Have you ever found yourself in a position where you want to record something photographically but know that, if you attempt it, all you will achieve is a below average record and the feeling that you totally missed out on seeing something special. Sometimes we need to let go of our impulse to press the shutter and rather spend time just breathing, watching and taking it all in.
On our first trip to the Kgalagadi National Park a few years ago, there were three photographers in our group of four and every day we were encouraged, by the most experienced one, to be at the camp gate at opening time in order to catch the action during that very important golden hour. It was all about “getting the shot!”. We naturally got into the spirit of things and spent some exciting and productive days looking for opportunities and practising our camera skills. A few days later, we decided that we would prefer to sit in the camp hide for a few hours instead of queuing early at the gate, fighting our way through the traffic at sightings and driving for hours on end. Our friends were surprised but decided to let us be.
We packed coffee and rusks and headed off to the hide before sunrise and sure enough, not long after we sat down, three lionesses arrived to drink at the water hole. It was still very early and rather dark, so we knew that we would have to pump up the ISO (or light sensitivity settings) on our cameras and hope for the best. Whilst the lionesses were drinking, a magnificent, but rather battle scarred male arrived. Suddenly we were being treated to a spectacle involving all kinds of feline activity. It started with some scrapping between the male and one of the females and continued with the arrival of a new male and female, which seemed to make the original old boy feel rather threatened. He then spent a good long time marking his territory before taking on the new comers. Eventually, it became difficult to see through the clouds of dust and flying fur and we were totally enthralled.
When they finally stopped to rest, we were entertained by a little and very persistent black-backed jackal, trying to catch a dove for his tea. While he waited for the doves to gather, we’d aim our cameras, he’d shuffle closer and then take off like a bullet. Most of the time he would miss and so would we! We laughed until our tummies hurt. The light for photography was by now very harsh and, being rather inexperienced back then, I forgot to check my settings regularly, so needless to say, I didn’t get the perfect shot, but boy, did I have fun and ended up with a few that will always remind me of the privilege and sheer joy of spending those few hours watching, trying and simply having fun.