This Week at Angama #2

15 February 2018 | This Week at Angama |

Reading Time: 3 MINUTES

A fascinating, and very comical, hyena encounter dominates the visual recap of This Week At Angama

Elephant herds continue to congregate in huge numbers in the grass rich flatlands of the Mara Triangle. Herds of over a hundred are becoming an everyday occurrence with tiny babies providing entertaining viewing. In addition to this, sightings of lions and cheetah continue to dominate game drives. But who would have guessed that a small clan of Spotted Hyenas would steal the show of This Week At Angama.


Long grass made focusing on this baby elephant rather tricky, but did not detract from the wonderful scene. I loved how this image captures the playful newborn being given freedom to play, but under the constant watchful eye of mom. My advice when shooting in the long grass is shift the focus to manual. [f 4.5, 1/400, ISO 400]


Technically speaking this may not be the most extraordinary photograph, but it comes with a wonderful story. If you look closely on the birds back you will see a tiny transmitter. This individual is one of 18 Martial Eagles being tracked by Stratton Hatfield as part of his greater study into Birds of Prey of the Maasai Mara. The Martial Eagle Project is attempting to improve our understanding of their ecology and use this knowledge to improve conservation management within the reserve and neighbouring communities. The Olive Male, shown in this photograph, has a home range of 274 square kilometers and had just finished eating a Monitor Lizard. His partner, not shown in this photograph, is one of the largest Martial Eagles in the reserve and has been recorded to have killed an adult Serval and a Kori Bustard. In order to get a flying bird in focus you have to have a very fast shutter speed, overexpose the shot and literally track it on continuous autofocus. [f 4.0, 1/4000, ISO 500, +0.67]


There is no doubt that the early mornings are when Mara photography is at its most special. Of late I have completely fallen in love with the private descent road from Angama Mara down into the reserve below. The views are mind-blowing and each morning the colours bring out something new. Here a large herd of buffalo add a lovely subject to a glorious orange tinted canvas. [f 5.6, 1/320, ISO 320, -0.67]


Something you have to come to terms with in the Mara is that in the middle of the day, when it is hot and the sun is bright, the big cats will more than likely be resting under shady trees. From a photographic standpoint this can be very complicated as you have dark objects in amongst a bright landscape. For me there are usually 3 solutions to this: black and white, close up full frame and lastly to desaturate the image. On this occasion I decided to zoom in to 280mm and get the Cheetah as big as possible in the frame. In post I then cropped in further and desaturated the image to allow you to truly see the detail and not get distracted by massively contrasting light and dark colours brought about a shady foreground and sunny background. I loved the eye and how the spots and tear marks showed up. [f 5.0, 1/125, ISO 125, +0.67]


The harsh midday light made this a rather tricky shot to capture, but I was determined to not let lighting interfere with the intimate moment of magic between a mother Giraffe and her youngster. [f 4.0, 1/2000, ISO 250]


Photography is a form of storytelling and linking subjects within a single image is a powerful tool. Here a lone White-backed Vulture investigates an old hippo carcass – clearly this vulture landed with the hopes of a free meal, but was soon to find out that the carcass had already been stripped clean of any morsel. The light was very good and I could have opted for a smaller aperture (larger f value) that would have meant a greater depth of field, but I quite liked the look of the vulture being in focus and the bones being blurry. [f 4.5, 1/1600, ISO 250, +0.33]


A visit to a local Maasai village yielded fantastic opportunities for people photography. I loved this ladies array of beaded jewelry and the fixed 50mm lens really allows the subject to ‘pop’ out the picture, highlighting textures and colour. [f 4.0, 1/320, ISO 320, -1.0]

The next four photographs all come from the same sighting and show a very exciting and comical sequence of events. We were driving along when suddenly in the distance we could see a hyena running at speed down the road. She was heavily pregnant and was carrying meat in her mouth – remains of what looked to be a waterbuck. Some fifty meters behind her came the rest of the clan. Hyenas closing in on her bounding down the track. One individual caught up with her and the two hyenas had a standoff; the noise was spectacular. The large female sensed that the numbers were heavily stacked against her and so she sprinted for a nearby drainage line. She literally belly flopped into the muddy water and within seconds dropped her bounty, cleverly hiding the food and using the water to mask the smell of the carcass. She proceeded to run away leaving the clan members to pile into the water in confusion. We watched on in amusement as individual clan members took it in turns to try to find the stashed prize…no amount of snorkeling could help…


[f 5.6, 1/1000, ISO 320]


[f 5.6, 1/1000, ISO 320 +0.33]


[f 5.6, 1/800, ISO 320 +0.33]


[f 4.0, 1/1250, ISO 320, +0.33]


[f 4.5, 1/800, ISO 800]


[f 4.5, 1/400, ISO 800, +0.67]

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.

James Fitzgerald
February 16, 2018

Really interesting Adam – keep up the good work!

    Adam Bannister
    February 16, 2018

    Thanks James – I look forward to seeing you when you are next up.

Karin Braby
February 23, 2018

I love your blog Adam. I am vicariously living through your experiences in the Mara

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