About the Author

Rich Laburn

Head of Digital

Rich is the driving force behind Londolozi’s online storytelling and the Londolozi blog. His passions of digital media, film and photography, combined with his field-guiding background, have seen him take the Londolozi blog to new heights since he began it in 2009. Rich ...

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37 Comments

on How to Photograph Leopards 101

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Sheena
Member
Guest

Lovely shots Rich, and of course I voted for your photo, fingers crossed for the prize and the posh french grape juice! My favourite is the Vomba female on the termite mound – how seductive is that spot on her nose! – it draws your eyes right to the center – beauty and power – and you caught it ….

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Thanks Sheena, that is very kind of you. I hope you get lots of champagne in return 🙂

Sandy Johnson
Member
Guest

I could look at pictures of these animals all day. They are so beautiful. Keep amazing me!

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Will do Sandy. 🙂 rich

Annette Atwood
Member
Guest

Fabulous images!! Makes me long for another Londolozi adventure!! We had a Leopard walk up to our Land Rover and lie down right next to us. My daughter resumed snapping pics and captured this first seen Leopard with a cataract, needless to say she did not need a zoom! You all are doing a wonderful job by the way!! Love the Londolozi updates, makes us still feel connected!! P.S. note on Doyle (David), is he on a break or moving on? He was our Ranger and he was absolutely great with us!!

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Hi Annette, David is currently on a break but he will be back next week with his regular leopard posts. Thanks for the comments and for visiting the blog, look forward to keeping you connected until your next visit. rich

Lyn
Member
Guest

Richard, the photographs of the leopards are wonderful. They are so crisp and clear.
I think your picture of the Maxabene Female is perfect as it. The focus is on her beautiful face which is well centred in the photograph and personally I don’t believe it could be improved upon. The rest of the picture (her body the tree trunk(?) and background) are incidental. If you snipped her head out of the picture and pasted it on a blank background it would still be as clear, as appealing and as beautiful.
The photograph of the Tutlwa Female is, for me, classic. That is how I so often have seen leopards – behind foliage!
The picture of the Vomba Young Female also very much appeals to me.Not sure why but perhaps because I think that is how we SHOULD see leopards and seldom do.
However, in spite of all the great pictures of the felines themselves the picture which appeals the most to me and therefore gets my vote for picture of the year is the one of the leopard print! It is magnificent!! The light and shadow on and in the print only serve to emphasise the depth of the print in the mud. The depth is impressive because so often one only sees a shallow partial print in sand, possibly slightly blurred around the edges, due to the sand not holding the shape too well. This is a great picture!!!
I too have voted for the Tutlwa leopardess.

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Thanks for your thoughts Lyn and I am delighted that you think the pictures are wonderful, than you as well for you vote, it is greatly appreciated. Stay tuned for more pictures of these beautiful cats as a follow up post is in order in the future. rich

John O'Brien
Member
Guest

Darn you!!!! By viewing at these pictures, it makes me want to return to Londolozi even sooner – I just returned from a visit to Londolozi in November 2011.

While you mention the AWB, f/stops and ISO settings, you do not mention anything about the lens used nor the kind of camera used. Would love to know what you use.

Ironically, I LOVE the paw print. Very creative and very unique photography! NICE!!!! However, I did cast my vote and I just put the champagne glasses in the freezer to chill as I wait for the champagne to arrive.

Again, EXCELLENT job and thanks for sharing your insights!! Keep `em coming.

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Hi John, well I hope that you do return to Londoz sooner! 🙂 November 2011 is already such a long time ago.

The camera and lens used for all of these images is a Canon 5D Mack II with a 100-400mm Canon Lens. I have found this simple combination to work extremely well and give a great deal of versatility when out in the field. It is often difficult to change bodies, lenses, etc when following an animal and this setup allows you to rest the camera on your lap and get the shots with ease. Another lens I would most certainly consider is the 70-200m f.28 Canon lens. The 2.8 depth of field looks absolutely beautiful for portraits.

Stay tuned for more insights and please keep your questions coming.

rich

John O'Brien
Member
Guest

You’ve got good taste as that’s exactly the brand and lens I used during my stay. 🙂 I forwarded onto Chris Goodman some shots I took of two males fighting which our guide, James, “arranged” for us to witness. James certainly earned his keep that day! Wow! What an experience that was!!! I’ll never forget it. If you want them, drop me an E-Mail and I’ll send them to you for your collection. Thanks again, John

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Thanks John, I would be very interested in taking a look at the images. I will drop you a mail early next week. Canon is a great brand (as is Nikon). I have seen many incredible images taken with both. Personally I find the Canon functionality slightly simpler to use and I also love the vide capabilities that the 5D Mach II offers. rich

Penny Parker
Member
Guest

Your “favourite pic of the year” VF is sensational. They all are. But I am so drawn to the fresh track photograph. It is absolutely stunning, and the conditions look perfect for photographing the substrate. I’ve taken a picture of what appeared to be an empty patch of sand before as the track was old, and under direct sunlight in the mid day heat, haha. Wonderful shots and advice,thank you.

