When Pakistani photographer Atif Saeed set out for a drive through a safari park in Lahore in 2012, little did he know that he would end up risking his life for what is possibly the best photograph of his career – a close-up shot of a charging lion!
It all started during the drive, when Saeed spotted a lion a short distance away. “It as an adult male lion, and what I liked most about him was the beautiful, dark hair on his neck,” the 38-year-old later recalled. He got out of the car, left the door open, and crouched in the grass to take pictures with his 500mm telephoto lens. He did realise at the time that it could be a foolish move, but he told himself that it was the only way to get a natural photograph.
Saeed got his opportunity within seconds – the sound of the shutter apparently irritated the lion, and it turned around to charge at him. The lion’s expression at that moment was ferocious enough to send even the bravest of huntsmen into a state of shock. But Saeed managed to quickly gather his wits. He clicked a picture at lightning before leaping into his car and slamming the door shut, missing the aggressive beast by inches!
Photo © Atif Saeed
As he recounted the tale later on, he said that his sole focus was to get the perfect shot. As soon as he had captured it, he made sure to get himself out of harm’s way. He explained that the risky experience was ‘indescribable’, but he came away from it with a great story and terrific photographs.
“The feel of the aggressive, approaching lion from the camera is something that can’t be described,” he told ABC news. “I was witnessing every small detail of movement that no photograph or movie can show.”
Photo © Atif Saeed
“It was a pretty close encounter,” he added. “I was laughing afterwards at the time, but I don’t think I’d ever be able to do something like that again.” The chilling photograph, clicked moments before the lion’s aggressive move, has gone viral online.