Cheetah Chasing Lunch

Discussion in 'Len's Nature Photos' started by Len Backus, Dec 6, 2007.

  1. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    Wildlife photography is so much like hunting big game. In both cases I just love it when a plan comes together.

    [​IMG]

    Jack and I saw unbelievable quantities of game on our three photo trips to Kenya and Tanzania. Sometimes during the migration season we could see thousands of animals spread out over two or three miles ahead of us.

    The big cats were our favorites. We spent many hours following them and getting to learn their hunting procedures.

    One morning Jack and I came upon an adult cheetah just as it lost a race with a baby gazelle...their favorite table fare. The cheetah was sitting on its haunches, facing away from us and thinking about what to do next. Both our heads were sticking out of the top of the safari vehicle. I think it was I that noticed a different baby gazelle hunkered down in the short grass 20 yards to our left...perfectly still.

    Then it was Jack that said, "Let's move the truck so we put the hiding gazelle between us and the cheetah." We both knew that eventually the cheetah would discover this tasty morsel just 50 yards behind it. The gazelle would be our bait!

    We both got ready. I had two camera bodies so I set up with a 200-400 lens on one and a wide angle on the other. This cheetah was going to discover the gazelle and run right at us in its effort to catch the gazelle.

    Sure enough...just 10 minutes later the cheetah stood up slowly and started walking going in the wrong direction. About this time the baby gazelle rose halfway up on its haunches. Then seeing the cheetah...it froze in that position.

    After a dozen deliberate steps away from our position the cheetah paused...and turned its head in our direction. After a second it seemed to flinch...then freeze. We knew the game was on!

    In a flash it bounded toward the gazelle which immediately turned and streaked toward us.

    Nikon D2H
    200-400VR lens
    ISO 400, 1/1,000 @ F8
     
  2. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

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    it is interesting that their mouths are closed and they are breathing through their noses.

    Who won the race?
     

  3. jmden

    jmden Well-Known Member

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    Great shot!
     
  4. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    The cheetah won this one.
     
  5. Guy M

    Guy M Well-Known Member

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    Wow! Heck of a photo - thanks for telling us how you got it!
     
  6. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

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    The photo has such good detail that the biology is just great. Look at the eyes. Predators have forward facing eyes to focus on the prey and have good depth perception. Prey animals have sideways looking eyes to pick up movement from predators and look for escape routes. The little guy is looking for an escape route really hard and the cheetah has him locked into the radar unit.
     
  7. lovdasnow

    lovdasnow Well-Known Member

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    wow, that is an amazing shot. Do you have any follow up shots? It would be interesting to see the moment when the cat caught the "mouse"?

    Great post!
     
  8. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    Here you can see who won the race. These were shot with the wide angle lens when the chase had moved to the other side of the vehicle.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Bigcat_hunter

    Bigcat_hunter Well-Known Member

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    Wow, thats awesome. I would love to see a cheetah, let alone one catching lunch! Nice pics.
     
  10. lovdasnow

    lovdasnow Well-Known Member

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    WOW! incredible shots, thanks for posting the follow ups. Isn't kind of rare to get those cat's in the wild, or am I way off? I've been reading about hunting them, and it seems you can spend a week in a blind and still not ever see one.

    thanks, jon
     
  11. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    Thanks, Jon

    When we go to Africa we always see lots of cats in the wildlife preserves where no hunting is allowed. I am sure it would be as you described in the hunting areas.

    When you mention a week in a blind, you are probably referring to leopards which are very nocturnal. I saw at least one leopard on each trip but they were considered somewhat lucky sightings and certainly not guaranteed.
     
  12. lovdasnow

    lovdasnow Well-Known Member

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    yes i was thinking about leopards. I'm looking forward to going there some time in the future.

    do you have any other pics of cats beside leopards and cheetahs? I know there are other species, but not sure what they look like.

    thanks again, and good job maintaining this site.
     
  13. BHP9

    BHP9 Well-Known Member

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    Greta shots Len, but that's not lunch (too small) that's a snack!
     
  14. skydiveblake

    skydiveblake Active Member

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    ...just saved that pic as my desktop for inspiration.

    ...can't wait to hear my girlfriend when she fires up the computer!