The More You Know the Better It Gets

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry 6 Comments

Don’t you think this lion looks quite vicious?

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography


Not at all actually and this just goes to show how, when you freeze time, an image can convey a distorted reality.   The lion above was following a female and displayed the flehmen grimace after sniffing her urine, a phenomena that Marlon explained in this blog post.

Often people who have never seen a lion roar confuse an image of a yawning lion, something that is a lot more visual, with a roar.  I suppose it’s a very easy mistake to make and it’s probably quite easy to imagine that the incredible sounds a lion produces will make for amazing visuals.

Not the case unfortunately.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

Photographically speaking the image on the left is way more impressive, dramatic, likeable and sharable.

In real life though the overall experience of the image on the right is way more intense.  The sound of a roaring lion goes right through you and is something that will stay with you for a long time after you put your camera down.

This is the guy on the right roaring in Madikwe. After shooting the above frame I did a short iPhone video clip in which you will see that the mouth never opens all the way, like it does in a yawn, when a lion roars.

So, from a photography point of view a yawning lion, or even one showing the flehmen grimace, is a way more interesting and striking subject.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

That said, don’t dismiss the intensity and complete awe you will feel when hearing a lion roar.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

Both from a photography and overall wildlife experience, the more you know the better it gets!

Until next time,


About the Author

Gerry van der Walt

I am a private and specialist photographic safari guide, public speaker, co founder of Wild Eye and wildlife photographer. Visit my website at or follow my journey on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter a look forward to changing the way you see the world.  I also host a Wildlife Photography Podcast and I Vlog!

Comments 6

  1. simon

    my personal preference, the second photo speaks more to me. i think it has to do with being able to see the eyes and generally being able to see more of the head and mane. the little leaf on the eyebrow drew my attention for a while and actually shows that even the king has to deal with minor irritations!

    1. Post
      Gerry van der Walt

      Thanks for your thoughts Simon. Agreed, the right definitely is a stronger image. The post came from a comment on a yawning lion image i posted to IG this morning where a few people said he’s roaring. 😉 Hope all well your side!

  2. Martha Myers

    Like Simon, I prefer the photo on the right, especially the back lit part of his mane. The video clip stole the show, however. So, in addition to the usual “leopards falling out of trees” photo op during the Extended Migration, perhaps you could arrange for one or more “lions roaring the car tires off ” scenes. 🙂 I’ve heard roars, often in the distance and often in the night, but to actually see them in action, up close, would be such a treat. Cheers!

    1. Post
  3. Matthew Scerri

    Great post!

    This was one of the things that I found really surprising when I saw my first pride of lions in the wild (perhaps embarrassingly so!).

    My next surprise was the generally bad state of their teeth! You seem to have found one that takes regular trips to the dentist here! 🙂

    1. Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *