Once at the waterhole Mafufanyane one of the big dominant males in the northern sector of the Sabi Sands quickly settled down and started to quench his thirst. I positioned our vehicle on the opposite side of the pan with the idea to capture the reflection of the drinking leopard in the water.

I decided to use a 500mm f/4 to capture this scene.

This had a lot of ods stacked against it as the long focal length meant that stabilization was a huge challenge.
I set the camera and lens up with a panning plate and bean bag combination. Although not perfect it did do the trick here!

In this scene however lighting was the key and the use of a second vehicle as light source was instrumental in achieving the results. I very quickly realized that if I could add a bit more side lighting to this scene it will deliver the goods. I have worked in the Northern Sabi Sands as photographer for a number of years and befriended many of the rangers in the area. This was one of the occasions that I took the liberty on calling on a friend to re-position his vehicle for me.

With the scene now completely side lit it all but eliminated the distracting background and added wonderful texture to the magnificent leopard.

However, with my camera set to manual exposure conditions were very difficult.

Because of the distance to the subject I was quite safe shooting at f/4, the wides aperture value the lens could offer.

Although I generally try to avoid shooting at such wide aperture values this was a good time to do so. I increased the ISO values to ISO1000 and with the help of the histogram I only managed to dial in a shutter speed of 1/80th of second. I knew that my success ratio would be rather low with setting like this and I proceeded to photograph around 30 images before the leopards moved off.

Once back at the lodge I quickly downloaded my shoot, excited with anticipation to view the results obtained.

I was amazed that of the 30 odd images taken there were on only few images that were unusable.

The rest were pin sharp with fantastic exposure and detail.

Because I was over-exposing the scene slightly the noise levels at ISO1000 could be dealt with efficiently. The images captured the mood and drama I was hoping for….

With a satisfied heart I retired to the boma for a delicious dinner – job well done even if I say so myself.

Leopard by Wim van den Heever

by Wim van den Heever
Wim van den Heever

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