Speed, Balance and Skill – Masai Mara Cheetah hunt
Three words that you may think relates to you as a photographer … Not in this case !
During my time experiencing this years great migration , I was very fortunate to witness an incredible 7 seconds of wildlife action. A female Cheetah with a sub adult cub hunt a Thomson’s gazelle from start to finish.
What does this image have to do with the story ? Well this is what we were doing prior to our legend guide Joseph spotting the Cheetah perched on a termite mound on the plains below or position of this “Leopard Tree ” ( thats another story in itself). Yes there was a mild panic as the golden hour was approaching and what better than a Cheetah on a mound in golden light.
We managed to calmly drive down the hill to where the cheetah was positioned. To our disappointment she had started to move off with her son . The area (only a few km from Camp) was designated “high use” and therefore no off-roading so we could not follow or reposition to get some golden light shots of the two of them .
With no where else to be, we decided to enjoy a cold Tusker while they wandered off into the distance. As I was watching her cross through a small shrub area, she went into a low crouch and stopped… she then walked forward with her son in tow. My hear rate shot through the roof and I thought, could this be… I immediately said to Stefan, Kirsty and Gerhard what I thought was going on. In a flash all eyes and lenses were trained on the moving cheetah.
This is what happened next…
So, some technical specs !
- Canon 1 DX with 200-400 F4 L and 1.4 Convertor engaged.
- AV mode , Aperture F5.6
- Shutter speed 1/2000
- 25 % Crop for documentary use images
- ISO 1000 (to keep shutter speed up due to overhead conditions and freeze the actions)
- Panning Plated attached to lens foot on bean bag
- Wild Eye vehicle platform (shooting through the pop top area with all three photographers and long lenses)
When tracking a subject some distance away, I tend to use the centre focus point and using a slight crop adjustment for composition later. On a prime lens and the incredible tracking system of the new canon bodies, it becomes far more practical for me. I also decide to keep the cheetah as my focus point as this is where the story will come from. I had a split second to decide on this and used the incredible frame rate of the 1DX to capture this sequence. (the buffer did not fill up). By slowly moving in a level plain thanks to the bean bag and panning plate.
I look forward to sharing more from this epic destination soon…
Peace and Light – AA