Through the Lens: Coming to Drink

03rd November 2017

This image is one of my favourite images from my 10 years in the Luangwa. We had spent a long time with this particular buffalo herd as the crossed a dusty plain on their way to the river. We knew they were heading to drink, but that it would take some time before they got there. We enjoyed taking low-level photos of dusty feet, and we also tried some creative shots; I remember well suggesting that we set a very slow shutter speed of 1 second, resting the camera so that it wouldn't move, and then tripping the shutter when one buffalo was looking towards us, and all the others were moving either side of it. We didn't have a lot of luck, but it was fun to try!

Anyhow, after the herd melted into the bushes along the river, we moved off to photograph some hippos from a view-point on the river bank. While we were watching them, the buffalo herd began to appear on the bank, slightly around a bend and far in the distance. I was using a 500mm lens, mounted on a Canon 1D Mk IV which has a small sensor, so my focal length was effectively 650mm. Even with that magnification, the buffalo were very small in my frame!

But, with the camera to my eye, a beautiful scene began to resolve itself, with buffaloes appearing from the left, coming to drink in the centre, and then leaving to the right. The sky above was very bleached out, so I framed the scene with a lot of sandbar below, knowing that I would crop that off, but that it would not throw off my exposure. I also noted the beautiful gully leading away from the sand in the background which added more interest.

As I watched, 3 buffaloes approached the water together and I knew that was the moment I wanted. I snapped the shutter before they all dropped their heads into the water. I took several other shots, but as more buffalo arrived the scene became too chaotic and the effect was lost. This moment was the one.

A herd of buffaloes comes to the river to drink in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.


Photo comment By Bill Westbrook: Hi Ed I have enjoyed and benefited from your writing about photography, and your musings about your safari experiences have helped to ensure my continued enthusiasm to return. So thanks for your efforts. I hope that your next season will be as wonderful as this last year seems to have been. I hope that our paths will cross again in the Valley soon. Cheers Bill W
Photo comment By Edward Selfe: Bill - so many thanks for you comments and kind words. I am grateful to hear them and know that you have enjoyed following my blog. It would be great to meet up in the future - give me a shout when you are next back and we can have a beer! Greetings to Barb. All the best, Edward

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