Photo Safari: My Year in 2014

31st December 2014
For me, 2014 will be the year of interactions. I saw so many interesting, unusual and touching moments between individuals of the same species, or between competitors. The album below (which will get captions soon!) brings the highlights of the year......although of course the real highlight of the year doesn't come until the end.

Happy New Year!

An image from the UK early in the year, when a mature Roe Buck approached to a distance of around 10m and fled only when the wind changed!



Arriving back in Zambia with Sukey and Kirstie, we found the dambo in front of our house littered with elephants. The soft overcast lighting and warm green tones make this one of my favourite elephant photos.



Nearby, a couple of bulls in a small male herd were flexing muscles and showing off. Little did I know when I took this that an oestrus female was nearby and the boys, though not mating age, were fired up by her presence. We later watched (from our window!) as a big male mated with the female, the one and only time I've seen this.



My parents arrived for our wedding and I took them into the park. Our first morning brought a sighting of 4 leopards together....a female, her two cubs and her male cub from two years previously! Here the male greets one of the cubs.



Heading to Lion Camp after the wedding, we enjoyed stunning lion sightings, including a morning where the whole pride played on the grass near the river........the females greeting each other.......





........catching up the stragglers.......



.............and challenging Dad to some fun and games too.



A quiet afternoon drive with Kirstie and Sukey (who loves safari) gave us these 3 zebras in stunning side light. I took hundreds of shots from different angles, but this is my favourite. And I think my favourite of the year.....



Once the third stallion had moved off, I took photos of the remaining 2 but 3 is a more visually pleasing effect than the even-ness of 2.



This photo reminds me of just how much the bush changes during the year. The lush green of May lasts just a few weeks before the brown sets in.



Not so much a stunning photo, but a great memory. This is a Puffback Shrike - as a breeding and territorial display, they turn their rump feathers inside out and create a 'puff' on their rump. To show off to females, they then fly around, calling loudly, showing how strong they are to carry such a heavy load!



A moment when it all came together. 6 impalas arranged nicely on a mound, and looking in the right direction. I had my fixed lens on but the distance was perfect, which was lucky as I only had a second!



This Pied Kingfisher was so tame (she lived alongside a busy track in the park) that I was able to approach her to about 3 meters. This is a full-frame shot of her. When she did finally fly away, I smiled involuntarily at the proximity of the encounter!



Eland are known to live in large numbers in the Nsefu Sector - in fact, Nsefu means 'Eland' in a local language - but they are often shy and especially the bulls are hard to photograph. Here a bull stood amongst broken woodland and allowed me an E-landscape....



The hot months of August through to October give us some of the best sightings - good light, nice colours.....but it is HOT, as this lioness discovered when heading to the river to drink in the afternoon.



Leopards are also very visible in the dry months, giving us great sightings. This female appeared to play peekaboo with us before descending for a night's hunting.



I love the composition that this situation gave us - beautiful cat with a nicely sloping grey Leadwood tree as a prop.



My favourite dog sighting of the year, when 7 dogs watched as a large herd of elephants crossed the river - one of my clients (Wil Vermeesch) has a wonderful video of it on his page - and then ran among them when they climbed the bank.



Early morning in the Luangwa.........nothing more to say.



An epic sighting of a Martial Eagle feeding on a Guinea Fowl in a Rain Tree near the road. We watched from when the carcass was still fresh until there was very little left!



The crop became engorged as it ate!



One of the most enjoying elements of leading photo safaris is helping guests learn new techniques. Backlighting is not easy but with the correct conditions, it works well....



...and the dust of the dry season assists with the effect.



Around Lion Camp, we tracked down a large male leopard who wasn't that pleased to see us! We approached slowly but raising a camera scared him a little and he snarled impressively!



Some more great interaction with the Hollywood Pride who played in the early morning light around Lion Camp.



And is this not the 'coolest' mum in the world? Despite it being feeding time, she struck a pose for the cameras.



One of the best sightings of the year, a beautiful interaction between a female leopard and her two cubs.



After finding her crossing a plain with the cubs, she settled down in the shade and fed them.



Later in the day, the cubs reappeared and began to tumble about in the dry grass.......



......play-fighting and swiping at each other.



Low level shots are always more impressive than those taken from above eye level. This leopard approached us from on top of a rise and paused for us to take shots. The light was very poor, so it was useful that she stopped for a second...



