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 Nature Photography :: Tutorials :: #08

I spotted a lioness travelling through the scrub with several cubs. She had a limp and appeared to be the creche mother for a pride.
Fig 1: Lioness with cubs.  

After some time she met with another lioness. The second one had killed a warthog and was obviously in no mood to share.

Nevertheless the lame lion continuously edged closer to the kill, in an attempt to feed.

The "owner" of meal was getting testier by the minute, her tail was flicking and her muscles were tensing. Even I could read the body language, why the other lion didn't I don't know. It was only a matter of time before something happened.

At the first sign of action I pressed the shutter button and held it down.

Fig 2: A three-frame sequence of the fight.

At the time I was using an early model Canon F1, with a 3.5fps motor drive. If we allow a bit for my reaction time, and realise that on the fourth frame it was over, then the entire fight took place in less than a second.
Fig 3: The winner makes off with a tasty warthog rear end.  

It's important to have two camera bodies when working with fast moving action, or the potential of such action. When the first lion met the second I looked at the frame counter on the camera I was using, and realised that it was nearly out of film.

It was far quicker to swap the lens to another body than to reload film.

For this reason, with film cameras, I usually try to use bodies in such a manner that leaves several frames on at least one of them.

The same principles apply with digital cameras, in this kind of situation it's better to have say, 19 shots left on one camera and 1 on the other, rather than 10 and 10.

Once the action starts you won't have time to swap anything.

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