Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Photographing African wildlife with impact; Action (part 4)

4. Action

I have left the main topic until last. My top 3 images of all time, based on International Exhibition awards, are all action shots from Africa.  For impact  the main subject of the image should be doing something. Action encompasses behavior and animal behavior is complex and at all times interesting.

Action/behavior can be arbitrarily divided into a number of categories;
Fight or Flight.
Fight. Fighting takes on various forms from young Thomson Gazelle males sparring with each other in bachelor herds to a take-over bid for breeding rights from a aspiring young buck. From early on in life the young prepare themselves for life’s battles by engaging in wrestling, jousting and ‘biting’ games. Male zebras spar with each other and dramatic biting tussles can suddenly break out. Wildebeest have more interesting rules of engagement. Because they possess rather stunted curling horns and an elongated face the combatants have to face each other and kneel down to lock horns in a pushing contest. Male Giraffes of all ages engage in 'necking' duals where they belt each other with their necks and heads. Young elephant bulls with excessive levels of hormones coursing through their veins seem to be hell bent on tussling with each other.....such fights in water add an extra dimension on the action with the accompanying splashes. Likewise young lions cannot resist tackling each other, especially when they are well fed and watered.

Blue Wildebeest head-butting contest.

Zebras trying to get each other down

Zebra stallions fighting

Giraffes 'necking'

Young male Lions rugby practice

Lion domestic dispute. He wanted to mate, she was feeding young

Young bull Elephants fighting in the Ewaso Ng'iro River (Samburu)

Impala males lock horns

 Flight. A number of antelope and gazelles rely on their athletic ability to avoid predation and animals in full flight can provide impressive action images.

A Springbok in full flight

A female Steenbok 

An airborne Topi

A prodigious leap by a male Impala

Meat and Drink.
The prototypical African action image is the hunt. The carnivorous cats have to prey on the grazers to sustain life. Chase and capture scenes are much sought-after and care must be taken to  be made not to disturb the pursuit. The African savannahs also host many raptors and even the smallest kingfishers that hunt for their existence. Vultures are also dependent on the big cats to provide them with carcasses and these constitute their primary food source. 
Animals also need water to drink and elephants and particularly Giraffes can provide interesting action images when taking in water. Giraffes notoriously play with the last intake and can twirl it around their heads or spit it out in an ostentatious display.

The chase is on; the Cheetah closes on the Thomson's Gazelle calf

The trip is applied to the back legs of the calf

Female Cheetah with an adult Thomson's Gazelle

Wildebeest takedown

Final seconds of life

Lion carrying a female Warthog

Crocodile capturing a fish

Dark Chanting Goshawk with a mouse

Martial Eagle with a Monitor Lizard

Martial Eagle with a DikDik calf

Young male Lion on a rare Hippo kill

On a Wildebeest kill
Kill shots do not have universal appeal and should be used sparingly in your portfolio or target list.

Maasai Giraffe drinking

Maasai Giraffe spitting water

Water Thicknee imitating Giraffes

Playing with the Mara River

Mating of different species provides excellent action shots. In each trip to Africa I have seen lions mating. It is well documented that lion mating occurs repeatedly over 3-4 days and it is relatively easy to latch onto a usually weary couple performing the act every 15-20 minutes. In a similar manner to practicing fighting skills many young animals appear to rehearse the mating act.

Lions mating

The post-mating roars

Bateleur Eagles mating

Juvenile Dwarf Mongoose 'pseudo-mating'

Young Maasai Giraffes 'pseudo-mating'

Conjugation is a joyous occasion for some participants

The great yearly migration of Wildebeest, Zebra and to a lesser extent Thomson’s Gazelles is well documented. Driven by the rain distribution, nutrient availability and patterns of predation the Wildebeest and Zebra will roam in a cyclic pattern through Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. The river crossings, particularly the Mara River provides spectacular action shot possibilities with large crocodiles lurking in the muddy waters.
A warning to new safari participants; You can waste a lot of time waiting for crossings to occur

Crossing chaos, Mara River

Blue Wildebeest leaping into the Mara River. (crocodile in the lower left corner)

A Zebra stampede

 Some action shots are accidental and come under the heading of 'Humor'. These shots go down well with family and friends but contain the 'dreaded' hand-of-man that will disqualify them from Wildlife Exhibition entry or competition .............however it is good to end with a smile.

A Lion jam

Passenger seatbelt inspector

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