Lion Male, Close-up of Head and Shoulders
Photo Details: Male lion (Panthera leo) staring into the distance after he and another male had put a small herd of buffalo to flight, Kruger National park, South Africa. Interestingly, after the two lions headed off in pursuit, the buffalo herd, comprising eight or nine old bulls, regrouped and chased them off.
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP); Lens: Canon 70-200 F2.8L IS USM; Focal Length: 200mm; Shutter speed: 1/1000; Aperture: f/4; ISO: 200.
Additional Info: The above image was taken as the lion paused on the side of the road, close to our vehicle, allowing me to take a portrait-type picture. The aperture of f/4 at full zoom (focal length 200mm) is sufficiently wide to throw the background out of focus, allowing the main subject to stand out.
A few moments before, I took the picture below, also at full zoom and at f/4. Because the lion is further away, more of the subject is included in the frame, giving a three-quarter or head and torso view. Depth of field has also now increased, with more background detail visible. (While depth of field is usually increased by using a smaller aperture, it is also increased by any change that makes the image of the subject smaller, such as using a shorter focal length lens or moving further from the subject, as in this example).
Although the extra detail that results from more depth of field can be distracting, in this case it’s not too bad and serves to show the subject in its location — the African bush, and definitely not a European or American zoo.
The third picture (below) was taken while the lion was moving, at a focal length of 80mm, and shows the lion in full-figure, with even more background detail, again placing the subject in context. Although in this case it was a combination of circumstances — moving subject plus cars jostling for position on the road — that dictated composition, I like to shoot close-up, three-quarter, and full-figure shots of wildlife subjects whenever possible. You never know which one might be more useful to a magazine or book publisher.
While the light was quiet bright, allowing fast shutter speeds of 1/1000 at ISO 200, the image stabilization (found on all telephoto Canon L lenses) also helped to eliminate the camera shake that’s inevitable when you have people in a vehicle changing position as the the action unfolds.
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