truetolifephotography PRO
truetolifephotography

The essence of a leopard



Currently on display in my solo exhibition in Hong Kong. Check out this link to see a video clip of the dynamic lighting effect which reveals the tail and body...
Read more

Currently on display in my solo exhibition in Hong Kong. Check out this link to see a video clip of the dynamic lighting effect which reveals the tail and body shadow detail in print and under dimmer lighting https:--www.facebook.com-contactjoeanthony-videos-10155336140565622-
Multi awarded winning image. Grand prize in the Art Wolfe Compelling image Contest. 2nd in the National Wildlife Federation USA Annual photo competition (magazine feature in their December-January World print edition). Finalist in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Finalist in Shoot the Wild competition and published in a high quality book. Personally my favourite image of 2014 because of the journey it has taken me on on the way to capturing it and for months after to perfect its nuances for fine art printing. It is at it's best in printed form. I displayed it an exhibition in London at the Mall Galleries where it received media and newspaper coverage. It is available as a fine art print using standard archival paper as well as the rare dye transfer method for deepest blacks. All these processes will preserve the highly nuanced surprise shadow details of the leopards body and tail as it emerges from the darkness. Variable lighting on or behind the image can reveal or hide these details at the viewers discretion. Hopefully you can also see this effect to some extent by increasing and decreasing your monitors brightness-luiminance. This dominant male leopard known as Maxabeni had picked up the scent of an intruder on his territory and was actively stalking him. Initially a frantic sighting where we lost him several times, I persisted in trying to get a shot that would convey the essence of this elusive and secretive big cat. Part of 3 month project in the making where I experimented with several different ideas on numerous sightings, this image could only work if captured at precisely the right moment. Previous experience had led me to decide on making some key in camera decisions just beforehand and I knew if he was to be moving given that I wanted a fine art print from this at the end, I had to capture him only just moving. As he stepped forward into the light shaft that was the moment.
Read less

Views

7031

Likes

Awards

Canon EOS Camera
Contest Finalist in Animals And The Night Photo Contest
Featured
Contest Finalist in Discover Africa Photo Contest
Contest Finalist in Social Exposure Photo Contest Vol 1
Contest Finalist in Light Sensitivity Photo Contest
Contest Finalist in Playing With Darkness Photo Contest
Contest Finalist in Monthly Pro Vol 8 Photo Contest
Contest Finalist in Monthly Pro Vol 7 Photo Contest
Contest Finalist in Monthly Pro Vol 5 Photo Contest
  View more
Peer Award
Superb Composition
Tanya333 ricardoobregon minjiwe andytaylor756 penguinphoto sammy113 edwardlrose +98
Absolute Masterpiece
antoniocwaters IanStandivan betsyfogartyguevara Hoomanz MarthaConnor MikeW klinker44 +86
Top Choice
ashleyivettecote ArthurGCowan jenniferousleyrohrbaugh melkav myerscreativephotography arnabdas014 kellumbear +72
Outstanding Creativity
Dhaval Solanki Priceless Oleksii_G KolbeB-9 angeladignasbravin ericcriswell sjphotocomau +36
Superior Skill
PixAl KoralC muse2max Jonathan_Shea jamiesarkett lhartney WJSARTIMAGES +21
Magnificent Capture
robbyticknor melsteinberg philipdrispin rolfnorge IvanKoota llowzz AJ77 +21
All Star
keithhempfleng robbiewade Jean_Brisebois tassiegrammer Ncolson davidpcherniak Bobwhite +12
Genius
emiliroy FrancoisHorne BeccaLynn RominaPaola

