Showcase 2021 Winner: Savannah Rose Burgess

Artist’s statement

“Cougar Country,” Photo of a mountain lion leaping down a snow-covered cliff chasing magpies off her kill, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Mammals © Savannah Rose Wildlife
“Cougar Country,” A mountain lion leaps down a cliff chasing magpies off her kill, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Mammals © Savannah Rose Wildlife

This experience was one of the most incredible spectacles of nature I have ever witnessed, in some ways fulfilling dreams I have had since I was a child. I have always been fascinated by the mystique of big cats—the more elusive the better. Some of my earliest artistic memories are drawing big cats out of the well-worn photography books I adored, which gave me my initial interest in pursuing wildlife photography. After what had been a slow winter for wildlife sightings, this mountain lion was such a gift to me as she spent about a week of her life in Jackson Hole, feeding on a mule deer she killed during the night. It was of crucial importance to me when I arrived on scene to capture an action shot of this sleek creature as it was a situation I had dreamed of my entire life.

How I got the shot

The lion was right on the outskirts of town napping behind a tree high up in the cliffs. I saw her down at the carcass when I first arrived so I knew where to set up, hoping she would once again return to her kill during daylight. Some magpies gathered and began to pick at her kill, and I watched as she slunk out from behind the tree, hissing at the scavenging birds. All of the sudden she exploded down the steep cliff as I was laying on my back in the snowbank, squeezing my lens between my knees. I was able to capture a variety of different images of her descent, but this image stood out to me, particularly the intensity of her eyes locked onto the scavengers she was determined to drive off.

What I Used

I shot this image with my Nikon D850, Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 lens and a 1.4x teleconverter on a monopod. The settings I used were f/7.1, 1/640 second, ISO 800. Because the lion was in town, there was no tracking or adventure involved. All the photographers and onlookers at the scene, myself included, endured a brutal January snowstorm to witness this cat’s gift to us. I was able to anticipate where the lion would pounce from the cliff and position myself in an advantageous spot.

About me

I live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and I am pursuing my dreams of working as a wildlife filmmaker. I am not a full-time professional photographer yet, but I currently spend every free moment of my life producing wildlife images. I only began wildlife photography five years ago when I moved to Jackson and have become more and more serious about it with each passing day. My favorite subjects are America’s apex predators, such as grizzly bears, cougars, and wolves, as well as the more elusive charismatic mammals, like weasels and pikas.

I am also a falconer who flies a Harris hawk and an hobbyist tracker obsessed with the wild world. I simply cannot get enough of the outdoors! I like to think that my experience with track and sign gives me an edge as a wildlife photographer. The more time I spend tracking and observing wild animals the more it helps me accurately anticipate their behavior and non-obtrusively share their habitat with them. This experience has inspired me to learn as much as I can about tracking lions, and I look forward to my next sighting of these elusive cats.

My photographic journey

I have been fascinated by the natural world as long as I can remember. I was born in Singapore and was exposed to incredible wildlife encounters at a very young age in Southeast Asia.  I have been an artist my whole life, focusing primarily on wildlife art of all kinds, but I did not become a photographer until much later. Originally I began shooting wildlife images as a way to produce references for my artwork, but the process became more and more engaging for me and eventually eclipsed my art career. There is nothing in life quite as magnificent as sharing a wild animal’s world, if only for a moment.

NANPA and me

I have only been a member of NANPA since this summer, but I am very glad to be part of this community of incredibly talented photographers! I look forward to submitting to Showcases in the future. I am so honored to be recognized amongst the top 24 images in my first year of contributing to Showcase.

Learn More

Instagram: @savannahrosewildlife
Facebook: Savannah Rose Wildlife

See more of Savannah’s images

  • Mountain Lion Leaps down a Cliff Chasing Magpies off Her Kill, image by Savannah Rose Wildlife
    Wild Mountain Lion Leaps down a Cliff Chasing Magpies off Her Kill, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, 2021 Showcase Judges' Choice, Mammals © Savannah Rose Wildlife