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Lion Notes 3

Welcome to our third page of pictures and notes in brief about lions, lion sightings and occasional photo tips based on visits and photo safaris to southern and East African game reserves and national parks. All images © Scotch Macaskill - for more, see Terms of Use.

Lioness Stretching at Dusk

Lioness stretching

Photo Details: Lioness (Panthera leo) extends her front legs and arches her back as she has a good stretch following an afternoon nap, Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Block, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 350D; Lens: Canon 100-400 F5.6 IS zoom; Focal Length: 190mm; Shutter Speed: 1/200; Aperture: f5; ISO: 800

Additional Info: The picture was taken in late afternoon - after 6pm - as a pride of lions started stirring. They'd been resting, as lions do, for most of the day. But now, with the sun below the horizon and the summer heat dissipating, it was clearly time for action. Two cubs began practising their attacking skills on each other while the adults started moving around, apparantly readying themselves for an early evening patrol in search of the next meal.

It's one of the harsh realities of wildlife photography that so much of the best action takes place at night, or in poor light once it starts getting cooler. Fortunately digital cameras have given photographers a huge boost by allowing us to crank up the ISO. In the example above, I was able to boost the ISO to 800, which allowed a shutter speed of 1/200, even in the fading light.

Note: At the time I wrote the above (2007), the ability to push the ISO to 800 was a big deal, particularly after working within the limitations of film photography. Today's digital cameras of course have such sophisticated sensors that it's possible to push the ISO into the thousands, allowing photography in extremely low light conditions, something we could only dream of in those far-off days.

Lions Sharpening Claws

Lions sharpening their claws on tree trunks

Photo Details: Two male lions (Panthera leo) stop to sharpen their claws on nearby trees, Elephant Plains Game Reserve, Sabi Sands, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D; Lens: Canon 100-400 IS Zoom; Focal Length: 120mm; Shutter speed: 1/60; Aperture: f4.5; ISO: 400; Lighting: hand-held spotlight plus on-camera flash with -1 flash exposure compensation.

Additional Info: We were on a night game drive, watching these two male lions by spotlight as they moved silently past our vehicle. Suddenly they stopped in unison at a small clump of trees, reached up with their forelegs and began sharpening their claws on the tree trunks. Then the one (behind) decided to give his teeth some exercise as well by grabbing a strip of bark and ripping it from the tree.

Lion Cub Close-up

Lion Cub

Photo Details: Lion cub (Panthera leo) resting its head on tree stump, Sondéla Wildlife Centre, Limpopo Province, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 350D; Lens: Canon 100-400 IS Zoom; Focal Length: 100mm; Shutter speed: 1/800; Aperture: f5; ISO: 400

Additional Info: Sondéla Wildlife Centre, an animal hospital within the Sondela Nature Reserve, was established to assist in the care and treatment of animals affected by the recent increase in tourism and game farming in Limpopo Province, South Africa.

Game numbers have increased drastically in the area as more and more landowners have converted cattle farms into private nature reserves. This in turn has led to an increase in the capture and relocation of wild animals. Unfortunately, as in all capture operations, animals do get injured and have to be treated accordingly.

The burgeoning wildlife population has also meant more animal babies being rescued and nurtured prior to being released back into the wild.

Sondéla Wildlife Centre offers specialist care for animals in need, providing an essential service to private landowners, wildlife veterinarians and game capture operators.

The lion cub in the photo above, one of a litter of four being cared for at Sondéla, was about two months old when the photo was taken.

Lioness Showing Her Teeth

Lioness yawning, showing her canines

Photo Details: Close-up of lioness (Panthera leo) yawning, revealing her formidable canine teeth, Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Block, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS Digital Rebel; Lens: Canon 100-400mm IS zoom; Focal Length: 115mm; Shutter Speed: 1/200; Aperture: f5.6; ISO: 400

Additional Info: Lions use their canines primarily for grabbing, holding, and killing their prey, while the back teeth are for ripping and chewing.

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