In Your Eyes – Interview with Jenny Tovey – Walking with Pumas April 2022
14th June 2023
The curious thing about Pumas is they can sneak up right behind you and when they do, you can capture the most stunning portraits of them (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – My goodness! That icy, eye-to-eye stare! When you have a close animal like this, it is sometimes difficult to get a good enough depth of field to have everything in focus so this image is perfect in terms of focus and that magnificent eye contact.
Tell us a little more about your photography journey. How long have you been taking photos?
I’ve been interested in photography since a trip to Africa in 2001 with a fully manual camera that I didn’t know how to use properly! But it wasn’t until 2007 when I got my first ‘proper’ camera that I really started my photography journey and indulging my love for wildlife photography and travel.
A pair of young Pumas stand at watch on the rocks above Lake Sarmiento (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – What a great opportunity to spot two adorable Puma cubs together! The lovely lines created by the wildflowers and lake shoreline in this image frame these two cubs just beautifully in this shot. The colours of the vegetation and rocky shoreline also complement the colours of these cubs, almost allowing them to camouflage in their landscape.
What are you passionate about besides photography? What do you do in your free time?
I enjoy running, and use that as an opportunity to get out into the countryside near our home. My husband, Steve, and I also love hill walking, so we try to fit in a trip to the Lake District in the UK every year. In quiet moments I enjoy curling up on the sofa with a good book and a glass of wine. I’m also a cricket fan, and often do my post-holiday photo editing with the cricket on the TV in the back ground.
A large male Puma licks his lips as he goes prowling (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – Male Pumas always seem to have a certain toughness and strength in their appearance and this one on the prowl is no different. That tongue out somehow seems to add a comical effect, taking away from his otherwise ferocious stance.
What drew you to visit Chile?
We tend to select our holiday destinations based on a key species that we would like to see. Chile drew us to it as the best opportunity to see Pumas.
Portrait of a Puma cub in black and white (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – this is a wonderful image because the softness of the cub is beautifully offset by the tangle of roots and weathered wood that it decided to rest on. The cub looks completely at ease yet with a really intense stare like it is almost transfixed by the photographer in its world.
What camera gear did you use on your tour?
Steve and I both shoot with Canon EOS 7D Mark II’s with 100-400mm lens with 1.4x extenders, and share a 300mm with 2x extender. We tend to work as a team, with one of us focusing on the close shots and details with the 300mm plus 2x, and the other thinking about the wider shots, such as groups or environmental, or in this case, running and fence jumping! We also took a wide angle for the amazing expansive scenery in Chile.
The breathtaking colours of sunrise in Torres del Paine (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – due to the high winds at Torres Del Paine, it isn’t always easy to get a mirror-flat surface on the reserve’s pools and lakes. Not only did Jenny get lucky with the light here, she found a pool next to a lake that was serene enough to capture the stunning colours of dawn reflected from the sky. It is a balanced and well composed image.
What were your first impressions of Chile for photography?
My first impression was that the photography was going to be epic. Our first day before travelling to the park was viewing flying Andean Condors, and it doesn’t get any more epic than that. Then, as we drove towards the estancia the scenery became more dramatic and rugged, and we caught our first distant glimpses of the Torres del Paine massif. We passed rhea, guanacos and foxes next to the road, and I just knew it was going to be an awesome trip.
A Guanaco stands against a backdrop of Torres Del Paine’s famous towers. The scenery in this region is breathtaking (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – this is another perfect image from Jenny. Not only is it extremely well composed with the rule of thirds, the animal is standing at the junction of two lines of landscape and looking into that incredible scene with the towers. Add the perfect light at the time and this is truly a great shot!
What surprised you about your trip there?
The biggest surprise was the frequency and quality of the puma sightings. My expectations were that we would have to really work for sightings, and maybe get 4 or 5 in total and, if we were lucky, 1 or 2 good close experiences. But that wasn’t the case at all. We only had one day which was hard to find pumas, and the rest of the trip we had multiple good sightings per day with three really exceptional experiences that I will never forget. Our tracker was fantastic, and he put in long hours to do the hard work for us!
A beautiful pair of Puma cubs (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – when you are photographing two animals in one frame, it is always better if you can see both their faces. Jenny really achieved this here and both the cubs are framed beautifully by the green and gold vegetation of Torres Del Paine, without having leaves or blades of grass obstructing the subjects.
What were your frustrations on your trip?
Having such good sightings was a double-edged sword. We generally didn’t have to go too far from the jeeps to the location of the Puma, but that meant that we didn’t have many opportunities to ‘walk with pumas’ as we simply didn’t need to. Given our enjoyment of walking, this was a shame for us. However, I certainly won’t complain about having such good sightings instead.