Submitted to Photo Contests

Top ClassTM

Anything Animals Photo ContestTop 10 class
Anything Animals Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Our World At Night Photo ContestTop 10 class
What A Night Photo ContestTop 10 class
What A Night Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 3Top 10 class
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 3Top 10 class week 2
Celebrating Nature Photo Contest Vol 3Top 10 class week 1
Wildlife Photo Contest 2017Top 10 class
Wildlife Photo Contest 2017Top 10 class week 1
World Photography Day Photo ContestTop 10 class
World Photography Day Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Feline Beauty Photo ContestTop 20 class
Feline Beauty Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
World Photography Day Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Night Portraits Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
Wildlife Portraits Photo ContestTop 10 class
Into The Night Photo ContestTop 10 class
Wildlife Portraits Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Rule Of Thirds Photo Contest v2Top 10 class
Rule Of Thirds Photo Contest v2Top 10 class week 2
Rule Of Thirds Photo Contest v2Top 10 class week 1
Beauty Of Shadows Photo ContestTop 20 class
Beauty Of Shadows Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Beauty Of Shadows Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Animals And The Night Photo ContestTop 10 class
Animals And The Night Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
My Best Shot Photo Contest Vol 2Top 10 class
African Wildlife Photo ContestTop 20 class
Animals And The Night Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
African Wildlife Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
My Best Shot Photo Contest Vol 2Top 10 class week 2
African Wildlife Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
My Best Shot Photo Contest Vol 2Top 10 class week 1
We Love Animals Photo ContestTop 10 class
We Love Animals Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Around the World Photo Contest By DiscoveryTop 10 class
Around the World Photo Contest By DiscoveryTop 10 class week 1
Visions Of Africa Photo ContestTop 20 class
Can You See Me Photo ContestTop 10 class
Can You See Me Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Can You See Me Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Our Natural World Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
The Night Photo ContestTop 20 class
Time And Light Photo ContestTop 20 class
Time And Light Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
Time And Light Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Evocative Wildlife Photo ContestTop 10 class
Evocative Wildlife Photo ContestTop 20 class week 3
Evocative Wildlife Photo ContestTop 30 class week 2
Evocative Wildlife Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
Shadows In Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class
Adrenaline Rush Photo ContestTop 10 class
Shadows In Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Adrenaline Rush Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Composing with Negative Space Photo ContestTop 20 class
Composing with Negative Space Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
Shadows In Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Adrenaline Rush Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
Composing with Negative Space Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Feline Fancy Photo ContestTop 10 class
Feline Fancy Photo ContestTop 10 class week 3
Social Exposure Photo Contest Vol 4Top 30 class
Feline Fancy Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
The Decisive Moment Photo ContestTop 20 class
The Decisive Moment Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Impactful Images Photo ContestTop 20 class
Impactful Images Photo ContestTop 20 class week 3
Wildlife In Remote Places Photo ContestTop 20 class
Wildlife In Remote Places Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
The Battle Of Professionals Photo ContestTop 10 class
The Battle Of Professionals Photo ContestTop 10 class week 3
Impactful Images Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
Wildlife In Remote Places Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
The Battle Of Professionals Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
The Battle Of Professionals Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Rule Of Thirds In Nature Photo ContestTop 20 class
Animal Kingdom Photo Contest Vol 1Top 30 class week 2
Rule Of Thirds In Nature Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
Earth Day 2016 Photo ContestTop 20 class
Black Out Photo ContestTop 10 class
Earth Day 2016 Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Rule Of Thirds In Nature Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Black Out Photo ContestTop 10 class week 5
Black Out Photo ContestTop 10 class month 1
Black Out Photo ContestTop 10 class week 3
Black Out Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Discover Africa Photo ContestTop 10 class
Black Out Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Discover Africa Photo ContestTop 10 class month 1
Discover Africa Photo ContestTop 10 class week 3
Discover Africa Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Discover Africa Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Playing With Light Photo ContestTop 10 class
Rule Of Thirds Essentials Photo ContestTop 30 class
Playing With Light Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Rule Of Thirds Essentials Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
Around the World Photo ContestTop 20 class
Around the World Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
What Shadows Can Do Photo ContestTop 20 class
