"When people ask me what my favourite image is, I find it really hard to answer. How do you choose, from +100k images, which one photo is your favourite? That's like trying to answer, after going on an around-the-world trip, what your favourite place was... it's near impossible, as every experience is so different to the next. BUT, I do have favourites. If I ever had to pick just one, up to this point in time, it would probably be this photo.
Taken on the 14th of March 2016, this photo depicts a beloved lion of visitors to the incredible Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. When I took this photo, I'd been bush for 2 weeks straight. My beard had grown out of control, I was tanned as a sailor, and my eyes were bloodshot from driving dusty roads at midday for days on end. Frustratingly, I hadn't seen a predator for 9 days - but I was racing to get to the Park Gate to call Mum, since it was her birthday and, if I was lucky, I'd make it to the gate by 11:30pm-ish her time and wish her Happy Birthday.
As luck would have it, my predator sightings on that rushed drive went from NIL to 2 x prides of lions and a coalition of 3 x male cheetahs in the space of about 20km... but I couldn't stop for any of them, or I'd miss Mum. So I drove, reached the gate, a friendly staff member let me use her mobile hotspot, and I called Mum. She was stoked! After wishing her well, I hurriedly regurgitated my recent travels and told her I had to go... I had cats to photograph, and I hadn't seen any for almost 2 weeks.
Thinking I might've missed them, I carefully scanned the landscape on my drive back to Kij Kij waterhole, though at the sight of a swag of vehicles I realised the cats were still near the water. The vehicles had surrounded the whole pride, however, and I couldn't get a shot of any of them... so I drove 200m up the road, in the direction I anticipated the cats would walk as it neared sunset.
Within 5 minutes, I was rewarded with one of my best cat sightings to date. The dominant male, known lovingly here as Mokara, stood up, walked away from the other cars, then flopped to the ground less than 10 metres away. He eyeballed me, intensely but in an approving kinda way, as though he were happier in my company than near the vehicles harassing his pride... until I realised why he looked at me that way. Seconds later, two energetic balls of fluff ran headlong into him, licked and swatted at his face and bit his mane. He was happy, for those 2 minutes, to have peace away from his cubs. I just picked the right spot to have waited for him to join me."
In coming days I'm going to share an album of photos I took that afternoon, including some gorgeous pics of him tolerating his cubs (momentarily). I was just stoked to be with cats again, and to capture this pensive moment as he looked away from me, and his cubs, as though he wished he were somewhere else.....