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Thanks Penny, Ive been quite interested to see how many people are taken with the image of the track. Initially the picture didn’t grab me as much as some of the other buts on closer inspection and owing to the response it has received it is most certainly growing on me. Glad the advice was of some value. rich

Verney Moyo
Member
Guest

My favorite was the last picture with the Vomba young female….it held a mellow rustic energy for me. The dramatic afternoon light was the golden touch. Thank you so much, the photos are great and I think they could ALL win prizes!!!!

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Thanks Verney, I’ll be sure to quote you on the “mellow rustic energy” description when next I talk about that image. Thanks for your comments, rich

Patsy Weingart
Member
Guest

Hi Rich, thanks for the info on the camera and lens. I was getting ready to ask too. Is there any chance that at some point you could discuss the editing that is used and what has been done to a photo? Do you find bean bags useful and do you have any for guests to use? Thanks, Patsy

Alessio
Member
Guest

Hi,
Have anybody some recent news about Emsagwen?

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Hi Alessio, no news at present. He has not been seen on Londolozi for quite some time. We will keep you informed should we see him. rich

Leslie Backus
Member
Guest

Hello Rich:
How do you decide when you go too far with the image enhancements? I always want my photos to reflect the natural beauty of what I have seen but also want them to be the best photos they can be. Sometimes when I think the animal looks great, the background looks a little false. I know you cannot turn a bad photo into a good one but any tips?
Thanks
Leslie Backus

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

It is a good question Leslie and depends very much on personal preference. There are a lot of purist photographers who still want to capture their images on film and develop them in a dark room as they believe this is the truest form of photography. My own opinion is that each and every picture is a piece of art and ultimately the viewer wants to look at pictures that are as pleasing as possible. I like to process my work as it enhances the overall quality of the image and makes the final picture look better. Whether this is a truthful representation of the image or not, what matters is that the picture looks great. That said, there is always an element of pride in displaying great work that has had no photoshop work done on it, but rather relied on the skill of the photographer and the natural beauty of the surrounds at that moment in time. I hope that answers your first question.

As for the photoshop tips, I will put together a couple of tips with photoshop basics, however take a look at this blog post from a while ago which I think may be of some value to you: http://blog.londolozi.com/2011/05/improve-your-pictures-with-these-easy-photoshop-tips/

Regards, rich

Rob weaver
Member
Guest

Please see my comments that I have pasted on Facebook..wonderful photos but …. See what I have written ..

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Rob Weaver: An interesting aspect but you should realise that not many photographers including myself with years of experience do not have the facilities, equipment ,you do not mention what lenses you used, or the venues / time to sit in a private game park where the rangers know where the predators are.. And to get below the eyes is for the majority impossible..do not get out of vehicle rules..don’t allow this ..nor does the unknown factor of in the wild coming accrosss any wild life particularly leopards does not allow one time to set,pose the animals..sometimes I have come accrosss leopards that lie around for hours and then these are usually surrounded by safari vehicles..so to all photographers who get wonderful photos of leopards in the wild I salute you..those that work with leopards and know where they are and take photos for financial gain as wild life photographers I do not praise you, photos should be natural, as seen, and unplanned in the majority of wild life photos with predators, cubs etc taken in private reserves are ok as one does not and should not interfer with the family looking after the cubs, in particular I hate this when photographers in Serengeti, Masai mara etc go right up to the cheetah or leopards and interfere with them. It is not natural and finally to go to tasks of enhancing the photos using blurr photoshop etc is not natural as well so photographers who do this apart from cropping,minor enhancement are in my mind acceptable.. Many of the photos taken and shown here are beautiful neigh wonderful and will sell, but buyers please remember that is not how you will normally see them in nature, they are quick to run away frightened of other predators and man…so if you want to follow the advise of this game photographer you will need to go to a private park which is the same as going to a zoo.
Be happy with your photographs and remember you took them in the wild under difficult circumstances not controlled circumstance. If you can afford this photographers facilities equipment etc then follow the guidelines but in my mind at the end of the day they are not as nature intended, which I pride myself in my photography…

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Hi Rob, I pasted your comment above as I wanted to continue the discussion on our blog. You make some great points and indeed we are very fortunate here at Londolozi to have phenomenal leopard viewing and to, more often than not, be able to view these creatures in open vehicles without many other cars around.

