Search
  • Karen-Jane Dudley

Life through a lens

The application of ethical wildlife photography principles is vital when you find yourself in proximity to a situation where your presence has the potential to create disturbance. It is vital, when these situations arise we take full responsibility for our actions…

This particular image has a story to tell...




As with most days with the camera and wildlife as the focus, it is always best to be prepared for any scenario to be played out in front of you and the guests.

On this particular day, with a small group of guest's, we had managed to locate a pride during the heat of the day . As always it was vital not to create little to no disturbance…especially due to the story that was unfolding in front of us…

Sadly, I have witnessed on too many occasions, game vehicles disrespectfully and irresponsibly "bundu bashing " in order to get as close as possible to a sighting to satisfy a guest who "must" get the status photo or to make the drive "entertaining " ...

This is nature, it has no agenda, it does not perform on command, neither is it there for entertainment value, commercial gain or status...

The story of this particular sighting unfolded minute by minute, requiring unlimited patience, understanding, respect and responsibility, four of the main ethical photography principles that should always be strictly adhered too.

It was important to positioning the vehicle for the guests to gain a good photographic vantage point but continuing to maintaining a respectful distance of about 200 mtrs from the serene sight of three adult lioness's with 6 cubs, a beautiful scene that would play out a dramatic storyline .

With the aid of telephoto lenses, the presence of the guests created zero disturbance, at no point were we going to push closer or move our position in order to gain a better angle… Wildlife photography is just that, nature as it happens, not manipulated nor “ set up “ but nature at her raw best…

The pride were positioned in a drainage area around a tree offering much needed shade for the pride .

Our attention was suddenly drawn to a huge herd over 200 strong of Cape buffalo who were steadily making their way towards a small waterhole about a kilometre away from the prides position. But this journey to the waterhole was to be one fraught with danger on both sides a journey and one that would ultimately lead the herd directly past the pride…

The three lionesses and cubs were blissfully resting were suddenly alerted to a potential situation. Upon hearing the movement of the buffalo just above their position, immediately the atmosphere changed from one of serenity to one of heightened tension.

For the lionesses ,this situation posed a number of challenges. These two age old enemies of the bushveld held the potential for a life threatening situation for not just for the lionesses but in particular for the vulnerable cubs and potentially for the herd too.

Buffalo can weigh in as much as a small family car and pose a huge threat to the safety of any pride, in particular cubs but it also carries the potential risk of serious injury to a lioness which would be catastrophic for the pride, but with so many little mouths to feed, a successful hunt of a buffalo would ensure that the little ones would have very full tummies for a while at least ..


We patiently sat witnessing the drama unfolding and watched on as two magnificent male lions suddenly emerged from the distant thicket, silently taking watch of the buffalo from the other side of the herd .

With the buffalo now flanked on both sides, we watched as two of the lionesses quietly moved into a position, that would enable them to evaluate the quickly evolving situation, whilst the third lioness quickly roused and rounded up the youngsters, instinctively encouraging them to move lower down the drainage area, to the relevant safety behind the cover of the large tree, as if in hope it would offer a form of protective shield if needed .

Slowly the buffalo herd continued to file past and slightly above where the pride were sheltering, but now with the herd numbering around 150/200 individuals, this had the making of a very delicate balancing situation for the lionesses ... do they make that decisive move on one of the stragglers at the back of the herd and a potential meal for the pride? they now had the much needed assistance from power of the two male lions in order to undertake such a challenging and dangerous task, or do they sit quietly and patiently so as not to surrender the position of their young families and risk their safety ? ...

The similar scenario would have also been played out by the buffalo during this time with a small number of individuals stopping, taking a deep scent of the area just above the lioness’s position, aknowledging the fact they were aware of the prides presence and position just below them but safety in large numbers was on their side today and no lion would risk taking on such a dangerous task especially in the stifling, energy sapping heat of the midday sun.

After what seemed like an eternity the final buffalo passed through, the two male lions decided the tiny window of opportunity had passed and they quietly turned and disappeared back into the thicket, leaving the two alert lionesses to silently step down and make their way back to join their sister who was still patiently guarding the little ones below…




It is always such a privilege to watch the drama of nature unfold and a truly breath taking experience for my guests to witness, but more so at the joy of knowing that my guests had respectfully chosen to uphold the ethical principles and had actually put their cameras down to watch the story being written in front of them rather than using their cameras.

Not only did my guests create zero impact on a very tense situation, but they respectfully upheld patience, responsibly and a complete understanding of the situation ...


It is experiences such as this that make my job so rewarding ...

2 views

© 2020 by K J Dudley. Proudly created with Wix.com