A tale of Light, a Grey Heron and a Leopard

Andrew Beck Andrew Leave a Comment

This is an unlikely story of how on a quiet afternoon in Tsavo west, a Grey heron saved the day and gave us what was undoubtedly the highlight of the safari from a photogrpahic perspective.

As is usually the case at this time of year, the game concentrations were anchored by any remaining surface water and the “Cool Dip” lugga to the East of our camp was without a doubt the place to be. As we did in 2016, we headed directly to the lugga for the afternoon hoping to catch a variety of wildlife coming down to quench their thirst.

We arrived in the area and drove the entire length of the lugga (drainage line) checking for track and sign but alas, there was nothing. As any avid bush lover knows, when the bush is quiet. It is QUIET!

The heavy clouds above us held some promise of a break in the light as the sun sank to the west and so, with that in mind, we stopped to photograph a Grey heron.

Waiting for the light to pop both the literal and figurative silence was shattered by the unmistakable call of a leopard to the north. Jimmy and I instantly looked at one another and smiled.

The grunts were not that far away and it didn’t take long for Eagle-Eye Jimmy to spot the source of the vocalisation.

As you can see from this “documentary shot’, the light had not yet popped.

We kept our eye on the beautiful leopardess as she made her approach towards the lugga.

Taking note of her movement and the abrupt change in the light my eye was caught by one of the most beautiful settings.

I shared my “imagine if” moment with the guests and suggested they all took a test shot and got their settings correct for the potential of the leopard sitting up ontop of the rocky outcrop.

Suddenly it seemed as though it was all about to come together as we watched her approach the rocky outcrop.

My heart was racing and the excitement was at an all time high as we watched the most beautiful scene I have witnessed in a long time. Shooting at a fixed focal length of 400mm we could not have been positioned in a better spot – keep in mind that we hadn’t had to move from where we stopped to photograph the grey heron!

Those of you who have travelled with me will know how much I love showcasing animals in their environment and the light and scene could not have been better for exactly that, luckily i had the presence of mind to shoot additional frames to the left and right of the scene knowing that I could create a panorama in Lightroom.

Less than two minutes later, our subject, having played her part, moved off.

I instantly checked the guest’s back of cameras and, after seeing the images that had been banked by all, breathed for the first time in what felt like ages.

This was truly an incredible moment and one which I don’t think words can describe.

We don’t have control over what we see in the field.

Thats part of the attraction.

A quiet and overcast afternoon can change into something incredibly special in an instant.

Oh, and given the fact that all of this was thanks to the Grey heron, we had to photograph it in good light too…

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About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.


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