The best wildlife photographs are those that open a window, even if its a brief one, into the lives of their subjects. In order to do this you have to have oodles of patience, an affinity for nature and its creatures and an ability to spends hours, days and weeks with a particular subject, often to catch just the briefest moment of action.
Sometimes you can be lucky and stumble onto something amazing, thats "the right place at the right time" sort of luck that doesn't come around as often as you would think. For me and this particular shot of a trio of Three Banded Coursers in Zimbabwe's Mana Pools National Park I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Having seen the birds from a bit of a distance, just off the track, and having had no luck trying to photograph them earlier in the day I was determined not to waste this opportunity.
I approached the trio, ever so slowly and avoiding revving the engine, they gradually became accustomed to our presence and relaxed a little, thankfully not straying off the road into the long grass. Judging that I wasn't too close for my long prime lens I left the car idling and VERY cautiously climbed out of the car and with minimal movements lay down next to my open drivers door.
Thankful to now be at eye level with the birds, engaging portraits of animals are always better when you are at your subjects' eye level, I dared not breath too hard from fear of chasing them off. I started slowly snapping away, the sound of the shutter and my small movements obscured by the hum of the idling engine.
The trio eventually cottoned on to what I was up to and scarpered around a little, not too frightened to head off indefinitely and possibly intrigued as to what this prone 'thing' on the ground was up to. The movements of the 3 birds ended up with me getting quite a few landscape and portrait options that were decent shots but didn't quite work for me. This shot happened just before my neck became permanently contorted and I was spasming with cramp.
What I love about the shot is the eye contact from all three birds, the golden light of the setting sun in the long yellow grass, and the standoffish, defensive gate of the bird in the foreground, suggesting that he/she? is the boss and is going to defend the home turf!
Where: Mana Pools National park Zimbabwe
How: Lots of patience, lying flat on the floor and shooting under my landcruiser!
Camera info: Nikon D3 with 500mm F4 VR Nikkor prime, ISO 640 exposure 1/640th @ f5
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