What Shadows Can Do Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Dramatic Portraits Photo ContestTop 20 class
Dramatic Portraits Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
Dramatic Portraits Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Social Exposure Photo Contest Vol 1Top 10 class
Social Exposure Photo Contest Vol 1Top 10 class week 1
Nature By Night Photo ContestTop 10 class
Nature By Night Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Cats Being Cats Photo ContestTop 20 class
Come To Me Photo Contest Top 20 class
Come To Me Photo Contest Top 20 class week 1
Cats Being Cats Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Exotic Wildlife Photo ContestTop 10 class
Exotic Wildlife Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Light Sensitivity Photo ContestTop 30 class
It Is A Wild World Photo ContestTop 20 class
It Is A Wild World Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
It Is A Wild World Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Alpha Male Photo ContestTop 20 class week 3
Nature At Night Photo ContestTop 20 class
Alpha Male Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Nature At Night Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Animals Are Beautiful Photo Contest Top 20 class
Alpha Male Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Animals Are Beautiful Photo Contest Top 10 class week 2
Animals Are Beautiful Photo Contest Top 10 class week 1
Celebrating Nature Day Photo Contest 2015Top 20 class
Celebrating Nature Day Photo Contest 2015Top 30 class week 1
Emerging From Shadows Photo ContestTop 10 class
Animal Eyes Photo ContestTop 20 class
Emerging From Shadows Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Animal Eyes Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
Adventure Bound Photo ContestTop 20 class
Pushing Limits Photo ContestTop 20 class
Adventure Bound Photo ContestTop 30 class week 2
Animal Eyes Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Adventure Bound Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Celebrating Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class
Celebrating Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Negative Space Photo ContestTop 10 class
Negative Space Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
The Right Place And Time Photo ContestTop 20 class
The Right Place And Time Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Negative Space Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Best Shot Photo ContestTop 10 class
Covers Photo Contest Vol 20Top 30 class
Covers Photo Contest Vol 20Top 20 class week 2
Best Shot Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Foto Digital Volume 4 Photo ContestTop 10 class
Covers Photo Contest Vol 20Top 20 class week 1
Foto Digital Volume 4 Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Photofocus Feature Photo Contest Volume 2Top 10 class
Photofocus Feature Photo Contest Volume 2Top 10 class week 1
ViewBug HQ Photo ContestTop 20 class
Shadows Photo Contest by Focal PressTop 10 class
Shadows Photo Contest by Focal PressTop 10 class week 1
ViewBug HQ Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Playing With Darkness Photo ContestTop 10 class
Playing With Darkness Photo ContestTop 10 class week 3
Playing With Darkness Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Playing With Darkness Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
ViewBugs Best Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class
Glorious Moments Photo ContestTop 30 class
Photographer Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 9Top 10 class
ViewBugs Best Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Photographer Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 9Top 10 class week 1
Glorious Moments Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
Foto Digital Volume 3 Photo ContestTop 10 class
ViewBugs Best Nature Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Foto Digital Volume 3 Photo ContestTop 20 class week 3
Foto Digital Volume 3 Photo ContestTop 30 class week 2
Single Light Portraits Photo ContestTop 20 class
Single Light Portraits Photo ContestTop 20 class week 1
Photographer Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 8Top 10 class
Monthly Pro Vol 8 Photo ContestTop 10 class
Monthly Pro Vol 8 Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Monthly Pro Vol 8 Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
Solo Animals Photo ContestTop 10 class
Solo Animals Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Covers Photo Contest Vol 17Top 10 class
Covers Photo Contest Vol 17Top 10 class week 1
Solo Animals Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Monthly Pro Vol 7 Photo ContestTop 20 class
Photographer Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 7Top 20 class
Monthly Pro Vol 7 Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Photographer Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 7Top 20 class week 1
Capturing The Moment Photo Contest by Focal PressTop 30 class
Dodho Volume 4 Photo ContestTop 10 class
Dodho Volume 4 Photo ContestTop 10 class week 2
Dodho Volume 4 Photo ContestTop 10 class week 1
Monthly Pro Vol 5 Photo ContestTop 10 class
Monthly Pro Vol 5 Photo ContestTop 20 class week 3
Photographer Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 5Top 20 class
Monthly Pro Vol 5 Photo ContestTop 20 class week 2
Photographer Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 5Top 10 class week 2
Monthly Pro Vol 5 Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1
Photographer Of The Month Photo Contest Vol 5Top 20 class week 1
Fstoppers Volume 5 Photo ContestTop 10 class
Fstoppers Volume 5 Photo ContestTop 30 class week 2
Fstoppers Volume 5 Photo ContestTop 30 class week 1

