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Larger Mammals Archives

Old Buffalo Bull in Sepia Tones

African buffalo bull in sepia tone

Caption: Old male African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) lying in dry grass, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia. Although the original image is in color, I opted to convert it to sepia as feel this better portrays the old bull with his grizzled face, muddy coat, and world-weary look.

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mk II; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/250; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 800

Dappled Elephant

Elephant (loxodonta africana) dappled with orange from setting sun, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana

Caption: The setting sun, passing through overhanging twigs and leaves, casts orange dapples on the hide of a young elephant, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM telephoto zoom; Focal Length: 300mm; Shutter speed: 1/15; Aperture: f5.6; ISO: 400.

Open Wide, say Aaah!

Hippo with jaws wide in yawning display

Caption: Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) opening its huge jaws in a yawning display, Tala Private Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP); Lens: Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L USM with 2x converter; Focal Length: 600mm; Shutter speed: 1/100; Aperture: f5.6; ISO: 400.

Additional Info: Using a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 tele lens with a Canon 2x converter doubled the reach of the lens to 600mm, at the cost of two stops of lens speed (from f2.8 to f5.6). So at maximum aperture of f5.6, I was restricted to a shutter speed of 1/100th, making it essential to use a solid tripod and electronic cable release to avoid camera shake.

Using a camera support was even more crucial if one takes into account the 1.6x crop factor of the 450D, meaning I was shooting at an equivalent focal length of 960mm! To find out more about the impact of lens magnification when using digital cameras, see Effect of Crop Factor on Canon 50D.

If you’re wondering why hippos open their mouths like this — apparently yawning — they’re doing it to show off their formidable canines to impress and intimidate competitors or intruders.

Inquisitive Elephant Thru’ Wide Angle Lens

Elephant (Loxodonta africana) through wide angle lens

Caption: Inquisitive elephant (Loxodonta africana) ambles up to our game drive vehicle, Okavango Delta area, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6; Focal Length: 24mm; Shutter speed: 1/160; Aperture: f5; ISO: 200.

Additional Info: The above picture was taken with Canon’s very basic kit lens, the EF-S 18-55mm (non IS version), at a focal length of 24mm. This equates to 38.4mm on a full-frame digital when taking into account the 1.6x crop factor of the Canon EOS 400D.

Althought 38mm can be classified as wide angle, it’s at the limit and some would say it’s more “standard” than wide angle. Nevertheless, at that focal length the elephant nearly filled the frame (vertical), which does illustrate how close it was to our game drive vehicle.

But our safari guide, Grant Truthe of Okavango Voyagers, could tell the elephant was very relaxed. Grant, one of Botswana’s Wilmot family, was born in the country and has spent much of his life in the bush, so you simply put your trust in guys like this and enjoy the experience.

The kit lens I used for the photo has since been replaced with an image-stabilized version, the EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS that, despite its flmsy build and plastic EF-S mount, is not a bad walkaround or standard zoom and offers excellent value for the low price.

However, if you’re wanting either superior image quality or ultra wide capabilities in a wide angle zoom lens to use on a Canon digital SLR with APS-C format sensor (the Digital Rebels/300D to 500D and 20D to 50D models), there are two EF-S lenses that fit the bill:
* Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
* Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

The 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM is a standard zoom offering a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range. This, together with outstanding image quality and image stabilization, make it a favorite of photographers who need to shoot in low light. The equivalent focal length on a Digital Rebel is approximately 27-88mm.

The EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM stands out because it offers true ultra wide angle capability for users of Canon Rebel and 20D-50D bodies, something that was previously lacking. On these cameras its equivalent focal length is 16-35mm, which surely makes it wide enough for most users, while adding a new world of creative possibilities.

To find out more about these standout lenses, see Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM user reports and Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM user reports.

Hippo Walking Through Shallows

Hippo (hippopotamus amphibius) walking through shallows

Glistening hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) walking through shallows of dam toward the banks, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal Length: 200mm; Shutter speed: 1/400; Aperture: f8; ISO: 200.

Additional Info: In the background, five or six Nile crocodiles can be seen lying at the water’s edge and behind them, a couple of hippos looking for green shoots to graze. Hippos and crocs are often seen in close proximity as they share a common habitat in the form of river pools, pans, estuaries and dams, that is often limited in area.

Fortunately, they don’t compete for the same food sources — crocodiles eat meat (mainly fish but also small to medium mammals), while hippos are strictly vegetarian, living solely on plant material. This allows hippos and crocodiles to live amicably together, while keeping a healthy respect for each other.

In his book, Beat About the Bush – Mammals, author Trevor Carnaby says that “a full-grown hippo is more than a match for any crocodile, but baby hippos left unattended are at risk. The fact that hippos with babies are sociable, staying relatively close to one another, and that mother hippos with infants keep them in the shallows, makes attack by crocs highly unlikely. When pools start to dry up, hippos have the upper hand in terms of sheer bulk, and drive away crocs …”

There have been some quite amazing pictures published recently in various online newspapers showing a crocodile walking across the top of a group of tightly packed hippos until one of the hippos takes umbrage and clamps its massive jaws over the croc’s upper body, apparently killing it.

This is clearly unusual behavior and Czech wildlife photographer Vaclav Silha, who took the pictures from the banks of the Grumeti River in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, provides his on-the-spot version of events in this Telegraph article.

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