It is often stated that photos of any big cats roaming the landscape would be snapped on people’s mobile phone cameras. With the mass use of mobile phones we are supposedly camera-ready, and primed to picture anything unusual which comes into view. But time and again witnesses of UK big cats don’t think about taking a photo until the chance has gone, and some witnesses who claim they’ve been up close to a big cat were too alarmed and say that taking a picture was the last thing on their mind. Certain witnesses who think they may see the animal return, say that they now always have a camera to hand. An example is a milkman on a milk round in south Gloucester after two close-up encounters of big cats, and having customers claim they too have seen a big cat in the area.
The book suggests that we shouldn’t often expect to capture photos of these mammals, which are amongst the most elusive on the planet, although it does discuss the use of remote trail cameras which are starting to be used for all kinds of outdoor photography and which are coming down in price. Some footage is already becoming available from trail cameras, as discussed in the pdf article on this blog.
Different parts of the book explain why people do not manage to instantly grab a camera and get photo-evidence of the giant feline before them, and chapter three has an explanation of the challenges of photographing cats in the wild by wildlife film-maker Mark Fletcher.
But are mobile phones really the answer? Several witnesses have claimed they tried to snap something with their mobile phone but the image was too far away and blurred. An example is in the above link. When a cat has been up close to a witness, which is rare amongst reports, witnesses are usually too concerned about the cat to think of filming it. Somebody who did claim to photograph a big cat on a mobile phone is the daughter of Andrew Kirchin, when the family were driving on a back road in Devon. His explanation of the incident is contained in the book, and the photo, which he admits is not conclusive evidence, is shown here. Andrew works for the police force. What the photograph does illustrate is the standard of photo and the low resolution, which many mobile phones are likely to capture of a panther-like cat seen in the middle-distance. Perhaps we assume too much from the technology and from the state of mind of most witnesses when confronted with such a surprising and emotionally powerful moment.