Monday, September 3, 2012
Show Some Behavior
Bad can be good when photographing in the wild
Good behavior is something toward which we should all aspire. It's often rewarded. As both a former teacher and current parent, I look to the positive and make a big deal about it when it happens. But when I photograph wildlife, I change my tune and I want the bad boy in my subjects to surface. For instance, good boy stands still and is not restless at all - bad for wildlife images. Bad boy ruffles his feathers and chases the others - good for images. Good boy is quiet and calm - bad for images. Bad boy snorts and shows an attitude - good for images. Portraits of animals in their environment are very common. Even those in great light. Will I continue to shoot these images - of course. But capturing dramatic behavior when photographing wildlife is what it's all about.
When animals are by themselves, wait until they begin to do something other than stand still and look pretty. I encourage you to take the standing still image, but I doubly encourage you to wait for the action. It may be a feeding behavior or something as simple as a yawn or scratching an itch, but in that it shows the animal doing something, it will make a more dramatic photo. Wait for a bird to take flight, for the bull moose to lip curl, the snake to test the air with its tongue, or any and all behavior that adds interest to the wildlife image.
I really like it when there's more than one subject to get interaction. It's a great stepping stone to capture a dramatic shot. When animals go nose to nose, I love to press the shutter. If there's some sort of scuffle, it's also a great time to take the image. Territorial displays let you produce excellent photos as each subject vies for supremacy. Watch carefully as the animals interact. Often a small twist of the head or position of the eye can make the difference between a great photo and a mediocre one. There will always be a decisive moment when the connection between the two subjects peak. While I look through the viewfinder, I try to “will” this to happen. Sometimes it works. When it does, I like to think it was because my thoughts were sent to the subjects but in actuality, I know it was because I was persistent and patient in wanting to capture the behavior. Round one goes to the bad boys.
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