Speed, Balance and Skill – Masai Mara Cheetah hunt

Three words that you may think relates to you as a photographer … Not in this case !

During my time experiencing this years great migration , I was very fortunate to witness an incredible 7 seconds of wildlife action. A female Cheetah with a sub adult cub hunt a Thomson’s gazelle from start to finish.




What does this image have to do with the story ?  Well this is what we were doing prior to our legend guide Joseph spotting the Cheetah perched on a termite mound on the plains below our position of this “Leopard Tree ” ( thats another story in itself). Yes there was a mild panic as the golden hour was approaching and what better than a Cheetah on a mound in golden light.




We managed to calmly drive down the hill to where the cheetah was positioned. To our disappointment she had started to move off with her cub . The area (only a few km from our camp) was designated “high use” and therefore no off-roading so we could not follow or reposition to get some golden light shots of the two of them .


With no where else to be, we decided to enjoy a cold Tusker while they wandered off into the distance. As I was watching her cross through a small shrub area, she went into a low crouch and stopped . She then walked forward with her cub in tow. My hear rate shot through the roof and I thought, could this be…

This is what happened next…(click on the image)




So , after that amazing 7 seconds , here are some technical specifications on the gear and method used to capture the sequence

  • Canon 1 DX with 200-400 F4 L and 1.4 Convertor engaged.
  • AV mode , Aperture F5.6
  • Shutter speed 1/2000
  • 25 % Crop for documentary use images
  • ISO 1000 (to keep shutter speed up due to overhead conditions and freeze the actions)
  • Panning Plated attached to lens foot on bean bag
  • Wild Eye vehicle platform (shooting through the pop top area with all three photographers and long lenses)


When tracking a subject some distance away, I tend to use the centre focus point and using a slight crop adjustment for composition later. On a prime lens and the incredible tracking system of the new canon bodies, it becomes far more practical for me. I also decide to keep the cheetah as my focus point as this is where the story will come from. I had a split second to decide on this and used the incredible frame rate of the 1DX to capture this sequence. (the buffer did not fill up). By slowly moving in a level plain thanks to the bean bag and panning plate.

Thank you for reading and hope you are inspired

Peace and Light – AA