Supercat

Pertinent technical details or techniques to help others learn:

This photo has so many things wrong with it. When I looked at it on the back of my camera this past June, I thought, “From behind. Background’s busy. No eye contact. Lighting’s uneven.” OK, that’s a lie. The first thing I thought was, “Whoa, that looks in focus…and he’s flying!” It’s difficult to be objective about a photo when it drills deep into your bones.

I was out on a Saturday morning photographing pronghorn grazing in the Lower Lake Mary meadow at sunrise. Well, that was the plan. I’d arrived at o’dark-thirty, walked across the meadow and setup beneath my photographer’s hide at the base of a Ponderosa pine at the edge of the Coconino National Forest. With a bit of luck a herd of elk or pronghorn would soon graze across the same meadow and enter the forest near my position.

But that didn’t happen. By 7:00 AM, the sun was well up and no wildlife were in the meadow. About 15-minutes later, I spied a small herd of pronghorn but they were easily half-a-mile away. Maybe they’ll work their way towards me. Thirty-forty minutes passed and the pronghorn were no closer.

Directly behind me by about 30-feet, an old logging road cut a path through the forest paralleling the edge of the meadow. I decided to take the risk of almost certain detection and walk the dirt path in an attempt to get to a location nearer the pronghorns. And that’s what I was doing - walking an old logging road through the forest - when it happened.

I heard the sound of what was obviously a large animal breaking from cover to my right. Then, I saw it and it leaped across the dirt road I was walking no more than 20-feet ahead of me. I immediately recognized it as a mountain lion and instinctively raised my camera. I shoot wildlife with a Nikon D500 and Nikkor 200-500 lens. Before breaking from my pre-op sunrise location, I’d dialed in my “Wildlife” shooting banks, set the shutter speed to 1/800, locked the lens at 200mm and selected an f-stop of f/8. I use auto ISO in most outside settings. The camera was in AF-C, the central 25 points were selected - sheesh, I wish Nikon would add a D9 setting to the D500 - and a quiet continuous burst rate was selected. Northern Arizona wildlife are more tolerant of that shutter sound than that of the continuous high burst rate.

Instinctively, I raised the camera and mashed the shutter. Over then next 3-4 seconds, I made 14 exposures. Most are of out of focus trees and branches with only a modest glimpse of the cat. Then, there was this shot. I didn’t even know I’d made it until I’d gotten home. Finding it, seeing it was a bit like Christmas.

Despite its flaws the photo is focused on the left side of the big cat’s head. I like the body position…full extension forward. What I really like, is that the photo clearly IDs the big cat. Objectively and from a purely compositional standpoint, the photo is a failure. But from a strictly personal standpoint, it’s a great photo. An apex North American predator passed within a few steps of me and I wasn’t on the menu. Over the course of about 4 seconds, I’d managed to make 14 exposures and one was actually in focus.

So, I share this not as a great or even a particularly good photo. I share it as a document of a great moment. It is tangible evidence of the story I’ve been telling anyone who will listen the last 8 weeks.

I had a close encounter with a mountain lion.

Please do not critique this image. Galleries are for sharing and discussion only.
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Hi Bill!

We like pictures for various reasons, it could be photographic excellence, rare specie, a close encounter; thrilling moment; ambition fulfilled, hard work or effort being rewarded; fleeting moment and so on. And some of the pictures have lot of emotional value associated with them, they are close to our heart.

For example, if this was my picture, I would start dreaming that may be one fine day, I’d capture this kind of shot of Mountain lion coming my way with perfect BG and light. And things do happen at times.

Jagdeep Rajput

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This is my dream come true, to come face to face with a mountain lion in the wild. It’s happened to me with wolves and bears but never with a big cat. And I love cats above all else. It does not matter whether or not the photo is technically or artistically “good”. What matters is the once in a lifetime moment you recorded. Like Robert Capa’s D-Day photos, this photo is great because of that.

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Congratulations, Bill. The first mountain lion is a very special experience, and this is a really dynamic photo that symbolizes the excitement of the moment. It reminds me a lot of my first wild bobcat encounter, when I captured a mid-air shot as it fled… except yours is actually sharp! :grinning:

Max

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Bill,
A very great moment, next time?

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This is a great document foto. So few ever get this close to a cougar. If I had this shot, I would be in heaven. I often say, “I would love to see a cougar…from the truck.”
ML

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