Africa Live 2016-02: 04 #1, Cheetahs in the morning

Welcome back everyone.

You join us an hour or so into our fourth morning. With a nice clear sky and Cheetahs spotted in the distance we raced around the gullies and trees to get there for sun up.

It is very hard to judge what you may get (light to animal wise) in the Mara from a distance sometimes as the land can be deceptively flat or hilly looking. I knew we may be in for some wonderful backlight so wanted to get there before the sun appeared and assess where we should plonk down.

We arrived and whilst not as dramatic as I would have ideally liked the scene was beautiful and we snapped away.

The very clear sky meant that the sun’s orb was incredibly bright and with this angle being the lowest we could achieve the cameras went into bracketing mode and I took some HDRs.

A lower view would have enabled silhouettes, rings of fire and the like where the cameras can cope in one exposure but not this time! The Nikon D800 (or 810) is the absolute king of dynamic range but some scenes are just too extreme and need bracketing.

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As I often choose, wonderful backlight for when the sun rises above the horizon.

Lightroom’s new HDR function (introduced in v6) really helps with the workflow side of things. Keeping it all ‘in house’ an retaining raw flexibility after the merge is a real time saver.

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Enjoying the cool morning air and surveying the plains for prey/danger.

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As the sun finally began to warm up the plains, time to move.

 

As much as Cheetahs are long distance spotters/hunters, they are also good opportunists. This Thompson’s Gazelle was just such a chance….

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The lay of the land here was very much in the Cheetah’s favor here.

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Bang! The chase begins.

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Up to near full speed now. I would have gone for the shot a millisecond later in an ideal world to get the full stretch but you simply can’t consciously judge these things at that incredible speed. Rather than hammer down the FPS on the D4 I waited until she was airborne at least, even 10fps isn’t fast enough to guarantee anything and timing  your finger usually works better than hammering the shots for the whole sequence.

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She just missed!! My friend (and top ‘tog) Kiki who was also staying at the camp has an absolute corker of this moment taken on a longer lens. Just the way it goes sometimes, you win some, you loose some! Although I do perhaps sense a Nikon 800mm prime in my near future for Cheetahs.

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Meanwhile behind us.

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The young ones watching on every bit as captivated as we were.

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Better luck next time. All the prey in the immediate area was WELL aware of them now and it was time to move on.

The plains were a little sparse in the area now and we made our way out to grab some breakfast on a high vantage point where we could survey what else may be around (breakfast pies, my fav! The camp chef’s are amazing).

Later in the morning, we were not seeing anything of huge interest around the plains so we made our way back to the Cheetahs. They were just hunting as we arrived only this time in thick bush. We hung back and took in the scene, only moving in awkwardly over the rocks after the hunt had finished. This is very important as we cannot allow ourselves to interfere with a hunt, it really is life and death for both sides of the coin.

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A small kill but every little helps in the Mara, especially when you are a Cheetah.

After the excitement of the chase the sun was starting to beat down and all our feline friends will truly be resting now. The group are avid birders (Dot, Lin and Pat are wonderful at identifying them and Charles is an avid birder as well as guide too).

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Lilac Breasted Roller, a common favorite amongst my workshop guests over the years.

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Well, more from this day next time, do check back in the next day or two for more pics and stories from the Mara. Keep an eye on facebook (like my page if you fancy) as I announce most things on there too.

I also am on the priority list for a D500 from Nikon which I looking forward to putting through it’s paces on my home turf in the UK. I’ll be posting my thoughts on it in a rolling blog so stay tuned as I know a lot of you are keen to see how it performs.

Rich.

 

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