She later meandered past us, allowing more low light shots. Modern cameras allow us to capture shots like this in very low light, the advantage being that there are no shadows or dark areas and we can enjoy all the details of these beautiful cats.



An early morning session on the plain gave us some stunning shots of zebras...



.....and golden backlight as the sun rose.



Being ready to capture action such as this sometimes requires not speed but patience. We sat for over half an hour waiting for this Hawk Eagle to take flight.



And occasionally a new technique or ideas comes up in the field. For this shot, we used the headlights of a vehicle facing us and slowed the shutter speed to give some life to the image....



.....the colour one is good too.



On a quiet morning in the bush, we stopped for a while with these Yellow-billed Storks, playing with different compositions. Clearly the reflection is important, but needed to be carefully considered where it conflicted with the reflection of the trees.



A low-light Wild Dog encounter. These dogs were a dispersal group of 4 which were moving through the area seeking mates. They chased impalas in the last light of day, giving us a great experience but in light too low for photos.



As they warmed up for the hunt, they played together.



A small family unit in Nsefu Sector, scouring for the remaining ebony fruits in the groves.



A large herd of Eland in Nsefu Sector - a real treat to see these shy antelopes out in the open.



The majestic male of the Southern Nsefu area - he rarely rises before dark so we returned and snapped him at night....



Out on Mtanda plain, the elephants were making their daily journey to the grasslands for forage, pausing to feed the youngsters.



We caught this leopard out in the open with the limb of a baboon. It was presumably taking it back to her cubs but we didn't follow for fear of disturbing the location.



En route, she stopped for a drink from the salt spring....



....and then approached us through long grass, giving some nice effects.



An adult Bateleur eagle feeds a juvenile some python meat that it has scavenged from a nearby carcass.



Back at Lion Camp, a portrait of one of the beautiful snub-nosed females from the resident pride.

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The younger brother of the Nsefu male made his presence known in the last golden light of evening.

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After a hot day on the plain, they headed to the river for water.



It's not common to find giraffes right out in the open since they usually feed among bushes, but this group were pursuing an early-oestrus female. The two males with their noses up are showing a flehmen response - a contortion of the nasal passages allows them to better detect the hormones in the urine of a female.



A female leopard from Lion Camp who stalked down a branch towards an impala below - our hearts were in our mouths for a while!



Lillian's love-birds parachute to the ground in search of seeds.



Alert zebras against the dry brush of late season - compare to the greenery of the zebras above which was taken in the same area.



Out late in the morning, this hyaena was using the smooth road to travel to a resting place for the day.



Launch! We spent a lot of time trying to capture this image - one of my guests got a better one than me. Everyone happy!



Half-way to North Park, a gorgeous scene of a large bull recrossing the river after a night of foraging on the other side.



A North Luangwa sunset along the Mwaleshi!



Filming in North Park; the lions wait patiently for the herd to approach. Out hearts beat not quite so patiently!



Playing in the shallow river water....



....and getting all mixed up in black and white.



The lions having killed a buffalo nearby, the crocs decided to see if they could steal a bit. The lions had other ideas and saw them off pretty effectively!



One of the more unusual interactions of the year. Lions are not know for killing elephants in this area, but this large pride managed to pull down a youngster and then fed on it for the following 48 hours.



Some abstract work in evening light.



Zebras lining up for a drink at a narrow channel.



Heads hanging, thirsty buffalo trudge towards the water at Luangwa Wafwa. At this lagoon, 9 buffalo got stuck in the mud this year, more than I've known before. Too weak to pull themselves out, they become prey to hyaenas, vultures and nearby lions.



Sometimes nature does all the arranging....



And sometimes clean portraits work nicely too.



A huge Carmine colony near Lion Camp - I actually got the vehicle stuck approaching this one....



And back to the Hollywood cubs whose play had become a little more boisterous.....



.....calculated.....



.....and chaotic than when we saw them in May!



But the females are still just as beautiful......



These juveniles played more and more aggressively until Mum waded in and broke them up!



A hippo returning to the water gives us a nice composition with his route marked out in front.



A tightly bunched herd of buffalo is more than most lions will take on.



The evening light in Nsefu is clear and perfect for photo safaris - I have a safari running there in 2015. Please visit www.malambosafaris.com for more info.....



Up in the North Luangwa again.....this lion has been comprehensively spotted!!



A dream sighting with no one else around....



......and with just enough light left.....



The real highlight of the year, of course!! Sukey Selfe, welcome to the world, and I hope that you will be able to enjoy the bush as you grow up!




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