It was mid-afternoon, and I had been hiking for most of the day. I came around a hill and spotted two big cats at rest under the shade of a tree, most likely trying to escape from the heat of the afternoon sun. They were near enough for me to identify as cheetahs, but they were still quite some distance from where I stood. I had to get closer. I began to hike around some trees and rocks, slowly making my way toward another section of the hilly terrain. I trudged across a dry riverbed and up over a mound of dirt on the other bank. As the two big cats came back into my view, I realized that I was now at a perfect distance to capture the image that I wanted. I also realized, however, that there were no longer any topographical barriers between myself and these incredible animals. I had hiked rather deep into their territory, and I now found myself standing a mere stone’s throw away from hundreds of pounds of teeth and claws and killer instinct. Just as this thought crossed my mind, one of the cheetah’s ears perked up. He turned his head and looked directly into my eyes. It was thrilling. Adrenaline shot through my body, but for some reason, I remained calm and still. It is an intense moment for a nature photographer to realize that you have just been noticed by the fastest land predator on the planet, and that you have no place to go, no truck to jump into, no barrier to hide behind. If this cat had decided that I was dinner, I was easily within no more than four seconds reach. My heart pumped, my breath deepened. It was exhilarating to have such a direct moment of connection with such a majestic animal. I calmly raised my camera and took a photograph, and then another, both of which are in my book, Animal Spirits. I lowered my camera and took a quiet moment to feel my awe toward these amazing creatures. I then slowly turned and began to hike my way back into the hills, leaving the cheetahs to enjoy the leisure of their afternoon under the shade of a tree.