Taking pictures of Tigers - Shooting a Tiger for Stock
Safari the 400 pound young tiger
The tiger’s name is Safari. He is beautiful. Not yet fully grown, he still weighs over 400 lbs. I had recently asked an animal trainer who I knew worked with him if she had worked with him lately. She answered that some people found the possibility of death exciting, but she didn’t. Right now, I was lying on my back looking up at the tiger, and he was looking down at me. He casually reached out with a huge paw and tapped me on the side of my head, then turned his attention to a large chunk of raw meat that had been placed on the platform expressly to draw his attention away from me.
I had hired Safari for a stock photo shoot. Among the photographs I wanted to get was one of the tiger leaping at the viewer, which in this case was me. I was lying under a short platform with just my head and arms exposed. I was shooting Safari as he leapt from a taller platform down to the shorter one. Between each leap a fresh piece of meat was placed on the platform to persuade him to leap, and to keep his attention from me. Aside from that one little tap Safari paid absolutely no attention to me as I fired away.
Recognition, Affection and Snarls
For a while he was even starting to like me. Stephanie Taunton, Safari’s owner and trainer, explained that the “chuffing” that he greeted me with was a sign of recognition and affection. That, however, didn’t last long. Something caught Safari’s attention and he turned and rose up in one swift action, hitting his nose on one of the platforms. His nose began to bleed, and unfortunately, I was standing right next to him. Safari associated the pain with me. From that moment on whenever I would get near he would no longer “chuff”, but snarl instead. It was a lot more fun to hear him chuff than to hear him snarl!
Bruised Ribs and a Headache
At one point during the shoot his attention was again caught by something. This time he popped up and began to lope towards the fence of the enclosure we were photographing in. I will never forget seeing, for just an instant, the chain around his neck stretched taught to the hand of one of his trainers, and the trainer stretched taught, completely horizontal to the ground. She hit the grass hard and was dragged for the fifteen yards or so, until Safari lost interest in whatever had attracted him, and came to a stop. She only suffered bruised ribs. Safari had been raised by Stephanie from a kitten, and at least outwardly had the disposition of, well, kind of a mischievous puppy. Obviously, though, he has to be respected for the powerful animal he is.
Another relatively innocent, but eye-opening story about Safari, told to me by another animal trainer involved an incident on a movie set. It seems at one point he heard a “thump, thump, thump”. It turns out the thumping was the noise of a trainer’s head hitting each step as he held tightly on to the Tiger’s leash while the powerful animal bounded up the stairs.
More Stock Photos Waiting
I have only created a few stock pictures from the shots I did with Safari. Some rainy day when things slow down a bit I am looking forward to getting back into that material and with the help of Photoshop, creating some great-selling and fun-to-look-at tiger photographs.