Photographing a Wild Dog Kill

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Some wildlife sightings are quite challenging to photograph.

This might be the case, and like I mentioned in this post, there is most definitely a time to put your camera down and just suck up the experience, but I think more often than not photographers don’t explore all the options available to them before making the call that a sighting is not worth photographing or cannot be photographed.

When you click the shutter, you freeze a slice of time.  For you, as the creator of the image, it’s easy to look at the frame and allow your mind to flash back to the scenes from which you borrowed the moment.  The challenge is to convey the mood, the story in the frame, the total experience to someone who was not there – through a single image.

A few days ago I was in the Sabi Sands with a private photographic client, when we were faced with one of these types of scenes.

A Wild Dog kill.

For those of you that have not experienced a Wild Dog kill in the wild, it is a brutal frenzy that generally does not last very long.

As the pack of 12 got hold of a Grey Duiker that ran right into them, the frenzied scene unfolded right in front of our vehicle which left us with a few photographic choices to make.  The easy option would be to push the ISO up, get a nice high shutter speed and freeze the action, but I wanted to rather try and convey a sense of the chaos around the kill.

Do me a favor.

When you look at the image below don’t just glance over it and continue reading but just take few seconds and just look at it.  (This is something you should really try and do with all images as you will be surprised how much it will change the way you see and appreciate the frame and what you can learn from it.)

Allow your eyes to explore the frame and then move on.

Explore the frame, look at the story.

Gerry van der Walt - Wild Dog Kill

Nikon D3s, 200mm, 1/13,  f/11, ISO 1600
Sabi Sabi, South Africa

The slow shutter speed was a very deliberate choice as I wanted to convey the erratic movement around the kill.

In my mind, which alway has a number of potential compositions floating around when I’m in the field, the shot I was looking for was with one Dog standing in front of the group with the blurred chaos behind it.  I did get one that I need to still look at, but to me the frame above tells the story of a pack of Wild Dogs on a kill.

When you are next out in the field, make sure you explore all the technical and creative tools available to you before saying a scene cannot be photographed.

I’ve said it before.

In wildlife photography, you can only shoot what you see, but if you pay attention to the basics and think about the creative options available to you, you will see so much more!!

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt 

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