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The Animal Gaze

by editor Thomas Thomopoulos 
Edited and published by Yvette Depaepe, the 21st of January 2022


'Happy' by Thomas Thomopoulos


The first time I had the chance to encounter the animal gaze through my camera was in 2012, in snowy weather and sub-zero temperatures.
I had a 60mm macro lens with me, but I still wanted to make some animal gaze shots with squirrels and birds. 60mm is not ideal for it. Since the distance between the human being and the wild animal is 60mm, you can't do much in photography.
And yet, that morning, I was lucky enough to see a red squirrel coming close to me giving me a look I'll never forget. To be honest, he wanted me to feed him and as he looked up at me, I leaned in with my camera and as soon as I saw that look in the lens, I had just enough time to capture that moment which only lasted 1 or 2 seconds.
It resulted in this beautiful image. It's as if he was saying to me, "Hi, how are you doing, can you give me a nut? It's a beautiful look. It is full of emotion.


by Thomas Thomopoulos


You can have a lot of images related to the animal world, very technical, very successful, but if you don't have any emotion, it remains meaningless.

You might tell me that it was a stroke of luck, that wonderful look of the squirrel. However, when I went to the Beauval Zoo, I could once again meet the animal look. That magical look, which gives you the impression that there is a communication or something going on between you and the animal.

It is the magical aspect of life that remains in the unknown. I met Kruger's eyes at the Beauval Zoo. I had a lens with me that did not communicate with the Nikon camera I had, so I made a kind of blind photo, following the instinct and experience. You can measure, you can take measurements, you can theorize, but what really makes it happen is to experience it, to feel it and to live it at the very moment you take a picture.

Kruger is beautiful. When I see this picture again, I can only think that he is a very communicative and caring lion. Maybe I'm wrong, but every time I see this image, I know that between a human being and an animal, there is something going on. And the emotion in this image is there. It says to me, little man, what do you want?


 by Thomas Thomopoulos


The funny thing is that with this type of image, you don't realize the result until you see it on your computer. Just now, I was taking a series of pictures with this old incompatible Nikon lens, and I didn't even realize how good this lion looked. At most I could see the look in his eyes, but I didn't think I was seeing that magic. From that moment on, I started to use an old Nikon 80-200mm without stabilizer, but with AF, which has an excellent luminosity in f2.8 aperture (the sharpness is excellent) and I always managed to get this animal look which is magic.

This time, it was the Momo giraffe as he called at the Beauval Zoo who had that magic. I tried to frame on its look. In fact, when I made this picture, she was coming towards us, and at one moment she was leaning towards the lens. I was afraid to have a blurred picture, but in the end, as it was a zoom, I was able to adjust the distance and make this beautiful picture which in my opinion is also full of emotion. 


 by Thomas Thomopoulos


Sometimes you can see in the animal's eyes, if it is happy or if it is sad. The squirrel looks happy to me. I didn't meet him again, unfortunately, it would be impossible. Kruger is happy. Momo is happy. You can see it in his eyes. You can feel it.

I also had Asato, a gorilla from Beauval Zoo. A monkey is even more magical. When I see the look in Asato's eyes, I also know that he is good. He is questioning, but I think he is wise and he tells me hello you, how are you? I'm pissed off, but everything is fine.

A life of a big monkey. The black and white, gives another dimension to the image, I will not teach you of course, but on the animal look, it changes the emotion. By the way, now that I think about it, I never tried to do a black and white with the squirrel I took a picture of, or Momo the giraffe, but I did with Kruger :-)


by Thomas Thomopoulos



by Thomas Thomopoulos


I also had the opportunity to visit the feline park. We can capture some interesting images.
Sometimes, we don't have the chance to meet the animal's eyes. But it is always there, it always expresses something and as long as the emotion is there, we feel something by observing the image.


 by Thomas Thomopoulos


And sometimes, he suddenly reappears. We meet his eyes and the magic returns.
This one is beautiful. He is far, very far from me, I had a 300 mm f4 at that time, in the feline park, but I was able to capture his look. I see a wild look in this tiger. With his mouth open, it's as if he's expressing the wild side of who he is. A wild animal capable of eating me. I don't feel it like Kruger's. Where Kruger seems to be a friend, I see here a stranger whose eyes I meet.


by Thomas Thomopoulos


The lioness can also be beautiful in the eyes. You can see penetrating, searching and frank eyes. An honest and frank look would be the one I see in this lioness. She shares it with me and says, I see you. I am the lioness, the queen of the worlds. But it remains wild, I don't see a buddy in it either like with Kruger. She keeps her distance.


