Dinokeng, South Africa 2017
This is as good as I can do. The best ideas tend to be simple and the best photographs can often have simplicity at their heart, rather than intimacy or visual overload. The paradox is that this simple portrait was the product of fairly complex working arrangements in the field.
Unlike many of my lion shots, this was not taken with remote controls, it was camera in hand. I was in a two-man cage, with my assistant behind me controlling the door with a rope. The minimum distance I could feel safe was about 25 feet and this required the use of a 200 mm lens – long for me, but the outstanding lens in Nikon’s telephoto range.
In my view, the best time to photograph lions is about half an hour after sunrise. The light gets stronger by the minute and this allows for a faster shutter speed or more depth of field. The face of the lion could not be sharper – every detail is there and he is looking right into my eyes – as he is transfixed. Three steps forward and the cage door closed and with it the opportunity.
The image is timeless and the backlit dust adds to its elemental and rather biblical mood. I thought that we should call it The Old Testament. The image was taken with the help of Kevin Richardson – The Lion Whisperer – who does more to raise awareness for the plight of the lion than anyone I know.