This Week at Angama #66 - Angama Mara

This Week at Angama #66

9 May 2019 | This Week At Angama |

Reading Time: 6 MINUTES

There is nothing more glorious to photograph than a big male lion in his prime

[f 5.6, 1/500, ISO 640]

With 69 days, 6 hours, 10 minutes and 14 seconds to go before the release of the remake of The Lion King, I must admit to being a bit like a kid in a candy store. Like it did for many others, this film played a significant role in my childhood. I have written about it before, but essentially, I consider myself a Lion Man – transfixed by these magnificent big cats. This week, the great Mufasa must have been looking down on me from the heavens; he gifted me some of the most spectacular lion photographic opportunities. Upon sitting down to put this weekly feature together, it struck me that it made sense to dedicate this week to the lions, and to those people who fight tirelessly to protect them.

lion nestling heads

I started the week by leading a half-day private photographic workshop. This is an intensive practical photographic class out in the field and is available for guests staying at Angama Mara. On this specific morning, we set out with the intention of exploring the recently burnt areas. The reasons: the grass is short; the general game is prolific and if you get lucky enough to spot a cat, you are allowed to off-road in this area. All three reasons combine to make for great photographic potential. And it paid off. In no time, we had located the Owino Pride. [f 4.5, 1/5000, ISO 400, +0.33]

lions together

The current make-up of the Owino Pride is four lionesses and a sub-adult male lion. This relatively small pride is territorial to the south of Angama along the base of the Oloololo escarpment. [f 4.0, 1/6400, ISO 400, -0.33]

Young male lion

The young male is absolutely gorgeous. However, the road ahead for this boy is very tough. Whilst his sisters can remain behind with the pride, he will soon be ousted by the dominant males and will have to move off in search of his own land. [f 4.0, 1/6400, ISO 400]

lioness sitting

The ‘lead’ lioness of the Owino Pride is ever so photogenic. [f 4.0, 1/8000, ISO 400, -0.33]

Lioness stretch

We decided to sit with the Owino Pride for the entire morning. Far too often I see safari vehicles filled with guests racing around the grasslands looking to tick off animals – just 10 minutes per sighting and off they go. It is only if you sit with a specific animal, or group of animals, for long periods of time that you learn about them get the chance to photograph great scenes. [f 4.0, 1/6400, ISO 400]

Lions playing

Like this moment of play between mother and daughter. All in all, we spent three hours with this pride, returning the following day to spend another four hours with them. [f 4.0, 1/8000, ISO 400, -0.33]

young male low angle

Much of the time spent on these private photographic workshop drives is dedicated towards trying to capture fresh perspectives – coming up with ways to make your photographs stand out. Allowing you to take home incredible visual memories. [f 9.0, 1/800, ISO 400]

Lions walking

A low angle and the escarpment in the background make for a great scene of the Owino Pride on the move. [f 9.0, 1/1250, ISO 400]

Lioness

The quintessential lioness shot – focused, powerful, content and perfectly in control. [f 4.0, 1/8000, ISO 400, -0.33]

Lions Sitting

The amount of pink on the nose is a good indicator of age. The pinker the nose, the younger the lion. [f 4.5, 1/5000, ISO 400, +0.33]

Lioness in grass

There is nothing more exciting than watching a pride of lion on the hunt. We sat transfixed as the Owinos tried to outflank a solitary zebra. Low down in the grass – eyes set on the prize. [f 4.0, 1/5000, ISO 400]

Lion in long grass 2

Catching the powerful shoulder blades in action is crucial when trying to photograph a stalking lioness. [f 4.0, 1/5000, ISO 400]

Lioness side

Ultimately the zebra would get away. The grass was simply too short to provide the pride enough cover to hunt undetected. [f 5.0, 1/4000, ISO 500]

Safarilive screenshot buffalo kill

However, later that day, in the early hours of the evening, the Owino Pride managed to corner a buffalo. Fighting until his last breath, the buffalo managed to withstand the onslaught for over two hours. It was only when the pride was joined by a huge male lion, one of the Ol Donyo Paek coalition, they finally able to bring the buffalo down. This is a screenshot taken off Safarilive’s broadcast .

* Please note that due to special permit regulations, this film crew is able to stay in the park after hours in order to show live footage of the Maasai Mara across the world.

