Photographer tells story of capturing shy ‘spotty’ leopard

Photographer tells story of capturing shy ‘spotty’ leopard
“Animals such as leopards can be very shy. Catching a glimpse of them, let alone photographing them, can be a tremendous challenge.” (Image credit: Will Burrard-Lucas)

Will Burrard-Lucas followed a lead that an incredibly rare African black leopard was in the area. “I deployed my camera traps and managed to photograph the stunning creature as well as several regular ‘spotty’ leopards that shared the same territory,” says Will. 

In the wilderness, everything is foreign and it’s a challenge to find special techniques to achieve aesthetically pleasing composition and lighting. “The only way to achieve this sort of photograph is to use camera traps such as the ‘Camtraptions’ system that I developed. These are deployed for many weeks or months and automatically trigger when an animal passes by. The other half is knowing where to put the cameras. Working with people who live alongside the animals improves my chances – and it is thanks to their help that I am able to capture images like this,” says Will.

“One of the most difficult images I tried was to expose a leopard with stars in the sky at night. This required a long exposure time for the stars and a flash to expose the foreground. On this night, the leopard came past while the moon was still above the horizon, resulting in a ghostly image. Leopards are elusive, shy, and at one with the night. For me, this is an image that captures the essence of this ghost-like creature,” he adds. 

More images can be found in Will’s book, The Black Leopard. Prints are available with 20 percent of the proceeds going to conservation organizations via the Escarpment initiative

Photographer portrait
Will Burrard-Lucas

Will Burrard-Lucas is a wildlife photographer and founder of Camtraptions, a company specialising in equipment for camera trap photography. He dedicates much of his time to working on long-term book projects. His latest book, The Black Leopard, tells of his quest to photograph a rare melanistic leopard in Africa.


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Kim Bunermann
Technique Editor

Kim is the Technique Editor of Digital Photographer Magazine. She specializes in architecture, still life and product photography and has a Master's degree in Photography and Media with a distinction from the FH Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences in Germany. While studying, Kim came to the UK for an exchange term at the London College of Communication. She settled in the UK and began her career path by joining Future. Kim focuses on tutorials and creative techniques, and particularly enjoys interviewing inspiring photographers who concentrate on a range of fascinating subjects including women in photography, the climate crisis; the planet, its precious creatures and the environment.

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