I've just returned from Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, after 15 days of filming for an upcoming film about Cape Buffalo.
The idea of the film was simple - to document the interaction between lions and buffalo and capture the buffalo's fortress-like defence strategy against these predators.
The shoot took place during what are typically the hottest weeks in Southern Africa. Days that often begin to feel warm around 6:00am and hot by 7:00am. Dry, windless days, often pushing 40C, with heat that seems to increase more and more before the long-awaited first rains begin to fall. We seemed to be stuck in limbo, with tempting black clouds clearly ready to burst but would only rouse short showers. Filming in these conditions can lead to some of the most dramatic and picturesque light one can imagine; hues of orange and yellow, penetrating a dark, saturated backdrop of greys, blues and purples, draping the grasslands in warmth.
The weather plays a huge factor into the behaviour of many of the prey species. When the rains eventually do come, they will scatter throughout the entire National Park, to feast on the abundance of vegetation that has sprouted and the water that fills every depression. Until then, they remain within a few kilometres of the waterholes, moving into the thick, plant-less forests during the day to seek shade.
The intermittent showers may have been enough for many of the large herds, with their constance absence a sign that they had in fact moved deeper into the park to await the rains. We were able to film a few large buffalo herds, up to 450 strong, passing through open grasslands, and eventually making their way down to the open pans to drink and cool off.
Lion sightings were less than we anticipated but certainly varied with lots of unique behaviours. The crew was able to capture a pride of 5 and 12, as well as a coalition of males and a nomadic male. One of the primary highlights was the pride of 5 taking down an adult buffalo. Additionally, the coalition of two males covered a lioness for several days, with the larger, more dominate male mating with her with the other watching from a distance. The younger male attempted to try his luck while the larger was asleep midday, but the lioness was reticent to his attempts.
Our assistant, Sean Herbie, who in addition to being a great cook in the bush, is a great photographer and was able to take pictures of nearly all the events we witnessed (unfortunately I am unable to share any of the video footage).
Enjoy the photos!