Key Wildlife Photo Tip: “Chance favors the prepared”

DJC_7809I’m just on my way back from a really fun and very productive photo safari to Botswana and Zimbabwe. Co-lead Dana Allen & I were joined by eight eager participants—some who had been to Africa with me before and some who had never been there. Everyone got amazing images and has plenty of sotries—we’ll be posting some of the images and relaying some of the stories in the coming weeks.

Our first view of the kill was this swarm of Vultures out on the Grassy Plains near our camp in the Kalahari

One of the most important tips that Dana and I stressed repeatedly during the trip is the importance of being prepared. Wildlife action can unfold very quickly and dramatically and be gone just as fast. Having your camera ready, set up so you don’t need to fiddle with it and the lens cap off can make all the difference.

As we approached the Vultures cleared away briefly and we could see a very stubborn Jackal snarling to keep them at bay while he grabbed chunks of meat

As an excellent example when we were driving up to an apparent Wildebeest kill in the Kalahari we saw it surrounded by Vultures. Not the most exciting subjects, but through the cloud of feathers and beaks the fur of a Black-backed Jackal was just barely visible.

As the truck slowed the Jackals began to scatter and we could see the Jackal snarling at the Jackals just briefly and then ‘posing’ alone next to the kill, temporarily the sole possessor of the prize. Within seconds though the Jackal disappeared from view behind the carcass and then the Vultures started to close back in.

Time seemed frozen just briefly as the Jackal looked at us between bites while the Vultures stared at him

By being ready to shoot as the truck slowed with my Nikon D700 and 200-400mm lens resting on the truck frame in front of me—and with the miracle of Vibration Reduction (VR, also known as Image Stabilization or IS) being able to shoot even before the truck stopped I was able to capture this sequence of images, from the initial sighting through the brief story of the Jackal’s challenge in fending off the Vultures long enough to feed.

So the next time you wonder how a special moment at the peak of action was captured you can probably bet that the photographer was prepared!

Finally, we got a great "portrait" shot of the Jackal to cap off our exciting bit of action