by Thomas Thomopoulos


You can also do photo editing with the animal and its look. This guepard was shot in the feline park and I wanted to stage it. So, I made a photo montage to magnify this view of the animal. He offers me here his look, but it seems to me interrogative, as if I had surprised him or as if he was telling me, little human, you dare to want to meet my eyes? Beware, I am dangerous and wild, I defend my young at the price of my life.


 by Thomas Thomopoulos


The Panda seemed to me empty in its look. Maybe because of the wildness. He looks at me, I pass him, but he doesn't inspire me like Kruger or the squirrel. He remains distant, wary or, he tells me, beware. A bit like the cheetah or the lioness. What strikes me about the Panda, is the fact that I can't personalize his eyes. They seem empty to me. No doubt, because of the wild side of the animal.


 by Thomas Thomopoulos


You can also capture the look of a bird. There was a bird show at the Beauval Zoo. After the show, we saw the birds landing and at one point, I saw these parrots on a branch, I said to myself, let's try to see what it gives. And in the end, I see it questioning, curious. Pretty cool.


by Thomas Thomopoulos


An animal look that could mark me and make me say that I would have liked to see it with a smile is the one I captured on a polar bear. You will tell me that technically, it is not terrible. But I think that the emotion is there. Here is a face-to-face look with a polar bear. I made this image with an 100mm macro f2,8 lens. Where I had a 60mm macro with my squirrel, this time, with a polar bear, I did it with a 100mm macro.

We were in a zoo and that day a polar bear was swimming in the water. At one point, I saw he was standing in front of us through the glass, as if he wanted to communicate something. You will tell me, with a 100mm, you can make a portrait. Yes, but not in de wild. The fact that he was behind glass allowed me to capture images that we probably wouldn't have been able to capture in a wild space. It's different. And I was able to make a series of portrait images of this polar bear. The look in his eyes made an impression on me. He tells me that he is sad. You can feel when the animal is sad and wants to tell you something.


 by Thomas Thomopoulos


Of course, we must continue on a positive note.
Animal photography would benefit from conveying emotions. You could have the most beautiful images and the most beautiful technical achievements in an animal photography, but if you don't have a contact with the animal, you don't have an emotion, something that we feel when we see the image and that we want to share and make share.
Look at this image of this orang outang that I took at the Beauval Zoo. Technically, you will tell me that it is overexposed. But emotionally, we have something.

Not only do we see an animal look, but it also transmits something. His slight smile tells me that he is happy and that he wanted to offer me a moment to see what he feels.


 by Thomas Thomopoulos


What is great with digital, is that you can get beautiful images, even if you missed the photo. I take for example, this orang outang, which after post processing, gives a surprising result in black and white.


 by Thomas Thomopoulos


There are some amazing images on the 1x site, here is a small selection.
This one in the snow surprises by the closed eyes of the animal.


'Fairytale fox' by Roeselien Raimond


Sometimes the animal can be scary, like the impressive image of this bird.


 'Angry bird' by Timo Lehto


We must not forget the wild character, the animal force that expresses all the violence of nature.


'Now that you wake me up is better for you to start running' by Alberto Ghizzi Panizza


I admit that I prefer the softness of the animal, that of a fragility that we must protect.


'Fox' by Robert Adamec


What is great is to find, through animal photography, this capacity of the animal to express both a brutal violence and an extraordinary tenderness.



'Friends' by Greg Barsh


Let's not forget them.


'Curiosity killed the cat' by Marc Apers


Superb. Congrats to Thomas and Yvette.
Excellent work, congrats
Nicely done. Congratulations.
Thank you for suggesting this perspective. It’s very inspiring and will make me look to this genre with different eyes.
Great photos. Congratulations.
the gaze of animals does not need words to be understood. The gaze of animals is something deep, sincere, full of meanings. The gaze of animals are the missing words to which we must give voice. Beautiful gallery and description. Sincere congratulations all photographers and editor Thomas.
A very heart-warming collection, thank you!
txules PRO
awesome pictures and article; thanks to all
Thank you very much, dear Thomas and dear Yvette. Thanks of course also to the authors of the photos. Excellent article and beautiful selection of works, many of which I find amusing. Best regards to all, Francesco
Thanks for your appreciation, Francesco !
My pleasure, dear Yvette.. Have a beautiful new week ! :)
Excellent article and great selection of images
Top notch!
Very nice photos , nice article Thomas!
Super images!
Great and unusual topic, Thomas !!! Fine article and choice of images. Thanks a lot. Cheers, Yvette
Many thanks Yvette :)