One of the most hauntingly beautiful wildlife photographs that I have ever seen graces the Species Spotlight section of the latest issue of Defenders magazine and website.
The image, made by National Geographic photographer Steve Winter, is of a Central Asian snow leopard on a snowy night in India’s Ladak’s Hemis High Altitude National Park. Like most photographs you will see of snow leopards in the wild, this was made with a remote camera. Unlike most remote camera photos, this image is immaculately composed, beautifully lit and seemingly perfect.
The knowledge that there are only around some 3,500 of these endangered big cats left in the world adds to the drama of witnessing the photo. So does the understanding of just how incredibly hard it is to make a photograph like this. Steve took some 30,000 frames, using 14 “camera traps” over a 10-month period.
Like most photographs you will see of snow leopards in the wild, this was made with a remote camera. Unlike most remote camera photos, this image is immaculately composed, beautifully lit and seemingly perfect.
But in the end, it is the beauty of the photograph that enchants, evokes and becomes unforgettable. The dramatic strobe lighting is balanced with the dark snowy sky. The placement of the snow leopard is perfect, and the expression on its face draws the viewer in like a powerful magnet.
I showed this photo to the Defenders editorial team more than a year ago and said we needed to find a way to publish it. Senior editor Heidi Ridgley offered the image prime real estate in this month’s winter issue—giving the photograph and the subject a perfect forum.
I am not the only person who has been moved by this photograph. It was selected as the best overall photo in the “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” competition in 2008 organized by the Natural History Museum of London and BBC Wildlife Magazine.
If you’d like to learn more about the photographer who made this haunting image, and his latest work on another big cat, tune in this Sunday, January 30, when Steve Winter will be featured in a 60 Minutes segment on jaguar conservation.