Categories


21 Comments | Report
Storycatcher PRO+
 
Storycatcher November 03, 2014
Patience, planning, and purpose all come together here through the lens of one who loves leopards!
truetolifephotography PRO
truetolifephotography November 13, 2014
Well the story for this image continues. I reposted in hoping it would look sharper but for some reason it does not look the same as before I upload it. Indeed this image is hard anyway to really show at its best on computer monitors. It comes into its own in print. I will be exhibiting it next August in London at the Mall galleries to show people what I am talking about. Hopefully too it will be presented using the dye transfer technique of printing for the absolute best possible print quality available.
BrianaK
 
BrianaK December 12, 2014
Impressive. The dark space is unique - it creates a more intimate feeling to the photograph which is very intense.
p_eileenbaltz PRO
 
p_eileenbaltz December 15, 2014
One of my favorite photos ever!!! Excellent work; congratulations on all of your well deserved awards.
truetolifephotography PRO
truetolifephotography December 16, 2014
Thank you. For someone to rank it as one of their favourite photos ever is lovely to hear and all I ever seek with a photo like this is to engage and immerse the viewer as fully as possible into the scene. There is so much negative space in this image with no detail that depth was only achievable by suggestion of the relatively faint tail details and feeling of elevation of the leopard due to composition by raising him above centre. negative space in the foreground is not a usual tool to use (usually left and right works only). Here I THINK it works in the foreground to give a sense of the leopard emerging and still to come towards the viewer as opposed to arrived already. Adds tension to the scene which is already impactful due to the focus and expression on the face. That's kind of how I see it. Any more feedback from others gladly received.
cmsimon Premium
 
cmsimon December 15, 2014
ethereal, wonderfully engaging
truetolifephotography PRO
truetolifephotography December 16, 2014
Ethereal. That's a new one for this image. Thanks for the feedback. I've worked very hard to bring this image to viewers in a way that works on both screen and in print. no mean feat but the knowledge I acquired along the way this year has been invaluable for me moving forwards with my photography. So I kind of owe a lot to my own photograph for forcing me to learn so much this year.
rmr731 PRO+
 
rmr731 December 16, 2014
Magnificent capture - amazing! Congrats!
truetolifephotography PRO
truetolifephotography January 15, 2015
Hi Thanks for the feedback and I love that you have that reaction. It's an image close to my heart from 2014.
janland PRO+
 
janland December 16, 2014
Fantastic capture! Just enough light to max the drama! Congrats!
truetolifephotography PRO
truetolifephotography January 15, 2015
Thanks for the feedback. The shutter speed choice was what helped to maximise the drama and that choice was also determined by the movement of the leopard.
AliceK
 
AliceK December 24, 2014
Extraordinary shot! Well deserved awards for your passionate and persevering project!
truetolifephotography PRO
truetolifephotography January 15, 2015
Thank you. Pretty much a years worth of work on this one image from capture to print readiness across many different mediums which all required different challenges specifically to retain the necessary subtle details.
cmbarden
 
cmbarden February 07, 2015
Everything about this image is perfect, but what really does it for me is that the leopard is looking dead into the lens. Absolutely amazing! I can't stop looking at this image. Really...amazing.
truetolifephotography PRO
truetolifephotography February 07, 2015
Dear Christopher Mark, Thanks for the feedback. It has won 7 awards so far in different competitions worldwide but the most amazing feedback I had was last week when it won a prize for best photograph at the Royal Geographic Society Hong Kong. It came up on 2 large projector screens in front of quite a big audience and everyone in the room gasped when they saw it. This was the first chance I had to gauge the reaction of a large group of people looking at it at the same time and for the first time. The response was amazing and I could never have expected that. I'll be exhibiting it later this year in London and possibly a new gallery in San Francisco. Also will try for Hong Kong. Once I have the print presentations I am happy with, it will be available in a limited edition. I have not decided on the edition size or whether to provide different editions depending on size/printed medium used. At the moment tests are underway for printing it using the dye transfer technique for the absolute best printing process money can buy. Hope you also had time to read the field notes "behind the lens" below. I give a full description of how this image came to be. All the best. Joe.
stephenvantuyl PRO
 
stephenvantuyl March 05, 2015
Killer shot! Voted!
truetolifephotography PRO
truetolifephotography March 14, 2015
Thanks stephenvantuyl!
BruceTighe PRO+
 