I also appreciate your comments about not getting out of your vehicle in the National Parks and thus not being able to get below eye level and I also agree with your thoughts on photographers in the Mara. Widlife photographers should at all times be respectful to the animals around them and be sensitive to the environment that they are in

I can understand your point about photoshop, however as I mentioned above to Leslie, I like to look at a final image that I am proud of and if it has involved photoshop that is ok with me. It is purely a matter of choice as to which you prefer. I view it the same as art. Paintings are given praise for their paint & brush techniques, so why should photoshopped images not receive the same credit? So long as people are happy to declare if an image has been manipulated, I see no problem with it. Photography, like any other visual creation is an art form and should be allowed the same freedom of expression without having to receive flak from the purists…

I must disagree with your comments on comparing a private game park to the same as a zoo. Londolozi is a private game reserve and lies in the heart of a 6 million acre wilderness, where animals roam freely and are tracked and found using skill and intuition on a daily basis. The photographic opportunities here are so good owing to the fact that we have viewed game respectfully and with integrity for over 30 years. To call this wilderness a zoo is not only unfair but categorically incorrect.

Thanks again for your thoughts, comments and point of views. rich

Patsy Weingart
Member
Guest

Rich, very well said and tactfully put. I agree. PW

Bridie Tane
Member
Guest

Wonderful photos , have voted for your shot. So looking forward to being at Lodolozi in about two weeks time. How is the weather now?

Sheena
Member
Guest

Rob – are you the “Kingfisher” film maker? My thoughts are that if films are edited, why not stills, surely the photographer in both cases is perfecting his work through technical ability attributed to his craft. As Rich says, so long as the admission is there that editing has occurred there is no deception so where is the problem, there can certainly be a lot more deception of fact in the editing of moving images……

Leslie Backus
Member
Guest

Rich:
Thanks for your reply and your link to a previous blog. It was helpful. In regards to Rob’s comments, I do have great respect for photographers who do not believe in tampering with their images and my best photos are the ones that are naturally correct. I am an amateur photographer and animals are my favorite subject. Sometimes you have to shoot them in not ideal light and such and don’t have the time to compensate with your camera controls as the animals are on the move. Even though I am an amateur, I take pride in my work and I am glad to have the technology to improve them when needed. I think the really great thing about photos is the feeling you get when you look at them.

I feel that private reserves such as Londolozi have done much to preserve the natural beauty of Africa and its wildlife. It is a continent like no other and I am so happy that I am presented the opportunity to visit it through private game reserves. It is nothing like going to a zoo. In fact, ever since I have visited Africa, I can’t bring myself to visit animals in a zoo. I believe in the end, on either of the above subjects – to each his own.

Deana A
Member
Guest

Stunning photos. Thank you for sharing. We were so moved by the beauty of the bush and Londolozi. The leopards in particular are quite mesmerizing. We had the luxury of gazing upon a male leopard on our last game drive for what seemed like an eternity. What an experience. It has been over three months and we still have that vacation glow.

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Thats great to hear Deana, do you know which male leopard you spent time watching? I would love to see some images of him, if you took any. Also good to hear your vacation glow has lasted that long. rich

Deana A
Member
Guest

I can send you some photos. I remember Jess saying that he was in his father’s territory, and would likely have a confrontation at some point. Can you send me your email address? deanaamendolia at yahoo dot com.

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Thanks Dean, I have sent you a mail.

Linda Holland
Member
Guest

These animals are so beautiful. I always enjoy your photos…wish I was back at Londolozi on safari.

Peter Betts
Member
Guest

Lovely pics Rich..One looks abit overcooked and oversharpened etc but great nontheless..I differ from you I find my Nikon D3s very easy to use and of course the best ever in low light matched with the 70-200 VRII and 300 VRII and 500 f4 VR..Glad you dont use flash on carnivores..very unethical…and now to find the money to afford Londoz..I used to go to Sparta when it was R10 p Night bring your own beers..Say Hi to Dave and Shan and Dean Smithyman and Duncan Mclarty et al!!

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Thanks for your thoughts Peter, I agree with you that the Nikon D3 is a fantastic camera. I do think that the low light capabilities of Nikons are slightly superior to the Canons, however the user interface of Canons is more simple to use in my opinion.

Must have been quite something to visit Sparta in the early days, I will be sure to pass on your regards to all who you mentioned. Thanks again, rich

Jewel Wimer
Member
Guest

A round of applause for the blog article.Really thank you! Great.

TED SWINDON
Member
Guest

Hi Rich,
Awesome pictures! I agree that your favourite of the Vomba young female is a magnificent shot.
I notice that you mostly shoot on auto white balance. I would be interested to hear your comments as to why you feel it to be your preffered option.
Kind regards,
Ted.

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