Leopard, Mala Mala Game Reserve, South Africa, April 2008
Canon 1DsMkIII, 400mm f/4 DO IS, 1/125 f/5.6, ISO 1000
We had a fabulous few hours with the Bicycle Crossing Male leopard at Mala Mala last week, and we had many opportunities to photograph him walking towards our Land Rover. Many times in nature you have your subject walking away from you, which severely limits the types of compositions you can assemble. What is nice is when you are able to position your vehicle in such a way as to photograph the essence of your subject, and this can happen when you have the intimate eye contact with your lens. On this day the light was fading, and he was walking down a dirt path. I was changing between ISO 800 and 1600, and was trying to balance enough shutter speed with a shallow depth of field. Some shots were 1/250 of a second, but at f/4.0 and ISO 1600. I knew that I wouldn't have enough of his face in sharpness, and I did want at least his nose and eyes sharp. So I moved around with my settings and settled on 1/125 and f/5.6. One doesn't always have the time or opportunity to switch around settings, but on this day we were able to photograph him coming towards the vehicle on at least 6 different occasions. When he would pass the vehicle, we would drive off road and go ahead of him enough so that we were able to setup and not be in his way, but be in position to hopefully get a glance. One must also pay attention to your shooting position, as you will ideally want to be at eye level with your subject, and in this case it meant sitting in the front seat of the vehicle, next to our excellent ranger, Matt.