The Ultimate Leopard Photograph

I have been taking photos at Sabi Sabi for 10 years and in that time have taken thousands of leopard pictures – some really nice ones at that – but I still did not have what I felt was the perfect photograph.

It was the start of my holiday and I decided to stay on the reserve for a few days, spending time doing what I love; taking photos. It was the beginning of winter and we had our first really cold morning. The temperature was around 1°C and I was sitting quietly near the river hoping to catch a glimpse of some leopard cubs that had been seen in the same area the day before. While waiting I heard the alarm call of a bushbuck just upstream of my position, so I followed up to see if maybe it was the cubs. To my surprise I found a young male leopard that I had not seen before, moving up the riverbed. He was beautiful with perfect features.

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The sun’s first rays were just starting to come through and, although it was still bitterly cold, I rushed to get myself into position. My hand ached and I found it difficult to adjust the camera settings. The light was still very low so I pushed the camera’s ISO to 3200 and achieved a speed of 1/800 which was only just going to be fast enough. I would have to hope that the young male would stop walking or I would find it difficult to freeze him and get the picture sharp. The male kept moving up the riverbed and I kept moving ahead of him into new positions to hopefully eventually get the perfect photo. And I noticed that with the cold temperature, the camera was now fogging up! Finally the male moved onto a small area of short grass on the river bank. The grass was all wet with dew and the spikes had already started drying out for winter, giving it a wonderful red color. I changed the camera’s settings, reducing the speed by 1/3rd to make sure that the rays of sun stood out a little more and that the shadows also showed well. I snapped away until the buffer on the camera could not take any more.

The result is by far my best leopard photograph ever. It is one with which I am really very happy.

Happy snapping,

Rod Wyndham

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