This Week At Angama #10

13 April 2018 | This Week at Angama |

Reading Time: 8 MINUTES

Elephants and lions dominate but always some surprises in This Week At Angama

I focused my safari time at just a few sightings this week, which served as a good reminder of what a productive strategy this is for photography. Too often the desire to find something exciting makes us rush around, instead of letting something exciting come to us. I spent hours watching elephants, enjoying my time with individual family groups, observing them quietly going about their day. I did the same with some lazy lions, knowing the cubs would eventually wake up and greet their mothers with joyful nuzzling. Even a freshly picked-over warthog skull kept me intrigued for more than an hour as a pair of immature Hooded Vultures hungrily pecked at it, drawing the attention of a Black-backed Jackal, a young Bateleur and even a Hamerkop. One of the best pieces of safari advice I’ve ever been given is: when you think it’s time to leave, just give it five more minutes.

Bull in front of Angama

It’s important to have in your mind’s eye particular images you’d like to capture if the opportunity presents itself. One thing I’m always on the lookout for is a chance to line up charismatic individuals with Angama in the background, to create a sense of place for our lodge. This massive bull elephant was very obliging. [f 5.6, 1/500, ISO 200]

Banded Mongooses

These clever and comical little rascals are fairly common to encounter in the Mara, but difficult to photograph as they are always on the move, keeping busy (hence their collective noun, a “business” of mongooses). This particular business was most considerate because they were so preoccupied with finding hidden treasures in this termite mound. [f 5.6, 1/500, ISO 200]

Bateleur in flight

This immature Bateleur spied the Hooded Vultures pecking away at what remained of the freshly killed warthog, and wheeled overhead before landing in the grass nearby. I quickly changed my focus mode from “One Shot” to “AI Servo” so that the focus would track the bird as I fired away. [f 5.6, 1/1250, ISO 400]

Elephant Bulls

Jackal and Vultures


I enjoy finding ways of capturing interesting images by lining up subjects in the foreground with other interesting subjects in the background (or vice-versa), which often tells a story, or at least leaves the viewer forming their own about what might be going on. Here are several examples of this. [f 5.6, 1/640, ISO 200] [f 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 400] [f 5.6, 1/1000, ISO 400]

Elephant in front of Escarpment

The Oloololo Escarpment always makes for a wonderful backdrop, especially where the slopes are gentle and gradual. [f 5.6, 1/1250, ISO 200]

Elephants and Storms

I used my 14mm lens to widen the field of view for this shot, allowing me to capture both the dramatic sky and this lovely family of elephants (plus a passing Hamerkop). This image required multiple exposures at varying shutter speeds (this particular lens’s aperture adjustment is manual, and I left it at f 2.8), which I combined in Lightroom to create an HDR (high dynamic range) image. [f 2.8, ISO 400 – HDR of 5 images at shutter speeds of 1/8000, 1/4000, 1/1600, 1/640, 1/250]

Frog Eggs

I like looking for opportunities to document the abstract in nature, which might make the viewer wonder for a few minutes what they are looking at before the answer is given. Thanks to the April rains, there are puddles everywhere, many of which have frogs’ eggs in them. These eggs were in a depression created from an elephant’s footprint. I cranked up the contrast and clarity in Lightroom to make it more “artsy.” [f 5.6, 1/1600, ISO 400] – contrast maximized in Lightroom

Grey Crowned-Crane

A Grey Crowned-Crane – one of my absolute favorite birds, and seemingly impossible to do justice with a photograph. We found a pair in the early morning light, but probably about 10 minutes later than I would have liked in order to give it a really good backlit glow (especially those crown feathers). Still, the light wasn’t bad, highlighting the morning dew while also bathing the crane in warmth. I chose this image because the crane seems to be so viciously stalking grass seeds. [f 5.6, 1/640, ISO 400]

Hey You Kids

Always worthwhile to throw in some photos for good humour: “Wake up, you lot! Time to get moving! Also, STOP SLEEPING IN THE ROAD!”  [f 5.6, 1/1000 ISO 400]

Hooded Vulture

Jackal mug

It’s fun when you manage to capture the stereotypical character of an animal. After spending a good chunk of time observing various scavengers work over the fresh leftovers of a warthog carcass, I captured these two images of animals doing their best impression of themselves: a Hooded Vulture gravely guarding its macabre warthog skull, and a jackal greedily licking its lips with a mischievous look in its eyes. [f 5.6, 1/1250, ISO 400] [f 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 400]

Roller Feathers

Lilac-breasted Roller

Another opportunity to capture art in nature: we found this beautiful mess of feathers alongside the road, the remains of a Lilac-breasted Roller feast. Nearby, presumably the ill-fated bird’s mate shot daggers at us as if we were the culprits.  [f 5.6, 1/400, ISO 200] [f 5.6, 1/800, ISO 200]

Lion in the Bush

We had an interesting sighting one morning as we watched a trio of lions (two lionesses and a young male) pursue a lone lioness. We only figured out what was going on when the lone animal disappeared in the distance, and the three tucked into a freshly killed bushbuck hidden underneath a bush. It was tough to get a photo of what was going on, but I tried to use the branches to frame the lion as best I could.  [f 5.6, 1/80, ISO 400]

Morning Snuggles

We spent quite a long time with some very lazy, very flat cats. But knowing that the first thing the cubs would do upon waking up would be visiting their mothers for a morning snuggle, we positioned ourselves and waited patiently. [f 5.6, 1/800, ISO 400]

Pied Kingfishers

Pied Kingfishers are wonderful subjects, especially if you can catch them fishing, as they offer fantastic opportunities for capturing the wonder of flight as they hover. This shot gives them a sense of place as they returned to a favoured perch alongside the Mara River.  [f 5.6, 1/1800, ISO 400]

Protective Mothers

I had such a great time watching and photographing this elephant family, with a calf not much more than a week or two old, always underfoot as it stuck close to its mother and other protective females. I converted to black and white in Lightroom to make it pop.  [f 5.6, 1/160, ISO 800]

Scavenging Hamerkop

I included this photo simply because I was so intrigued to see a Hamerkop skulking around the warthog skull while the jackal gnawed on it, finally darting in for a quick bite once the jackal left.  [f 5.6, 1/320, ISO 400]

Time for a drink

I’ve shared this image as a reminder of how looking at different perspectives can make for an interesting photograph.  [f 5.6, 1.250, ISO 800]

Tusk Close-up

This was such a big, handsome old bull. I couldn’t help but focus on his massive worn-down tusk, and wonder how it had broken, what battles it had been in, how many poachers had tried to get their hands on it over the decades, and where it will one day end up.  [f 5.6, 1/800, ISO 200]

Shamba Lunch Goodies

Shamba Lunch wide

Shamba salad prep

Not all good or fun photos must come from the Mara and focus on charismatic megafauna! With Nicky visiting this last week, we enjoyed a delicious Sunday picnic in the Shamba, and I wanted to capture the beauty and pleasure of it. [f 11, 1/100, ISO 200] [f 11, 1/800, ISO 400] [f 5.0, 1/500, ISO 400]

AUTHOR: Tyler Davis

Guide and birding fundi, Tyler was also one half of the regional director couple that lead the team at Angama Mara for the first five years. Being the birding extraordinaire that he is, he was known to let his attention wander during meetings. The trick to keep him focused was to place him with no direct view of anything feathered. Tyler ensures that we are a grounded and well-rounded team. He also sometimes forgets to take his binoculars off at dinnertime.

Francis Bagbey
April 13, 2018

Wonderful pictures and commentary. Thank you!

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