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  • Writer's pictureWill Taylor

Through Will's Lens: Unlocking the Elusive Elegance of Leopards

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

As all my friends and colleagues know, I have a deep fixation, bordering on obsession, with leopards. They are, to me, the embodiment and the apex of nature and beauty combined.. and the fact that they are so elusive, mysterious and hard to find makes them even more intriguing.


I have been lucky enough to have spent thousands of hours in the company of these magnificent cats in the wild, and tracking and finding leopards is still my favorite thing to do. Along the way, I have managed to get some reasonably decent photographs, so it was a no-brainer for me to start my first blog post in this newsletter with some of my favorite moments with leopards.


It also ties in really nicely with the announcement of our commitment to support The Landmark Foundation and its remarkable founder, Dr. Bool Smuts. The foundation has rescued over 70 individual leopards from trapping or conflict situations with stock farmers. It continues its excellent education program, conflict resolution and habitat maintenance while discovering more about these enigmatic creatures.


When I did my time as a game ranger at the Mala Mala Game Reserve, more years ago than I care to mention, I had four or five different individual leopards that I used to actively seek out and spend time with. My partner, Gerald Hinde, and I did our first book on our adventures following leopards, and those days still remain some of my best memories in the bush. We could spend extended time with the animals and see what a leopard’s day-to-day life really consisted of – hunting, mating, raising cubs and interacting with all the other creatures in their habitat.


I have selected just a few to share with you – along with a short story about the image itself and some notes on where, how, when, etc!!



A SIMPLE LEOPARD PORTRAIT



This happens to be one of my favorite female leopards at Mala Mala, who I had the privilege of knowing for about 8 years of her life. In the evenings, she would often lie on the top of termite mounds in her territory, pausing for a while before the evening hunt. I snapped many lovely shots of her as she was a beautiful leopard. A little photography trick I like to employ when I have a stationary, elevated subject with no background clutter is to “warm” up the face with a soft spotlight or torch.. this gives a rich warmth to the color, isolates the subject, and gives a special “kick” to the eyes.



MALA MALA ISLAND FEMALE LEOPARD & CUB



The Island female leopard of Mala Mala has provided endless amounts of visitors with fantastic viewings of her various litters of cubs through the years. I use these two shots of her to show two completely different views of the same sighting. The first is a very wide shot of the leopard in perfect habitat, lying on a huge granite boulder nursing her cubs. The second shot draws you in closer to focus on the playful face of the cub, with the mother’s tail elegantly curled in the background.





COURTSHIP AND MATING



Photographing courtship and mating between leopards used to be the holy grail for wildlife photographers .. but through time, as populations in game-viewing areas have had generations to acclimate to the presence of game-viewing vehicles, it has become easier to witness, but still remains an incredible experience. In these two shots, the coy approach of the female to the male is frozen in an almost balletic pose… where the close-up shows the intensity and ferocity of mating. Leopards really don’t like socializing that much!


AFRICAN LEOPARD TREE LOUNGING



The iconic image of the African leopard is that of the big cat lounging gracefully in a tree. In truth, leopards spend most of their time on the ground, but the ability to hoist their prey into trees is a massive part of their success as a predator. This beautiful female leopard at Serondella Game Reserve had her impala kill in a tree and was waiting for her cub to feed while watching a perfect African sunset. Again, I used a closer and wider perspective to show the animal in its habitat. If you look carefully, you can see the impala hanging on the left of the wide shot.


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Will Taylor, founder of Khashana Travel, is an award-winning documentarian, filmmaker, game-ranger, best-selling author, conservationist, and traveller. He enjoys sharing his love and knowledge of the bush on safari with friends and clients.

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