This Week At Angama #78 - Angama Mara

This Week At Angama #78

2 August 2019 | This Week At Angama |

Reading Time: 5 MINUTES

Aside from the famous river crossings that come part and parcel with the Great Migration, there are an abundance of remarkable scenes to photograph at this time of the year

With rains falling in the Serengeti, south of the international border, the large herds have opted to stay away from the Kenyan portion of the Mara River, instead moving rather haphazardly around the area known as the Lemai Wedge. Last week’s post was heavily river-orientated, so I too decided to stay away from the river this week and instead capture the migration minus the crossings – as it makes for an incredible spectacle. [f 22.0, 1/30, ISO 100, +0.33]

Wildebeest landscape

The sheer number of animals currently in the southern regions of the Mara Triangle is completely mind-blowing. As photographers, we place great importance on the actual river crossings, to the extent that we can forget to simply sit back and absorb the immensity of it all. This is nature at its most abundant. [f 6.3, 1/1600, ISO 400]

Wildebeest queue

It is significantly easier to photograph a river crossing than it is to do justice to the wildebeest as they move through the landscape. [f 9.0, 1/400, ISO 160, +0.33]

Wildebeest Line side on

I just love this photograph as it is so simple and at first glance looks like nothing but a landscape shot. But, look closer and you will see the line of wildebeest marching in perfect single-file. [f 9.0, 1/500, ISO 160]

Wildebeest Pano

This image only really works if you are looking at it on a big screen. It is a panorama created through five stitched photos. A single line of wildebeest cuts through the middle of the photograph – dwarfed by the scale of the landscape here in the Mara. [f 9.0, 1/500, ISO 160]

Wildebeest running BW

Always on the move. Taken in the harsh midday light, I went for a conversion to black and white as a way of trying to make the most of exceptionally difficult lighting conditions. [f 9.0, 1/400, ISO 160, +0.33]

Wildebeest blur BW

This week, most of my time out in the field was spent with guests on photographic workshops. These private and very practical tuition classes allow us time to really play around with aperture, light and speed. Once we have a few great shots of wildebeest in focus – it is time to break out and try something a little more daring. [f 20.0, 1/40, ISO 100, +0.33]

Lone wildebeest blur

Slowing the shutter down to 1/40, this type of photography is all about illustrating movement and speed. [f 20.0, 1/40, ISO 100, +0.33]

Wildebeest blur colour

The objective is to get a portion of the subject matter in focus (the wildebeest) and keep the background blurred. [f 32.0, 1/30, ISO 100, -0.67]

Baby wildebeest blur colour

Usually, it is far easier to ‘pan’ and get this kind of shot in very low light, but it is possible to get it right in the bright afternoon sun too. [f 22.0, 1/30, ISO 100, +0.33]

Vulture in flight

Last week, I mentioned that one of the things I love most about the migration is the arrival of the vultures. Well, this week they arrived en-masse. The skies are full of vultures and with them come the most incredible photographic opportunities. [f 4.0, 1/6400, ISO 6400, +0.33]

Vulture landing

A lappet-faced vulture comes in to land. The trick with photographing these scavenging birds of prey lies in an exceptionally fast shutterspeed and tracking them as they fly. [f 5.0, 1/5000, ISO 640]

Vulture in flight

This time, it is a Ruppell’s griffon vulture. Often, I slightly overexpose the image to try and bring out some detail in the feathers. [f 5.0, 1/6400, ISO 640 +0.33]

Vulture feet landing

For me the ‘money-shot’ comes split seconds before touchdown, when the bird suddenly tries to stall and pull-up allowing for a relatively calm and controlled landing. [f 5.0, 1/6400, ISO 640 +0.33]

Vulture in flight 2

A hooded vulture drifts on by. [f 5.0, 1/5000, ISO 640 +0.33]

hooded vulture in bw

And sensing an opportunity to feed, it decides to come in to land. A black-and-white conversion, and a very centralised subject, makes for a simple, yet powerful, image. [f 4.0, 1/640, ISO 8000, +0.33]

Vulture fight

The action need not stop once the birds have all landed. In fact, that is when it often becomes quite comical as fights ensue. What I love about this photograph is not just the two Ruppell’s griffons fighting, but the look on the face of the marabou stork behind. [f 5.0, 1/5000, ISO 640]

Zebra fight

Back in the midst of the migration, there is a fair amount of tension in the ranks. Zebra stallions are constantly in battle for control of nearby mares. The best technique for a fighting zebra is to bite the Achilles tendon of his opponent – which is why the best defence is often to just sit down. [f 9.0, 1/640, ISO 400]

Zebra climbing

The fights can become fairly brutal with lots of kicking, biting and climbing on top of each other. [f 9.0, 1/800, ISO 400]

zebra fighting

The wildebeest are relegated to mere spectators in these ferocious battles. [f 9.0, 1/500, ISO 400]

