Leopard's eye  

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Taken with EOS 5D Mark III, EF 300mm f4L lens, 1/500 second at f4, 800 ISO. Image © Brian Hall

Spot focus is a focusing option found on the advanced and professional Canon EOS cameras. It’s a feature rarely used but with this shot of the leopard’s eye, it came into its own and made the shot achievable.

On one of our safari trips to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, run with Jonathan and Angie Scott of Big Cat Diaries, we came across this leopard hiding in the undergrowth. It was impossible to get a good shot of the whole leopard, but we just had clear sight of one eye through the foliage. Even using the normal single focus point on the big cat’s eye, the EOS 5D Mark III kept focusing on the grass in front of the leopard.

Changing to spot focus with a single focus point enabled the camera to use a smaller area so that the focus was just on the eye and ignored the grass in the foreground. Focusing systems, however capable, are programmed to focus on the nearest object they can find. Modes like Single AF Point and Spot focus on recent EOS cameras overcome this, when used correctly.

Spot focus is not as responsive as using a normal single focus point, which is why it is not used regularly. However, in an instance like this, where you have an obstructed view and need to see through the foreground clutter, it can be a lifesaver. This is why it is so important to understand fully the focusing capabilities of your camera, something we concentrate on throughout our training courses.

This image was taken on safari with Jonathan Scott – experience the wildlife photography trip-of-a-lifetime