Winter has really set in and the African bush has started to dry out and lose its green tinge. With the cold mornings also comes shorter days and less time for me to get out and take photos. It’s almost dark before I finish work so photography becomes a real challenge for me in winter. Last night, with the sun really low on the horizon, I grabbed my camera and rushed out into the bush. I was in luck as very close to my home I found a young male leopard that was on the move.
It appeared that he was hunting mice – he would dash from one spot to another through the now brown long grass. The light started fading very quickly and I was afraid I was not going to get a picture of this beautiful young cat. In years gone by, we as photographers would probably have looked at giving up because the light would have been too low for our old film cameras. But with the modern digital cameras we are able to use very high ISO’s without getting noise or “graininess” as we used to refer to it.
If I can give one piece of advice; do not be afraid to use this ISO capability. So often I meet photographers who still think like they are using film. They are afraid to push the ISO in case of quality loss.
This is no longer a problem; rather set the ISO higher, thus pushing up the camera shutter speed. This way you have a better chance of getting pin sharp images. I set my ISO to 2000 and in doing so was able to capture this photograph with the very last rays of sun. I kept the depth of field shallow with an f stop of F4 thus blurring the background. Hand holding my 200-400 mm lens I captured a sharp image of the young male on a tree stump while he listened for mice moving in the dry grass in front of him. The background just looks natural.