I thought I’d write a brief something more as a reminder to myself than anything else. This is one of those do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do scenarios, as it’s something I keep kicking myself for; I chop off the animal’s tail.
Not literally of course. Purely photographically, but it feels like almost as much of a sin, mainly because of how much I’ve warned against it.
After spending time with the Nkoveni female leopard and her cub a few days ago, this was a photo that came out in the post-sighting review:
Tail tip, Cut off. You know that emoji of someone slapping their forehead in exasperation? Insert it here.
Granted, I was using a 100-400mm lens so couldn’t have zoomed out anymore, but knowing that the cub was probably going to get up to some kind of antics the moment it climbed the tree, I should have positioned the vehicle further away to compensate for this.
This next photo from earlier in the sighting is far more pleasing to the eye:
The tail is entirely in the frame and the paws up tell of what the cub is busy doing (leaping up to the right). Compositionally it’s not great; I should have left more space on the right and positioned the leopard further left, but at least the tail is in picture.
Anticipating the animal’s movements is more than half the battle.
One can see how the tail in the first picture leads your eye out of the frame. Look, the picture itself is nothing too special, although the moment is great, but the tail leading out of the frame is serious no-no! And it’s not only for tails; horns, feet, whiskers… Most of the time – but not all – you want to keep the entire animal in the frame. I’m only referring to shots in which the majority of the animal is visible. If it’s a close-up of a leopard’s eye then forget about the tail.
I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but seeing that first photo made me feel like I should say it again.
Have a look at the following two images of the Nkoveni female, who had just caught an impala:
The original photo (below) has the whole of her tail visible, but in this sighting, keeping the wider framing detracted somewhat (I felt) from the intensity of the moment; her eyes and the death-grip she had on the impala’s throat were all that mattered, so cropping in to get rid of the tail was necessary.
If the tail does need to go, make sure you do it properly. Only cutting out an inch doesn’t help.
To avoid accidentally cropping things out when photographing wildlife:
- Zoom out
- Use a Wider Lens
- Position further away
- Anticipate the animal’s movements (this includes its extremities) and compose accordingly.
By following the above steps (which literally take a matter of seconds), hopefully you can avoid this photographic blunder that I keep making!