Thursday, July 15, 2010

Maasai Mara

Elephant Plain
Probably the most photographed animal in Africa, elephant still remain a real tricky subject to me to do justice on camera. Yet sometimes all one has to do is press the shutter. When a weak sun filtered through the clouds and lit up the bull against an approaching storm it just begged to be photographed. It was only after the image was reviewed on the computer screen that I realized how both the colours and textures of the landscape are perfectly mirrored in the animal.

Eye to eye.
From beneath the vehicle a few metres away from the kill I slowly crawl into position to photograph this primeval scene.
Having chased off hundreds of vultures the Spotted Hyena moves the carcass away from the scavenging birds and jackals nearby. At one point during its determined slow retreat away from its competitors the predator suddenly focuses on the strange horizontal shape in the grass, its piercing eyes in stark contrast to the inert gaze of the departed stallion.

On the hunt
Although not unheard of it is indeed unusual to meet up with celebrities on Safari. More impressive is the fact that it’s not just one but the whole ensemble. In this case the cast of the BBC’s Big Cat Diaries. And unlike others in the same business they were equally impressive even when the cameras were not rolling. Just after sundown we caught up with the marsh pride hunting warthogs, which after only one unsuccessful attempt managed to secure the first meal of the evening.

Big Sky Country.
Herds thousands strong, fantastic diversity of wildlife and some of Africa’s largest and most charismatic animals are all a dayly feature of this evocative place. Personally however, to me even more impressive is the fact that all of this is dwarfed by the vast ancient landscape. Clich├ęd it may be, but this is undeniably Big Sky Country.

Grassland Jewel.
A much unexpected jewel in the grassland on an early morning drive was this Malachite Kingfisher uncommonly perched on level ground adjacent to a muddy pool in the grassland. Again, on my belly I slowly inched towards the perfect photographic position only to see the bird fly off. Short-lived was my disappointment (and very unusual in photography) when he returned to the exact same spot where my camera was aimed with a tadpole in its bill. From here it proceeded to give it a proper bashing, positioned it head first in its bill and consumed it.

Cloak of concealment.
With its fantastic light, uncluttered backgrounds, and subjects of every conceivable shape and size the Mara must rate as one of the best wildlife photographic destinations on earth. Add the perpetual dust kicked up by millions of hooves you have a natural photo filter more often imitated these days in photoshop. A lone Thompson’s gazelle salutes the breaking day as darkness retreats, dragging her cloak of concealment away from the numerous predators.

1 comment:

Morkel Erasmus said...

As usual, stunning photographs and vivid descriptions Albie...your elephant photo is off the wall, especially with the way it mirrors the environment as you mentioned. One day I hope to be able to visit these ancient meccas of wildlife before it all disappears.