Wildlife: The Highlight of the Rainy Season

20th February 2017

The early rainy season is a tricky time for photography, as there is endless intense greenery (which appears almost unnatural) and much of the game scatters away from the main river after the initial downpours.

However, a few months on, and we find ourselves living in a paradise of lush grasses, flooded waterways and flowering plants. The early green growth, which is lurid and bright (perhaps a celebration after so many months of dry browns) has handed over to a gentler life-giving green, which is soft and makes for beautiful backdrops.

After some time away, we were very happy to be out in the National Park once more, noticing that we had - once again - forgotten how dramatically different the Valley looks after the addition of many billion gallons of rain.

With so much food around, zebras can afford to take a little time off to relax, especially when it's raining!

So often intervening vegetation, twigs and branches are a handicap for photographers who seek clear views of wildlife. In the rains, you have to work with it, since there is so much vegetation around, that it's hard to avoid! I loved the view of this impala through the tunnel of trees.

We aren't really sure what spooked these zebras, but they ran a long distance, only slowing some 500m from where they started. We initially suspected (hoped?) that it might be Wild Dogs, but that turned out to be a dream! I used a slow shutter speed [easily achieved using my preferred photo mode - Av] to capture their movement and blur the distracting background. This was taken at 1/50sec.

A group of buffalo bulls stirred on our arrival. This young male was showing considerable potential - his horns tell us that he's not very old, but his size says otherwise!

Having spent the day feasting on the new grass and plentiful seeds, this baboon family appeared to take a moment for reflection before dark.

We found "Ginger" resting on the road early one morning. It gets hot early in the morning during the rains, so it wasn't long before he and his mate got up and wandered off into the deep shade of some bushes. Ginger is a highly unusual lion whose coat and skin lack any black pigmentation. He's not an albino (since he has red and orange colouration) but is believed to have a condition known as erythrism. I can't find any references to other lions with this condition - so he may be unique worldwide! It is a highly recessive gene mutation which may - or may not - be passed genetically, so it may be that he is able pass it on, or it may be that he can't and the next 'Golden Lion of South Luangwa' will arise from a similar chance mutation.

Ginger's mate certainly seemed happy to bask in the reflected glory of being in the presence of such a prestigious lion!

My very favourite feature of the rainy season is the enormous fields of lupunga grass which develop throughout the semi-flooded areas of the Valley. This grass is later to appear than others, but when it does, it's beautiful purple seed pods give the tops of the grass a beautiful final touch. Elephants gorge themselves on the protein-rich seeds, and antelope pick at the seed-heads. This impala must find that his view changes quite considerably from rainy season to dry!

With such beautiful sights to be enjoyed, we will certainly be out again soon, so there'll be more on this blog soon.


Photo comment By Allan Semmler: Love the shot of Ginger and the Impala in the Lupunga Grass. So different from when we were there in October. Allan & Raelene.
Photo comment By Edward Selfe: Hi Allan & Rae - Thanks for getting in touch! Yes, it's hard to believe that it's the same place as the one you visited in September. Equally, it's hard to imagine how it will ever dry out....the mud, rain and water are everywhere! Hope to see you again one day. Ed
Photo comment By Marlies Vermeesch: Love the photo with the running zebras. Hope we can try to make another one when we are back
Photo comment By Edward Selfe: Hi Marlies! Yes, you know how I like to try out different things...! We can certainly work on this when you next visit. The key thing with getting a shot like this is that you have to slow down your shutter speed significantly. You will be constantly monitoring the light levels and adjusting your ISO up and down to ensure you get the best combination of sharp images and low digital noise. But you need to ignore all that for motion blur images, where you need a shutter speed of between 1/30sec and 1/100sec depending on the subject. To do this, I use a combination of ISO and Aperture. When I see a good motion blur situation coming up, I roll the top wheel rapidly to the right to increase (make smaller) my aperture value; I also reduce my ISO a couple of stops and then have a look to see if I've done enough to give a shutter speed in the range mentioned above. Since these running situations often come and go quite quickly, it's worth practicing this so that you're ready to go when the chance arises. Looking forward to seeing you again! All the best to Wil, Henk and Kitty, Ed

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