NEVER LET A PHOTO RUIN A MOMENT

I sat on my bed and I was literally on the verge of tears. A grown man about to cry. My lovely lady sat next to me telling me it was alright, and that I didn’t need to cry. But I wanted to, because I couldn’t go back and undo what I had done. And now I was hurting. Badly.

Living in the tranquil surrounds of the Greater Kruger, what could possibly have gone so wrong that I wanted to burst into tears? The answer as it turns out, was a rather simple one. A photo. One that I had wanted to take for a very long time – since before I even started guiding. The light was perfect; the subjects could not have been better than some playful lion cubs that we had spent the morning enjoying, and as I sat excitedly watching the images upload into my Lightroom catalogue, my smile was getting wider and wider as the series popped onto my screen. After pausing at one image and thinking I was quite pleased with it, but knowing that the next one would be better, I scrolled on and that was when the tears started. It should have been perfect – the moment, the composition, the eyes, the flying cub. But rather than being tears of joy, they were of despair as there in front of me was a photo that I dreamed of for all but one aspect – it was as blurry as anything, and no amount of “photoshopping” was going to do anything to get it back to what it should have been!

Lion cubs

I sat on my bed for ages wishing that I could go back and have that moment again, blaming my camera and trying to figure out just why I had got it wrong. With one push of a key on keyboard to reveal this blurred image my joyous and magical sighting had gone from one that brought a smile to face to one that did the exact opposite.

A photo had changed my complete enjoyment of the experience, and I had to ask myself, was it worth it?

Was it worth getting so upset about one photograph that it ruined what had, until that point, been a completely magical morning spent with my favourite lion pride? The answer was a another simple one; no. No photograph should ever ruin a wildlife experience, and my reaction to that one image gave me an opportunity to re-evaluate what it is about taking photos that is important to me. Yes, I enjoy taking photos and love it when they work out, but the photos are just an excuse for me to be living in the bush and getting to see what I see on a daily basis. It’s the experiences that I go through every day and the privilege of getting to see wild animals in their natural environments that makes me happiest and I shouldn’t let something as simple as a photograph ever take away from that enjoyment.

It also made me realise that I am not the only person that reacts like this to missed photographic opportunities. I have seen guests get so fixated on getting photographs that they almost miss the experience of being on a safari and simply observing animals with their eyes. Cameras go up as soon as an animal pops into view, and they go down as the guide drives away. Not a moment is spent simply sitting and enjoying the blessed positions we find ourselves in. I know that this is easy for me to say due to the fact that I always have tomorrow to take another photo, and if not then, then at least the next day. For many guests the few days that they spend with us on safari might be the only days in their entire lives that they ever spend on safari, so it is completely understandable to want to capture as many memories on a memory card as possible.

The thing is however, that memory cards corrupt, digital images end up lost in folders that are never again looked at, and the safari experience that was lived through a camera becomes nothing but a distant memory. I am not for a second suggesting that you don’t take any photos, but I would really encourage all guests to bring a pair of binoculars, and to spend as much time just simply watching the animals with their own eyes, and recording the memories in your minds as you do capturing the memories on your cameras. I say this not only because I truly think it will add so much to your wilderness experience, but also because I don’t want you sitting on your bed at home wanting to cry because one bad photo ruined your whole morning safari!

Despite my sadness, the Mayambula Pride were such great models last week that I still managed to capture a few other photos, even if there was one that got away!

Lion cubs

Lion cubs

Lion cubs

Lion cubs

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