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.
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.
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From the moment we contacted Wild 4 we were impressed with the prompt, friendly, enthusiastic way our queries were answered. Stu is a passionate wildlife photographer eager to pass on skills, ideas, techniques and information. The wildlife sightings leopards, lions with cubs, rhinos, elephant herds the list goes on - Awesome, Amazing, Exciting are just a few words that come to mind. Not forgetting the support of John, Ann (excellent food) and of course Justyna nothing was to much trouble for them. We have had many safaris in various countries but this surpassed them all. The only decision now is not if, but when we return
Maureen & Trevor Lovegrove, UK
On arrival we were treated as part of the family by Stu Porter, his wife Justyna, and parents John and Ann. The conditions for finding and photographing everything from small birds to large game was perfect – a 500mm lens on hire from Stu, a specially equipped vehicle, which was referred to as a hide on wheels ( with only 3 photographers) , a dedicated and professional approach to photography and plenty of time. We would set off at sunrise, find a group of lions as they were beginning to yawn and stir from sleep, or a pair of saddle-billed storks building a nest, and quietly move our cameras into position. The initial sighting was accompanied by the rapid firing of shutters, but then we would wait as long as necessary in the hope of getting further shots. Stu was very sensitive to our needs and would only make suggestions about the best camera settings if he thought we needed his advice. His awareness of how animals behave was very useful in planning our shots. Stu’s knowledge of African Wildlife and skill as a wildlife photographer is second to none, and I have learned a lot from his expertise. I am delighted with my photos !! This was the trip of a lifetime, good accommodation, delicious food and great company. It was altogether a wonderful, challenging and thrilling experience and, if you are looking for a photo safari in Africa, I too recommend you contact Stu Porter at Wild4.
David Austwick, UK