcers voice) weighing in at a combined weight of eight pounds two ounces, hailing from a rocky outcrop in the north of the reserve… two of the cutest little lion cubs I have ever seen!
I managed to get a glimpse of these little chaps at between three and four weeks old! Unbelievable luck!
It all started with a sighting of the female, moving through some pretty tall grass. When she moved through an open patch, a couple balls of fluff were scampering around her feet. I managed a few glimpses through the grass, but no pics were on offer.
Being a seasoned pro, (the mother of the cubs is the oldest female in her pride, at roughly sixteen years), she felt comfortable enough around the vehicle to move out onto the road – and where mom goes, the cubs will follow! This produced an amazing opportunity to get some shots!

They were full of energy, and seemed to be enjoying their first outing into the real world, and in a world where danger lies waiting around every corner, there is a certain freedom afforded to the cubs of the top of the food chain!

In part two, we will have a look at the challenger…