The Story Behind “Encounter”

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The Story Behind “Encounter”


Drew tells the story behind the making of this iconic image from Exceptional Creatures

There is perhaps no other animal that conjures up bright imaginings of the wild territories of Kenya more than the lion. These beasts radiate an energy few animals contain, from the rhythm of their footsteps to the expression of power to the grace in their movement.

Over the years I’ve imagined photographing a male lion, mane in a protective halo around him, walking in his signature, confident gait. For me, there was no other shot that could represent more of the beauty and symbolism of big cats. For you to really feel their powerful presence, I knew I needed to be low and close to the lion which is no easy ask for very obvious reasons.

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But, if there is anywhere in the world that you have an opportunity it is here in the Maasai Mara which boasts one of the greatest populations of lions. In fact, it is estimated that there are between 850-900 lions in the Mara alone.

I took this image early in the AM just as the sky had begun to glow as I was fortunate enough to see this lion from the Salas’ pride returning home after a late night of hunting in another male’s territory. I love how the Themeda grass mimics the texture of his mane, and that his fierce gaze is fixed and focused on something just above my shoulder. When I put my camera down after the lion had passed us by, my heart was practically beating out of my chest. I finally exhaled, taking a moment to marvel at this extremely close encounter.