Wild4 African Photographic Safaris

Wild4 African Photographic Safaris

Authentic small group photo tours to South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and Namibia

SEPTEMBER 2014 - Lioness chases Gerenuk - KENYA

Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 1st Sep 2014

Samburu National Reserve in northern Kenya is a unique place to photograph African wildlife. It has a very dry climate, cool in the evenings and early mornings but it can get very hot during the day. A number of unusual species are found in theis reserve which is one of the reasons I love to visit Samburu.

You do not have to drive very far to find amazing landscapes and wildlife encounters.

When you first arrive at Samburu (normally around midday), it is hot the sun is harsh and most animals are huddled in the shade. You start to think "why did I come here ?" However, towards the end of the day the temperatures begin to fall and the arid dry looking landscape turns into a wildlife paradise bathed in a very warm and pleasant soft afternoon light. Thankfully the nights are pleasantly cool.

The Lions in Samburu are not so numerous but they are regularly seen.They have a different look to them - "sleek" might be a word to describe them ! Their fur is not very long and they seem to have larger ears than other lions. Fully grown adult males do not have much of a mane at all and they have an unusual menacing look to them.

Apart from unusual looking lions, Samburu is home to the Gerenuk (an antelope that is capable of standing upright on its back legs for extended periods in order to feed on leaves), the Reticulated Giraffe is another special animal of the area. Grevy's Zebra, Beisa oryx and the strikingly beautiful Vulturine Guineafowl complete a very unusual list that you will not find together in any of the other reserves we visit.

On one of our safaris we had an amazing experieince where a lioness almost caught a Gerenuk right in front of us. The speed of the chase is what was so amazing to see and in this article I wanted to go through the scenario and break down and discuss some of the things that go on during such a high speed event and to point out some important aspects of high speed action photography.

Enjoy...

Rainbow over Samburu
A male Gerenuk rising up to feed on leaves
The Lioness as we first found her - note the short hair and sleek look of this Samburu Lioness.<br> Looking at her behaviour I decided there was a good chance she would run in on the Gerenuk who were very close to her<br>I first set up my Canon 1DMK4 on my 'freeze action' settings which are:<br>TV or S mode<br> shutter speed 1/1000 sec<br>AUTO ISO<br> This would ensure that my shutter speed for any impending action would not dip below 1/1000 sec. I had a 70-200mm 2.8 lens <br>on this body for this exact reason. I have personally found that having a shorter lens with a zoom capability is ideal for capturing <br>action sequences such as this one. You never quite know where the animals will end up. A fixed lens in this tight scenario <br>would have been difficult to use, rather bank on the fact that you can always crop the images to get closer after the action is over.<br><br>shot details: Canon 5Dmk3 500mm f4 lens <br>1/640 @ f5.6 ISO 800 - Manual mode <br>Time: 16:32<br/>
A second later she was on the move and I switched to my 70-200mm lens which was on my 1Dmk4 Body.<br><br>This is another great reason why having 2 camera bodies each with a different lens attached is a good idea.  <br><br>shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens<br> 1/1000 @ f3.2 ISO 640 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:11sec<br/>
As she charged, the Lioness disappeared momentarily behind a tree. I re-focussed on the Gerenuk <br>and when the Gerenuk started running I hit the fire button. <br><br> shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens <br>1/1000 @ f2.8 ISO 500 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:17sec <br><br>** note how on this image the camera adjusted both the aperture and ISO, but the shutter speed remains the same <br/>
Action like this in Wildlife photography happens incredibly fast, I did not even see the Lioness properly through <br>my view finder, all I could do was to hold my focus point on the Gerenuk and keep firing.  <br><br>shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens <br>1/1000 @ f2.8 ISO 500 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:17sec<br/>
shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens<br> 1/1000 @ f3.2 ISO 500 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO <br>time: 16:33:17sec<br/>
shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens <br>1/1000 @ f3.2 ISO 500 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:17sec<br/>
**Note that this is the first shot in the chase sequence that is now in the 18th second 16:33:18sec<br> Four shots were captured in the same second before this image. <br><br> shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens<br> 1/1000 @ f3.2 ISO 500 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO <br>time: 16:33:18sec<br/>
shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens<br> 1/1000 @ f2.8 ISO 500 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:18sec<br/>
shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens<br> 1/1000 @ f3.2 ISO 500 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:18sec<br/>
shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens <br>1/1000 @ f3.2 ISO 640 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:18sec<br/>
As the Lioness went behind a bush I monetarily stopped shooting and started again when I could see her. <br>By this time the Gerenuk had managed to pull away by a considerable distance - those long legs can run fast !!  <br><br>shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens <br>1/1000 @ f2.8 ISO 500 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO <br>time: 16:33:18sec<br/>
As the distance between the Lioness and the Gerenuk increased I zoomed out to fit them both in.<br> At this point I figured the Gerenuk had got away so I focussed on the Lioness.<br><br> shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens <br>1/1000 @ f3.2 ISO 400 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO <br>time: 16:33:19sec<br/>
shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens <br>1/1000 @ f2.8 ISO 320 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:19sec<br/>
shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens<br> 1/1000 @ f2.8 ISO 320 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:20sec<br/>
Look carefully at the back left leg of the Lioness, it almost looks broken and unnatural, but infact the part that is flat <br>on the ground is the equivalent of our foot from heel to toes. The heel bone on a cat is found where the 'bend' <br>is indicated on this Lionesses right leg. Like most other animals they are essentially on their tip toes all the time - this gives them <br>the ability to suddenly burst into top speed very quickly (like permanently being in a sprinters 'get set' position<br><br>shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens <br>1/1000 @ f3.2 ISO 320 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:20sec<br/>
shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens<br> 1/1000 @ f3.2 ISO 250 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:20sec<br/>
shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens<br> 1/1000 @ f2.8 ISO 200 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO <br>time: 16:33:20sec<br/>
shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 70-200mm f2.8 lens<br> 1/1000 @ f3.2 ISO 160 - TV or S mode and AUTO ISO<br> time: 16:33:20sec<br/>
The Gerenuk got away !!

