What does it take to get a breathtaking leopard image? With a creature as elusive as the leopard, there’s always an element of luck, but professional wildlife photographers use their skill and knowledge to capture these once-in-a-lifetime moments. Speakers from the Wild Shots Wildlife Photography Symposium reveal how they got the shot.

Wild caught up with a few of the professional wildlife photographers and speakers at this year’s Wild Shots Wildlife Photography Symposium to bring you their very best leopard images. This year the event will be held in both Cape Town (24 October 2015) and Johannesburg (21 November 2015). To give you a taste of what to expect from this gathering of wildlife photographers, five speakers reveal the stories behind their top leopard photos.

Melting into the shadows

Photographer: Gerry van der Walt

Leopard photography-Gerry van der Walt

“While hosting a wildlife photography seminar in the Greater Kruger National Park we spent an evening following this female leopard around as she made her way back to her cub. A soft back light from one of our other vehicles made for great rim lighting on the predator. By metering off the bright light around the cat’s body and then underexposing slightly, I was able to create an image that to me shows the secretive nature of one of Africa’s most sought-after photographic subjects.” Camera specs: Nikon D800, 200mm lens, 1/125, f2.8, ISO 4000

Poetry in motion

Photographer: Grant Atkinson

Leopard photography-Grant Atkinson

“The female leopard was on the move, from one tree to another, looking out for prey. We positioned ourselves so that we could photograph her descent from this particular leadwood tree. Fortunately the sun was shining from a low enough angle that the light fell on her as she came down.” Camera specs: Canon 40D and EF 70-200 lens, 1/1000 sec, f8.0, ISO 400

Perfectly poised

Photographer: Ruth Nussbaum

Leopard photography-Ruth Nussbaum

“This image is of my very first leopard encounter I had from the C4 underground hide at Mashatu, Botswana, which I operate out of daily. The leopard sat just four metres in front of me, with just my camera separating the two of us from one another. Raw moments like this spent in the African bush is what any nature lover lives for.” Camera specs: Nikon D7000, 165mm lens, f5, 1/500 sec, ISO 640

As night falls

Photographer: Wim Vorster

Leopard photography-Wim Vorster

“We found this young female leopard just after sunset as she started exploring a piece of land adjacent to her mother’s territory. Something in a big acacia tree suddenly attracted her attention and she quickly jumped in to investigate what it might be. I knew that she would be there only for a short period and we positioned the vehicle next to the biggest branch, waiting for her to descend. My plan worked. What I love about this image is the dark blue sky visible through the branches in the background, the concentration on her face, her extremely long whiskers and the one foot in mid-air.” Camera specs: Nikon D4 with a Nikon 200-400 mm f/4 VR lens at 1/1600, f/4, ISO 800

Cautious cat

Photographer: Shem Compion

Leopard photography-Shem  Compion

“This is a scene that I don’t expect to ever see again. Everything about it was perfect; the light, the action, the open riverbed and the beautiful leopard playing with its intended prey. Being a young male, he was naturally very curious and when this porcupine came out to feed at dusk, just as the last light was fading, the leopard jumped at the chance. It looks like a bad ending for the porcupine, but in fact it ended in a stale mate. The leopard’s enthusiasm faded once it got some quills in its paws. As with many wildlife spectacles, it was the sounds that made it so special. The leopard growling and the porcupine shaking its quills are sounds I won’t forget in many a year.” Camera specs: Nikon D3, 70-200 mm lens, f/2.8, 1/160 sec