David Lloyd shares his big break
Born in New Zealand, David Lloyd lives in London and leads private photo safaris to East Africa. A professional photographer since 2010, he has won numerous awards, and his first wildlife photography book
As Long as there are Animals was published to critical acclaim in 2014. Too see more of David’s work, visit www.davidlloyd.net
David Lloyd spotted this male lion soon after daybreak one morning in late August, 2009. The lion wasn’t roaring or even yawning; in fact, it was sniffing the air deeply, and pulling back its lips in an example of the ‘flehmen response’ – a behaviour common among lions which takes place when a lion of either sex sniffs the air to smell the urine of another lion.
The perfect morning light was accompanied by a headwind that blew back the lion’s mane, focusing attention on its grimace. To avoid confusion, David calls this photo Flehmen Response because, as he says, “that’s exactly what it is. I didn’t want people to think it was yawning. The light was very orange, but it was moody and windy. I was low in the vehicle and was shooting with my Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 wide open at 400mm, to soften the background.”
When he took this photo, David was a graphic designer with hopes of becoming a professional wildlife photographer. When he launched his website and Facebook Business page a few months later, this picture became one of his most popular posts, leading to both print sales and a rapid growth in his social media following.
He recalls: “It was in the top three lion pictures for anyone who searched for ‘lion’ on 500px, so that did a lot for me.” Today, it continues to be one of his best-selling prints.
A roaring success
David’s social media following encouraged him to follow his dream and, in 2011, he led his first photo safari to Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve. “I advertised it on Facebook and I suppose I had 10,000 or 20,000 followers, so it’s just gone from there. There was no Instagram then and that’s doing well now too, because it’s easier for people to access.”
Now, as the annual wildebeest migration across the great plains of the Mara-Serengeti gets underway, he can reflect on 56 successful photo safaris to this destination: “I do about 16 a year and they’ve doubled in size. I used to take six people on a trip, but now I do 12 because I have an assistant.”
As well as the photo safaris, David also enjoyed success with fine art print sales of his images. “Back in 2009 very few people were doing black-and-white wildlife and I happened to be one of them.” David believes he was fortunate to take this picture and launch his new career at the time he chose. “I was lucky in that I came along when Facebook Business came along. I grew at a time when you could get a lot of followers quite easily.”