Mob Rules: Kangaroos of the Moreton Bay Region
Updated: Sep 7, 2021
Large adult male Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) standing tall. This species can grow to around 70 kilograms and around two metres in height. You can see the powerful, muscular legs, arms and tail here. Photographed with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM II lens at 200mm. 1/1250s at f/7.1, ISO 200
Recently I made my way to the Tinchi Tamba Wetlands within the Pine Rivers area of Brisbane looking for shore birds and perhaps raptors and lizards. It wasn’t the day for it but thankfully after a couple of hours of mediocre photo opportunities I happened upon a pair of Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) browsing the grass beside the walking track. I looked out behind them into the open field and saw dozens grazing, seemingly unphased by the traffic that was within earshot. Jackpot.
Now there are lots of places kangaroos and wallabies live in and around built-up areas, but this is close to home, an area mostly unencumbered by dense undergrowth that can prove nightmarish to the nature photographer, and populated by a mob of less than wary roos. As a wildlife photographer I think the most important thing I have learned is that the best pictures are rarely accidental. My coming across these awesome subjects might have been accidental, but the opportunity and the effort to continue creating and looking for new ways to photograph the same species is how you usually end up with your best work. Taking so many pictures of a subject that you start to ponder how to make a New picture is when the magic ends up happening.
While the kangaroos weren’t overly wary of me, I made sure to be slow and cautious because disturbing animals is counterintuitive to being a successful wildlife photographer, both for their sake and mine. I had my Canon 7D Mark II and 100-400mm lens out at the ready but my big camera pack was likely to slow me down and stop me from bending, crouching or lying down to get the compositions I wanted. Off the came the pack from my back. Thankfully my awesome Lowepro Pro Runner BP 350 AW II has a handle on the side as well as the top so I can easily carry it at my side while crouching low to the ground.
And so I crouched down and slowly made my way towards the troop, walking five or ten paces at a time before sitting down and waiting for several minutes as the roos stared at me, grass and leaves hanging from their mouths as they chewed and squabbled. This helped to get them used to my presence and also slowed me down and gave me time to really watch their behaviour for signs of stress, and cool behaviours of which to make a photograph.
After I had been there for about an hour I was literally surrounded by kangaroos-some of which were quite curious of the stranger in the big hat that had come to share their grass field. The animals being curious of you makes for great photo opportunities. You can’t help but see emotion and behaviour that we can liken to our own when watching wildlife for long periods of time-and using your imagination to make new pictures is something you keep learning and improving. Some of my favourite pictures made by other photographers are those that anthropomorphise the subject, that is to attribute human behaviours or characteristics. A raised eyebrow, a tongued poking out, smacking away insects that hover around your face or lumbering over in hopes of attracting a mate.
I made these pictures over a few different trips to the wetlands and I’m sure many more photo opportunities await.
Joey peering from its mother’s pouch. Photographed with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM II lens at 400mm. 1/1000s at f/5.6, ISO 125.
A very curious Kangaroo slowly hopping towards me, using its tail for balance. Photographed with Canon 6D and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM II lens at 300mm. 1/400s at f/5, ISO 250.
Two roos investigating a near-dry water hole at sunset. Photographed with Canon 6D and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM II lens at 263mm. 1/400s at f/5, ISO 1250.
This kangaroo was giving itself a good scratch, so much so that light streaks were made through the fur on its chest. The beautiful afternoon light as the sun slowly set made this image for me. Photographed with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM II lens at 400mm. 1/1000s at f/5.6, ISO 200.
A female Eastern Grey brushes away a male's courting advances. You can see the female has young in the pouch. Kangaroos can have a couple of joeys of different ages with her at once, but she clearly isn’t interested in making more right now! You can also see that the mosquitoes and sand flies know exactly where the fresh blood is! Photographed with Canon 6D and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM II lens at 400mm. 1/250s at f/5.6, ISO 1250.
In a large mob of kangaroos there are likely to be disagreements, and these two large males were wanting to show one another who was top roo, and who deserved time with the females of the group. Being of about the same size, the fight went for some time before they both gave up and went their separate ways. In a typical territorial fight they will kick and punch at one another, using claws and sometimes biting. Some males can be seen to carry old battle scars and damage to their ears. I intentionally slowed the shutter speed of my camera quite a lot to show some of the blur and movement a these two kicked and punched at each other. Photographed with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM II lens at 400mm. 1/100s at f/7.1, ISO 500.
This is one of my favourite kangaroo portraits I’ve taken. The light was splendid and the expression on its face made it seem regal and important. Photographed with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM II lens at 400mm. 1/320s at f/5.6, ISO 1000.
I slowed my shutter speed right down again to create this panning shot of a kangaroo leaping over the grassy field. Photographed with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM II lens at 278mm. 1/15s at f/5, ISO 160.
This battered old male had a torn ear and a few scars over its body from fights throughout its life. Grey Kangaroos live for around 10 years in the wild, with some in captivity making it to twenty years of age. Photographed with Canon 6D and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM II lens at 400mm. 1/400s at f/5.6, ISO 1600.
Another explorer in the making, this young kangaroo wandered right up to me before going back to its dinner. You can see other members of the dozens-strong mob in the background under the beautiful setting sun. Photographed with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM II lens at 100mm. 1/ 250s at f/4.5, ISO 800.