Georgina Burns: ‘She’s a magnificent creature and she’s very jovial’ Georgina Burns, 34, lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two children.
‘I wanted to capture the leopard so I decided to spend time alone with it while it was roaming through a shallow part of a swamp’
I started shooting wildlife portraits when I was 24, and by the time I was 32 I was a full-time wildlife photographer. I tried urban wildlife as well but I was frustrated that it wasn’t as interesting. I wanted to capture the leopard so I decided to spend time alone with it while it was roaming through a shallow part of a swamp. I waited in the bush all night and the first morning I was there, at 2am, the leopard went in, opened her mouth and this was the moment I remember.
She was very jovial and ran along the opposite bank of the swamp towards me and then lumbered across towards me. But I put my camera down quickly. She hadn’t climbed up into a tree – I think she thought I was trying to take a picture of her. I didn’t think of photographing her – I just wanted to know she was there.
At the time I had a son, Charlotte, at home and a second, Oliver, at college, and I worried that our whole world was going to end when the leopard came.
The shoot lasted about three hours, and then I returned to my stall to rest and look at my photos. I showed them to my husband, Colin, who said he liked one and I thought, “There’s something there!” That led to a full session with her in a similar swamp.
I’m still mostly a wildlife photographer. When I finished in London, I came back to Scotland and concentrated on forests and other areas of water, but this still captures my imagination. She’s a magnificent creature and I think she’s very jovial. We call her the Cat o’ Nine Tails, and she and our other, large cat, Lucifer, are our two playmates.
My pictures will probably be on show as part of the Zoo Photojournalism show at the British Photography Awards at the end of the month.
The Magic of the Forest (detail) is part of Zoo Photojournalism, from 3 to 5 September, at the British Photography Awards, Wortley Hall, Yorkshire, UK, until 6 September. See zoophotoshow.co.uk for details.
Georgina Burns. Photograph: Michael Houlbrook/Animal Photography Portraits