It’s just after dawn. A deathly hush pervades the vehicle and all those contained within are transfixed. A lone zebra has strayed from it’s zeal and is meandering towards us cautiously whilst distractedly pulling at the grass below it. An anthill stands t o it’s left, and beyond that, two femal e lions, looking for breakfast.

We’re deep in the Kenyan Maasai Mara, it’s day eight of our eight day safari and our last chance to catch a glimpse of the leopard that has been avoiding us for so long. I’ve come here for one reason: a passion for wildlife photos.

I ease my camera out of it’s bag, fit a suitable lens and run through a few settings to make sure the photo comes out right. The fresh early morning air pours in through our Land Rover’s extendable roof opening making me shiver. “Is this really going to happen?” I ask myself as one lion edges forward, still masked by the towering anthill.

The zebra moves closer and the lion, flat to the ground, edges slowly around the anthill. I ready and steady myself on the roof and frame where I think this might be headed. My digital camera is set to take 6.5 photos per second. Once in a lifetime and I want this shot.

Lion chasing zebra, Maasai Mara, Kenya, East Africa

The zebra’s eyes bulge wide and dust is driven away from it’s feet. In a matter of split seconds and almost like the start of an Olympic race both animals are in full sprint. Supremely focused, the first female navigates the curve of the anthill’s base and sets it’s run towards the zebra. Adrenaline surging, I press down my index finger. My camera tracks the scene and fires into life capturing the zebra whilst waiting for the lion to come into view. First a paw, then two, a nose and then, led by those merciless eyes, it’s head tears open the side of my viewfinder. A lion flying through the air is the only thing on my mind.

Wait, what’s going on? My index finger presses harder and then, unable to grasp the situation, presses harder still. Why is my camera not making those lovely clicking noises it was making half a second ago? Now releasing and then pressing harder each time, my mind shifts gear. My camera falls from my eye to reveal my worst nightmare, the word “empty” flashing cruelly back at me. Mentally I crumple and physically I dive back down into the Land Rover clawing for my camera bag.

The offending memory card goes flying across the floor and a new one is slammed into position. I launch myself upright but it’s all over. Too late. The first female has it’s jaws clamped around the zebra’s neck whilst the second stakes it’s own claim.

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It’s the photographic equivalent of an own goal—one of the hardest and surest lessons I’ve learnt about photography. The Maasai Mara is incredible but if you are going there for photos, learn from my mistake. It will save you hours years of pondering what could have been!

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  1. […] Finally, whatever you do, don’t do what I did. […]