BruceTighe March 26, 2015
Right on in so many ways!
kaymurphy
 
kaymurphy June 16, 2015
There is only one word for this beautiful. Congrats on the photo.
sherripix
 
sherripix July 13, 2015
this image takes my breath away! that gaze is so mesmerizing in a black velvet moment of such intimacy. I can only imagine the impact if it's even better in print form!
vsidles PRO+
 
vsidles October 26, 2015
NICE!!!!!
ruthjolly PRO+
 
ruthjolly January 25, 2016
Amazing low light capture.
Roussou
 
Roussou April 21, 2016
Congrats on being a finalist, well deserved
lenaavalon PRO
 
lenaavalon April 23, 2016
Really nice low capture !!! It`s amaizing !!!
ndejong
 
ndejong June 07, 2016
wow, amazing shot! well done!
Nayeefa
 
Nayeefa September 03, 2016
Awe-inspiring!
kellumbear
 
kellumbear June 04, 2017
Wow! Congrats on your victory!
truetolifephotography PRO
 
truetolifephotography August 19, 2017
Currently on display in my solo exhibition in Hong Kong. Check out this link to see a video clip of the dynamic lighting effect which reveals the tail and body shadow detail in print and under dimmer lighting https:// facebook.com/contactjoeanthony/videos/10155336140565622/
ashleyivettecote
 
I love this, it's the first time a picture made me feel fear, even though it's Stunning something about it incites a little fear like it's going to leap out of the image. well done.

