When we released this powerful image on social media, we were asked what sort of lens magnification was used.
Many camera enthusiasts thought that given the dangerous subject matter, it must have been a 400m telephoto lens or more, but this sort of distance compression would have taken the power away from the portrait. This photograph was actually taken with a 105m lens and the benefits are immediately clear. We were that close.
If a fashion photographer is working with a top model, it is most unlikely that he or she will even carry a telephoto lens to the assignment as the best distance to work from is anything from close to very close. Ideally it should be no different with a predator – but clearly there are issues with proximity, which is why I often use remote controls.
In this conservation area, there is no chance of using a remote as it is absolutely forbidden to step foot on the ground for patently obvious reasons. The only possibility therefore is to shoot from my caged vehicle with our camera window about 4 feet off the ground. This means that good shooting locations would be very limited, as I never really want to be above the eye of an animal – that angle of view immediately kills a sense of a real encounter. The lower the camera, the more immersive the image.
In our reconnaissance there was just one small hill that the vehicle could get close to in the deep snow – the topography in this part of north east China can be extremely flat and we just had to hope that the tiger would work his way to our vantage point.
Vehicles cannot get stuck here, as that then poses a logistical problem, so it was all quite a riddle. It was complicated further by the fact that the light also becomes too stark by about 10 am in the winter – we were asking for a great deal to come right. The clock ticks on a cold, clear Siberian morning in January.
It did, however, happen and the bonus was that the tiger was enormous – maybe 750 pounds and I was working from just 5 feet away. It was a high energy moment – this is surely one of the world’s most ruthless killers.
Author: Alex Jones