For the second year in a row we spent a day doing the Big Cat Photographic VIP Experience at Longleat Safari Park. The shots you can get when you can follow them around their enclosure and have your lens sticking out of the window of the vehicle, it makes every other visit as a normal visitor pale in comparison.
There were three reasons for going back, firstly because it’s a great opportunity to take some more photos of scary looking Tigers, secondly it was a chance to try out my new Canon R5 in a more challenging environment and thirdly to try out my new RF 600mm f/11 lens. While 800mm is a really nice focal length, because you get close it can make it difficult to get the shots you want, I bought it as a good middle ground between to 70-200mm and 800mm lenses I used last time. In reality, none of these were taken with the 600mm because my wife stole it to use on my old Canon EOS R – so maybe next time?
Here is a selection of photos of the Tigers, unfortunately on this visit only Yana (the Mum) was allowed to leave the main enclosure, the cubs (Yuki and Rusty) are at a certain age and couldn’t be let out together. I’ve left out some photos deliberately, when she was let out she seemed to gravitate towards a part of the enclosure, she then appeared with an animal of some kind in her mouth (not exactly sure what) and proceeded to devour it piece by piece, it was a bit on the gruesome side.
One of the biggest problems about the VIP experience is it can be hit and miss, the first time we went all 3 Tigers were out of the main enclosure and enjoying the sun, even taking a dip in the pond to cool off on what was probably the hottest day of the year. But alas, this is part of the unpredictability of wildlife, and because you can get up close to them it’s not as much of a problem as it would be if you were limited to sitting in your own car on the road a large distance away.
Next was the Lion enclosure, which saw some interesting behaviour which I’ll leave to your imagination.
Of course, there are Wolves and Cheetah’s as well, although personally I find them a lot less photogenic than the tigers, here’s one of the Wolves.
The first VIP experience remains the one to beat, but I’m happy with some of the shots I got, the R5 did a really good job at AF tracking which made it a lot easier to get the focus right the first time.