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Mastering Photographic Composition and Visual Storytelling

Lesson 13 of 50

Lions Hunting Under Star Trails


Mastering Photographic Composition and Visual Storytelling

Lesson 13 of 50

Lions Hunting Under Star Trails


Lesson Info

Lions Hunting Under Star Trails

A while ago, I was commissioned to write a book that accompanied the ITV television series Lying Country. One of the chapters was about how Lions Hunt and I needed an image. Illustrated the problem. Waas lions typically hunt at night, so getting a suitable photograph was a challenge. One night I went for a walk in the bush, and at one point I stopped and looked up at the starry sky that got me thinking about star trails before my mind went back to solving the puzzle of photographing lions in the dark. My mind was toing and froing between lions and star trails and star trails and lions when I had a moment of inspiration lions hunting under star trials. Now there's a photograph has never been taken before. I headed back to camp, grabbed a sheet of paper Onda along the top, wrote the caption Lions hunting under star trails and started to fill in the blanks which led to this. You'll recognize this from the last lesson in which I described the theory of visualization. Now I'm going to show ...

you exactly how I use it, practically to get from this to this, to create this image. First of all, I have to figure out what equipment I was going to use now at the time my cameras with Nick on D three. So that was a given, but I had a choice of lenses. The large expanse of sky is key in this image. Effectively, it's a landscape with a lion in it. So I settled on a lens that would give me a wide angle of view. On on my drawing, I wrote 24 millimeter lens. My next thought was exposure. Because star trails require long exposure. I had to calculate how long I could keep the shutter open on my D three before noise generated by the heat of the sensor degraded quality beyond a usable level. Now this took me three nights testing various exposure combinations before I settled on 10 minutes. Next on my list was focused on the question. How do you focus on the subject when you can't see it? A detail you can't know from the image alone is. When I was taking the photograph, it was pitch black. In fact, it was so dark I was standing a meter from my tripod and I couldn't see my tripod now. The answer came from the distant past. In the old days, before auto focus action photographers would use a technique called Zone or focusing the idea being you don't have to focus on the subject. The subject simply has to be within the camera's zona focus, which is better known today as depth of field. I simply had to know which lens aperture on the 24 millimeter lens would give me depth of field from infinity, which is where the stars are toe around 10 meters, which was about as close as I wanted the lions to bay. So, using a depth of field table I found on the Internet, I came up with the answer and wrote it down after 11. Finally, I had to work out how I was going to light the foreground, which, remember, was pitch dark. Now the obvious answer was flash, but the pressing question waas. How many flash units did I need? I knew I wanted to use large diffusers to soften the point light from the flash, so I added this to my calculation. On day after doing the math, I settled on two I now knew before even headed out with my camera how I was going to compose my image, what equipment I needed. The lighting situation on what setting, though, is going to use. I waited for six days and then I went in search of line. When I found them, I set my tripod on the ground. I turned off the torch and I simply press the shutter. Now. In the 1st 10 minutes, nothing happened. So I press the shutter again and awaited. After eight minutes, I heard the lions move. I paused a moment, and then, at a point that I felt right, I manually triggered the to flash units, which I was holding above my head. The only bit of luck in the entire shot was the lion walked into frame. If it walked the other way. Well, I would just have one line in the picture. As in my original drawing, you may wonder why I waited six days specifically well. In order for this image to work, there had to be no moonlight falling on the foreground because that would have created a ghost image of the lions. The reason I waited I was six days from the one day a month The moon doesn't appear in the night sky. No

Class Description



  • Compose a shot consistently and effectively
  • Create artistic, powerful images quickly
  • Gain confidence in building narrative
  • Identify what stories you’re drawn to photograph
  • Brainstorm and develop concepts for creative shots
  • Trust your instincts when approaching a subject


CreativeLive is partnering with Chris Weston to offer you his Complete Photography Master Course. This is the second class in the series.

Today, everybody has a camera, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s a photographer. Chris Weston will show you how to do all the other stuff – how to “see” an image, tap into your creativity, and compose a photograph that makes the subject look as good in print as it does in real life.

This class isn’t about cameras, it’s about you – the photographer. It will break free your creative mind, get you thinking about narrative rather than object, and show you how to apply simple artistic skills that turn that next click into a powerful photograph.

Learn how to approach photography like a pro and start creating great pictures straight away. With in-the-field lessons, case studies and powerful tips and techniques, you’ll quickly unleash your creativity and gain confidence in expressing yourself through your camera.


  • Beginner photographers
  • First time DSLR or mirrorless camera users
  • Any photographer who wants to hone their artistic skills


Named one of the world's most influential wildlife photographers, Chris Weston takes a contemporary approach to photography. After launching his career in 2001, the Fujifilm ambassador's images have graced the pages of top publications like BBC, The Times, Outdoor Photography, Practical Photography, and Digital Photography. As a photography educator, Chris has written over 20 photography books, along with leading photo tours and online workshops.


Silvia Garcia

Excellent ! Will see it many times to digest all the messages here. Important info on composition theory. Very well explained. Go to the essence of photography. Thanks, Chris !

a Creativelive Student

Absolute must to watch! Perhaps few times, as is packed with all the information you need to know to make your photography to the next level. I think it is the most comprehensive class on composition. Fantastic!


fabulous course no matter how advanced you are.. LEarned so much from it. I'll watch it again as it contains so much.