The Ultimate Leopard Photo Tour Part 2

By the last days of our 14-day tour we were almost at the point of leopard overload. In fact, after I post this, I plan on getting back to processing leopard images, I can't remember ever being this far behind on images, ever. My leopard tour is unusual in that; it is set up to get as much photography of leopards, other big cats and the big 5 as possible. This means we don't spend time experiencing the culture of local villages, as this would take time away from our safari drives, we do not waste time driving to and from different lodges, we just concentrate on going on safari drives at least twice a day, sometimes more. This has a big impact on your photography time in the field, most 11-day safaris offer maybe 12-13 drives, during our 11-day tour we normally manage to go on 18 drives in 11 days, those 5 extra safari drives can make a huge difference on leaving Africa with the images you really want on your hard-drive.

NIKON D850 and Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 sports lens at 120mm, 1/1250th sec, f/3.5, ISO 2500 manual mode, Auto-ISO, EV 0, handheld.

We were able to spend a couple of hours one morning with this male, who has just taken over the territory and females, of a very old male leopard.  Leopards like to walk along river banks in the morning, surveying their territory, and marking their property every chance they have.

NIKON D850 and Sigma 500mm f/4 sports lens at 1/800th sec, f/4, ISO 1600 manual mode, Auto-ISO, EV 0, handheld.

This leopard is taking a much deserved rest from taking care of her two cubs, we spent a lot of time with her and the young ones over our 14 days of the tour. This female's two cubs will be the main subject of the next tour report.

NIKON D500 and Sigma 500mm f/4 sports lens at 1/500th sec, f/4, ISO 450 manual mode, Auto-ISO, EV +0.3, handheld.

This leopard is really interested in something she heard, and is scanning the horizon, she might have heard something that sounded like one of her cubs.

NIKON D500 and Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 sports lens at 120mm, 1/1600th sec, f/4, ISO 320 manual mode, Auto-ISO, EV -0.3, handheld.

After an exhausting week this male and is taking a quick 5 minute breather before getting back to work. We watched this leopard mate with two different females more than a few times over a week. They normally stay with a female for 3 or so days, mating every 15-20 minutes. This male would alternate over 7 days, one day with one female and back with another a day or two later. 

NIKON D850 and Sigma 500mm f/4 sports lens at 1/500th sec, f/4, ISO 640 manual mode, Auto-ISO, EV +0, handheld.

Tomorrow's post will feature leopard cubs, one my very favorite subjects of all time, so check back in a day or two for part 3 of the report.

If you are thinking about joining us in 2019, this tour in unlike anything you can find anywhere else. Tour dates and prices have been confirmed, please see this link for more info:


The Ultimate Leopard Photo Tour

We're back in the office now from this year's tour in South Africa and I have to say that our experiences will be etched into my memory forever. During last year's tour we had a once-in-a-lifetime close-up encounter with a lioness, this year the opportunities were even more unbelievable, it's hard to even decide where to start. Over the 14 days of the tour we photographed at least 12 different leopards, this is just one of our experiences.

This year my group and I experienced an encounter that just doesn't happen to people on safari, not even to professionals that spend years in the field. Our tracker George caught a glimpse of a leopard carrying something in its jaws, right before it disappeared into the bush. Our ranger named Omega explained to us that we most likely saw a mother leopard carrying one of her young to a new den, and it gets better, the mother most likely has 2 cubs, so he told us that if we wait in the same position, we will most likely get to see her carry another on the same path since she will probably use the exact same route again, which is the shortest safest route between the old and new dens. So we waited in a dry riverbed for 20 to 30 minutes and eventually George spotted something at the top of the bank and then it happened.

We could see the mother carrying her second cub walking directly at us, and then she turned and walked along the edge of the river bed for about 10 minutes, and then up the other side before disappearing again. George and Omega told us that in all of their years guiding, thats 50-60 years of combined experience, they had seen this once before, and we were there to see, and photograph it. 

NIKON D500 and Sigma 500mm f/4 sports lens at 1/1600th sec, f/5, ISO 400 manual mode, Auto-ISO, EV - 1.0, handheld.

We watched the mother leopard calmly carry the three week old cub past us, while it struggled and kicked as it went by only 10 - 15 feet away, I was really grateful to be able to experience this moment, but at the same time, as a photographer, it was one of the most frustrating moments of all time. The late morning sun was out in full strength and the sky was cloudless, so the light was impossibly harsh, and to make the situation more hopeless, we were on the wrong side of the leopard!

Even though the lighting conditions were terrible, I was able to take a dozens of images as the female leopard walked at us and along the river bed, and I was able to make one that I like, backlit, tight and very close-up as she passed directly under the sun.

This post is the first in a series, so there will be many more images and stories uploaded this week.


Eagles in Alaska Part 2

25 mph winds with 50+ gusts and the 9-foot swell couldn't keep us from having an amazing and very successful third and final photo tour. Even in the worst weather possible, the opportunities were really outstanding, far and beyond the opportunities, almost anywhere else on the planet in perfect conditions. It's that good. Not convinced?

Where else on the planet can you photograph dozens of eagles at every shoot, in perfect light, in 100% natural surroundings, all while shooting with at less than 300mm focal length?

