The Tiger

Some time ago I was in a zoo in Hamburg. Among the exhibits there was an enclosure that contained tigers. Now, I understand that there is some ill feeling about keeping animals like this in captivity, and I am fully on board with that, if it weren’t for the fact the zoos finance the protection of a lot of species world wide, and for better or worse, tigers are a money maker.

That aside, I stood watching for a long time, transfixed by these awesome predators, something primal in the back of my mind; some phantom of evolution telling me to run like hell. Instead, I waited, a 300 mm on my camera, to try and capture a moment when the largest cat, and most aware of the people watching, looked me in the eye.

Eventually it happened, and I captured an image that from that moment to this one, has played havoc in my head:

A captive tiger examines me as I examine them

I very nearly didn’t show this image, in fact I’ve had it hidden away for nearly two years. See, the weather that day was very overcast – not an issue for the human eye, but a big issue for the digital sensor in a camera. To get a shutter speed that would eliminate camera movements I had to boost my ISO to 1250, and use the fastest aperture that the lens had – a combination that just destroys fine detail.

I knew that at the time, but it was the only way I was going to get any image at all, so I pressed the shutter, and began what I’ve found to be an agonising process of deciding whether or not the photo is “good enough”. I know that because of the limitations of the lighting, there is an impact on the detail, and the scientist in me won’t let that slide. I know it could have been better, if I’d had more light, if I’d been closer (not sensible…), if I’d done this or that or some other things.

But none of that was available. To get the shot, to get any shot, I had to compromise, and I think that, by accepting that, and just waiting for the tiger to organically look at me, a captured a genuine moment.

The scientist in me doesn’t like this photo. I see softening of detail, I see noise.

The scientist in me can hop off, because the creative in me loves it.

The creative nailed it.

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