Despite the absence of our weekly regular, David Dampier (owing to his leave), I still wanted to put out an album of leopards this week. Browsing through a selection of my images I thought it would be useful to compare a variety of photographs, explaining why I took them in a particular way; the settings I used and open the floor open to any comments and questions around the photography of these elusive yet beautiful creatures. Leopards behavior is interesting to watch and challenging to photograph, yet the two go hand in hand and the more time spent watching these creatures at Londolozi, the luckier I have got with my photography. I look forward to your questions, comments, thoughts, stories and ideas around photographing Leopards in the comments section below.
The Emsagwen Male. I photographed this male early one morning on Marthly. The sunlight was very crisp and as he looked up I snapped the picture. The eyes set the tone of the image, giving the leopard a specific character. Personally I think he has a menacing expression which fits the identity of this dominant male. I would have liked to take the picture of him with no branches, however these two branches frame him nicely nonetheless. f5.6, ISO 400, AWB.
This image of the Marthly Male was taken whilst he was looking to mate with the Vomba female. There are many elements which I like about this image, however the facial expression, focused look and mid-step are what define it for me. Leopard photography is often about capturing the single moment when the animal looks up, turns their head or flicks their tail. I touched up the pic with a mild blurry vignette around the edges and lightened up the road as I like a curved line in my images. I often find it adds another element to draw the viewers eye deeper into the picture. f4.5, ISO 800, AWB
A critical trick with photographing cats, or any other animal, is to get below the eye level of the subject matter. Too often Safari photographs look amateurish owing to the fact that they were taken from above the subject looking down. We were lucky to photograph the Maxabene Female on this termite mound one cloudy morning. Eye level with us, she turned to stare at a vehicle full of photographers, spreading her whiskers out wide. This image could have been improved slightly by, perhaps, having a greater depth of field to include the remainder of her body which is blurred out. f5.6, ISO 800, AWB.
The Maxabeni Young Male struck this regal pose in the late afternoon sunlight. Summer had just arrived and the foliage around him was lush and green. In order to bring out the animal, I put on a heavy vignette in photoshop, blurred out the edges and brought out the yellow and pink in his face/eyes. I also crushed the blacks and heightened the whites to place a greater emphasis on his camouflouge in the brush.
Sometimes great pictures arrive without the animal even needing to be there. Fresh leopard tracks in the mud, late afternoon sunlight to generate crisper, longer shadows and a shallow depth of field to set the viewers eye on one particular focal point. f4.5, ISO 400, AWB
The Tutlwa female has always been a tough leopard to find and that is what made this shot so special. Upon finding her, she allowed me to take multiple pictures of her whilst she kept an eye out for her cub not too far away. Although I love the pose, the soft colors of green, brown, blue and gold work together beautifully. As this was taken in the middle of the day I brought my ISO right down to decrease the sensitivity of the light sensor. f5.6, ISO 100, AWB.
Funnily enough, the above picture won a prize in the Cazenove and Loyd Travel Photographer of the Year and is now in the finals for the Grand Prize. If you like this image, you can vote for it by CLICKING HERE, and give yourself the chance to win a case of Moet and Chandon Champagne while you are at it. Simply select the July Image and cast your vote.
Taken in the same sighting as above, this shot is one of those quintessential leopard poses and deserves to be included in any album about these animals. Low ISO, Fast shutter speed and waiting for the moment when she raised her head of the branch, this shot came together quite easily. f4.5, ISO 100, AWB.
One of the few advantages of taking a picture in the middle of the day is that your subject matter is going to get good light in their eyes. This picture is made by the gleaming eyes of the Tutlwa Female and her intense expression. Right after this was taken, she descended the tree and called her brand new cub out of the thick bush. f4.5, ISO 100, AWB
The Tamboti female Leopard lies in the shade of a tree after feeding. The color of the rosettes mixed with the texture bring this image alive whilst also making me wonder what she was staring at with such focus. A light, blurry vignette just around the edges to braw the viewers attention back into the subject matter. f4.5, ISO 100, AWB.
All the confidence and beauty of a young female leopard reaching maturity. With her right paw laid across the termite mound and confident stare straight into the lens, this leopard's pose truly signifies her coming into her own. It was great to be able to photograph her straight on making eye contact the entire time. The curve of her front paw also adds a nice dimension amongst the gold and blue shades. f4.5, ISO 400, AWB
Probably my favourite picture of the year. This image captures all the intensity, focus and elusive nature of the leopard. In the closing seconds of an August evening, the Vomba Young Female walk towards our vehicle and looked us dead on. As I said above, a split second later and the moment would have been missed. I contrasted the blacks in photoshop and popped the vibrancy to give the image a final edge. You could even make the image darker if you wanted to, but I quite like it with the golden edges. f4.5, ISO 650, AWB