Scott Stulberg explains the details behind this breathtaking shot of an African Leopard

Getting this close to an African Leopard is equal parts excitement to get the shot and fear you might miss it. Here, Scott tells us how he captured this gorgeous close-up.

Sharp as a Tack

Scott Stulberg: The next one is a close-up of a leopard. This was with a 500mm lens. The leopard was in a tree. I was standing up in our safari vehicle. You can stand up where the whole roof comes up.

Then you put a sandbag on top of the roof so there are no tripods when you’re shooting. You’re shooting on a sandbag and it works perfectly. You kind of hold your camera steady. I was shooting with a 500mm lens and I focused right on that leopard’s eye and I just kept shooting. (click the image for a larger version)

It was great until he got up and moved. This is why sometimes you want expensive gear. This was a 500mm lens, many thousands of dollars. You can have other lenses and put on extenders. It will be a little softer, won’t be as sharp. This was tack sharp.

I also cropped this image. I never crop my images. This was one of the few images I have ever cropped because I try to get everything perfect in frame but I cropped it to make it even tighter. I cropped a little bit of the foliage out and a little bit of the branch out.

My agency loved this image and I’m so happy because when you shoot with a high megapixel camera, you can afford to crop and it will still come out perfectly when it’s reproduced in a magazine.

This is an image that you can get pretty easily in Africa because you hopefully see many different leopards on different days. I just love the feeling of this image. It just makes me feel so good. You can see how tack sharp it is. The right gear, the right moment, you get the right shot.

To Sum Up

In today’s tough economy it’s hard to justify the cost of expensive photography equipment. But if you happen to be lucky enough to be going on an safari, Scott Stulberg says his 500mm lens really improved the quality of this shot of an African leopard.