Variations: Zebra Dust-bath

Morkel Erasmus All Authors, Morkel 1 Comment

Hey everyone! I thought I’d do a quick post about variations when working a sighting in the field.

By now, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you would know that we’ve always highlighted the story-telling power of changing up your aperture and shutter speed values in your wildlife photos.


Case in point – a Plains Zebra (Equus quagga) taking a dust bath on the plains of the Mara Triangle last year during one of our Great Migration Photographic Safaris.


1.  The “standard bank-it image”

Did you know it’s well advised to “bank your shots” before experimenting? Well, now you know!

Nikon D4s, 500mm f4 lens

f8.0  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-500

Note my choices for aperture (to get at least the rolling zebra nicely in focus) and shutter speed (to freeze motion adequately and make the dust cloud stand out).




2. The “let’s try something” image

Once you’ve got the shot that you know will nail the moment, you can start experimenting. In this case, it was always going to be shutter speed – creatively blurring the rolling zebra while attempting to capture some sharpness in the stationary “spectators” around. Easier said than done when resting on a beanbag and having to trip the shutter with your finger!

Nikon D4s, 500mm f4 lens

f18  |  1/20 SS  |  ISO-100

Note that I increased the aperture to f18, mostly to be able to shoot at the slow shutter speed at lowest ISO without completely blowing out the highlights – so that in itself was not a “creative” choice but a technical choice/necessity to preserve the exposure/histogram.



Does the 2nd one work better than the 1st one?

Perhaps not…

But – I was experimenting in the field (as were my guests, I suggested it and we were all playing with this technique as the zebra rolled around quite profusely), and it was fun, and I might have gotten something special if my timing was better and if the placement of the zebras in the frame was better…and we were learning – learning which settings would work for this kind of shot, so that in future we would be ready.


Never stop experimenting and pushing your own creative boundaries.

Never give up on a sighting because it’s not your “target species” or some “epic interaction”.

Appreciate the privilege of being in the field, and work every sighting to it’s maximum potential, you may just surprise yourself (and if you don’t, at least you’ll have fun trying).


Share this Post


About the Author

Morkel Erasmus

Facebook Twitter Google+

Just a regular guy, camera in hand, overcome by the beauty of the African continent, and passionate about sharing this beauty with others!

Comments 1

  1. Carol Bell

    Morkel…thank you for the post…….I have been trying to play with shutter speeds, and find zebra’s heads are the worst to get into focus as they always moving……. maybe oneday I will get it. I love the photo and it gives me inspiration to carry on trying.

Leave a Reply

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