You are Here Profotos > Education > Professional Photography Magazine > Pro Article Professional Photography Magazine

1. Software Review - Alien Skin's Exposure

Get the Pro Guide!

Enter your email address:

Photography Books
Up to 50% off!

Click here to visit our photo bookstore where you can order photography books.

Photography Books
Up to 50% off!

Click here to visit our photo bookstore where you can order photography books.

African Photo Safari - Blinking Lions
(with Nigel and Wendy Dennis)

Can humans communicate with wild animals? There has been a great deal in the press and TV recently concerning an American lady, Jann Weiss, who claims to be able to talk to elephants telepathically. Apparently the elephants talk back! Although Wendy and I spend a large part of the year among the wild game of Africa, we have yet to experience anything approaching telepathic communication. We are convinced, however, that the animals we photograph can somehow sense our purpose or intent. In fact we have discovered a way of communicating a feeling of calm to lions that works just about every time. I guarantee it will work for you as well - and you do not need special telepathic powers to do it!

It all started with the domestic tabby at home. We discovered that if you blink slowly to a cat the chances are it will blink back. Continue blinking and slowly lower your head, as if you are about to doze off, and the cat is likely to do the same. I guess in cat body language this is like saying "I feel so relaxed that I am going to go to sleep".

Exactly the same applies to wild lions. When you next find lions on a game drive, first look directly at the animal to engage eye contact, then begin slowly blinking. They sometimes take a while to get the hang of this, but if you continue blinking slowly, it is very likely the lion will blink back at you. Carry on blinking for a while whilst gradually lowering your head and the lion will probably fall asleep! Now, being the most social of all cats, lions are great copiers. If one lion claws a tree the rest of the pride will usually do the same. If one individual yawns the rest invariably copy. If you put one lion to sleep by blinking at it, the others in the pride will probably do the same. On occasions using our blinking technique we have put the whole pride to sleep!

I am sure you are wondering, why on earth would wildlife photographers want to put lions to sleep? Surely this is not going to produce much in the way of interesting photography? True, but in our more popular game reserves a lion sighting attracts a great deal of attention from visitors. In the Kruger Park in particular it is not unusual to find upwards of twenty cars on a lion sighting. Often the cars completely block the road - we call this a "lion traffic jam". If everyone stays quiet this does not bother the lions too much. Unfortunately a small proportion of folk appear to leave their manners and common sense at the entrance gate when they visit a National Park. In a lion traffic jam often a few individuals insist on revving their cars to jostle for position, or pop up out of a sunroof. This tends to spoil it for everybody as the lions get fed up with all the commotion and push off. On many occasions Wendy and I have been able to calm lions with the blinking technique and encourage them to stay in range for photography.

Can you blink other animals to sleep? Leopard - definitely yes.

We use the technique when an animal appears uneasy or skittish and has enabled us to obtain some of our best leopard images. Blinking does not work on the dog-like creatures though. Hyena, jackal and wild dog all take absolutely no notice. If you try blinking to your dog at home it will probably give a puzzled look as if to say "what, have you gone completely nuts!". Interestingly the cheetah, being the most dog-like of the cats with its non-retractable claws, also seems not to respond. We have found though that by speaking softly to wild cheetah they will sometimes begin to purr loudly. Walking and talking to the animals is however a story that will have to wait until another time.

Nigel's Photo Tip - Pin Sharp Pictures

I am quite often asked "how do you get your photographs to look so sharp?" OK it helps to have decent lenses and use a slow fine-grained film, but the real secret is that I try never to touch the camera when I take a picture. The results even from the most expensive state of the art lenses and film will be utterly spoilt if there is any vibration or unsteadiness at the moment the shutter fires. We have all heard that using a tripod results in better pictures. But particularly when shooting with big telephotos, or any lens in a low light/slow shutter speed situation, this is not enough. The mere act of touching the shutter button introduces vibration that will certainly soften and blur the image. Using a cheap accessory - a cable release - is the sure way to achieve 'hands off' photography and pin sharp pictures. I am such a cable release fanatic that all three of the lenses I regularly use for wildlife - 600mm, 300mm and a 70-200mm zoom - are each fitted out with a separate camera body with a cable release permanently attached. Give it a try and I promise you will see an instant improvement in sharpness.

About the Author: Born in England in 1953, Nigel Dennis developed a deep interest in the natural world from an early age. First finding expression in the form of painting nature subjects, he also became interested in photography just over twenty years ago. Living in England at the time, his first projects included photographing red deer and the shy nocturnal European badger. For the badger photography he spent over forty nights photographing whilst still managing to hold down a busy day job. Nature photography soon overtook painting as a means of expressing his passion for the natural world and from the early eighties his work began to be published in books and magazines.

He moved to Africa in 1985 with a view to making wildlife photography a full time profession. During his first few years in Africa he continued with his previous career in sales and marketing, but still spent about one hundred days a year photographing by utilising all his annual holidays and weekends. Eventually having built up a sufficient stock of wildlife images he launched into the rather precarious occupation of freelance wildlife photographer in 1991. Since then he and his wife Wendy camp in the African bush for up to nine months each year. Although they work mainly in South Africa they also photograph regularly in Namibia and have visited Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Madagascar.

Nigel Dennis photographs all natural subjects including reptiles, insects, flora and landscapes but tends to concentrate primarily on African animals and birds. His work is marketed by fifteen stock photo agencies and has been published world-wide in over twenty five countries. He also runs his own photo library supplying images to the publishing and advertising industries, and currently has over 40,000 transparencies on file. He does not take on commercial or advertising assignments and works primarily on book and magazine projects. Nigel Dennis has had twelve wildlife coffee table books published to date.

You can see more of Nigel's work at the following websites:
Profotos - Nigel Dennis

Questions, Comments? Look here: The help section
Broken link(s)? Email us at:
Testimonials. Visitor/Member Comments: News about us!

Select "Photography" under
Program of Study to see
Photo Schools

Our Award Winning Photo Galleries

The Profotos Member Photographer Galleries
The Member Galleries at have won many awards and accolades from around the world. Click here to apply for your own gallery.

Check out the galleries of our member photographers and experience an interactive online photography exhibit like no other!

The Virtual Photography Reference Desk
> Schools/Tours
> Manufacturers
> Profotos Magazine
> Processing Labs
> Magazines
> Digital Equip.
> Stock Agencies
> Photo Glossary
> Organizations
> Technical Charts
> Photo Masters
> Photo Timeline

Free Professional Photography Memberships

> Apply Today!
> The Galleries
> Member List
> Testimonials
> Member FAQ's

Click the button below for help!

You are Here Profotos > Education > Professional Photography Magazine > Pro Article
 Apply for a Gallery
 Member Galleries
 Featured Gallery
 Larry's Galleries
 Gallery Selection
 Profotos Magazine
 Photograhy Glossary
 The Reference Desk
 Search Engine
 Photo Masters
 Become a Member
 Member Selection
 Benefits Summary
 List of Members
 Refer Others
 Photographer List
 Pro WebRing
 Monthly Newsletter
 Link to Us
 Custom Site Design
 Profotos Store
 Advertise With Us
 Online Auctions
 The Bookstore
 Legal Information
 Who We Are
 Company History
 Contact Profotos
 The FAQ's
 Copyright Info.
Copyright ©1999-2011
(an independently owned company). All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information are applicable to this site.

Our Address:, 681 Inverness Drive, Fairborn, OH 45324 USA
Contact us via telephone: 937-660-0845