Hooked on Hippo Dope

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What is it about the African bush that repeatedly sucks both the locals and tourists back time and time again? At first its all about the big stuff, but after a while the small stuff becomes as interesting. Lets face it, the big sky and the solitude of being alone (at least sometimes) at a waterhole watching the metabolism of the bush happen in front of you is also a big draw especially when you live and work in a city. The fact is that no two days are ever the same. Some days you see everything, sometimes more than once, and some days you see nothing. To my mind this is what Africa’s bush is all about. It’s about not knowing what you are going to see round the next bend in the road, but knowing there’s something there that is the main attraction.

From a photographic point of view the ambition is to catch that perfect sequence of shots of Africa in the raw. They may not say it, but this is every photographers dream and this is what we hunt with our cameras.

All of Africa’s big stuff is great to photograph, but watching and photographing big bull Hippo’s having a go at each other is an exhilarating experience. It’s always a scene of brute force and gnashing of teeth. For Hippo’s wide open jaws signify strength and power with the bigger the mouth signifying dominant power. After witnessing such an event there’s always an urgency to go back and download your files to find out what you got. Once you get one nice open mouthed hippo shot you just have to get another. It’s Hippo Dope, a craving for more that never goes away. Never mind how many shots you already have on file, you always need one more!

The past few weeks I’ve been having problems with my computer. Lightroom suddenly decided it was not going to load up anymore and despite my best efforts I eventually had to upgrade. The outcome was a lot of files previously categorized were missing and needed to be reloaded. Whilst going though these files I came across a number of hippo action shots that I’d forgotten about. So, for a change from Malaysian birds here they are!

In the summer months when it’s hot, all you have to do is find a spot near a bloat of hippos in the late afternoon. As the afternoon wears on you are more or less certain to begin to see signs of restlessness and irritation that often quickly spirals into clashes between bulls that encroach into anothers space. If you have set yourself up correctly, all it takes is a finger on the shutter to get fantastic shots.

Looking back at my files I was intrigued to find a number of shots of young hippos and their mothers mouthing off at each other. Presumably this is the mother initiating the young hippos in this very important element of hippo social behavior.

What I also just learned is that the Latin words Hippopotamus amphibius means “River Horse” partially derived from their galloping style of walking through the water. However, what was more surprising to learn was that recent DNA profiling suggests that the hippopotamus’s are more closely related to cetaceans such as whales and dolphins than any other animal. So how about that?

So, next time you see Hippo lounging in a pool of water. Take a few minutes and watch. Then position yourself, set your gear up and wait for the action. It’s sure to happen. Just be ready for it!

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