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Leopardess at Sunrise

Leopardess at Sunrise
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-03-25
Categories: Mammals
Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds MkII, Canon 400mm 2.8 IS
Exposure: f/5.0, 1/800 seconds
Details: Tripod: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Pictured Symbolic Qualities of Sun, CeltickRanger's favorite African animal photos, TN Favourites [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2008-04-10 7:09
Viewed: 6273
Favorites: 2 [view]
Points: 62
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
I took this photograph just after sunrise - the leopardess was resting at the base of a bush which remains in darkness. The sun's rays lit up her head and shoulders - I quite like this one.

I deliberately booked three nights at Londolozi because of its reputation for leopard sightings - we saw 7 - including one sitting in the road as we drove in.

Over the past thirty years the leopards of Londolozi have developed legendary status, owing to the truly remarkable partnership between the leopards and rangers and trackers. These naturally elusive creatures have become Londolozi’s icon species and guests regularly witness remarkable leopard sightings.

The relationship between man and leopard began with a brief meeting in a dry riverbed.

John Varty was trundling his battered Landrover through the thick sand when to his absolute astonishment he spotted a young leopard casually sharpening her claws on the bark of a thorn tree, unfazed by his proximity. For what seemed like both an eternity and a fleeting moment he sat captivated, incredulous.

In the days that followed he and master tracker Elmon Mhlongo fervently searched for this young female who had been so calmly confident under his watchful gaze. Their joy when they found her, and she allowed them into her presence for a short while, was inexpressible.

In the five years of careful land management and conservation that had preceded this sighting leopards had remained almost entirely elusive. The appearance of this young female – who was to become known as Mother Leopard and produce nine litters of cubs – was the beginning of a relationship between man and wild leopard the likes of which the world had never seen.

Mother Leopard was the matriarch of the Leopards of Londolozi – now famous around the world – and today guests are privileged to experience the same heart stopping intensity when one of her progeny steps suddenly and silently into view.

This partnership of man and animal, which has endured over the decades, has become symbolic of a search for a new way forward. While the lessons learnt have ostensibly been about leopards they are simultaneously about humility and respecting sanctity – recognising a world where it is possible to share each other’s space in harmony and for mutual benefit. Through the revelations of Mother Leopard the Londolozi family have moved towards a deeper understanding of sustainable future for all. (From the Lodolozi Website)

Nelson Mandela visited Londolozi and said: “During my long walk to freedom, I had the rare privilege to visit Londolozi. There I saw people of all races living in harmony amidst the beauty that mother nature offers. There I saw a living lion in the wild. Londolozi represents a model of the dream I cherish for the future of nature preservation in our country'.

The leopard (Panthera pardus) is an Old World mammal of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four big cats of the genus Panthera, which together comrprises the tiger, lion, and jaguar. Leopards that are melanistic, either completely black or very dark in coloration, are one of the big cats known colloquially as black panthers.

Once distributed across southern Eurasia and Africa, from Korea to South Africa and Spain, it has disappeared from much of its former range and now chiefly occurs in subsaharan Africa. There are fragmented populations in Israel, Indochina, Malaysia, and western China. Despite the loss of range and continued population declines, the cat remains a least-concern species; its numbers are greater than that of the other Panthera species, all of which face more acute conservation concerns.

The species' success owes in part to its opportunistic hunting behaviour and its adaptability to a variety of habitats. The leopard consumes virtually any animal it can catch and ranges from rainforest to desert. Its ecological role resembles that of the similarly-sized cougar in the Americas. Physically, the spotted cat most closely resembles the jaguar, although it is of lighter build. The leopard and jaguar may have shared ancestry, though the leopard might be more closely related to the lion.

STOP PRESS - I actually used a sling tripod for this - the lodge had one and fixed it to the Landrover for me.

eqshannon, ramthakur, jcoowanitwong, vanderschelden, jaycee, earthtraveler, Royaldevon, Hil, Necipp, boreocypriensis, CeltickRanger, gracious, Adanac, Proframe, Heaven, JPlumb, SelenE, PaulH, gannu, Alex99, uleko, marhowie, rousettus, soccer has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

This is a superb use of natural light for dynamic added effect in a synergistic way! Super shot James...I am putting it in a theme which I created. Thanks for sharing this one!

Like the first picture of your recent S.A. trip, James.
The Leopardess looks good in this early morning shot with her eyes shining and her lower teeth visible.
Must have been exciting to stay three days at this place.
Great image.
TFS and regards.

Hi James
This is really good one! Amazing details and composition!

Hi James,
Very nice picture. I almost feel the velvety skin. Perfect timing to capture this beautiful moment. Light and darkness are well composed in this image.

Hello James,
Londolozi means to protect in Zulu language.
Isn't it part of the Sabi Sand Reserve, north of Skukuza.
There's an airstrip for flights from Johannesburg or did you come via Mpumalanga Airport via Kruger?
Quite expensive compared to Kruger!
Beautiful leopard. Meeting this animal and you immediately feel reconnected to earth:-)
Well done

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-04-10 9:34]

Hi James,

The lighting on her face is magnificent. A wonderful shot of this beautiful animal with the wonderful eyes. Not sure I would get too close with her showing those teeth. Nice natural colors and excellent details. Even the whiskers show off well.


  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-04-10 11:26]

Hi James. I do love big cats and this one looks such a beautiful animal. such eye and markings which you have captured so well . with fine detail and colour. well done TFS. very intersting notes .

I will look forward to more from the trip.

