The eyes tell the story here. We had been sitting, photographing the cubs for an hour or so. They wrestled and played as if we weren't even there. All except this little guy.
It boggles your mind the first time you really experience how little the animals care about your presence. This wasn't our first time, experiencing it, but even for little cubs to ignore us as if we were just part of the background, it gives you a surreal sense of place.
So there he was, this lone cub, grown up beyond his years. Alone with a bunch or rowdy youngsters. He just sat there with this intent focus. Calmly surveying the group, every so often his eyes would trail off to us. He sat there as if his parents had tasked him with watching over everyone while they were out. It appeared as if he was taking the opportunity to prepare himself for his future, and he took that very seriously.
I felt this image captured that moment, that personality, that focus. He was far more serious than the others, yet appeared to be one of the youngest. Noticing the moment is one thing, capturing the feeling is another. Take the photo with the wrong expression it looses its mood. Or miss the intent focus toward the camera, and you miss the personality. Capture the eyes, but miss the calm, self assured look on his face and you miss something just as important.
It was a waiting game. I sat for longer than I like to admit waiting for him to align perfectly to how I wanted. Waiting for all those elements to show themselves in the proper proportions. All the while, hoping that he doesn't move, or shift position. As I said, seeing it is one thing, knowing what you want to share is the second part, but knowing how to combine all the elements in frame is something entirely different. Its almost a gut feel. Personally, I just feel like I got it, or feel like I didn't.
It was maddening and by the end of the short session with the cubs I had far more photos than I would like to admit. A handful with half cocked ears, some where the eyes are part closed, too many where his brothers and sisters tried to get him to engage in playtime. But to me, those were not the images I wanted to use to portray him.
A great deal of time passed working on getting this photo. It doesn't seem like a huge deal, or something overly difficult, but getting animals to make eye contact with that camera, an intense, focused gaze is not an easy task. It takes time, lots of it. But more than that, it takes a lot of patience. The problem, 99% of the time, is that you get bored, wanting to capture something else, and as soon as you turn your camera, you miss the shot. Moments like this are over so quickly its painful.
Luck was on my side, I felt like I got what I was looking for. The elements of this photo that make it stand out for me are a few things. First, as I mentioned earlier, the eyes. At a 20lb cub you almost feel like he would be happy to take you on. Next, the ears are pointed forward equally. But finally, its the stoic look, as if he is in control, and you just don't know that he is in control.
Taken with a Canon 1dx and 600mm lens. Shot at f/4 and 1/600 shutter speed. I did minor color processing in Nik Software.