Male Lion sitting up

Having heard about the dramatic events that unfolded, I made sure I was first into the park the following morning. I arrived at the scene at sunrise to make the most of the glorious natural sunlight. [f 4.0, 1/640, ISO 400, -0.33]

Male Lion Above Kill

I spent the next four hours at this kill-scene and was afforded the most incredible sightings. For the first two hours, I had the lions all to myself, and even after three hours only three other vehicles had joined the sighting. Herein lies the benefit of visiting the Maasai Mara in May. They may call it the standard season, but the animal encounters are epic and you have the Mara to yourself. [f 4.5, 1/2000, ISO 500]

Female Lion trying to feed

The male completely dominated the carcass refusing to let any of the pride members feed. The poor sub-adult male was skulking behind a termite mound about 200 yards away. He knows that the future for him in this pride is bleak. [f 4.0, 1/3200, ISO 500]

Female getting chased

Every time one of the lionesses tried to feed they were chased away. [f 4.5, 1/2000, ISO 500, -0.67]

Male lion carcass

It was very clear who was in charge here. A low angle and warm light made for a dramatic sequence of shots. [f 4.5, 1/2000, ISO 500, -0.67]

LIon ontop of kill

He was incredibly possessive and it was clear that if the females were to feed they were going to have to wait for him to have his fill. [f 4.0, 1/3200, ISO 500]

Lion resting chin

Even when he was finished gorging himself, he wouldn’t relinquish his prize. Resting his chin on the buffalo carcass, he continued to control every ounce of meat. I was intrigued that there were no hyenas, or vultures in the vicinity – only three sneaky jackals darting around in hopes of picking up scraps. [f 4.5, 1/1250, ISO 500, +0.33]

Male and lioness

Even after having worked with lions for over a decade, I still am amazed at some of the things they do. It was very clear that the females were not going to get any meat and so one of the lionesses suddenly presented herself to him. In typical male lion fashion, he instantly forgot about the meal and moved to her. She teased him, running circles around him, and pulling him away from the kill. [f 5.0, 1/8000, ISO 500, -0.67]

Lioness feeding

Immediately, the rest of the pride moved in and started tearing apart what was left of the buffalo. The anguish of a photographer was trying to decide which to follow and concentrate on – the females tearing apart the kill, or a female seducing the male. [f 4.5, 1/3200, ISO 400]

Lioness and flies

I decided to take a few quick photos of the kill, with the intention of trying to illustrate just how many flies there were. It was chaos. [f 5.0, 1/1600, ISO 400]

Lions mating B&W

But, the action quickly turned and I found myself racing after the pair that had moved about 300 yards away. Pretend advances soon turned into real aggressive, vocal and primal mating. Tricky lighting meant I converted this into black and white with the intention of highlighting her facial expression. [f 4.5, 1/500, ISO 400]

Lions Mating

I have been fortunate to witness mating lions many times, but this was amongst the most aggressive I have seen. Growls, claws, biting, flies and saliva in all directions. [f 4.5, 1/800, ISO 400]

Lion face close up

I opted to try a few super-close shots to try show the drama and emotion. [f 2.8, 1/4000, ISO 400, -0.67]

Male Lion portrait

And just like that it was over. [f 4.0, 1/640, ISO 640]

Male lion scent marking

I stuck around for a while after to make sure that the explosive sighting was over. I managed one final shot, that showed a completely contrasting side to this aggressive male. He walked up to a plant and scent marked it in the gentlest way rubbing his face back and forth as if he was transfixed. It was glorious to watch. [f 5.0, 1/5000, ISO 500, -0.33]

THIS WEEK A YEAR AGO

CAMERA-TRAP-LIONS

A year ago, we put up a camera trap in camp to see the comings and goings at night. We were rewarded with a number of shots of lion, proof that these big cats were feeling more and more comfortable with the camp – how lucky are we to share our home with such magnificent creatures! [Reconyx Cameratrap]

AUTHOR: 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.

COMMENTS (3)
Peter Farnell-Watson
May 10, 2019

Magnificent blog and photographs Adam – quite brilliant! Just love receiving these Friday afternoon adrenaline shots when TWAA arrives. Many thanks and it keeps one’s spirits up….

REPLY
Gillian Evans
May 11, 2019

Superb!! What a sighting!! Thank you for transporting me back to the incredible Mara Triangle ! Those photos are incredible!! Lucky guests!

REPLY
Penny Skehan
May 11, 2019

What fabulous photos. I appreciate the commentary that goes with them. Seeing these pictures every week makes me want to return to the Mara sooner rather than later. Thank-you for your posts.

REPLY
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