Hacking the National Geographic Photo of a Mountain Lion Under the Hollywood Sign / by Eric Beteille

National Geographic spent more than a year finding just the right angle, just the right lighting, just the right moment to capture this mountain lion (a.k.a. cougar) creeping past the Hollywood sign.

But they could've just stitched a photo of the cat to a photo of the sign. 

Sign + Cat = Social Media Gold

Not saying they did. But they could have.

Either way, the Hollywood sign would have to be exposed longer, of course, because it isn't lit at night. NatGeo product Alexa Keefe admits in the comments: "The light on the Hollywood sign is the result of a four-second exposure and fog reflecting the lights of the city."

And if they wanted the sign and the cat in the same shot, rear curtain sync would allow a motion sensor to open the shutter (for, say, 4 seconds), slowly absorbing the dim sign in the background, while a well-timed flash illuminates the fast cat in the foreground. Keefe augments: "The combination of the strobe and dark background eliminates any ghosting, or blur."

But getting the cat -- a few feet in front of the lens -- in the same focus as the sign -- hundreds of yards away? Much easier if they could just stitch 2 photos together.

Not saying they did. But they could.

Either way, they created a beautiful image and a nice, fast-climbing social media story in a big city full of potential NatGeo subscribers.

P.S. -- In the NatGeo article, they describe the area as "downtown" Los Angeles, but this angle of the Hollywood sign is seen from Griffith Park, the 4,310-acre eastern tip of the Santa Monica Mountains, 7 or 8 miles from downtown. It's safe to leave the cat food outside, loft dwellers.