Apart from its eye, this tiger is perfectly hidden in the long grass and shrubs of Tadoba Tiger Reserve. Other members of the big cat family who hunt in forests, such as cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, and ocelots, have irregular spots to better mimic the effect of sun shining through the leaves of tree cover. The stripes go all the way down to the skin.
India – Photo Tip

Aim for eye contact – even with a tiger

Photo by Jon Nicholson

India – Photo Tip Aim for eye contact – even with a tiger

Photographing the London Olympic and Paralympic games during summer 2012 rekindled my love of the long lens, an essential when photographing tigers from the back of a jeep.

Jon Nicholson
Jon Nicholson

Shooting sport is simple with the quality of autofocus we now have, but nature is a lot harder. When using a 600mm plus teleconverter that brings a lens to 840mm, a single blade of grass in the foreground will trick the autofocus and ruin the moment. If the animal moved in the slightest, there would be another blade of grass to contend with.

As I normally work with fixed 35mm, 50mm or 85mm lenses, this was a refreshing eye opener. Photographing tigers at Tadoba Reserve, I had to resort to manual focus to get these animals as they lazed in the long grass. As with shooting people, I was always waiting for eye-to-eye contact, a portrait in a way. You have to wonder what they are thinking when they look at you... am I lunch?

One great advantage is that you can remain unseen. When a group of women walked toward me at Tadoba, with their water jugs on the heads, they remained unaware of me and stayed natural. The long lens also squashed everything up and the narrow band of focus draws the viewer's eye straight to the subject.

jn-tadobatigerreserve-2012-116

This picture of women walking to work, water jugs on their head, seems idyllic until you realize they are walking – and working – in India's Tadoba Tiger Reserve, where they clear the roads. However, the abundance of game animals means there is little danger, as tigers prefer more protein-rich food such as deer, antelope, pigs and buffalo. Photo by Jon Nicholson

Jon Nicholson

Jon Nicholson

Nikon D3S

Aperture
ƒ/4
Exposure
1/500
ISO
400
Focal
600 mm

This picture of women walking to work, water jugs on their head, seems idyllic until you realize they are walking – and working – in India's Tadoba Tiger Reserve, where they clear the roads. However, the abundance of game animals means there is little danger, as tigers prefer more protein-rich food such as deer, antelope, pigs and buffalo.

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