South Africa, 2020

This is unquestionably the meanest, toughest wild lion that I know in the world. There is a heavy-duty security fence between us that has a section designed so I can take this exact kind of portrait. The section had a rectangular box cut at lion eye level that was large enough for my camera to breathe, but too small for Gandalf the lion’s head. He still tried a couple of times to enter my space and my heart did skip a beat. Make no mistake, this is a massive and dangerous animal and these are close encounters.

The photograph is made with 7.30am backlight, using material depth of field and a lack of magnification. In all three variables, I have tweaked my preferences over the years and by learning how to get it hopelessly wrong, I now get it just about right. His whole face, from the outer chin to inner eyes, has to be pin sharp, which is a challenge. My photography is rarely led by maths, but on this occasion, maths was pivotal.

I am happy with the construction of this image – I think it grabs and then holds the eye. The tail, the primal rawness and the scars.

If Al Pacino was Scarface, so also is Gandalf.

Available Sizes

  • Large: 67 x 95 inches framed
  • Standard: 48 x 67 inches framed

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