National Geographic - 100 Best Pictures
In Focus
Nichols's Intimate Portrait: Tigers Living Like Tigers
Photo: A tiger takes a dip in a pool.

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The camera was inches away from the tiger's face-an impossible
view of “a tiger, which we think of as incredibly graceful, being very clumsy because nobody is watching,” says photographer “Nick” Nichols.

Setting up an unmanned camera trap at a water hole in India’s Bandhavgarh National Park proved rewarding for Nichols, when Bachhi, a young adult tiger, braced herself along the rocks for a slurp of water and temporary relief from the 120°F (49°C) heat.

In 1997 Nichols tracked this endangered species for eleven months. His passion for habitat conservation inspired him to photograph tigers in their natural habitat, instead of those who were bred in captivity or conceived through genetic engineering. For Nichols it was the difference between photographing house cats versus wild tigers. Uninhibited tigers, interested in “a place to live and something to eat,” acted as compelling examples of the values of habitat conservation.

In reverence toward his subjects, Nichols avoided direct interaction with the tigers so as to capture the most truthful picture. As a result we get an unusual glance of a normally graceful animal fumbling in a moment of surprise and awkwardness.


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Photo: Michael Nichols
Michael Nichols focuses his career on images that highlight and raise awareness for endangered creatures, cultures, and landscapes. His photography has won several awards including Pictures of the Year, the World Press, and the Overseas Press Club, which gave him a prize for reporting “above and beyond the call of duty,” an honor usually reserved for combat photographers.

A National Geographic staff photographer since 1996, Nichols has also been featured in American Photo and is a regular contributor to Outdoor Photographer magazine. Nick spent the last two years documenting and studying Africa’s “last wild place on Earth” — the Congo. The project (called Megatransect) was published in National Geographic magazine and seen on television at National Geographic EXPLORER, as well as on our website.

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