It was a crisp winter’s morning. Francolins were calling, announcing the unavoidable dawn that was breaking.
The Land Rover engine was chugging along as we slowly crawled out of the lodge grounds of Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand (South Africa).
Then the roaring of lions brought us on high alert. We followed, and came across one of the legendary Majingilane coalition male lions, walking up the road ahead of us and roaring towards his brothers. His brothers answered!
Soon we were witness to a reunion of these males – they had all been patrolling various corners of their territory, and this morning was their bonding moment.
It was gloomy weather, but as I always do I just push up the ISO and let my trusty Nikon capture the action.
A third male joined, and they started rolling over each other, rubbing their scent off on one another and just bonding like lion brothers often do.
And then…things got awkward. Very awkward! 🙂
And no, this is not proof that animals have same-sex tendencies (before anyone jumps on a bandwagon that this post is not intended to provide)…this is purely a display of dominance and is not all that uncommon in mammals.
It’s a gesture, no real action is taken by the instigator, and the purpose is to assert dominance in a setting such as this where there are multiple males in a coalition and some sort of hierarchy is ascribed to.
It was over in a few seconds, and the males flopped down to do what kings of the African bush do during the day – doze off…
We moved on from there to look for a family of cheetah – but the sighting remains one that I’ll remember for a long time…seeing these males and the affection they showed upfront, combined with that quick weird show of dominance from the superior ranking one, gave me a glimpse into the dynamics of these male lion coalitions that have so long been the staple of the Sabi Sands and Greater Kruger area.
Are you keen to experience the wonder of the South African bush? Then be sure to check out the Wild Eye Wildlife Photography Seminar that I am co-hosting in April!
I used to relish writing these kinds of “bio” pieces and would flaunt the odd impressive word and use dashing grammar to make it sound like I am a boundary-shifting photographer. These days I prefer stating it in much simpler ways, much more relatable ways, much more believable ways…
The fact of the matter is this: I love Africa. I love its people, its wild places and its wildlife. I love being immersed in these places, observing and photographing the fall of light on the land and the daily lives of the creatures that call it home, and presenting the results to whoever will take a look.
To me, nature photography is all about being in the moment, and capturing that moment in a way that can relate to someone who didn’t have the privilege of being there with me. Sometimes I am able to capture a unique vision of the scene before me, and sometimes I just capture it the way most folks would according to classical photographic guidelines. Yet I always enjoy sharing the images and experiences and imparting the knowledge I have, both in-the-field and later online or in presentations, workshops and courses. I also just simply enjoy capturing and sharing the beauty of God's creation!
The greatest thing I’ve found about wildlife and nature photography in Southern Africa is the unity and familiarity of the community of people that share this passion. We come from all walks of life and all cultures and backgrounds, yet our passion for our natural heritage and our dream to see it preserved for future generations binds strangers together and fuels conversations around campfires long after other people have run out of conversation and energy.
Join me on a WildEye adventure to experience this sharing community spirit and learn to anticipate that fleeting moment and be ready for it, learn to immerse yourself in the experience without losing focus of your photographic goals…and above all, learn to see Africa anew… because there are none as blind as those who look but do not see!
Since picking up a DSLR camera for the first time, a little over 3 years ago, Morkel has been invigorated with an unbridled passion for the photographic art form. He has grown at a tremendous pace and put immense energy into the creation of his images.
He absolutely loves spending time in the wild places of his native Southern Africa. From a young age he has been visiting legendary wildlife and outdoor locations, including the Kruger Park National Park and the Drakensberg Mountains, with his family. Now that he has found a way to share the natural beauty of his homeland with the rest of the world he is regularly out on photography trips.
An Industrial Engineer by profession, and an accomplished artist in genres like music and poetry, Morkel has always enjoyed whatever allows him to express his creativity to the fullest. Photography turned out to be the perfect "marriage" between his engineering brain and artistic soul.
"I hope that in some way I can raise awareness through my imagery of the plight of not only our wildlife but also the fragility of the last remaining wilderness areas that they call home.”
Morkel was recently honoured for his commitment to his craft by receiving a "Highly Commended" for one of his images in the 2010 BBC Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. He is based in Mpumalanga, South Africa and even though he prefers going on safari with his family and friends, Morkel also leads the odd photographic safari and has recently begun presenting workshops in post-processing techniques.