Searching for black leopards

There are few animals as beautiful and as secretive as the black leopard. In his extraordinary new book The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas documents his remarkable journey to find and photograph this legendary big cat.

The African black leopard photographed with an infrared-converted
DSLR camera trap. This image was captured on the animal trail
identified by Steve Carey, the co-owner of Laikipia Wilderness Camp,
near Luisa Ancilotto’s house in Laikipia County, Kenya, January 2019. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats,
image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.

About the photographer

Will Burrard-Lucas is a British wildlife photographer whose work has been featured in many international media outlets and international photography awards. He is also an advocate for wildlife conservation and works with numerous conservation groups, including the World Wildlife Fund and the Tsavo Trust. When not traveling, he lives in Buckinghamshire, UK.

Advertisement
Will testing out the camera trap setup for capturing the black leopard photos. © Will Burrard-Lucas
Will testing out the camera trap setup for capturing the black leopard photos. © Will Burrard-Lucas

Burrard-Lucas created the BeetleCam, a remote-control camera buggy which enables photographers to take close-up photographs of wildlife. He later developed a high-quality camera trap system for photographing elusive and nocturnal animals, and is the founder of Camtraptions, a company specializing in products for remote and camera trap photography.

You can follow him a@willbl and find out more at www.willbl.com.

View more his photos on his website.

About the book

This extraordinary blend of memoir and nature photography book sweeps readers along on a journey to find the gorgeous and elusive black leopard. Will Burrard-Lucas’s love for leopards began during his childhood in Tanzania and propelled him into a career as a wildlife photographer. In his quest to create intimate portraits of animals, he developed innovative technology, includ­ing a remote-controlled camera buggy, BeetleCam, and a high quality camera trap system for photographing nocturnal creatures.

In Africa, black leopards are so rare as to be the stuff of legend but in 2018, Burrard-Lucas photo­graphed one of the elusive cats in Kenya with the help of the local people. In this transporting book, Burrard-Lucas tells his story of creativity, adventure, and passion for wild animals, alongside awe-inspiring images of lions, elephants, and the black leopard itself.


Advertisement

To view the images as a slideshow, click on the arrows in the top right hand corner of the photos below.

The black leopard on a path leading to the clearing in front of Anne’s camp – one of the last images I was able to capture of him, Suyian Ranch, Laikipia County, Kenya, August 2019. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.
The black leopard on a path leading to the clearing in front of Anne’s camp – one of the last images I was able to capture of him, Suyian Ranch, Laikipia County, Kenya, August 2019. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.

My camera traps in action – the upper camera captures an image of the leopard below the horizon line, while the lower one shows him against the sky. This image was taken with an infrared camera and it is interesting to note the black leopard’s shadow spots are much more obvious than in the colour photographs. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.
My camera traps in action – the upper camera captures an image of the leopard below the horizon line, while the lower one shows him against the sky. This image was taken with an infrared camera and it is interesting to note the black leopard’s shadow spots are much more obvious than in the colour photographs. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.

Lighting an animal who’s coat reflects almost no light at all was a unique challenge which really tested my creativity. I took the opportunity to experiment with dramatic lighting as shown here when the moon phase meant it was too bright to attempt photographs that showed the stars. Laikipia County, Kenya, July 2019. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.
Lighting an animal who’s coat reflects almost no light at all was a unique challenge which really tested my creativity. I took the opportunity to experiment with dramatic lighting as shown here when the moon phase meant it was too bright to attempt photographs that showed the stars. Laikipia County, Kenya, July 2019. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.

The African black leopard photographed with an infrared-converted DSLR camera trap. This image was captured on the animal trail identified by Steve Carey, the co-owner of Laikipia Wilderness Camp, near Luisa Ancilotto’s house in Laikipia County, Kenya, January 2019. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.
The African black leopard photographed with an infrared-converted DSLR camera trap. This image was captured on the animal trail identified by Steve Carey, the co-owner of Laikipia Wilderness Camp, near Luisa Ancilotto’s house in Laikipia County, Kenya, January 2019. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.

Eyes in the night – my last photograph of the black leopard from my trip to Laikipia County in Kenya, January 2019. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.
Eyes in the night – my last photograph of the black leopard from my trip to Laikipia County in Kenya, January 2019. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.

A young leopard on the outcrop near Anne Powys’ camp – the only photograph I captured in this spot before baboons vandalized the set-up, Suyian Ranch, Laikipia County, Kenya, August 2019. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.
A young leopard on the outcrop near Anne Powys’ camp – the only photograph I captured in this spot before baboons vandalized the set-up, Suyian Ranch, Laikipia County, Kenya, August 2019. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.

A mating pair of leopards courts in front of my camera trap in Laikipia County, Kenya, February 2019. I believe the female is the black leopard’s mother and it is likely that the male is his father. If both have the recessive gene for melanism then there is a 25 per cent chance that a cub of theirs will be black. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.
A mating pair of leopards courts in front of my camera trap in Laikipia County, Kenya, February 2019. I believe the female is the black leopard’s mother and it is likely that the male is his father. If both have the recessive gene for melanism then there is a 25 per cent chance that a cub of theirs will be black. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.

A BeetleCam photograph of a lion yawning as he guards his kill in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, August 2011. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.
A BeetleCam photograph of a lion yawning as he guards his kill in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, August 2011. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.

A BeetleCam photograph from my first encounter with African wild dogs in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, November 2012. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.
A BeetleCam photograph from my first encounter with African wild dogs in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, November 2012. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.

A remarkable cow tusker known as ‘F_MU1’ photographed with BeetleCam in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, August 2017. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.
A remarkable cow tusker known as ‘F_MU1’ photographed with BeetleCam in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, August 2017.  This female elephant has tusks so long that they scrape the ground when she walks. From The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats, image copyright © Will Burrard-Lucas.

The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats by Will Burrard-Lucas. Published by Chronicle Books, £26.
The Black Leopard: My Quest to Photograph One of Africa’s Most Elusive Big Cats by Will Burrard-Lucas. Published by Chronicle Books, £26.