Cheetah Stretching on the planes of Masai Mara
Among Lions, Leopards and Tigers, Cheetah is the smallest cat. However, because of being lightweight, these big cats have a distinct advantage of speed.
With top speed reaching about 100-120 kmph, they are fastest land animal on the earth. But this top speed can only be achieved for very short time,say a dew seconds only, eg. especially during hunting.
Cheetahs are well known to use termite mounds or even stationary safari vehicles as a vantage point, so that they can look for prey in the the African Savanna.
When Cheetahs are not hunting, they behave more or less like any other domestic cat. They play and sleep (a lot)..
During our 2017 Migration photographic safari, we were patiently waiting for this Cheetah to wake up. As I knew, they wake up and stretch a bit like house cats and I wanted to photograph that behaviour.
On my earlier trips to Masai Mara, I had seen Cheetah stretching however during that photographic safari, I was busy explaining photographic concepts to our clients in our 4×4 vehicle and I could not take that picture myself (Our clients got the shot though, which is always a great thing!)
In wildlife photography, patience, anticipation of activity and being prepared to shoot at a moment’s notice are very important skills.
There have been instances when I was on a moving 4×4 safari vehicle (land cruiser) ready to shoot (even when there was no subject visible at 5.30AM ) and suddenly a hyena was spotted , carrying head of a male springbok. Because I was ready with my ISO set to 3200 (all set the night before ) and camera ready to shoot in my hand (not in the camera bag!), I was the only one to get that photo as hyena ran away very quickly. Before other photographers could take there camera out of bag, increase ISO and focus on hyena, the hyena had entered grass, leaving them with unusable photos. This is not to say that I haven’t missed shots ever! Sometimes the action happens too fast or we are simply not prepared.
Spending time in the field and well before going on safaris, watching TV channels like Nat GEO Wild, Animal Planet and Love Nature does help to understand animal behaviour to some extent and we can be better prepared to take high quality images. Your keeper images increase and in a single trip, you come home with more high quality images / videos in limited safari duration.
Location: Masai Mara National Game Reserve, Kenya
Camera : Canon 5D Mark III
Lens: Canon 500mm F/4 L IS USM II
Shutter Speed : 1/800th Sec
Tripod / Flash: None, Hand-held using beanbags.