Critique Very rare melanistic serval cat

Butlerkid

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On our last day in Tanzania - at the end of a very long day of traversing the Serengeti - our driver suddenly stopped and started shouting exciting and repeatedly...."Get the top up! Start shooting! Start shooting NOW! Quickly! Quickly!"

He had spotted a rare melanistic serval cat walking very near the dirt road we were on! The serval was hunting along the road for small rodents in the tall grasses. The cat moved calmy, quietly and steadily in the tal grasses near the road. Our driver would get us in position to photograph. Then when the animal was past us, he would leap frog the other 3 vehicles so that the cat was again moving toward us and we could photograph again. This continued for about 10 minutes!!!!!

The serval is a slender, medium-sized cat; it stands 21–24 in at the shoulder and weighs 18–40 lb, but females tend to be lighter. The head-and-body length is typically between 26–39 in. Prominent characteristics include the small head, large ears, spotted and striped coat, long legs and a black-tipped tail that is around 12 in long. The serval has the longest legs of any cat relative to its body size, largely due to the greatly elongated metatarsal bones in the feet. The toes are elongated as well, and unusually mobile. The serval is vulnerable to hyaenas and wild dogs. It will seek cover to escape their view, and, if the predator is very close, immediately flee in long leaps, changing its direction frequently and with the tail raised.

Melanism, a development of the dark-colored pigment melanin in the skin or its appendages, has been described in many species globally. The reasons for the prominence of melanism in cats are not well understood.

#1 A typical serval I photographed in Kenya in 2017
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#2 Melanistic serval in Tanzania
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#3
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#4 Melanistic serval in mid-leap!!!!
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#5
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Wow, Karen. What an opportunity. And made the best of as well. Since you posted asking for critique...

IMO no.2 is the best of the lot for the following reasons:
- a nice low angle shot
- animal is moving toward the camera with a good look at the face
- very predatory posture and surrounded by the tall grass where it hunts
- the angle really emphasizes the ears which are a unique characteristic of the species

The only thing that might have worked better would have been a direct look at the camera.

No.3: next best. Shares many of the characteristics of no.2 less the "energy" of movement
No. 4: the action is awesome but the angle just doesn't work for me. Not very cooperative of it to jump that direction :D
No. 5: awesome critter in a terrible spot. A nice look at the whole cat.
 

Butlerkid

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  • #10
Wow, Karen. What an opportunity. And made the best of as well. Since you posted asking for critique...

IMO no.2 is the best of the lot for the following reasons:
- a nice low angle shot
- animal is moving toward the camera with a good look at the face
- very predatory posture and surrounded by the tall grass where it hunts
- the angle really emphasizes the ears which are a unique characteristic of the species

The only thing that might have worked better would have been a direct look at the camera.

No.3: next best. Shares many of the characteristics of no.2 less the "energy" of movement
No. 4: the action is awesome but the angle just doesn't work for me. Not very cooperative of it to jump that direction :D
No. 5: awesome critter in a terrible spot. A nice look at the whole cat.
Thanks, Dan. I totally agree with your comments! I got a lot of photos of the cat walking in the tall dense grasses.....a large majority of those have grasses across the face or it is not looking at me! LOL! The jump? I was just happy I got the shot. I don't think anyone else got it....even our Pro tour leader! The last one on the very muddy road? I included it just because it gave such a nice chance to see the cat in the open.
 
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... I got a lot of photos of the cat walking in the tall dense grasses.....a large majority of those have grasses across the face or it is not looking at me!...
That is SOoooo!!! frustrating. And one of the things that keeps us coming back. We somehow convince ourselves that NEXT time we'll get that perfect moment when the critter looks right at us AND the grass isn't right across the pupil of the eye :mad:

Though I am learning to come away content with what I get. Realizing that there's only so much time left and still a LOT of things on my list....
 

Butlerkid

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Very, very cool! I had never even heard of melanism. (I could use some in my greying hair.)
Interesting information. #2 is quite good. Fierce gaze and well framed in the grass.
Nicely done.
beautiful animal, very nice photos of it
Very pretty cat - I like the jump best. Like Mike, I had never heard of melanism.
Very interesting. I can still see the natural black dots in its skin. Very nice series.
well done
Wow, Karen. What an opportunity. And made the best of as well. Since you posted asking for critique...

IMO no.2 is the best of the lot for the following reasons:
- a nice low angle shot
- animal is moving toward the camera with a good look at the face
- very predatory posture and surrounded by the tall grass where it hunts
- the angle really emphasizes the ears which are a unique characteristic of the species

The only thing that might have worked better would have been a direct look at the camera.

No.3: next best. Shares many of the characteristics of no.2 less the "energy" of movement
No. 4: the action is awesome but the angle just doesn't work for me. Not very cooperative of it to jump that direction :D
No. 5: awesome critter in a terrible spot. A nice look at the whole cat.
Thank you all! Your feedback and critiques help me to improve....which is always my objective. I realize these are more "documentary" type photos and not especially "artistic". Yet sometimes we just need document rare sightings.

Thanks again for all your comments!
 
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Great shots! I like the last one the best. Since you are looking for suggestions, I find cat's head blends into the body so it's hard to see in places. Maybe a shadow adjustment using a very small tonal width. You wouldn't want to lose the overall beautiful black.
 
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