Wildlife Photography – Anticipatience

Put the words anticipation and patience together, and you have a good recipe for wildlife photography.

A big part of wildlife photography is about patience. You might have to wait a long time for that one ‘perfect’ shot, but missing that one picture is more the rule than the exception – putting your camera down, not having the right settings, or just not anticipating the moment.

Morning safari

It was a lovely morning out in the bush. It being the rainy season, the bush was lush and green. Birdlife was abundant while the soaring temperatures and rain were ideal for insects. The large general game had dispersed, as there was plenty of water and food available. The lush green bush was a sight for sore eyes! Although we made it past first light, there was a thin cloud cover dampening the hard sunrays. Shadows became less dark and the reflecting sunlight soft. Ideal conditions to capture the beauty around you.

For a couple of weeks, I had a picture in my mind of an oxpecker sitting in the curve of a buffalo horn. To capture this moment would be an achievement on its own. While we don’t often get to see these birds perched on the horn of a buffalo as there is no food available, oxpeckers feed on ticks, dead skin, body fluids, and insects, and are often found on the larger herbivores except for the elephant.

Wildlife photography photo of oxpecker in curve of buffalo horn
Red-billed oxpecker sitting in the curve of the horn of a Cape buffalo.


We came across some old dagga-boys, a term used for old male buffalos, the local word ‘dagga’ meaning mud. These old warriors were enjoying their pension and could often be found wallowing and sleeping in mud wallows.
So luckily this little group of buffalo were relaxing and grazing the lush grasses and were in no hurry to get anywhere. As the buffalo were grazing and slowly approaching us, a small group of oxpeckers descended onto their backs, clinging on with their sharp hooked nails. Finally, some oxpeckers slowly moved from their backs towards their head and down to their noses. I made sure I was ready.
While I was looking for that one shot, I set the ISO to 200 as the light was quite high. My aperture was as far open as possible as I wanted to have a blurred background. Altogether, it would give me a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second. So that would be perfect for a perching bird.

Long awaited photo

Finally, the buffalo slowly continued on their way. The oxpeckers gave the buffalo a thorough grooming and nothing indicated that I would get my shot. After a long wait, one buffalo slowly moved towards us while grazing and, without notice, an oxpecker flew from its back into the curve of its horn, sitting there and viewing the world from its vantage point just long enough for me to capture the moment.

Of the four buffalo surrounding us, the oxpecker could not have chosen a better time and better horn to perch on. Knowing your subject and thus being able to anticipate its movement together with having the patience waiting for that one moment will help you a great deal in getting the photo you really wanted to take home with you!

Keep enjoying the beauty around you!


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