Why do you take photographs? What is it about photography that you love?
I have a very special memory to share with all of you and it happened a few years ago while I was still a full time guide…I thought it is a great opportunity to demonstrate to all of you what photography means to me.
How often do you take the time to go through some of your older images that you have taken over the last couple of years? If you don't, I urge you to take some time and do it! There is so much value in reliving those special moments. I do it on a regular basis and can't help but find myself being caught up for hours on end, just staring a images and remembering key moments from a specific sighting and it all comes from looking at one single image. I believe this is crucial in remembering the whole reason why you started photography in the first place.
My photographic journey started a number of years ago and to this day, my number one passion is wildlife, yes I love photography but it is through wildlife that my love for photography began. I started to take photographs to remember special moments I had out in the field and to be able to freeze those moments and be able to look back at them one day and remember how privileged I have been to have witnessed those unique moments.
As a full time guide, I had a few bucket list sightings I was really hoping to be able to see during my time in the bush. I am definitely not an individual that just wants to tick all the boxes, I prefer to let the bush show me what ever comes my way. "These bucket list sightings" would just be a bonus.
This particular sighting takes us a couple of years back while still guiding at Londolozi...
It started out like every other morning on safari. Heading out on drive, our plan was to try and find a leopard. A very productive area of the property was the South Eastern section. After about an hour and a half of searching, we had still come up with nothing when one of my good friends and fellow guides Simon, called in a leopard on the boundary of the property. Being just around the corner, I headed straight there, only to watch a leopards tail disappear into the thicket...
It clearly just wasn't meant to be, so we continued south to see if we could find any other sign of a leopard. We were in luck and it seemed like Simon was on fire, literally as we pulled off he found a female leopard. Knowing the area(not far from where we were and relatively far from the boundary) we made our way. On approach, there she was - walking through a massive clearing! our luck had finally changed and you can imagine how excited my guests and I were.
As we were following her, she seemed to be on a mission, only stopping on the brief occasion to scan the area and listen to her surroundings before continuing on her march. Seeing her behavior, we would drive relatively far ahead of her and let her approach us(this gives her the opportunity to walk past us or choose a different path should she wish to).
After following her for a good 20 minutes, we were approaching a large termite mound that had recently be evacuated by a clan of hyenas that were using it as a den site. My tracker and I decided to go to the opposite side of the mound and wait for her to come to the mound, the mound had very little vegetation around it(from the young hyenas that were teething and chewing everything and anything in their sight). We switched off the vehicle and waited for her to hopefully climb to the top of the mound. Unfortunately, she didn't, she came around the side of the mound to investigate the large holes created by an aardvark and used by the hyenas as their home. We didn't think much of it until...
She disappeared head first into the mound... We thought that she was maybe looking for warthog piglets, but we thought wrong!
As she reversed out the mound we were struck with an incredible sight! she was carrying her cub in her mouth! We knew that she had cubs but no one was sure where they were being kept. It was an absolutely incredible moment!
To put this into words is... impossible. Even writing this now, I find myself reliving those emotions. To think - she had so much trust in us that she allowed us to be a part of such a secret and intimate period of her life. Apart from witnessing this moment, it was just incredible to see how confident this female was - we watched her carrying her cub back to the area that she had just come from(this led us to believe that she had already moved the other cub) and instead of using the dense vegetation for cover, she continued walking through these massive clearings for all to see. She would occasionally put the cub down to once again, scan the area before moving on.
From the duration of this sighting, I took a whole of 10 pictures, yes 10 pictures. I have included my two favorites, but the reason for this was - I also wanted to enjoy this sighting! I didn't want to detach myself from the sighting and just to be honest, I wanted to make the most of this moment! We followed her back to her new den site, where we watched her stash away her second cub, shortly after which we decided to leave her be. She had given us such an incredible sighting and for a secretive cat, allowed us to share an incredible moment with her, we thought it was only right to leave her be and to enjoy time with her cubs without our company...
It is a sighting that I will NEVER forget and each time I see one of these two images I am constantly reminded of this absolutely amazing day I got to spend with a truly beautiful leopardess...
Until next time,