The ultimate guide to taking photographs of buffalo

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Meet the Cape Buffalo, they can grow up to 800 kg furthermore they live in herds that can be one thousand strong. They are fantastic subjects to capture due to their sheer numbers and above all strength in unity. I hope this blog helps you capture that award winning photograph of a buffalo.

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Buffalo are considered one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, responsible for the deaths of more hunters than any other animal. A word of caution before you head out on your adventure: don’t under estimate them because they are herbivores. They can be ruthless when threatened. Keep safety in mind at all times. Doom and gloom aside they are magnificent animals that deserve just as much love as the rest of the big 5. Spending time watching them will only make you love them more. They have incredibly strong family bonds, making it easy to produce an emotionally provoking shot. 

Here is my advice to set you up for the perfect photograph of a buffalo

  • Fortunately, unlike the other animals in the big 5 series, a telephoto lens isn’t an absolute necessity. Photographs of these animals in a wide angle sense are just as impactful as they are herd animals. Of course a telephoto is always nice to take portraits. Work out what kind of shots you want to get out of your shoot before you head out so you have the appropriate gear.
  • Keep the light at your back. Try to take advantage of their dark colours by photographing them when the leaves are changing, or around lightly coloured grasses, so you get a fabulous contrast.
  • Buffalo’s are number one on the menu for lions. They will defend each other in a confrontation though, subsequently if you see lions and buffalo’s in the same spot be prepared for action. Keep an eye open for the young and the injured because lions are opportunistic. Refer to my other blog about taking a photograph of a lion.
  • Their herds can be in the thousands so landscape shots can be spectacular. Their sheer numbers can be remarkable and make for a thought provoking shot.
  • They often get sticks stuck to their horns so be sure to inspect each buffalo’s crown to capture their jest in your photograph of a buffalo.
  • Buffalos invite the also very photogenic ox-peckers. Beautiful birds that have a symbiotic relationship with the buffalo. Ox-peckers act as clean up crew for bugs and parasites that may be living on the buffalo.

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Some behavioral cues of buffalo

  • Buffalo are usually around water. They love to bath and cover themselves in mud for sun and insect protection.
  • They spend most of their days grazing grass.
  • Older males often opt for solitary life or form small bachelor groups making them most vulnerable to lion attack.
  • Mother buffalo are fiercely protective over their babies. They know that lions and other predators look for soft targets. They tend to keep their calves in the center of the herd. If you are looking for shots of babies, that’s where you will find them.
  • If startled they tend to stampede in random directions, they are quite unpredictable.
  • Hunters that wound but do not kill buffalo can often find themselves in dangerous situations because buffalo have been documented ambushing their attackers.
  • Although peaceful creatures amongst themselves they are not to be taken lightly. They are sometimes known as “black death”. I found that quite an inspiring title which can be applied quite dramatically in photography – with beautiful results.

In conclusion, although these beasties resemble cows they have very different natures and really help to portray the “wildness” of Africa.

We view these beautiful creatures at many of the game reserves that we visit, on the weekends our inters sometimes opt to go to the spectacular Botlierskop Private Game Reserve . We like to spend the afternoon on a horse-back safari while to taking in the diverse game that roam their large area of land.

Don’t forget your sunscreen and water bottle.

If you would like to read more about photographing the big 5 check out my other posts about how to take an excellent photograph of a rhino, part of my whole big 5 series.

Happy clicking!

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Team - Robyn

Blogger Profile - Robyn Green

Robyn joined the Africa Media in 2018 to bring a young and enthusiastic approach to our social media and marketing campaigns. She brings with her a serious passion for people and animals alike.

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