The Face of a Lion King

Big Cat Photo Safaris Africa
Big Cat Photo Safaris Africa

I am really enjoying writing this ‘Once picture, thousand words’ series where I am writing about some of the memorable pictures, the story behind the picture and thought process behind the image. This series also talks about best practices and preparation for wildlife photography safaris so that you can make most of your safari experience and come home with pleasing images and videos.

Personally, wildlife photography very unpredictable in nature. When we are out and about, we can not predict what wild animal/ birds will see or what those animals are going to do.
However, my suggestion is individuals should strive to create their own balance individual portfolio. What do I mean by balanced portfolio?

Let me give an example from everyday life. When we to a dinner party, we are greeted with welcome drink, with some finger food to begin with. After seating down, meals is served right from starters, first course to dessert. This is a natural and pleasing way of serving food. I have never been to a party where they had pastries for starter, pastries for main course and pastries for dessert. Nobody would like to eat same stuff for every course. Same principal applies to your personal portfolio.

I want you to look at your portfolio of top 50 images and see if there is enough variety in your pictures. i.e,
a) In how many pictures, do you see the same animal / same species of bird?
b) How many of your images are a tight closeup of the animal/birds?
c) How many of your images are environmental / habitat shots?
d) What proportion of your images are black and white?
e) How many of your pictures are creative shots (eg. panning/ zoom-burst etc) ?
f) How many of your wildlife pictures are of insects (Macro)?
g) Do you have any underwater picture / videos?

It is obvious that you would take more photos of wildlife near where you live and not everyone can afford (time and money constraints) to go to remote locations for photography. But that doesn’t mean that every picture of yours should be a close up of the bison. Take a long hard look at your instagram and see if there is any pattern.
Variety is spice of life and we need to add variety to our portfolio. Sometimes, on a dark evening, when the sun is setting, I take a silhouette of a lion with open planes of savanna, at other times, when the lighting is better and there is no vegetation, I do not shy away from taking the long lens and going close to the face of a lion to take a closeup portrait of the beautiful animal. If we notice, in both the pictures we just discussed, we took picture of the same species, (maybe the same animal in some instances, just few hours apart at different locations) but we came up with two distinctly different images which adds variety to our portfolio.

Would it be fun to take the long lens each time and take a tight close up of every wild animal we see in the Savanna? No, we are not shooting for linkedin head-shots of animals. I think we all got the idea that using different lenses and showing varying amount of surrounding creates a balanced portfolio.

This image has been taken using the 46 Megapixel Nikon D850 with the super affordable zoom lens Nikon 200-500 F/5.6 @500mm. This magnificent lion came and sat near our land cruiser and I requested the 4×4 to be positioned parallel to this guy. We had a clear, unrestricted view of this Lion and no other vehicle in sight for miles. I took few different shots and decided to open the side door of the vehicle. So, by opening the side door, I could go almost straight eye-level to the lion and that too without leaving the safety of our 4×4 vehicles. At no point, we get out of the vehicle (only with ranger’s permission) or put ourselves in line of danger for taking photographs, its simply not worth it. Our 4×4 vehicles are specially modified for low angle / eye-level photography.

The scar on the face of this male is a reminder that if he wants to rule a specific part of the savanna, there will be intruders and also challengers who will not shy away from fighting.

Location: Masai Mara National Reserve, Narok, Kenya

Camera : Nikon D850

Lens: Nikon 200-500 F/5.6

Aperture: F/5.6

Shutter Speed : 1/750th Sec

ISO: 1600

Tripod / Flash: None

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