Capturing the defining moment: Three days with the Bicycle Crossing male

To take a great photograph a number of elements all need to come together. Ranger Johannes D. Welman takes us through the ingredients you might need to capture your perfect MalaMala moment.

First of all you need to have a great subject. This, without exception, has to be something the photographer is interested in. The great thing about MalaMala is that the property delivers subject matter that most photographers – and many people for that matter – are fascinated by: wild animals following the daily routine that many years of evolution has set out for them.

Secondly, you need to be in the right position. It sounds simple, but getting all the elements to come together at the right time out in the bush is very difficult. This is where MalaMala’s guides come in by helping to position the vehicle in the best spot and, while doing this, taking into account what the animal might do next. We’re no fortune tellers at MalaMala but our rangers know the animals very well and can sometimes predict their next move.

Next on the list is the most important of all factors. Light. I’m sure you are familiar with the significance of light in photography as the word “photo” stems from the Greek word “phos”, which means light. Now the aesthetic value of light is determined by the time of day and to a large extent the absence of clouds and in some cases the presence thereof. Getting good light on a subject is therefore determined by good planning and a healthy dose of luck.

Next on the list is the use of good equipment combined with photographic skill. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that great equipment makes for great pictures. If this was the case, then the wealthiest of people would be among the photographic elite. Instead, good photographs require a proper understanding of sophisticated equipment and creative ability.

Now, if you were lucky enough to have all the above mentioned elements align in an event almost as rare as the alignment of the earth, sun and moon for an eclipse to occur then you might get a good picture. I say might, because there is still one element missing. Expert timing. In order to catch the glint in the subject’s eye, to get the one foot off the ground, to get that unique facial expression or whatever you as a self proclaimed artist is looking for, you are going to need to press your camera’s shutter at the exactly the right moment.

To illustrate these points here are a number of photographs as well as a video-clip taken and edited by MalaMala ranger Robin Hester. The images are of a leopard known by you – our loyal blog readers – as the Bicycle Crossing male. Robin and a group of photographic guests recently spent three days with the Bicycle Crossing male as he was feeding off an nyala kill he made on the eastern bank of the Sand River. The photographic Gods must have adored this group of guests as the light reflected off of the Sand River’s silvery surface is a rare gift.

Watch Robin’s video here: Three days with the Bicycle Crossing male on YouTube

Enjoy! And don’t forget to enter the MalaMala Photographer of the Year competition!

The MalaMala team

Bicycle Crossing male leopard

The Bicycle Crossing male in a striking pose.

Bicycle Crossing male leopard

The Bicycle Crossing male looking up toward a tawny eagle landing in an Apple leaf tree close to his stashed kill.

Bicycle Crossing male leopard

The Bicycle Crossing male makes his annoyance of the nearby tawny eagle known.

Bicycle Crossing male leopard

Light reflected from the Sand River's surface into the trees lends a bit of magic to the scene.

Bicycle Crossing male leopard

Two artificial lighting sources in combination with the available light results in a moody image.

Bicycle Crossing male leopard

The Bicycle Crossing male enjoys his feast.

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