Same photographer See all

Discover more photos See all

Behind The Lens

Location
Sabi Sands area of South Africa. It is still not easy to find leopards especially at night. They are masters of disguise and if a leopard does not want to be found it won't be. The most elusive, stealthy and secretive of big cats.
Time
Night time shortly after dark. I had a key objective on a personal project over a 3 month period to create an image that captured that essence of a leopard. Numerous other sightings and images created (some of which can be seen in my gallery) led to the decision that the image I sought had to be created at night. Immediately this presented a big problem and a huge challenge. When this dominant male was spotted he was very active. Usually this would be because he was hunting for food but his behaviour was much more frantic than one would expect and it was determined that he had picked up the scent of another leopard who had entered his territory. He was running around trying to co-locate the intruder by working out where it had scent marked various bushes. Fascinating behaviour to observe but a nightmare from a photographic perspective especially given that it was dark. He was lost several times into the pitch black of night and we managed to pick up his trail on more than one occasion. Before this image was captured it was a truly adrenaline charged sighting. Most would give up on a photographic capture at this point and revert to video only or just enjoy the sighting but I had a specific objective in mind and had pre visualised the image I was seeking if the situation presented an opportunity for it. This involved some camera setting presets based on good working knowledge of how far I could push my equipment leaving a little room for adjusting depending on how the sighting developed. I was still in a very small window of opportunity. Restricting certain parts of the cameras settings in order to preserve as much detail as possible to be able to create a print of sufficient quality as opposed to just a natural history capture.
Lighting
This is one of those situations where you have to prepare but also be alert to any changing opportunity even if the chances look slim at the outset. Previous experience with spot lighting use at night allowed me to understand where, when and how best to approach photographing in these conditions. I had experimented a lot with lighting in this way. In some cases controlled and directed (i.e. coordinating specifically with the tracker directing him to angle the beam in interesting and creative ways) in others just using what was there or also using fill flash. For those who question the use of artificial lighting in wildlife photography please note that there is nothing wrong with using lighting like this on big cat sightings. It does not bother them or their eyes at all. For other wildlife at night it is an issue. Then it is usual not to use flash or torch lighting and I have always respected this. Some wildlife images simply cannot be brought to the viewer without lighting such as the type used here. For this image however, I had no control over the beam coming from the left but anticipated the precise moment to take the shot by quickly analysing all the information in the scene unfolding in front of me. It was a highly dynamic event and apart from a conscious decision to change my shutter speed in anticipation moments before this opportunity arose the rest occurred to a large extent instinctively. I used all previous experience including drawing on low light sports photography skills I had learned to get this image. The leopard was behind the beam facing away and I was able to observe him just in the shadows of the beam. His behaviour suggested he might turn around any second and I knew that to get a sharp image he had to be only just moving forwards (due to shutter speed restrictions at night). The moment came when he turned around the long way which produced the beautiful curve in his body and tail and I timed the shot taking only 2 frames in succession as his head came past the steady beam. Any faster moving forwards and/or later in tripping the shutter would have not resulted in an optimal capture.
Equipment
Nikon D800E, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 lens. Only other accessories were a a bean bag, steady hand and careful focusing. :) The other thing is I got to know the low light performance of the D800E very well and knew from experience what ISO I could safely use while being able to preserve the details I would need for a fine art print from a night capture.
Inspiration
This image was created near the end of the 3 month project to expand the wildlife part of my portfolio and focus on trying to create an image that would convey the essence of a leopard. I have had a passion for big cat photography for some years with my first leopard sighting back in 2008. Since then I worked on other aspects of my photography deciding in 2013 that I was ready to take on wildlife photography in earnest. I was inspired by night time big cat images by various photographers for example who had exposure from the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards and I saw several night images but all with the animal stationary. This makes the night capture somewhat easier relatively speaking as you have some leeway with the chosen shutter speed. Movement however is a monumental challenge with very few opportunities that will work no matter how fast the lens or how good low light performance your camera has. So I further honed my skills in the months leading up to this shot by practising on both private trips and taking some training from regular wildlife photography professionals. Once I had learned some of the specific skills required to assist with creating decent wildlife images I spent the rest of the time on the project experimenting with creating images specifically to get closer to my desired objective. Nothing is ever guaranteed with wildlife sightings but a lot of time spent just observing big cat behaviour and not photographing helped immensely with future preparation when opportunities arose. Also gave me a chance to connect with the subject, get a feel for what might define their essence and also give me a feel for what they might or might not do next. Helps a lot with anticipation too which is really important in wildlife photography! This image went on to be a finalist in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Grand prize winner of a Compelling image contest judged by Art Wolfe and 2nd in the 44th National Wildlife Federation USA photo competition out of over 29000 entries and was subsequently published in their latest December/January print magazine (global edition).
Editing