What a beauty this is James. The leopard and your image. Wonderful sunlit detail and composition. Fine intense pose.
Wonderful. Tfs Richard

Thank you, James.
It has been a privilege to read and share this knowledge!
You photograph carries with it all the passion and respect that you feel for this magnificent leopard.
The image is razor sharp, the details impecable and the colours exactly right!
I love the way she is emerging from the shadows with her mouth slightly open, so reminiscent of all cats!

Kind regards,
Bev :-)
Many thanks for your warm feedback on 'Acrobat or hyper-active?'

great-sharp pic, TFS Ori

  • Great 
  • Hil Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 696 W: 13 N: 1407] (5035)
  • [2008-04-10 13:09]

Hi James

Superb capture of the Leopardess.
Nicely composed with a great POV and lovely pose of her emerging from the shadows.
Lovely sharp detail and great colours.


Hello James the light is great I like the natural vignette type framing created with the shadow. Good POV and nice expression caught. Great sharpness and detail tfs rgds Necip.

Hi my beloved friend James,
Nice shot in all aspects! TFS and
Welcome back! Hope you had nice time during your holiday. I am in herpetological trips and tomorow I will go to Cyprus.

  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-04-10 14:23]

Exceptional portrait of this Leopard, James!
The light is excellent!
You're lucky to have seen so many of these big cats, my friend went to SA and only saw a fleeting glimpse of one!
Nice work as always!

Hello James,
Much appreciated for sharing your beautiful collection of animals back from Africa! you must had enjoyed the trip greatly!
a beautiful portrait of the Leopard right moment captured with the sunlight, beautiful indeed
best regards

  • Great 
  • Adanac Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1273 W: 1 N: 6188] (21378)
  • [2008-04-10 18:27]

Hello James,
Wonderful note to go with this incredible image of this amazing creature. Camera work is impeciable and the results show that. Thank you James.

Beautiful portrait image of this lovely big cat James.
Great note and composition leaving the Leopardess enough space on the left hand side to look in to.
Wonderful facial expression and soft color tones.

Best regards, Harry

  • Great 
  • Heaven Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 996 W: 123 N: 2341] (7912)
  • [2008-04-10 22:46]

Hi James!

She's a beauty, and you have put her so well on stage. A photographer in his studio wouldn't do better with his model... But the difference is huge: you made it outside in a natural environnement! Congratulations!

Kind regards


  • Great 
  • JPlumb Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 618 W: 158 N: 896] (2904)
  • [2008-04-10 23:53]

From out of the shadows... Very cool James, and your note is very interesting as well. I have never heard of this place, but what a great story. Back to the shot. It is so good to see one of these cats wild like this, in a closely cropped composition like this. Your capture of that cat, stepping into the sunlight with that stare, is awesome. The detail found on this animal is incredible.

Thanks, enjoyed! John

  • Great 
  • SelenE Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2249 W: 65 N: 4205] (13972)
  • [2008-04-11 1:42]

Hi James,
It's a very good portrait of this beautiful cat. Details, lighting and composition are very nice. TFS
Have a nice weekend,

  • Great 
  • PaulH Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1137 W: 26 N: 3879] (13882)
  • [2008-04-11 3:59]

Hi James,
great contrast between light and shadow, a very good job on the exposure here. Well framed with perfect DOF. Really enjioyed your note too, thanks.

  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-04-11 4:39]

James, Very long note and well cnnected to the shot. Nice front view and also good lighting. Ganesh

Hi James

What a stunning shot. the lighting is amazing and you have caught the Leopardess so very well. I can tell you are really pleased with your shot, and you know you should be as well. It is beautiful. Everything is just spot on.


hello James

you did a great shot of this Leopardess, i love your fine POV
and framing, the DOF is very excellent, i love that some
part of the image is on highlights and others part on shadows,
great sharpness and details of this great wild animal, TFS


What a lucky person you are to have seen this fantastic animal in real... You must be proud of this great portrait indeed. The game between light and shadow is wonderful in excellent composition, exposure and details. This animal is a real beauty! Thanks,

  • Great 
  • Alex99 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4072 W: 133 N: 7096] (23735)
  • [2008-04-11 10:28]

Hi James.
I am impressed with use of lights and shadows. Great portrait and terrific combination of crisp sharpness of the animal details and smoothness of the natural BG. Framing is superb and classic. Well done and kind wishes.

Beautiful dramatic lighting!
Wonderful wonderful wonderful...wow! What can I say?
Your work is just perfect!

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-04-12 9:53]

Hello James,
Wow, what a splendid close capture of this Leaopard!! It must be wonderful to see them in the wild, you must have been pretty close here! The light is wonderful and details and colours sooo beautiful against the dark background.
Many thanks, Ulla

  • Great 
  • gondox Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 356 W: 65 N: 342] (1585)
  • [2008-04-12 18:01]

Hi James!

The lighting is superb and the eyes are just wonderful!
Shaprness and colors are all very fine, and composition is perfect with the leopard coming from the right but leading to its eyes in the middle! Fur details are also vfery nice. TFS!

Best regards,

Wonderful light play James, I like it to :)
Perfect sharpness/detail, great DOF isolating the head in your frame.
(Stop the Press), a tripod! ;-}
Great POV as well..


The Leopard portrait is well composed, showing good detail of the Leopard. I like the light that was used to highlight and show detail of the face, with little detail of the BG behind the Leopard adding to the quality of the image. I think the BG, DOF and POV are all good. The subject is sharp and with the clarity of the image, makes a very good pic. It is always good to get some leopard pic as they are rare. I have posted some Leopard pics - have a look and let me know what your thoughts are on mine!

I love how she has character in her eyes. This is a superb photograph. the natural lighting brings out the main focus. Her eyes are so expressive in this photo. Very good job :)

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