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China 2018

This is such a simple picture, but in reality, it was far from simple to capture. For a start, I am shooting out of a caged vehicle in temperatures of minus 30 degrees and the driver’s command of English was non-existent. I had an interpreter with me, but she only served to give collateral to the provenance of the expression “Chinese whispers” rather than give me the right angle of view. It was a testing morning for sure – but that’s why pictures as immersive and low level as this are rare – indeed the previous day we got nothing. I had to be lower than the tiger and that requires a huge amount of luck in terms of the tiger’s movement patterns.

The gap for my camera was necessarily smaller than a tiger’s head – this cat will take your hand off with ruthless precision. Detailed portraiture is therefore troublesome – we were not in a studio. Head on moments like this also happen very rarely and when they do, it tends to be a quick encounter. To keep calm at the very moment that your brain provokes a quickening of your heart beat is nothing to do with photography and everything to do with will power. Most of my other images that day were poor – which is no surprise – these are not moments for which we are conditioned.

Focus is everything and I think that the strength of the image is simply that. In my days of sports photography, I learnt that an athlete’s face is either sharp or not. There was no room for “nearly” and these hard lessons still come regularly. In a predator as magnificent as this, it is simply not acceptable for the face not to contain every detail. It has to be pin sharp around the eye. Pin sharp is not a wooly term – it is what it is. Nothing else is in focus in the image – nor can it be – I sacrificed aperture for resolution. With a face as powerful as his, a small depth of field is the right gamble.

I think the Siberian Tiger is the most dangerous animal I have ever photographed. Polar Bears can get spooked, lions can be disinterested or simply not hungry and elephants are too intelligent to charge without good reason. These ten foot long cats are just killers. It is slightly surreal being so close and being safe because of my cage and not his. It was a good cage.

Available Sizes

      Large: 79" x 71" (201 cm x 180 cm)
      Standard: 57" x 52" (145 cm x 132 cm)

Available Editions

      Large: Edition of 12
      Standard: Edition of 12