When you take the world’s fastest land animal, one that can reach speeds up to 75 mph, and slow it down–really slow it down–what you see is an animal that is poetic and athletic. You see determination and concentration. You see speed, strength, and agility. You see a cheetah doing what it knows best–running fast–but in super-slow motion.
As part of a feature story about cheetahs for National Geographic’s November issue (the story is entitled “Cheetahs on the Edge”), footage of a cheetah in full sprint was captured at 1,200 frames per second by “some of Hollywood’s hottest action and stunt cameramen,” who were attempting a first in wildlife photography. You might recall video of a cheetah setting a world speed record in a 100-meter run at 5.95 seconds in August. Same shoot, but this one is nothing like that one. Do yourself a favor and watch this video in full-screen mode:
The video was shot at the Cincinnati Zoo using a compilation of five sprinting cheetahs: Sarah, Nia, Chance, Bravo, and Tommy T. As you can see at the film’s end, cameras were attached to a remote-controlled sled that moved alongside the running cheetahs, much like the making of a Hollywood movie. Fake prey pulled rapidly in front of the animals prompted them to give chase. The result was stunning.
“Running cheetahs have been photographed using high-speed cameras,” said Kim Hubbard, the story’s photo editor. “But never has one been filmed with a high-speed camera moving alongside it at 50 or 60 miles an hour.”
Cathryn Hilker, founder of the zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program, told National Geographic, “I’ve watched cheetahs run for 30 years. But I saw things in that super-slow-motion video that I’ve never seen before.”
Even photos captured from the video are striking:
More details about how the shoot was completed–it took three days, incidentally–can be found at News Watch on the National Geographic website. It’s well worth a look.