Using only a simple, dark background, Vincent J. Musi captures the elegance of lions, leopards, tigers, and more. The South Carolina-based photographer works for National Geographic and shot these breathtaking images as part of a series titled Big Cats. His photos showcase incredible, up-close details that we don't often see, like the individual hairs, whiskers, and terrifying-looking teeth of these large animals.
In order to successfully shoot these photographs, Musi and his team created a studio space for each cat. A huge, seamless paper background was installed for them to run around as the shutter went off (paper was only used for the cheetah – each one was a different approach – sometimes achieved with paint, wood and lighting. Musi worked closely with experts of these captive-yet-untamed animals, and it took weeks to produce a small number of stunning portraits. The results highlight both the beauty and fierceness of the creatures.
Musi reflected on the challenges that he had to face with this project and writes, “No photograph we make is worth endangering or stressing an animal for, but the photographer is always fair game for getting sprayed and having the life scared out of him. The animal keepers call this enrichment. You learn your place on the food on the chain with these top predators very quickly.”