Zebra bums

And, as you can see in this image, many zebra simply could not care less about such shenanigans. [f 6.3, 1/1250, ISO 400]

Wildebeest raised up

The trick I find works well with migration photography is to always be on the lookout for that little something that stands out. [f 7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400 +0.67]

Wilde mass

Alternatively, aim for an image that shows the sheer magnitude of the animals. [f 16.0, 1/250, ISO 320, -0.33]

Topi

Apart from the wildebeest, zebra and vultures, there is still plenty out there to photograph. Herds of topi are also still streaming into the Mara. [f 4.0, 1/1250, ISO 400]

Waterbuck

Normally I would urge you to position the subject of a photograph looking ‘into’ the open space of the frame. However, don’t be afraid to break that rule. On this occasion, I purposefully position the young waterbuck so that she is staring out of the frame to make the viewer feel alarmed and concerned. What is it that she is looking at? Could it be a predator? This kind of framing builds suspense. [f 4.0, 1/1000, ISO 320, +0.67]

Waterbuck running

And then be ready to set your camera up really quickly if you think a chase could ensue. [f 4.0, 1/1250, ISO 320, +0.67]

Lions in tree

Two lionesses from the Salt Lick Pride take a “breather” up in the heart of a nearby tree. Tree-climbing lion are relatively common in the Mara at the moment. [f 8.0, 1/400, ISO 320, +0.67]

lions in tree close up

Once you have a few distant shots to set the scene, then try go in a little closer. [f 8.0, 1/640, ISO 320, +0.67]

Lions mating

This week, down at the border, we had some rather explosive mating between an unidentified male, presumably from Tanzania, and a female we believe to be from the seldom-encountered Border Pride. [f 5.6, 1/1600, ISO 200, -0.33]

Lilac breasted rollers

A pair of lilac-breasted rollers courting on a small bush. It looks as if the individual on the right has a species of water scorpion in its bill. [f 4.0, 1/3200, ISO 400, +0.33]

Eagles

A pair of black-chested snake eagles appear to be getting cosy underneath Angama. You can see how the escarpment and the blue lighting makes for a wonderful backdrop. [f 8.0, 1/250, ISO 320, +0.67]

yellow billed stalk

A close up of the head of a yellow-billed stork. [f 8.0, 1/500, ISO 320, +0.33]

Ostrich

A female ostrich spreads her wings away from her body. An attempt to cool off in the heat of the day. [f 4.0, 1/2000, ISO 320, +0.33]

Rhino

It is a conscious decision to not show black rhino often on this blog. The reason is that we don’t like to highlight too much about this critically endangered species. However, every so often I do like to include one or two photographs, mainly as a thank you to the park management for the amazing work their team does in protecting this magnificent species. [f 5.0, 1/500, ISO 250]

Elephant

At first, it just looks like a typical Mara landscape scene, but look closer and you will see an elephant framed between the trees. [f 4.0, 1/1250, ISO 320, +0.33]

This Week a Year Ago 

Scar mating

Scar: considered by many as the icon of the Maasai Mara. There is no questioning the fact that he is a magnificent lion. Thought to be on his last legs for the past few years, he has proved sceptics wrong – he is a warrior, a survivor and a true king. Sightings of Scar are few and far between, but when he is seen, there is tangible excitement in the air. Together with his coalition mates, he still has what it takes to be in control of vast tracts of land. The question is for how much longer can they keep the younger males away from their pride females? We watch and follow with interest. [f 6.3, 1/1000, ISO 250]

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 (2)
VASANTHA JAYASOORIYA
August 3, 2019

Thank you Adam for the wonderful portfolio of interesting wildlife images of Africa’s iconic creatures. I wonder whether you could elaborate a bit on your fairly regular use of exposure compensation of 1/3 to 2/3 stops on your images. Is it for overcoming bright backgrounds (OE) and for richer tones (UE) or do you have other reasons as well?
Thanks and Regards,
VJ

REPLY
    Nicky Fitzgerald
    August 3, 2019

    Hi VJ – thanks for following along on the photographic journey and I am glad you enjoy the pictures. Exposure compensation (+/-) is a rather tricky one to explain, but essentially I try to explain it as if you were sitting in front of the television watching a football match. The stadium roof creates areas of shade and areas of sun on the pitch. When the players run from a well lit area into a shady area the camera will try to compensate for the sudden reduction in light. The problem is this then ‘blows out’ the sunny lighter parts – makes it completely light and so you lose all details. With photography I try to reduce this massive loss of detail and information by reducing the exposure by -0.3 or sometimes -0.7. In reality I could, and probably should, do it even more so. The other huge benefit of underexposing is that it results in a faster shutter speed which is crucial for wildlife. Remember that later on in Lightroom you can work on the areas that are slightly too dark and lighten them up. Does this answer your question or help at all? Warm regards Adam

    REPLY
Leave a Reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

BLOG HOME
BLOG ARCHIVES: