Brian Hampton’s photograph of a lioness charging out of a river on its way to a kill, which he printed with his Epson 11880 on LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper, hangs proudly and at the larger-than-life dimensions of 5x8 feet in a special exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Hampton’s action photo was this year’s Grand Prize winner in Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards. Taken in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Hampton was in the right place at the right time with the right equipment with just enough protection in a safari vehicle as the lioness raced right past him.
“There are a couple of things I do to increase the chances of getting a shot like that… I have a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II with a full frame sensor and a 600mm lens using AI Servo mode,” says Hampton. “The 600mm lens also helps utilize all the pixels you capture, which is important for printing. Still, I needed to use Genuine Fractals to res it up to the size I wanted for optimized printing on the Epson from the camera’s native resolution. The native size in the camera is around 16x24 at 360 ppi. Even with a high-powered computer it takes 10 to 15 minutes for Genuine Fractals software to generate new pixels to make a print that large at 360 ppi. Then, ImagePrint utilizes the Epson print engine at its maximum capability so that you get the sharpest image available. The RIP takes you the extra mile.”
Hampton entered about ten images in the contest. Two months after entering, Hampton received a request from Nature’s Best Photography to submit four of those images in high resolution. The magazine’s award process is very stringent, requiring the original files so the judges can see the original composition before any post-capture work is done on the image.
Hampton had a clue that he had at least one image under serious consideration for an award of some sort when the publisher called and asked if he had a file of the lion large enough to print at 5x8 feet. Hampton answered that he could not only provide the file, but the print itself. Ultimately, Hampton was given the distinction of this year’s Grand Prize winner out of thousands of entries, and the 5x8 foot print will be on display at the Smithsonian until early May.
Hampton has also printed the image on Sunset eSatin for his home and office, a restaurant in nearby Rockford, IL, and a half dozen or so additional requests from people who have seen the image in the magazine, at the Smithsonian, or on the Internet. Hampton’s image was featured on both the AOL and MSN home pages as the image of the day, producing tens of thousands of hits to his site.