Ok.. I’m not going to pretend that this is an awesome image. It is however, one of my all time favorites. Less for its overall aesthetic quality, and more because I didn’t know I took it. Yeah, you read that right.
Let me back up…
I was in Tanzania, and my guide and I were in our jeep watching hundreds of zebras drink from a large watering hole. Rattled by who knows what, every few minutes the zebra would gallop away from the water’s edge as if their tails were on fire, then seconds later, trot back to the water and start drinking again as if nothing had happened. Calling them skittish would be an understatement.
After 45 minutes of this yo-yo routine, something changed, they began to run, which at first seemed no different from the previous three hundred times they ran, except this time they kept running. The air filled with dirt, and for a second the day turned to night; all we could hear was the sound of hooves pounding into the ground. Reflexively, I picked up my camera and began clicking the shutter willy nilly.
Then I saw it, the black tip of a cat’s tail through the haze..
When the dust cleared we saw the zebras, their ears perked forward and bodies rigid as stone, standing 300 yards from the watering hole, staring at a lioness who was sitting, defeated, in the space they’d just occupied.
The show was over. The lioness exposed, her sneak attack thwarted, saw no point in trying to run after zebras that were on to her game. She sat for a while, yawned, and then vanished into the bush.
Hours later I was flipping through my camera looking at the day’s images:
Watering hole… check.
Lioness chasing zebra…..What?! Who took that?! I was stunned.
To this day I have no recollection of this scene, I only remember the dust and the dark.
I love how life has a way of throwing in magical moments like this, moments that surprise and delight and, for me, make even so-so shots something to treasure.