Friday, October 30, 2015

Wildlife Photography - Mala Mala

This is now my second trip to Mala Mala in a week. The southern African spring has settled in over the lowveld and temperatures were in the early 30's upon arrival. Birds are in full breeding swing and many of the migrants have arrived already, the most noticeable being the cuckoos which can easily be identified by call. Klaas's, Diedericks, African Black, Red-chested, African and even a Thick-billed cuckoo have been recorded. It is just the Woodland Kingfishers which haven't yet arrived but will probably announce their presence in around three weeks from now. Although conditions were overcast for much of our time we did manage to see wildlife of all shapes and forms, something Mala Mala prides itself in. Again, several individual leopards were seen, (sometimes more than one individual in a single sighting), Lions, Elephants, Buffalo and White Rhino as well as African Wilddogs making this the second trip in a row where all the big five as well as Wilddogs were seen!
Due to the overcast conditions, lowlight nocturnal photography was at the order of the day. Below follows a few images of a great interaction we were privileged to observe.  

The Bicycle crossing male staring intently at the approaching Island female's approach, at this stage still unseen by us.
The first drive delivered a Large male leopard, known as the Bicycle crossing male (named after the area he has his territory in) on an Impala kill. Initially the photography wasn't great due to the dense foliage and very bright sky behind the cat but we decided to wait it out. Incredibly though, a report came through of a female, the Island female, only a few hundred meters away on the opposite side of the river.

First glance as the female enters the arena again from the shadows in the hope to regain some of her kill.  
Spending a few minutes with her as she lazed on the riverbank we practiced the shutter fingers until she got up and started out for the night. Hoping that the big male on the kill will be more photogenic we returned to the Bicycle crossing male. In True Mala Mala style we hardly settled in when the female arrived on the scene. Turns out that she was the one who made the kill which the male then appropriated. Now she returned to the kill site hoping to regain access to her hard won dinner.

Upon the female's approach the male positioned himself at a fork in the tree where all access is cut off to the kill - all against the backdrop of a rising moon. 
 The male however would have none of that and upon her arrival moved from his very comfortable perch to a spot where he would prevent any access to the last remaining meat. This all with a beautiful almost full moon rising behind the drama.

All the while a spotted Hyena lurks below.
And the ever present Spotted hyena lurking below hoping for a gift from above.

Photo notes: 

Some of my thoughts regarding photography I shared with the guests on safari which I think photographers may find useful. First and foremost I tried to tell a story with the images. Thus the images that were chosen in the first place had to tell a story. Importantly each image had to fit in with the rest of the images in terms of look and feel but also as a whole contribute to the story. The intent stare of the male leopard for instance tied in with the ghostlike image of the female appearing in the shadows. Secondly I deliberately chose the side lit, darker images as I wanted to communicate the ghostlike atmosphere of sitting in this remarkable sighting as well as the top predators that is so well adapted to life at zero light.

What I would have liked are the following. Getting more than one animal in a composition and hopefully get some sort of interaction. Then of course to be able to spend more time over a few days at the scene either prior to- or afterwards. But we had only arrived on that day and the action was all done the next day.  

The very impressive sight of five large male lions  on a buffalo kill. 
Over the next three days we literally saw everything in abundance and space just will not allow for more images. Another highlight I'd like to share though was the very last morning when we followed up on a buffalo killed by two lionesses the previous day. In stead of two lionesses we encountered five large male lions on the kill. Trespassing into others territory they were somewhat nervous and kept on looking into the west where the roars of the resident pride could be heard. When the local pride came too close, the coalition of five's nerves gave in and they headed for safer territory. But on their way to safer territory they found a lame waterbuck, which they killed!!

Nature is totally unapologetic. Its graphic but its nature.

Images on safari: 

Having fun on drive

Photographing a leopard in great light.

Getting ready for the next round of wildlife. 
A leopard walks past the vehicle close enough to touch. 

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