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This Week At Angama #16

A missed photographic opportunity does little to dampen the spirits of yet another wonderful week in the Maasai Mara

South African golfer, Gary Player, once famously said that the more you practice the luckier you get. The same holds true with wildlife photography. Not only do your photographs improve the more you practice, but the more time you spend out in the bush the more chance you have of seeing something special. This week guests at Angama witnessed an incredible 4 separate lion kills. Fortunately, I had front row seats for one of them, but unfortunately this was an occasion best forgotten when it comes to photography. Enjoy another fun round of This Week at Angama...

Crowned crane up close

Considered by the IUCN as endangered, the Grey Crowned Crane population is healthy in the Mara ecosystem. They make for the most delightful subjects when it comes to bird photography. [f 5.0, 1/1250, ISO 320]

Hornbill face close up

People sometimes laugh at me when I tell them the Ground Hornbill is my favourite bird. A close-up portrait goes a long way to explain my reasons: they have character and attitude. A sighting of a family of these turkey-like birds is a treat and one for which I will always feel lucky. [f 4.0, 1/2000, ISO 400]

Elephant bull straight on

Hanging out with elephants has to be one of the greatest pastimes. Here, a huge bull is seen walking alone through the grasslands. His broken tusk and huge size give hints as to his age. What stories he could tell. [f 4.5, 1/2000, ISO 200]

Buffalo pano

The quality of the grass in the Mara Triangle is fantastic; good rains and great management has created an oasis for large herbivores and the number of buffalo herds is testimony to that. A single drive can yield a couple of thousand buffalo. [f 4.0, 1/3200, ISO 320 (3 photographs stitched together in photoshop)]

Shorty walking

Of course, I am not the only one excited to see the buffalo thriving. Bring on the lions. The Mara lions are having a field day at the moment hunting in the long grass. On a near daily basis lion prides are seen trailing these huge buffalo herds. To attempt to kill a buffalo is a terrifying prospect only undertaken by the bravest. Let me introduce you to Shorty, one such character who simply oozes muscle, power and confidence. Named after his unusual lack of tail hair, this male has everything it takes to be a buffalo-hunter. [f 4.0, 1/2000, ISO 250]

lions chasing buffalo

This week I watched Shorty take on the ultimate challenge. Watching him set up the kill was fantastic. He isolated a buffalo cow, exposed himself, withstood the buffalo’s fury and then started to chase. He didn’t bother waiting for his coalition partner, who was still some distance behind, but instead went about things alone. Instinctively he knew that when the moment came his brother would be there to help him. The chase was long… [f 4.0, 1/2000, ISO 250, +0.33]

Lion and buffalo blurred

Photographers hate to admit it, but we do get it wrong. The difference is usually we don’t show the images destined for the trash, but on this specific occasion there is much to learn. With this hunt the excitement of the moment got the better of me as the male lion leapt on top of the sprinting buffalo. it all happened in a matter of split seconds. In previous shots I had moved my focal point to the lower section of the frame and had subsequently forgotten to move it back to the centre. The result: instead of capturing the centred action I frustratingly got the grass in the foreground in focus, leaving the image blurred. It is a crucial reminder that whenever we move our settings away from the ‘norm’ we need to remind ourselves to move them back. We have all experienced the feeling of seeing something fantastic, only to be disappointed when we play it back on the screen. This is when you have to change your track; realise how special what you have just seen was and cherish the memory. We can’t photograph everything perfectly. Having the odd ‘missed’ photograph also provides the perfect incentive to get back into the field and get it right next time. [f 4.0, 1/12000, ISO 250, +0.33]

Ostrich family BW

Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand: the myth probably originates from the bird’s defensive behavior of lying low at the approach of trouble and pressing their long necks to the ground in an attempt to become less visible. [f 4.5, 1/2500, ISO 400 (converted to black and white in post)]

Heart tree

Having watched the Royal Wedding and listened to Bishop Michael Curry’s animated sermon on the “Power of Love” I felt inspired to try photograph something this week that showed love in the Mara. A late afternoon thunderstorm was approaching and the last rays of the sun were making magic. We had been looking tirelessly for a leopard, spending many hours scanning trees. I stopped concentrating on looking for anything in particular and instead decided to appreciate shapes and patterns. One tree jumped out at me in the glorious light, shaped as a heart it immediately shouted out that ‘Love is Everywhere’ [f 5.6, 1/1600, ISO 320, -0.33]

Lions paw and tree

In photography a little creativity goes a long way. Take for example a sleeping lion passed out under a tree in the harsh midday sun. [f 4.0, 1/2000, ISO 320]

Mongoose on mound

A business of Banded Mongoose foraging. What I like about this image is the natural vignette established by the long green grass. This creates a small window allowing the viewer the opportunity to have a momentary look into the life of these little animals. [f 5.6, 1/1600, ISO 320, -0.33]

Elephant and balloon

An Elephant bull seems oblivious to the Hot Air Balloon drifting silently along the escarpment. We are used to photographs showing animals and game viewing vehicles in the same frame, so I thought I would try for something a little different. [f 4.0, 1/1250, ISO 400]

Yelow billed Storks

A pair of Yellow Billed Storks coming into land at first light. The swampy areas are absolutely alive at the moment. The recent rains are providing an ideal environment for fish and frogs and in turn this makes for happy birds. [f 4.0, 1/500, ISO 800, -0.33]

Catterpilar macro

Insects are incredible and taking the time to get down to their level can be very rewarding. Time spent walking around camp with a macro lens offers you the chance to capture a world easily overlooked. In this specific shot I have managed to capture a Dice Moth caterpillar slowly inching his way down a blade of grass. [f 2.8, 1/1000, ISO 500]

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Birds , Buffalo , Elephant , Lion , Lion Kill , Maasai Mara , Photography , Wildlife , Wildlife Photography

About: Adam Bannister

A South African-trained biologist, safari guide, author, filmmaker and photographer, Adam is, above all else, a gifted storyteller. After spending the past 10 years working in some of the world’s most beautiful wild places – the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa, Rajasthan in India, Brazil’s Pantanal, and the rainforests of Manu National Park in Peru – he is delighted to share his stories of one of the loveliest game reserves of them all, the Maasai Mara.

Browse all articles by Adam Bannister Meet the angama team

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25 May 2018

Another awesome week in the Mara! And the photo of the caterpillar just crowned it! Thank you Adam

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