Photo Series-African Lions
The king and queen, at least in the natural world, have long been held to be the regal lion and lioness and any photographer who regularly photographs nature should at one time or another conduct a photographic project involving these two fierce, dangerous yet majestic creatures. "The lion (Panthera leo) is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg (550 lb) in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. Wild lions currently exist in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia with an endangered remnant population in Gir Forest National Park in India, having disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times." WIkipedia
Granted, unless you have the necessary time and funds to visit Africa on a tour, you will more than likely have to photograph them at your local zoo or nature preserve. Regardless of where you end up recording their images, your focus should be on doing several close ups, full body, and images of interaction between them and other members of the pride.
You should carry with you a zoom of about a 300mm or higher magnification factor. You will not need flash units for captive animals but probably will in a natural environment. For captive animals your best bet is to concentrate on mostly doing close ups, since these locations have openings times which are not that photographically friendly and the majority of the time the animals have been feed already and tend to be mostly at rest.
Also, since most preserves and zoos have enclosures for the safety of the public and the animals, longer shots can end up recording parts of these enclosures which always takes away from the main image.
Regardless of whether your subjects are wild or captive animals, pay attention to their eyes and focus on them to the point where they are very sharply in focus but do include the entire face if possible or at least most if it. Eyes by themselves do not make a strong image unless it is done for a specific project.
For wild animals your photographic frontier more than doubles. Here you can record images of family interactions, specially between females and their young, interaction between males and females and their hunting techniques such as squatting close to the ground and intensively "eyeing" their next meal.
Focus on females if you see a group moving almost in unison towards one direction whether or not you happen to see prey species as they often start approaching them from a distance. "Groups of female lions typically hunt together, preying mostly on large ungulates. Lions are apex and keystone predators, although they scavenge as opportunity allows. While lions do not typically hunt humans, some have been known to do so." Wikipedia
Also good to do is to try to focus their hunting "tools" such as their claws and their teeth which the females and some males usually use in order to strangulate their prey once they have brought it down.
Do try to also record images of individualism such a male with a thick and healthy looking mane.
Captive animals are often heftier and healthier and more photogenic than their wild counterparts due to their constant struggles and mating practices. However, with that said, nothing beats a true wildlife photographic experience.
Pay attention even when your subjects seem totally at rest, yawning lions while they fully showcase their huge teeth are always prime shots.
Playfulness in their young as they are naturally curious and are often more active during those times when the adults are less active, is always a good source of very pleasing and very suitable images for commercialism purpose such as for photographic stock houses and nature publications.
Keep in mind that these are not pets, always use extreme caution when recording these creatures in the wild and carefully heed your guide's advice.
As mentioned before a good prime zoom lens in the range of no less than 300mm is one of the best accessories to carry along with a tele-converter that will multiply your lens' range by 1/4 or 1/2 respectively, just be attentive to their light limiting effect.
Longer lenses may be better but most tours place space constrains upon a photographer and a big bulky lens may not be that advisable unless you are able to book a private tour.
Off course on a nature preserve or zoo the longer the lens the better and alongside a good tripod you probably won't need much else, besides patience and a keen eye to get those special shots.
- 10 Tips for Better Animal Photography at the Zoo
How to take better photos at the zoo. Photography tips for zoo photographers. Tons of tips and information on shooting photography at the zoo.
© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez
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