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Lions & Other Big Cats Archives

Leopard Cub on Termite Mound

Leopard cub on termite moundCaption: Leopard cub (Panthera pardus) relaxing on a termite mound in fading light, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/40; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 800; Lens.

On a recent visit to Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana’s Tuli Block, we were fortunate to see an excellent variety of wildlife. Even though it was still very dry with the vegetation brown and parched, the animals looked in pretty good shape.

Some of the highlights incuded sightings of a cheetah mother with her sub-adult cub, three leopard cubs, lions, hyenas, numerous jackals, vultures squabbling over a lion kill, and even a porcupine at dusk.

The above photo is of one of the leopard cubs, a female, that we found alone with the remains of a kill that she fed on before posing for us on a termite mound. We later saw the other two cubs well camouflaged in a leafy tree, but never saw the mother, although she must have been nearby.

Male Lion Licking Lips

Lion in black and white using DxO FilmpackCaption: Male lion (Panthera leo) licking his lips, digital color image converted to black and white, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal Length: 300mm; Shutter speed: 1/1000; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400.

In the early 90s I worked as a news photographer on The Witness, a South African daily newspaper. We used 35mm film cameras, loaded mostly with black and white film.

The film of choice amongst Press photographers of the time, certainly in South Africa, was Kodak’s Tri-X, a 400 ASA black and white film ideal for Press work because of its high speed — good for action, low light, and the type of unexpected situations that news photographers have to deal with.

If circumstances demanded, for example in low light with no flash allowed, we could “push” Tri-X to 800 or even 1600 ASA. In the latter case, we were under-exposing by two stops and would compensate for this by over-developing. (Note that ASA, a measure of film speed or sensitivity, has been replaced by ISO, the International Organization for Standardization’s method of measuring sensitivity).

This push-processing increased contrast and grain, but the results were usually acceptable for printing on newsprint and produced those gritty, grainy shots one associates with hard news pictures from the latter half of last century (wow, that sounds sooo long ago!).

You’re probably wondering where this is going … okay, it’s just some background to explain why I still love black and white images, and why I’ve been playing with DxO FilmPack 3 from DxO Labs. This software, either standalone or as PhotoShop plugin, lets you “rediscover the magic of film” by applying vintage film effects to digital images.

So you can make your digital photo look like it was taken with Kodachrome or Fuji Velvia, or a bunch of other positive and negative color films, plus a range of venerable black and white films.

The digital image above (taken at ISO 400) was converted to Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white using DxO Film Pack. Ideally you want to print the converted images with a good quality printer to fully appreciate the effect. The software also allows you to apply various filters. The image below has an orange filter added. A bit too dark, but it gives an idea of the possibilities.

Lion in black and white using DxO with orange filter

Lion picture converted from digital to Tri-X black and white plus orange filter using DxO Film Pack 3

Ferocious Lion Confrontation

We’ve added a new article to our Wildlife Info pages, this one showing an amazing sequence of images that document a spectacular fight between two lionesses and a lone male.

The photos were taken by wildlife artist and photographer Malcolm Bowling while he was working as a game ranger in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

As Malcolm explains, “It was one of those moments a photographer longs for — nobody can predict how events are going to unfold or to what degree, and then something like this happens in an incredible way.” See Lion Fight Sequence to view the photos and read Malcolm’s account.

Young Male Lion

Young male lion, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Caption: Young male lion (Panthera leo) with winter leaf stuck to his mane, KNP, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP); Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/1000; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 800.

This immature male was part of a larger group of young lions, including both males and females, that we found near Engelhard Dam while staying at Letaba Camp in the Kruger National Park.

There were no mature adults in the group but from the age of the lions (probably around 2 – 2½ yrs) it’s probable they were still members of a larger pride.

Young males are usually evicted from the pride by the dominant male (or males) at around 2½ – 3 yrs old. Females on the other hand tend to stay with the pride on maturing, although they may occasionally disperse with their evicted brothers.

The social life of lions is complex and there are no hard and fast rules. Prides may fragment, depending on numbers and size of territory, and then continue to live in adjacent or overlapping ranges.

Young males, after eviction from the pride, will become nomads, with brothers often staying together, forming coalitions. This enhances their chance of survival during this dangerous period when they have to cross territories occupied by larger and stronger resident males.

When the youngsters are old enough, they will attempt to take over a pride by challenging the resident male(s), at which stage a coalition offers a distinct advantage. See Lion Facts for more about the social structure of these big cats, and also Lion Pictures for a selection of colorful African lion images.

(Please Note: If you’re not reading this post on Wildlife Photography Blog from Wildlife Pictures Online, then you’re not seeing the original version. Please go to Young Male Lion to read the original.)

Lion Male Blends with the Bush

Lion male blending with winter vegetation, Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
Caption: Adult male lion (Panthera leo) blends in with the golden hues of surrounding winter vegetation in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania.

Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Rebel XSi); Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM Telephoto Zoom; Focal Length: 300mm; Aperture: F/6.3; Shutter Speed: 1/1600; ISO: 400

We spotted this big male lion on the side of the road, soon after we’d left our camp on the banks of the Great Ruaha River in Tanzania’s spectacular Ruaha National Park on a morning game drive.

Not long after this, two of our travel companions, who left shortly after us, saw the big fellow wandering close to our tents. Fortunately no one was sleeping-in, but it was a timely reminder of how vulnerable one is when camping in the African bush. See our article, Lion Visits our Camp in Ruaha for more.

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