For several hours, the noisy sounds of courtship and mating were all Joe was treated to as he sat, sweltering in the hot sun, in a boat on the Three Brothers River in Brazil's Pantanal. So when the female jaguar finally emerged from the undergrowth and walked down to the river to drink, Joe was grateful for the photo opportunity. But that was just a start. After slaking her thirst, the female flopped down on the sand. Then the male appeared. After drinking and scent-marking, he approached the female, who was lying in what appeared to be a pose of enticement. At least, that's what both Joe and the male thought. She rose, growled and suddenly charged, slamming the male back as he reared up to avoid her outstretched claws. His own claws were sheathed. 'I couldn't believe the energy and intensity of those three seconds,' says Joe. The pair then disappeared into the undergrowth to resume their courtship, leaving Joe with a sense of awe and a rare, winning image.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 lens at 170mm; 1/640 sec at f5; ISO 800.
Three Brothers River, Pantanal, Brazil
Joe McDonald, USA
I've been photographing since age 12, and shooting professionally at some level since age 17. Educated as a biologist, I taught school for 6 six years before pursuing wildlife photography full time in 1983. My wife and I lead photo tours and safaris world wide, traveling at least 25 weeks a year, and I've written five books on wildlife photography. I've been a commended or second-place finisher in this competition at least 6 previous times, and my wife, Mary Ann, seven times, including two first place finishes. We live in central Pennsylvania on a property we call Hoot Hollow, where we can photograph a wide variety of wild life within steps of our door. However, I guess we're saving that for later in life, because we don't spend very much time at home. Our favorite shooting spots now are in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Brazil, and India. I've had two winning BBC shots of gorillas from past competitions, and last year we completed our 75th mountain gorilla trek in Rwanda. Although I love to photograph, I am as interested in watching animal behavior although, as a photographer, my favorite challenge is capturing either interesting behavior, like the jaguar fight, or telling portraits that evoke some sense of the animal.