Snow leopards, known as the animals closest to the gods and farthest from humans, inhabit remote areas at altitudes of 3000-6000 meters throughout the year. Their territories can span hundreds of square kilometres, and they prefer to rest on steep rocks. Their grey and white patterns allow them to blend seamlessly with their surroundings, often resembling rocks even from a distance of more than ten meters. Walking into their territory means being constantly monitored by these elusive creatures. If they feel threatened, they silently retreat, making them a formidable subject for photographers. The allure of this enigmatic King of Snow Mountain captivates me deeply.
Natural Habitat of snow leopards and blue sheep
Photographing a snow leopard requires understanding its habits, particularly its feeding patterns. Snow leopards primarily prey on blue sheep, so locating a sufficient number of these animals is key. Observing the behaviour of blue sheep is crucial as well. Snow leopards are unlikely to be present when the blue sheep are grazing calmly, but if the blue sheep appear nervous and stop grazing, it may indicate the presence of the snow leopard. When the blue sheep are on guard and whistle, it signals an imminent attack by the snow leopard. If a snow leopard catches a blue sheep, it can sustain itself for three days and can go without food for a week after being satiated. Knowledge of the habits of both snow leopards and blue sheep can help determine the optimal departure time and create the most effective itinerary.
In recent years, people have travelled extensively to Qinghai, Tibet, and Sichuan to closely observe and understand the enigmatic snow leopard and decipher its relationship with humans. I engage in sharing and discussing experiences with fellow enthusiasts. Adequate physical and mental preparation is imperative to capture snow leopards on film. These elusive creatures frequently traverse the snow line and move between snow fields in cold, high-altitude plateaus. Thus, it is crucial to take precautions against altitude sickness and maintain proper insulation. Moreover, a positive mindset is essential as the whereabouts of snow leopards are notoriously challenging to determine. Despite enduring freezing temperatures for several days or even weeks, sightings of these majestic creatures are never guaranteed.
Taking the perfect photo of snow Leopard
It is natural to feel confused when photographing snow leopards for the first time. I vividly recall my initial encounter with a snow leopard; my friends and I spent an entire day without witnessing any movement. However, as the moon emerged, we sought to compensate for the lack of action by capturing images of the celestial body. Just as we were about to depart, a sudden cry rang out: “Snow Leopard!” Instantly, the excitement surged through us, and we eagerly resumed our frenzied photographing. Later, upon reflection, we realized that we had mistakenly employed moon photography settings, resulting in the loss of numerous breathtaking shots.
Snow leopards usually remain in our sight range for at least ten minutes, so there is no need to feel excessively anxious. When it comes to camera settings, I typically use the M gear. The ISO sensitivity is automatic, and the aperture is adjusted according to the available light. Setting the shutter speed is particularly crucial. When the snow leopard is inactive, it is generally set to 1/1000-1/2000 second. This ensures that the image remains clear, given the snow leopard’s large size and swift movements. Snow leopards typically do not make sudden movements, except during hunting. For instance, when a snow leopard is about to walk, it rises slowly. It is crucial to adjust the camera parameters during this time. As the snow leopard walks, it tends to look down at the ground, intermittently stopping and occasionally glancing back to observe. The moment when the snow leopard looks back is truly remarkable.