Apart from capturing a record of this hunt, some interesting information can be extracted from the exif data in the files:

Time from when she began her charge to the last frame was 2.5 seconds

My 10 FPS (frames per second) camera captured 17 images

A 3 FPS camera would only have managed around 6 images  

So does your cameras FPS ability count ? - absolutely - especially when wildlife is in action. Remember to leave it on HIGH all the time - there would have been no time on this occasion to have changed the frame rate on the camera.

Having a "freeze the action" camera setting in mind for such scenarios will enable you to capture the story you want to tell with the settings you choose - don't leave it up to your camera. Learning to shooting in Manual Mode will force you to become very familiar with your cameras buttons, settings, shutter speeds, ISO's etc.

If for example I had been in AV Mode and the last subject I had photographed was a hippo resting in the sun on a river bank. ISO at 200 and aperture at f8, my sudden arrival at this lion sighting would have caused excitement and I would most likely have forgotten to change both my ISO and aperture, resulting in very slow shutter speeds. Intentionally choosing a slow shutter speed is a different story.

Getting to know your camera and how to set it up and prepare for different scenarios will give you more freedom to experiment and explore different and more creative options. Use the technical capabilities of your camera to capture what is in your minds eye - not necessarily what you see through the view finder.

Adult Male Lion in Samburu finishing up his drink from the Ewaso Nyiro River - the lifeblood of the reserve <br>and a magnet for an abundance of wildlife. Note how he has almost no mane and very piercing eyes ! <br><br> shot info: Canon 5Dmk3 500mm f4 lens <br>1/800 sec @ f5.6 ISO 800 - Manual mode<br> time: 17:47<br/>
Unlike their plains zebra cousins, the unusually marked Grevy's Zebra with its large fluffy ears is also <br>a resident of Samburu and very photogenic<br><br>  shot details: Canon 5Dmk3 500mm f4 lens<br> 1/640 sec @ f5.6 ISO 400 - Manual mode <br>time: 10:05<br/>
The Reticulated Giraffe is perhaps the most striking of all the sub species. They are abundant in Samburu Reserve  <br><br>shot details: Canon 1Dmk4 500mm f4 lens<br> 1/400 sec @ f8 ISO 400 - Manual mode<br> time: 17:15<br/>
A striking resident of Samburu - the Vulturine Guineafowl
The Beisa Oryx resemble their southern cousins, the Gemsbok

 

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Testimonials Hi Stu, Thank you for a wonderful trip. I have been on a lot of safaris around the world and you are the best in Africa. Your hard work pays off.

Dave Irey, USA

Testimonials We have a particular affinity for bird photography, but also enjoy the African game animals. I'm pleased to say we are all thrilled with the entire trip. Stu met us at the airport on day 1, and what was to have been a quick couple hour drive to camp, took all afternoon until sunset, we found so many things to shoot. Then we wanted to do something slightly off the itinerary on day 2, and Stu again accommodated us. It was like that throughout the entire trip, the Porter family was very accommodating. Even though we were in a big national park using public facilities, the Porter family made us feel like we were in our own private game reserve, and the animals were there just for us. Stu's local knowledge of the birds and game is just great, he's a walking guide book. And because he's in Kruger so often, he knows where the best spots are. Also he knows all the other guides, and they share information. And most importantly if you are considering a photo safari, Stu is an accomplished nature photographer himself. He knows the light and how to position and approach for the best shot. He knows what photographers want and how to get it. The experience might be quite different if just any guide were to drive you around. And having a spotting vehicle out searching for game really helped us see some extra animals we wouldn't have seen. The results were outstanding. We saw and photographed all the of the big five, and several seldom seen animals totaling 33 mammal species and 164 bird species. All in all, the trip was great!!  highly recommended!

Con Foley, USA‚Ä®