Richard Peters is a seasoned pro when it comes to wildlife photography on safari, with a multitude of big cat photos that capture these beautiful creatures in all their glory. Here, he talks about why keeps being drawn back to Kenya, and shares his thoughts on the new AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E lens.

We hear you were recently in Kenya – what is it about Kenya as a shooting location which keeps on drawing you back?

It's hard to explain it to someone who hasn't been but there's a saying that once Africa gets in your blood, it keeps pulling you back. As a wildlife photographer this is especially true, and even more so with Kenya, because not only are the people incredible, welcoming and friendly but the open spaces and sheer number of animals can be jaw dropping. Add to that beautifully dramatic skies and phenomenal early morning and late evening light. There are very few places on earth that can match it.

Did you have a favourite shot from the trip?

I managed to grab a really nice shot of a leopard cub that I'm pleased with. It was early morning and the light was beautiful and low in the sky. Because of the angle of the sun and the position of the cub, it put the face and chest in perfect light whilst throwing shade on to the body. For me, the contrast there works really well and pushes the viewers’ attention to the face whilst still giving you the shape of the body. The tail curling up was the icing on the cake. The reason I like it so much is because it's actually the first time I've ever managed to get a really clear view of a leopard cub!

What do you like about the new AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR lens?

Obviously the headline act, which is the built in 1.4TC is a huge bonus. The ability to extend the reach of the lens in an instant means it's possible to react faster to an evolving wild encounter. Even more so in bad weather, such as snow, rain or dusty environments which may make adding a traditional teleconverter impossible. Placing the switch to engage the teleconverter to the right of the lens barrel, also makes its operation swift and smooth whether shooting from a tripod or handheld, which is very important. It's also very sharp at all focus distances with and without the TC and, because it focuses so close, it makes for one of the most optically proficient, versatile lenses ever made. As you can probably tell, this lens impressed me a lot and I found it very hard to give it back after shooting with it for several weeks!

What would you like to photograph next with the lens?

Having only shot with it in America so far, I think an obvious place to take the 180-400 would be Africa. I think it is quite possibly the best all round safari lens you can buy, because the speed in which you can take advantage of the zoom range means it would be ideal for both close up portraits and slightly wider, animal in the environment, shots. I think it would also be brilliant on Skomer Island, off the coast of Wales, again because of the ability to get close to subjects, coupled with that huge zoom range and close focus ability.

What are your top photography tips for people going on safari?

Aside from the obvious, such as making sure you're out early and late for the best light, it's very good, if you can, to have two bodies with you with two different lenses. I always try to have a mid-range zoom and telephoto to hand. This allows me to react quickly and either shoot wider, to include dramatic skies, or go in tight for close-ups. If you're shooting with only one body and have to change lenses, make sure you do so once the vehicle has stopped moving and the dust has settled. Another great tip is, if photographing animals in long grass, to introduce a delay in the Focus Tracking with Lock On menu. By moving the delay from 1 to 5, it means once you focus on your subject, it will help reduce the changes of the autofocus system refocussing on the grasses that are closer to you. I used this a lot on my recent trip to Kenya, especially on days when the wind was blowing the grass around a lot.

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