My Favourite Image of 2020

A large dose of luck and a lot of patience came together one evening at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve.

The story begins earlier in the morning when we found a male leopard that had killed a kudu. He had eaten a fair amount of the kill - sharing willingly with a couple of hyaenas that were capitalising on an easy meal.

His initial appetite satiated, he moved away from the carcass and we left him flat as a pancake (apart from the very obvious bulging belly) in the shade of a small bush where we anticipated finding him later that afternoon.

Returning later that afternoon we probably spent the best part of 3 hours sitting watching him do nothing but sleep and yawn before two spotted hyena eventually applied enough pressure to motivate him to do something other than sleep.

Luckily for us he decided to climb this fallen tree and pose for a couple of minutes with the night sky as the backdrop.

Andrew Beck Wild Eye Sabi Sabi
Canon EOS R6, Canon 35mm F1.8 @F1.8, ISO 10000, 8.0 sec

I love the way that the subject and the night sky are completely separated by the shallow depth of field used to shoot the scene (wide open to take in as much light as possible whilst using a soft light to paint the scene).

The incredibly shallow depth of field even at 35mm should give you an idea of how close we were to our subject!

This was a tricky balance of exposing the scene for long enough to capture the night sky but also to try and eliminate any movement of the subject during the period that the scene was lit by the soft light.

In the end, it may not be technically perfect and there are certainly other ways that one could have photographed this scene but this image and moment will forever be etched in my memory as an absolute highlight.

Andrew Beck

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2 thoughts on “My Favourite Image of 2020

  1. Tim Allen-Rowlandson


    I am surprised those branches held his now considerable weight !! Hyena often ruin good photo opportunities just as the leopard you want to film is settling down, but in this case they clearly assisted with the positioning of your model ! An amazing image Andrew – almost every aspect is working against you – very high iso, very close proximity, very wide aperture, insanely slow shutter speed so extra care with camera stability as well as a very obliging leopard not moving (lunch and perhaps an early dinner obviously helped there !), challenges with lighting etc., yet you knocked this out the park !!! Technically almost impossible, yet here it is for all to see. As someone who has tried shooting a variety of wildlife at night, with generally very meagre success, all I can say is this is BRILLIANT, seriously brilliant. Thank you for sharing not only the image but the specs and background. Many thanks too for your YT series “Behind the Frame” – always very informative, and big shout out to you and the team for all your Webinars (hope more coming soon ?) which have helped keep me sane during this crazy time. PS you need to add another Star rating (=6) for photos as good as this. . .

    • Andrew Beck

      Thanks so much Tim.

      He was rather round to say the very least! The odds were firmly stacked against us in this situation and I must confess that this was one of two images that I felt were decent out of the sequence.

      I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the Behind The Frame series and look forward to sharing many more sightings and edits with you all through that series.

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