Tuesday 1 October 2013

Tails and Horns

If you've ever tried to photograph a cheetah hunt, then you would know that it's over in a flash, and you often just can't track the movement changes of the chase well enough. During our recent Wild Eye Great Migration Photographic Safari in the Mara Triangle (Kenya), we pulled into a cheetah sighting just as the hunt was about to begin. I quickly told the guests with me which settings to dial into their cameras, as I know from past experience that shutter speed and aperture need to be protected in these cases, and ISO should be the one to sacrifice.

As the chase began, the female Cheetah chased the Thomson's Gazelle right past the nose of our customised Toyota Land Cruiser and then the take-down happened exactly 30 meters from our shooting position. Those of you who know me know that I photograph wildlife action primarily with the Nikkor 500mm prime telephoto lens. With it not being a zoom lens, getting the action too close can be a concern...

This photo is one of the sequence I captured last week. It's not perfect - why?
Is it the light? The light is a bit harsh, mid morning actually - but it was slightly overcast so I think it came out nicely, so no.

It's the framing, right? Because the gazelle's one horn is "clipped" on the right of the frame. It's full frame on that end, I actually ended up cropping a wee bit from the left and bottom to frame the overall action better.

Does it still work?
I think it does. Besides my obvious emotional connection to an action image like this which really portrays a split second in a frenetic life-and-death tussle...I think the horn is less of an issue than the cheetah's tail, which is what I often end up "amputating" by poor framing. In this case, the cheetah's grace and power in the final take-down of the gazelle is the focus (not to take anything away from the "oh crap" expression on the prey's face)...so the horn becomes less of an issue.

What do you think? Would you ever delete a photo like this from your library because of the flaw I listed above? Drop me a comment below and share your thoughts!

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
f8.0  |  1/3200 SS  |  ISO-900

click on the photo to display properly...

Until next time...

Morkel Erasmus

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