Bald eagle against a deep black cliff-side shadow. Nikon D850 with Sigma 150-600 Sports lens at 230mm 1/2500th sec at f/8 ISO 400 handheld and manual mode.

The rock wall that blocked the howling NE wind, also cast a deep black shadow that created the special lighting effect. The photo is 100% natural but people assume that it was Photoshop creation, not a real image.

Bald eagle top bank made with the camera held vertically (shoot in vertical orientation with the battery grip). Nikon D850 with Sigma 120-300 Sports lens at 250mm 1/4000th sec at f/5.6 ISO 400 handheld and manual mode.

By the last couple of days of the tour, our participants were happy, and more than satisfied from all the shooting, most had around 18,000 to 20,000 images, shot over 5 days of the tour.

The shooting was really spectacular with some really memorable moments. My image count, for comparison, was a little less than 20,000 images for all three tours! 

Bald eagle inverted bank. Nikon D850 with Sigma 150-600 Sports lens at 270mm 1/4000th sec at f/8 ISO 400 handheld and manual mode.

This inverted bank image was made with the camera pointed slightly upwards, when the eagle flipped upside down after a vertical climb, and right before they dive straight back down. 

Bald eagle juvenile top bank with its head turned back. Nikon D850 with Sigma 150-600 Sports lens at 270mm 1/3200th sec at f/8 ISO 400 handheld and manual mode.

To guarantee the best results on our eagle tour is to join us for both tours. This way you can relax and have plenty of time to learn the birds flight patterns and even get to know some of the individual birds. About 80% of my business is returning photographers or referrals. Some people have taken our eagle tour 4 or 5 times! 

Eagle peak. Nikon D850 with Sigma 150-600 Sports lens at 600mm 1/800th sec at f/8 ISO 400 handheld and manual mode.

Some photographers on the tour remarked that on the 3rd day of the 5-day tour they were already done. They had more images than they thought possible, at a level that surpassed their expectations. Being able to offer this tour that lets people experience something really unique and unforgettable in eagle photography, is really rewarding. 

Thinking about joining us in 2019? Let me know as soon as you can, the tour dates are already selling out as I write this. Drop me an email if you have any questions, or if you would like to join us next year. 

March 11-15th,  2019, 5 days $4000. Deposit $2000. 3 openings available

March 18-22nd,  2019, 5 days $4000. Deposit $2000. 4 openings available

Strict maximum of 6 photographers in each group

$500 Early registration discount until August 2018.

For detailed info on our 2019 eagle tours see this page on our site:

Bald Eagles in Alaska 2018

The Perfect Tour

The conditions for my two eagle tours last week were just about perfect. The quality of the light we enjoyed during the tour, was exceptional. The light level was high enough for a proper shutter speed to stop the action, but soft and diffused at the same time, and we alway seemed to have beautiful dark clouds in shades ranging from dark deep blue, to purples and grays. Take a quick look at the images below to see what I mean.

Eagle bank against dark stormy skies. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 180mm 1/4000th sec at f/4 ISO 200 handheld manual mode.

We were really very lucky this year to have falling snow for my first two groups. Snow might not be anything special for people living in the great lakes or the northeastern USA, but snow has been less and less frequent in Alaska over the last few years. If you don't believe me, locals told us that the snow last week was the first snow of the season!

Upside down against the clouds. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 120mm 1/2000th sec at f/4 ISO 400 handheld manual mode

The winds were nice and light over the entire week and the direction was perfect for some of my favorite spots. The favorable winds also allowed us to visit different spots almost every session, including one new spot that we shot at for the very first time.

Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 145mm 1/4000th sec at f/4 ISO 200 handheld.

Did we even see any eagles? The number of eagles for each shooting session last week was about 30 to 50, except for one session, where we had only a about a dozen or so, due to rise in the ambient temperature that normally causes a slow down in the action. 

Eagle and dark cloudy skies. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 300mm 1/2500th sec at f/4 ISO 200 handheld.

Shooting in winter in Alaska usually means struggling for decent shutter speeds, but this week with all the unbelievable light, I was able to maintain my shutter at about 1/2500 to 1/4000 for most of our time shooting. 

Eagle braking in-flight to avoid a collision. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 180mm 1/2000th sec at f/4 ISO 500 handheld.

My first two groups enjoyed so much high quality opportunities over the first half of the tour, that a few of the people chose to sit-out some of shooting on the last day. Our tour participants and I had a great time and lots of fun together over the five days of shooting. Many thanks to our participants for making the tours a big success.

Eagles under cloudy skies. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 135mm 1/1250th sec at f/5.6 ISO 400 handheld.

Each location we visit on the tour is chosen based on the conditions, sun, tide, and wind, using my 13 straight years of experience here to put my group in the very best spot possible for each session. Keeping the tour schedule flexible really paid off these year, we had a perfect success rate at every shooting session.

Eagle strike in perfect afternoon light. Nikon D500 with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 lens at 195mm 1/4000th sec at f/4 ISO 200 handheld.

With my first two groups finishing up this week, I will be leading the third and final eagle tour of the year next week. Interested in joining us next year? If an eagle photo tour in Alaska seems like something you are interested in 2019, I will be leading two eagle photo tours next season. For more info on the tours, visit this page for more details:

These two tours will sell out quickly, so don't be disappointed, please let me know right away if you are thinking about joining us next year.