The key objective for this image was to be able to preserve enough detail in order for it to be able to stand up in print in good quality on fine art paper. I was not just seeking a natural history capture. I wanted a compelling image of a leopard stalking at night. Bearing this objective in mind I had already worked out in camera what ISO I could use to assure the desired quality was attained. Although this image was difficult to capture, it was even harder to process for the final presentation on both screen and print. Back lit monitor presentation for an image with so much black in it while also containing nuanced shadow details is very different and challenging to get right when also presenting the same image in print. So post processing involved the greatest care and attention to detail in balancing noise reduction and sharpening with very little else done except then also balancing shadow and black point / white point levels for the different display methods. Despite the careful choice of in camera ISO some inevitable magenta coloured noise was present in the details of the tail and this was carefully treated while also preserving the subtle but important details in that area of the image. The image was also cropped as in camera success for such a rapid and fleeting opportunity had me erring on the wider side of the lens telephoto range. Cropping decision was based on the following. I used the grass either side to create an anchor to the image and prevent it from floating in space with no other visual reference available apart from the leopard. This also allowed the viewer to believe this was a wild leopard sighting in the open as opposed to possibly being in an enclosure or zoo. Then I chose to elevate the leopard above centre to create a greater feeling of dominance, power and foreboding. Finally I decided to keep the negative space in the foreground. A risk because this is not often a good idea and usually negative space works left to right of a subject as opposed to leaving the foreground empty which usually does not achieve much. However, here I feel it works because it then creates a feeling of the leopard just emerging from the shadows leaving room to visualise him moving into the negative space therefore creating perceived depth. (No other way to create more depth in this image with so little environmental detail to work with). Cropping any more off the foreground would make it seem more like he had arrived losing any suggestion of movement. The only other way I created depth was by ensuring the subtle tail detail is preserved and this is where dimmable front lighting and back lighting on the print version brings the image to life. Allowing the viewer to adjust this at their own will causes the tail details to be either hidden or revealed further enhancing the viewer experience by making the leopard emerge from the shadows or appear more hidden and mysterious. To achieve all these effects required extreme care when preparing for both screen and print as described. Lift too much shadow and the mystery of the shadow detail is lost. Not enough and the beautiful curve of the tail is lost no matter how much illumination is used.
In my camera bag
I shoot many different genres so this will be shoot dependent. If I am doing commissioned work like I did recently in London for a client who wanted black and white photos of the city, I have my Nikon 16-35mm F4 and 50mm F1.4, 24-70mm f/2.8 as well as the 70-200mm f/2.8. A tripod which I can easily fit into a wheelie bag but sturdy enough for everything except my 70-200mm. I might also take my SB910 speed light usually for trying rear sync curtain flash work in the city or possibly some creative lighting but I usually prefer to use available light day or night. A Hoodman loupe to check the image for critical sharpness in the field. I take 2 bodies whenever I can which includes the Nikon D800E and the Nikon D4s. For wildlife photography I will add a 400mm f2.8 and 1.4x and 2x teleconverter usually needed for birding. I have decided the most effective combination from inside a vehicle or even outside when it is safe to do so is a bean bag and/or a Visual Echoes panning plate on top of it or on its own. When shooting sports I will take the same two bodies and lenses and pack my 400mm F2.8 again (which is super heavy at 4.5KG) and of course I then take a sturdier tripod or monopod and maybe Custom Brackets gimbal mount. Additionally polarisers in case of harsh sunlight. When shooting landscapes I have the LEE filter system filter holder set with graduated ND and regular ND filters (1,2 and 3 stop grad, 4 stop and 10 stop ND) plus cable release and simple pano head for creating panoramics. I have even started considering use of my 400mm F2.8 for landscape work. I hope my back can take it :). I also have a camranger wireless remote system and I put as much as I can into a Lowepro Flipside 500AW bag which I love Inside also goes loads of bits and pieces like lens cloths, spare batteries, cleaning kits, spare accessories, L bracket attached to my Nikon D810 and I also use a Nikon D4s. Occasionally I use the super sharp Nikon 105mm f/2.8 micro lens. Also after being sent on assignment with Nikon I am totally in love with their latest 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens. I new legend in their line up! Please check out the film they made about me using it to shoot wildlife and landscapes in Sri Lanka. Available on You tube and links on my website homepage or my social media pages.
Feedback
With any wildlife photography I really advocate learning as much about your subjects behaviour as possible. Own research and learning from trackers and rangers is very important. It is easy to get absorbed and excited when you get a sighting but if you have the time then also spend it observing and not photographing. This is invaluable and I can't stress this enough tempting as it is just to keep shooting. Success in wildlife photography is not just about getting lucky sightings. The more time you invest in going out to see wildlife and observe behaviour will reap rewards eventually. There is no quick recipe for success. You can't expect to get the best shots if you're only going out for one trip in a lifetime. Professionals who go out regularly have the opportunity and they create better images through practice and observation and of course many outings to make up a decent portfolio but be under no illusion it still takes a lot of work to pull off really good images consistently in wildlife photography as opposed to just capturing a natural history record. It's not really about having what some people call "lucky" sightings but of course it helps. Wildlife photography requires a lot of dedication and self application to be successful. Also there is great scope for story telling in wildlife photography and again observation allows you to think about what story you want to tell. The same subject can be shot in many different ways on the same sighting allowing you to create your own unique vision of what you observed, how you observed it and the message you want to convey.

See more amazing photos, Follow truetolifephotography