View 134: Eyes of a Lion

African Lioness (Panthera leo) photographed at Rosamond Gifford Zoo's Sunset Safari in Syracuse, New York on Tuesday, July 13, 2010.

African Lioness (Panthera leo) photographed at Rosamond Gifford Zoo's Sunset Safari in Syracuse, New York on Tuesday, July 13, 2010. Nikon D70, 70-200VR, 1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 900, EV 1.0, 155mm focal length.

If you have seen my flickr photostream in the left sidebar lately, you have noticed I visited the Rosamond Gifford Zoo last week for a Sunset Safari.  I had planned on bringing the Nikon 80-400VR f/4.5-5.6 lens. Late in the day, clouds rolled in and I decided to use the Nikon 70-200VR f/2.8 lens as I had a feeling I would need the extra stops the f/2.8 lens would give me.  Turns out I was right as I needed every bit of light I could gather.

One of my goals for the evening was to get animal portraits.  Using an f/2.8 lens wide open you have to make sure the eyes are in focus or the portrait will not work.  As you see above, the lioness’ eyes are in focus.  Her nose and right ear are not in focus but does not take away from her pretty eyes.

Another goal was to get a photo of one of the zoo’s Snow Leopards.  I have been trying for a few years now.  On most visits, the leopards would be lying next to the viewing glass fast asleep.  Being in the zoo close to sunset, I has hoping I might get lucky.  About 15 minutes before Sunset Safari was over, one of them got up and jumped up on one of the logs in the enclosure.  This gave me an angle through the cage’s wires instead of glass. Made for a cleaner shot and I took a bunch with this one being the best of the bunch.

Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia) photographed at Rosamond Gifford Zoo's Sunset Safari in Syracuse, New York on Tuesday, July 13, 2010.

Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia) photographed at Rosamond Gifford Zoo's Sunset Safari in Syracuse, New York on Tuesday, July 13, 2010. Nikon D70, 70-200VR, 1/125s, f/2.9, ISO 560, EV 0.6, 200mm focal length.

Look for more animal photos this week on the blog and flickr.

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22 Responses to View 134: Eyes of a Lion

  1. Gerry says:

    Nice kitties . . . I’m pretty taken with the Hot Red Panda over on Flickr, too.

    Do you ever wonder what it would be like to see a lioness or a snow leopard looking back at you in the wild–contemplating you as supper?


  2. Anna says:

    Such beautiful cats! It has been awhile since we’ve visited the zoo and there is a huge, huge wildlife zoo and safari about an hour from where we live… soon, when it is cooler we’ll visit. I’d love to be able to photograph the big cats.


  3. Great shots! I like it when photographers share their thoughts prior to a shoot! Thanks for the lens info.


  4. Nye says:

    Nice shots, I always wish I had a better zoom lens at a time like this. I’ve been thinking about getting an extension tube lately, does that work well at all?


    • Extension tubes are for allowing your lens to focus closer for small things. For animal parks and zoos, 200mm zooms are good for cropped dSLR cameras. For full frame cameras, 300 to 400mm would be useful.


      • Karma says:

        Hmm, more camera lingo I’m unfamiliar with; what is a cropped DSLR?


      • Nye says:

        Thanks Scott, that answers my question so the extension tube is not for me at all. I hear people speak about it all the time and thought making it longer, I would be able to see things farther. I’m not sure what is a cropped dSLR camera but have a feeling mine falls into this category and what would a 300 to 400mm do for it?


      • A cropped dSLR is one with a sensor smaller than the standard 35mm full-sized film also called DX. My Nikon D70 is a DX camera cropped at 1.5x. This means when I put on a 50mm lens, it equates to a 75mm lens (50mm X 1.5) in 35mm terms. Canons are usually 1.6x.

        Today, you’ll hear the term full-frame or FX for digital cameras with a 35mm sized sensor. In that case, my 50mm lens would be 50mm on a full-framed digital camera.

        Okay, with me so far? Now, DX lenses can only be used on DX cameras while FX lenses can be used on both DX and FX cameras.


      • Nye says:

        Scott, it didn’t make sense at first, but after doing a little research, I think my Canon T2i is a DX that cropped at 1.6x and my EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens is an FX lens, does this make it a full frame image then? So if I want to get a better zoom lens then I can get one with my current camera body correct?

        Of course, I’m just dreaming of one right now. 🙂


  5. flandrumhill says:

    Beautiful eyes on both. I’d be tempted to pet the lioness’ soft fur. However you managed to capture it Scott, it certainly looks ‘up close and personal.’


    • The enclosure has glass on the viewing side and she was sitting such that her face was about 12 inches on the other side of the glass. I sat down on the floor so my lens was level with her face (same goes for photographing child and pets, get down to their level for great photos). I was about 4 feet from her and the zoom got me in very “close and personal.”


  6. Mike Criss says:


    That lion shot is a perfect example of the “eyes in focus” principle we are taught as photographers. Love the look of your fast lens too. Nicely done.


  7. Wow these are great shots Scott. That 70 – 200 lens is on my wish list. I love how you composed these guys 🙂


  8. Karma says:

    I’ve been fascinated by the big cats since I was a little girl. These are gorgeous shots that make you want to touch them. I came very close to that fantasy as a child when my parents took my sister and me to the San Diego Zoo. A baby tiger was being walked on a leash by a zookeeper. People of course swarmed around them. I don’t remember if anyone was actually allowed to pet it.


  9. milkayphoto says:

    Beautiful creatures. The eyelashes and the golden tones on the lioness are just lovely. For me, their eyes always look so sad. There is no way for them to know that where they are is the safest place to be, but you cannot help but see a sort of longing. I would love to see them in the wild someday. I imagine those eyes would tell a different story.


  10. Pingback: July Gratitude « Views Infinitum

  11. Beautiful creatures. Both. The lioness´s eyes seem to be scrutinizing a particular spot somewhere… as is she was in the savannah, hunting. Fabulous shots, natural, so real.


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