Today was our first full day in the Ndutu area, which is technically part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, however it is still part of the greater Serengeti ecosystem. The NCA has more relaxed rules when it comes to offroad driving, which is a double-edged sword. It works great when you are all alone and have found something you would like to photograph, however if there is a ‘high value’ subject like cheetah then it can be challenging. Why? Because the natural tendency is to have a clear view of a subject, and that can turn into encircling a subject with vehicles. Responsible safari outfitters, like Thomson Safaris, know better than to do this, however some of the other less reputable and knowledgeable guides may not know what the best practice is.
We met up with yesterday’s lion pride with the 3 young cubs, however they were in the tall green grass in the middle of the marsh and it was difficult to get a good view.
We continued out onto the open plains, and spent time scouting for cheetah. Our hard work paid off, and we located 3 adult male cheetahs. We sat and watched for the rest of the morning, or about 4 hours, as they would sit up and take notice of the surrounding game. It took some time, and the 3 boys walked off to investigate and mark some trees nearby. After that, one of the cheetahs jumped up into a dead acacia tree, and he surveyed the area from his vantage point. It was awesome. High fives all around, as it was a great view of such a beautiful and graceful cat.
After lunch we went back out in the afternoon heat, and went straight for the wide open plains to the south and east of Lake Masek. We spent the whole afternoon following the wildebeest, as the were lined up and moving in single file lines. This is the part of the Serengeti that I find thrilling: herds of wildebeest and zebra.
As far as photography goes, my main goal was to use dramatic light to illustrate the wildebeest, and backlighting or 3/4 lighting (the sun is 45 degrees off of coming straight into the camer) was the right tool for the job. Wildebeest have a light-colored beard that lights up like fire when backlit, so this was my approach. This means that I had to find wildebeest that were walking at a 90 degree angle to the sun, as I wanted them walking across the frame and with their bodies sideways to the camera. I only found a few good opportunities to shoot in this manner, but it was what I was after.