Monday, June 30, 2008

A (Disappointing) Morning with Lions

The resulting images... Not the lions!!

I have been hoping to find the Kgala and Bulayo Lion Pride in decent 'golden' light and this morning it finally happened!

After hearing lions roaring in three different directions the night before, we headed out early morning to go and find the Kgala males, Bulayo females and their five youngsters.  We followed the direction in which we heard their last calls that morning and after only about twenty minutes of searching we saw the cubs. 

The last time I saw these five playful youngsters was when Grant and I tracked and found them up on the hill where they proceeded to give us a beasutiful show of playing and fighting with each other.  This morning was no different and again they waited until we positioned ourselves until they started their show.

These three were very active and it was sometimes difficult to see where one started and the next one started.  Great to watch!

If you have been reading my previous Blogs, you will recall that one of these youngsters had quite a serious injury to his one ear.  In the above image you can see him on the left hand side.  I have no idea how he got the injury to the ear but it seems that he is a kind og an outcast.  Always slightly on the fringes of the cub-action and always being 'picked on'.  The ear is still bothering him slightly and he still scratches it a lot.

You can see him above next to one of his brothers. Great morning light but up until now no sign of the adults.  Suddenly the cubs stopped and all looked in one direction.

Apart from a few tracks and the previous night's audio this was the first sign of the male in quite a few days.

Almost shark-like in his appearance the male was fast asleep but we realized soon enough that he had other things on his mind along with relaxing in the early morning sun.

The Kgala male was VERY interested in one of the pride's females.  Everytime she moved or got up to change position he would be right there testing her reproductive status by smelling her urine and doing the Flehman grimace.  Not going into any detail now but the idea is that the smell molecules gets forced (through muscular contraction) into the organ of Jacobsin in the upper lip which gives the male an idea of the females willingness to comply to his endless advances!

This specific morning she did not want anything from him and he reluctantly made his way back to a nice sunny spot to sleep the day away.

Now I have been looking forward to get this specific pride in golden light, but was actually quite dissapointed by the resulting images.  When I checked the mornings images on the pc everything was blown out even though I also tried underexpose just slightly during the shoot (making the lions sound like models now!)

I reckon taking pictures of lions in winter grass with early morning light is actually quite a challenge as they blend perfectly and it can prove quite difficult to meter correctly as the winter light tends to be a little bit hazy.  When looking through the hundred plus images of the morning I found that only a few was actually usable.  A little bit of tweaking in Photoshop did save quite a few but I still think that metering differently might make a difference.  White balance, saturation, contract and even brightness was off the charts even though I checked ISO, shutter speed and aperture all the time.

ust admit, I still have a few things to learn and be 100% sure of on the D300 (love that machine!!) which I have been using for about two months now and luckily I got another chance this afternoon but more on that in the next Blog.

I don't have a problem 'fixing' images in Photoshop as long as it is only minor tweaking of the histogram.  I am not too fond of erasing leaves, adding a cloud or any of the other fancy things people do in Photoshop.  There is most definitley a time and place for that kind of thing and I do enjoy messing around every now and then, but I feel you should try and get as much of your shots correct when you click the shutter. I would rather be a photographer then a photoshop-er.  I reckon that is why I felt dissapointed and felt I have to go out and try again!

Anyway, the images uploaded in this specific Blog are a few of the mornings shots that I quickly tried to save from total disaster but once I get back home I will have a decent look through all the raw images and see what can be done.  I might actually do a blog in a week or so with some of the above lion images that have been properly images to try and get them right.  (Any comments?)

On with the morning drive.

As we left the lion sighting, where we spent almost two hours, we saw this Purple Roller sitting watching us from the top of a tree.

Beautiful bird (yes I know the colours are still off!!) and very chill as he was trying to warm up in the morning sun.

As we got home we heard this little guy singing in the tree.  A Black-Backed Puffback. 

In Afrikaans this guy is called a 'Sneeubal' which translates directly to Snowball - referring to the way he puffs the white feathers on his back up when he gets excited.  I was quite happy to get a few shots of this little guys and I am sure the final images will be great!

So, it was a great morning out in the bush but the resulting images did not get me very excited.  In a way it is a good thing to get a wake-up call like this every now and then so that you remember the basics and hopefuly learn something in the process so don't take any of the images in this Blog too seriously! :)

As luck would have it, we found the lions again in the afternoon and this time I was ready.  The light was perfect and this time the images are more something that I am proud to say is some of my better work!  As soon as I have had a chance to go through them I will upload some of them to the Blog as well.

I have still not uploaded any of my latest (last two weeks) images to the Photo-Africa Stock Library.  Once I have finalized all these images (on my desktop in JHB) I will do a huge upload.  Make sure to keep an eye on the Blog as I will mention it here as well.  In the meantime you can visit the Stock Site to view some of Gavin Tonkinson's many new images that was uploaded today.

As always I look forward to hearing from you!



Mike - Fenphotography said...

Hi Gerry,
I would have to agree that when editing images the less the better and the more work the camera itself does will give a better quality photo, but not looking at your images through your eyes, they are stunning. I can only imagine at this moment the kind of light you get over there, but you are in a photographic heaven. I really like the bird shots also.

Photo-Africa said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your comments and thoughts. You are absolutely correct that I am in photographic heaven. So much so that you sometimes forget to think of the basics and I guess that was my main dissapointment.

The sighting was so special that I was expecting to see National Geographic front page images! hehehe

Nah, good reminder to keep all the basic photography basics in mind!

Thanks again for all your comments!