cheetah on an impala kill
Summer is definitely back. Today the temperatures topped the 40ºC mark and if the rains do not come soon there will be a drought. However, with the heat building, the first rains should fall soon. At the same time as we are experiencing these dry and really hot conditions, the impala ewes are heavily pregnant and they too are surely looking forward to the rains. With the impala ewes struggling to feed themselves and their unborn babies with enough substance, relying on the dry lifeless grass that now covers much of the bushveld, they too are beginning to show signs of poor health. With this comes the threat of opportunistic predators taking advantage of the impalas' slower reactions and speed.
On this particular afternoon I was told that a cheetah had been seen during the early safari. I moved into the area hoping to get some photos of a cat that is so seldom seen. I searched for nearly an hour and was just about to give up when I saw impala running all over a large open area that I had just passed. There it was, a cheetah in full sprint chasing after an impala. It all happened so fast that I had no time to get my camera out of the bag let alone take any photos. I moved closer to the cheetah with my heart racing. Trying to control my adrenaline I got out my trusty 200-400 F 4 lens.
I dropped the ISO to 800 as there was plenty of light. The cheetah was lying in the shade of a large knobthorn tree so its face had a dark shadow on it but the background was nicely lit, with wonderful golden grass and a few green early summer leaves. I wanted to get the face and eyes sharp but keep the background as blurred as possible so that the face would really stand out in the picture. I therefore set the camera for + 2/3rds. This made sure I had the face well-lit, that the eyes would come out nice and bright but that the background would not over expose. The picture was still taken very fast at 1/2500. While this is a very fast shutter speed and not totally necessary, it does make sure that the image is sharp and that any camera movement or movement by the subject does not result in a soft image.