Behind the image – Eye to Eye (with an african buffalo)

 

It was December 2013 and at the spur of the moment I decided to make a short trip to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Believe it or not, but I have not visited the Kruger since 2007 (i.e. long before I started to take my photography seriously).
On the agenda and my wishlist was a proper buffalo image, as the lack of one in my portfolio was slowly starting to annoy me. As such I had a five night booking more to the northern portion of the park, with my mind set on them buffalos and maybe a good elephant image or two.
I was accompanied by a good friend, but our adventures will form part of a separate blog post in due course.
It did not take long before we started to see some rather big herds of buffalo, but the weather was all but ideal (photographically speaking) – Heavy rains preceded our visit and the sun was too shy for my liking…

I had this idea in my head of a monochrome portrait, so the weather and the soft light it presented were not bothering me at all. I just had to get close to those beautiful intimidating horns, but opportunities were few and far apart.

 

On day three or so we started getting some closer encounters and some portrait opportunities presented itself. I knew that for a proper portrait the background will be crucial, but lady luck was against me…

 

The image below was one of my better shots and you might have seen a monochrome conversion of it in the social media or on MY WEBSITE (click the link to have a look)

Well, this was not really the portrait I had in mind…

… neither was this…

… or this old bull with horns that was silent proof of his fearsome history…
I was getting closer, but time was running out…
I wanted an image that would depict the fearsome and moody nature of the african buffalo, which gave it the reputation as the most aggressive of all the mammals in the big five group. I did not find exactly the image I was looking for and as we packed up camp I was already contemplating my tactics for my next visit to the Kruger.
I left the campsite, but knowing that it it will still be about a 40km drive before I exit the park, I kept my cameras on the seat next to me, for just in case.
This time luck was on my side and I spotted a couple of buffalo grazing close to the road. I tried to to get a shot, but the trees and leafs were constantly obstructing my view through the viewfinder and none of the buffalo wanted to make eye contact. I was running out of time.
Then all of a sudden the one buffalo stopped in its tracks and for a very brief moment, maybe 4 or 5 seconds, stared straight at my lens! I had very little time to compose an image and actually took the image with a rather heavy 500mm lens through the passenger window without a beanbag or other support.
The image below is the full frame image with basically no adjustments done in Lightroom…
I immediately knew that the image will be the closest I would get to what I set out to do five days earlier…!
The image was processed in Lightroom 5 and Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2, with final tonal and local adjustments in Photoshop CS6…
Eye to Eye (with an african buffalo)
The image was taken with my Canon 7D and 500mm F4 L lens at 1/400s, F4 and an ISO of 400.
The image was selected as EARTH SHOTS PHOTO OF THE DAY OF 8 MARCH 2014 and is being sold as a LIMITED EDITION PRINT ON MY WEBSITE.
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