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Photo Series-Wild Dogs of Africa

Updated on September 23, 2014
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) | Source

One of the more fascinating projects that can be undertaken by anyone is to photograph nature on its own turf. Raw, unabashed and very unpredictable. One such project is to travel to the beautiful continent of Africa and seek subjects that you will photograph in as many aspects as you can.

One such subject are the wild dogs of Africa. If you look at one up close or even from a distance they appear to have been a cross between a mut and something else. Their coloration seems to be a mixture of various browns, gray and tans, all mixed into one.

However as small as they are when compared to any of the other African predators, they have evolved into a society that has become specialized hunters. Often working in tandem when hunting they have taken this into an art form.

They are also very good parents as multiple females of the clan take turns caring for the group's young which are bred by the dominant female and dominant male of the herd and by no other.

"Only the dominant male and female in the pack (the alpha pair) reproduce. The entire pack is needed to help feed the large litter of young that are dependent for 12-14 months. The adults eat at their kill site, then return to the den and regurgitate meat as food for the young. Adult males stay with the birth pack. Unlike other animals, females between 14 and 30 months of age will leave their natal pack in groups of littermate sisters. They will eventually join a different male kin line.

African Wild Dogs are very social animals that live in packs of 5-20 individuals; rarely as many as 60. They fill the ecological role or niche of the wolf in Africa. One of the most efficient of all predators, they do not hesitate to attack small hares or large zebras. They specialize in preying on medium-sized antelope including Thomson's gazelle, impala, kob, lechwe and springbok. This species does not hunt in relays but rather depends on endurance that is greater than their prey. They can run at about 35 m.p.h. for 3 miles or more."

When photographing them you should do from various angles. Aim for images that show them in various actions such as resting, hunting, socializing with each other, eating. Also look for images that shows various members of the clan such as females, males and the young.

You will need a long telephoto lens as this will be probably the only way that you will be able to record their images. Focus on their facial features when they are resting or just not active. For images when they are most active or in hunting mode, you should record images that shows more of the scene alongside with their environment and if possible shots that include their prey.

Not to miss is the moment of the kill and while they eat. Be also alert for other predators looking for an easy meal such as hyenas as they are very adept at stealing other's kills.

Wild dogs often prefer to hunt during the dusk or nighttime hours, so when approaching them to record these images you will need a high speed camera capable of low light photography. Be mindful of using flash as this can disrupt their stalking efforts. Better to leave your action scenes for daylight hours to minimize your interaction with them.

Your images should also focus on their general terrain which is often harsh. Look for images of their favorite resting sites which are usually below a large shade providing tree. Here they are usually more relaxed and the pups become more curious and playful than normal.


Approach their image making from a story telling standpoint much like a documentary. Your goal is to show your subjects in a variety of ways; to capture "a day in the life of" your subjects.

These images are very suitable for a variety of publications. From naturalist and nature magazines to book publishers and for many other purposes that would include anyone who has a love for nature as a whole and therefore interested in a complete photographic record of this particular subject and many others.

This project also opens the door to other similar projects featuring other subjects and it can lead to a life time of photography projects featuring the more exotic species to the most common ones such as those found in your local area.

Some shots can also be recorded at your local zoo, although you will have to declare this when submitting the images for publication at least offers you an opportunity of recording some images in a cost effective alternative.

Be very mindful when recording zoo images to show the least inkling that your subject is a captive animal. Zoom lenses are ideal for this purpose as well as using a large f stop to throw backgrounds out of focus. Getting really close to the enclosure, fence etc also helps.

© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I LOVE those exotic animals in far away places, and those wild African dogs are certainly beautiful!

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      KimberlyLake: Thank you

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 5 years ago from California

      Interesting. I love your choice of pics.