Wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas spends months in far-flung locations, documenting the family life of endangered animals. Her children’s book series, Eye on the Wild (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books) inspired a Sierra magazine slideshow. Sierra recently chatted with the California-based photographer about how long it takes to get a great photograph of a cheetah hunt, the mountain gorilla’s chances of survival, and how it feels to be slapped by a chimp.
Do you ever get tired of looking at adorable baby animals?
I don’t. I get tired of some of the travel and some of the physical strain, depending on where I’m working, or the mental [strain]. But I don’t get tired or bored of the wildlife itself. For example, I spent five and a half months at a jackal den. Every day, all day, I sat there in front of the den, from sunrise to sunset. And for most people, five and a half months of that seems quite boring, but for me—of course there’s down time and there’s slow times—but I never felt unhappy or miserably bored. Sure, there were times when it was like, “OK guys, wake up,” but I never felt like, “Oh my god, I need to end this project because I’m bored.”
What’s the most difficult animal to photograph?
I think chimpanzees, by far, have been my most difficult, but they’re not in this series [Eye on the Wild]. So out of this series, I would say probably cheetahs, because the behavior that I captured is not easy to get. For instance, the hunting shot of the mom—the sprint after the gazelle—it took 17 days to get that photo, and it was like 17 days of nothing. There are a lot of failed hunts. And then sometimes they run the gazelle in an area where you can’t follow: a rocky area or a super-bushy area. Other times they run them in a different direction than you think they’re going to run them. For me, gorillas are the easiest by far, because they’re such incredible photo subjects. And we have an amazing opportunity to sit with these animals because of what researchers have done in habituating them.