As Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” …. It was an icy-cold afternoon in Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana. We were on the Photo Mashatu open vehicle and I had a blanket over my knees. We stopped at a sighting of two lionesses with small cubs – one of them had two very small cubs. The interchange between them was fascinating, so I decided that I should video it on my iPhone X. I set my iPhone up on a small gorilla grip and started the video and then continued taking photos on my Canon 7D. After a while I noticed that my iPhone was becoming unstable. I put my Canon down on my lap to remove the iPhone, and then, before I could stop it, the camera slipped off my lap and fell on the ground with a thud. Without hesitation, the lioness with the bigger cubs approached, giving us no chance to retrieve the camera. The camera had fallen with the lens facing up. She gently flipped it over and grasped it by the barrel of the lens. After the initial shock of seeing my uninsured camera in a lioness’s powerful jaws, I picked up my Canon 5D MK IV and carried on shooting. She carried her booty for quite a way while her cubs jumped up against her, keen to have a turn with it.
. The ludicrous thought popped into my head: was the lioness trying to take her own photo? This was taking the cult of selfies rather too far! She eventually dropped it and the three cubs started playing with it and dragging it around in the dirt. Eventually, like all children, they grew tired of the new toy and we were able to rescue the camera. Apart from two huge teeth marks on the focus ring and many small teeth marks on the plastic lens hood, there was nothing wrong with it, although, naturally, it was very dirty. You often see photos of cameras in the mouths of animals or – even worse – being eaten or trampled by animals and you roll your eyes and think, “How stupid can a person be?” But I now know it can happen in a heartbeat. I regard myself as a seasoned wildlife photographer, but there I was staring at my camera held very possessively in a lioness’s mouth.
After I posted the photo on Facebook and Instagram it went viral. It was reposted more times than I can recall, sometimes credited, sometimes plagiarised. But 2018 ended well when the Modern Metropolitan (www.mymodernmet.com) chose the close-up of the lioness with the camera in her mouth as one of the top 36 photos of 2018 world-wide! I felt very proud because the winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year was also one of the photos chosen. This more than made up for the momentary shock I’d experienced when the lioness decided to try some photography with my equipment.
-Barbara Jensen Vorster
This story "What is this hype about selfies " is one of the winners of the first leg of our PhotoTales competition.
Watch this space for our upcoming book Photo Tales that will be published soon. A perfect Christmas gift idea.