Be ready to shoot the fast action of wildlife and adventure sports
11. Protect Your Gear Keeping my camera absolutely dry is a must. When I'm shooting white-water rafting, kayaking and canoeing, I want to have the freedom to move my gear around into perilous situations, and a waterproof, protective bag gives me the confidence to look for special compositions. The Quickdraw Waterproof Camera Bag by Voyageur Gear and the Lowepro DryZone are the best things since sliced bread; the bags are tough and well designed. When you aren't worried about the safety of your camera and lens, you'll concentrate on getting better shots.
12. Position Is Everything When you're shooting a sport with a predictable sequence of motion or activity, think about where the critical action is going to be and then place yourself in a spot to catch it. In the surf, the athletes will catch the wave in one spot, then usually do a turn before trying to pull into the tube. Get yourself into position and wait for the moment to come to you.
13. Soft Light Quite frequently, cloudy-bright light offers the best shooting conditions for photographing mammals. Soft light diffused by a light veil of clouds makes ideal portrait lighting and permits you to shoot all day when necessary. In sunny conditions, consider using a flash for fill to help eliminate contrast.
14. Safety First Safety must be everyone's top priority. A dropped lens or camera, even a battery or film canister, high on a cliff, can easily injure or kill someone below. A loose rock or a sharp edge the rope runs over is equally dangerous. What I've learned the hard way during 30 years of chasing ephemeral moments of beauty around the globe is that in the end, the measure of success isn't whether you get the shot. There's always tomorrow for that. The measure of success is the quality of the experience for everyone involved.
15. Sparkle An on-camera flash or your camera's pop-up flash at a low-output setting will put a little catchlight in the subject's eyes without creating an obtrusive, harsh look. That slight catchlight makes a big impact on the final image.
16. Get Dirty I always prefer to shoot from a low angle, preferably below the subject's eyeline. It makes the subject look more impressive, prevents the eyes from having shadows and often makes the subject less intimidated by you. Being "lowdown" does nothing for your back, however, and can be a little difficult when photographing ants, but generally it gives better and more natural results.
17. Blurred Animal Action Shots I first search for locations with animal activities; naturally, this increases the odds of getting a photograph of animals in motion. For the blurred look, especially, high color and brightness contrasts are important to isolate the blurred subject from the background. I prepare the camera well in advance—mount a telephoto lens, use an exposure time of 1/8 to 1/2 sec., switch on autofocus, etc. Then I wait and look for the moment. When I see something in motion, I try to follow the subject while it's running or flying. I always start shooting some blurred images before subjects are at the perfect distance to be sure I don't miss the shot.
18. Stay Set Up I can't count the number of times in the past when I've come upon a great subject while hiking along a mountain trail and missed it because I wasn't ready to shoot quickly. To better my chances, I keep my camera slung over my shoulder so that I can point and shoot in an instant. I set my camera to shutter priority with a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 and preferably 1/500 sec. I keep my lens set on autofocus and set my metering for spot or center-weighted to ensure that my main subject will be properly exposed. When I'm using a vertical camera grip, I always turn off its controls—I can't begin to tell you the number of times I've missed a good shot because the shutter speed had been slowed dramatically as a result of the main dial rubbing against my leg as I walked.
19. Keep Organized I'm doing a lot of digital shooting now. I keep a flash card wallet in my vest, with the unused cards placed with the manufacturer's name and logo facing up. Once the card is filled and removed from my Nikon D2h, I turn the card over so I know it has been shot. With fast-moving wildlife, you don't want to be fumbling with your cards trying to find the blank one! For the safety of my digital files while in the field, I save all my images directly to an 80-gig external mini-drive, not the drive on my computer. I back up the files to a second external drive and then finally make the third backup to the drive on my computer. Backing up files to external drives is a fail-safe method to never losing your pictures due to a computer malfunction.
—Daniel J. Cox
20. Prefocus Advanced cameras feature a focus lock (usually a button on the camera back), a perfect tool for being sure your shots are sharp. Often, you can predict where wildlife or action will unfold in a moment although it's not there yet. Lock the focus on the point where you think everything will happen and wait. You'll be locked in and tack-sharp.