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African Rock Python (Python sebae), Mopani area, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Canon EOS 1DX with Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens @343mm.

ISO 400. 1/250 sec at f/5.6 set manually.

Whilst driving on the Shongololo Loop near Mopani Restcamp in the Kruger National Park, my wife spotted this python on the ground. It was making its way to a nearby tree.

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The snake was about 3 ½ to 4 meters long. It was so fascinating to watch it move over the ground, but even more so when it started up the tree. It moved sections of its body as it made its way up the tree trunk. It would move the bottom part of its body closer to the middle and upper body and then it would stretch out its head as it looked for the best way to navigate up the tree. We sat there for close on a hour just watching this spectacle. Once in the tree it was quite difficult to follow because it was so well camouflaged even though we were some 10 meters away. The last image below and the feature image above shows this off very well. If we had driven past the tree when it was no longer on the ground, it would have been almost impossible to spot.

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Photographically it was very difficult to get good images. Firstly the sheer length was a compositional challenge. The light was shady under the tree canopy and focus was hard to achieve (on the eyes) in amongst the foliage. It was one of the few times that I constantly used single point spot AF and not just single point AF. The 1DX did a good job in the low light and with very little contrast to work with. The 200-400mm lens was also ideal as you had the ability to zoom from 200 (extender not engaged) to 540mm (with 1.4x extender engaged). The rig was firmly planted on a BLUBB® beanbag as shutter speeds were quite slow. All images were taken with a 1Dx and the 200-400 mm lens and all at ISO 400. I kept the exposure on manual settings.