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Lion Notes 6

Welcome to our last page of pictures and notes in brief about lions, lion sightings and lion behaviour 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.

Lion Fangs using Fill-in Flash

Lion showing its fangs

Photo Details: Male Lion (Panthera leo) shows his formidable fangs, Elephant Plains Game Reserve, Sabi Sands, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D; Lens: Canon 100-400 F5.6 IS zoom; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter Speed: 1/30; Aperture: f5.6; ISO: 800; Lighting: Spotlight plus fill-in flash.

Additional Info: The picture was taken after nightfall on an evening game drive. The lion was illuminated by a hand-held spotlight, hence the need to shoot at a slow shutter speed (1/30th) with ISO set to 800. That's the penalty of using a lens with a maximum aperture of F5.6.

For this shot I added some fill-in flash which, combined with camera and subject movement, has created interesting streaks and blur, giving the image an impressionistic feel (or maybe just leaving it looking fuzzy - depends on your taste!).

Baby Lion Yawning

Lion cub showing its canines and huge paws

Photo Details: Lion cub (Panthera leo) reveals its already impressive canines while having a big yawn, Sondéla Wildlife Centre, Limpopo Province, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 350D; Lens: Canon 100-400 IS Zoom; Focal Length: 100mm; Shutter speed: 1/2500; Aperture: f5; ISO: 400

Additional Info: The lion cub was one of a litter of four being cared for at Sondéla Wildlife Centre, an animal hospital, prior to being released back into the wild. Although it was only around two months old when the photo was taken, the cub's prominent canines, together with its massive paws, hint at what lies ahead for the hapless animals that one day will fall prey to an adult lion's hunting skills.

Lioness with Cubs

Lioness grooming cub

Photo Details: Lioness (Panthera leo) grooms her one cub while the other dozes contentedly next to her, Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Block, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 350D; Lens: Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM; Focal Length: 200mm; Shutter Speed: 1/200; Aperture: f/5; ISO: 800

Additional Info: For the above image I used Canon's 100-400mm image-stabilized (IS) zoom. It was already late and the light was poor, so I had to push the ISO to 800 to ensure a reasonably fast shutter speed. Even with IS, camera shake can be a problem at slower shutter speeds. Zoomed to 200mm, the maximum aperture of this lens is F/5, so boosting the ISO was the only way to increase shutter speed.

If I'd been shooting wide-open with a 70-200m F/2.8, I could have used 400 ISO and a shutter speed around 1/500. It's in these situations that the "fast" lenses with big maximum apertures are so useful. But the 100-400 is nevertheless a very versatile zoom lens for wildlife photography with a loyal following. Note: The original Canon 100-400 has been replaced with a new and improved version that's no longer a "pull-push" zoom.

Lioness Pair at Rest

Lioness pair at rest

Photo Details: Lioness pair (Panthera leo) at rest in dry riverbed, Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Block, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EOS 70-300 IS Zoom; Focal Length:210mm; Shutter speed: 1/400; Aperture: f5; ISO: 400.

Additional Info: Sleeping lions do not make interesting photographic subjects. And lions sleep a lot - up to 20 hours a day. But it's often fitful dozing rather than a heavy slumber, so it's a good idea to be ready for any sudden movement.

In the picture above, a glance from the one lioness, and a flick of the tail from the other - to let us know they were aware of us - turned an othewise boring picture into an interesting composition. The eye is drawn to the dark head amongst all the legs and feet, then follows the curve of the tail out of the picture and back in again. A moment after the picture was taken it was back to sleep (or so it appeared), below:

Lioness pair dozing

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