A full-bellied Puma enjoying the last of its Guanaco kill (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – Any time spent with wild Pumas on a kill is a blessing but here you can see the full belly of this cat in striking detail while it keeps a constant eye out for intruders on its prey.
Of all the wildlife you have photographed, do you have a favourite destination you prefer to photograph?
In general, anywhere with a big cat. We’re definitely cat people. India is a particular favourite though. There is nothing quite like that first awe inspiring, breath taking moment when you see a tiger walking out of the undergrowth. We’ve also had wonderful leopard sightings in India, which is an added bonus to have two big cats in one location. And of course the culture, architecture and food in India is also a big draw, if you can drag yourself away from the national parks.
Puma on the run! (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – another nice image of a Puma almost ‘mid-flight’ and it has been captured perfectly, despite the challenges of the lower light.
Aside from the photography, what other aspects of the tour did you enjoy?
There was a really great team spirit with the group leaders and other tour members. We were disappointed when Mark wasn’t able to make the trip due to COVID, but his replacement, Enrique, did a fantastic job. With our driver and tracker we had a great team. Not only did they do a good job of finding sightings, but they were a pleasure to spend time with out in the field and back at the estancia.
Stunningly beautiful Long-tailed Meadowlarks are always an avian highlight of Torres Del Paine (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – In this shot the texture of the vegetation really complements the texture of the dark grey feathers on this bird. Beautifully composed with a perfect rule of thirds, plus the catchlight in the bird’s eye and the perfect depth of field make this a really wonderful image.
What have you learned from your tour of Chile?
This trip was a great reminder of the classic advice for any wildlife watching – have patience, put the time in, and you’ll be rewarded. And wring every second out of every day, the best experiences often come just before you really have to leave.
A mother Puma and cub taking a drink from a lake (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – This image is another lovely composition where the Pumas dissect the photo in the central third with the water and shoreline in the bottom third and the rocky shoreline in the top third. Again the colours of these cats are complemented beautifully in their surroundings plus you can see both their faces well in this low level shot.
Do you have any advice for photographers visiting Chile?
Warm boots. Although it wasn’t very cold for our trip, if you feel the cold like I do, normal hiking boots and thick socks wasn’t enough. I wish I’d had some proper winter boots. I would also advise a variety of lens. We had some wonderful close encounters where a 300mm plus 2x extender was just far too much, so a zoom lens was much more flexible in those moments.
Raising cubs is tiring work! A mother Puma yawns in the face of her tiny cub (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – Often you don’t need to have a whole animal in the shot to make it appealing and this image just proves that. The yawning mother Puma tells the story of the tiring work she has to raise her cub, sitting close to her and oblivious to that mothering effort
Are there any images that are particularly special to you?
The images from our evening on the pebble river bed with a mother, Petaka, and her two kittens. We had been watching the family for the afternoon and they’d settled down to sleep. After a long day in the field, the rest of the group headed back to the lodge but our tracker offered to stay with us. It wasn’t too long before the family woke up and went back to their kill, and then started playing on the dry river bed. With just the three of us, we could approach much closer and spent the most amazing hour or so with them.
A pair of adorable Puma cubs feast on prey caught by their mother (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – this funny image of two Puma cubs on a Guanaco kill captures their adorable personalities perfectly. It’s another image with lovely layered colours, split by two cubs who are sitting perfectly in the ‘dips’ of the carcass.
Why did you enjoy these images so much?
There was such a special intimacy in this experience, with the family showing such trust in us. The kittens were curious but not fearful, and Petaka showed no concern at all, allowing for some beautiful intimate moments. It was a truly special evening.
“This Guanaco is mine!” A Puma cub shows its dominance over a Guanaco kill (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – This image tells a lovely story of the dominance of one Puma cub on its kill. The eyes of the cub are almost the same colour as the lake water in the background and the blood on its face, along with the intense look, is like a complete threat display.
Would you return to Chile for photography?
Absolutely, no hesitation
A group of Pumas on a Guanaco kill on the shores of Lake Sarmiento (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – stunning light, stunning scene, stunning composition – what’s not to like? This very lucky scene is beautifully lit and also nicely composed with the various layers of Torres Del Paine’s landscapes adding a wonderful depth to this shot.
A juvenile Black-chested Buzzard Eagle in flight (image by Jenny Tovey). Why Wild Images loves this – quite often a photographer might overlook an immature bird, especially with the more spectacular adult Black-chested Buzzards, yet this image is not only perfectly in focus for a big bird in flight, you can see all of the lovely patterning in the bird’s underwing and the almost vermiculated chest feathers that it will lose as it gets older.