In the late afternoon hours, we were driving through the eastern part of the Masai Mara when we approached a pride of lions, which had obviously slept through the whole day. When cats are becoming slowly active, they usually yawn and stretch before they stand up—and may continue to hunt.
Photography: Stephan Tuengler | Author: Stephan Tuengleriso.500px.com
So it was with these lions. As we noticed them waking up slowly, I asked my driver to position the vehicle in front of this young lioness. I had a big smile on my face while I was shooting this series (about 35 pictures in a row in high-speed mode) as I watched the expression of the lion’s face changed while stretching its body.
I grew up in a rural region in Germany with many animals, so I began to love nature early in my life. During my studies in geology and paleontology, I was able to travel to many exciting countries, and the camera was already my constant companion. But it was only when I came into contact with the landscapes, the people, and the diverse wildlife of Africa more than 20 years ago that I decided to become a professional photographer. Since the year of 2003, I made my passion into a second career and began to organize photo safaris. I currently lead the INAFRICA – ININDIA agency, which designs and organizes individual journeys, tailor-made safaris, and small group tours to Africa and India. I personally accompany and go on three to five trips every year.
My favorite subjects to photograph are African and Indian wildlife. I visit Africa for a very long period of time. The allure of the African savannah with its wildlife makes me go back several times a year there. Africa has a high potential for addiction to me. 99% of my shots are “authentic wild”. I do not like to photograph animals on game farms or in small enclosed areas, because it’s not challenging to me. Very often in those situations, the animals show a completely different behavior. Another very important element for me is the very special light I get there in Africa. It exerts a special magic on me that I just can’t escape. I feel that the light in Africa is significantly redder than in India. Meanwhile, the light in India has a stronger yellow hue.
My idea is—and remains—to visit selected areas on various seasons over and over again, because then you know this environment so well that you can then ultimately get the best photographs. I am not a “destination-hopper” and I am not interested in going everywhere on this planet. My focus is completely on Africa and India. In addition, the knowledge about the species that I want to photograph, is immensely important. If you do not know much about the species, it will be very difficult to be in the right place at the right time.
You have to be out, again and again. I shot most of my golden hour photos with a very short time-window of the day. Take a look at my Kalahari pictures, like “Silhouettes” or “Springbucks in the Dust”—you have only 5-10 minutes to catch backlight like that, then it is over, and you have to hope and wait for the next day. Besides that, the animals have to be in the right position—and very often they are not there. If you have very soft backlight, it is very easy to expose the images properly. If you’re a bit unsure, then the best is to take a bracketing or check your image histogram.