When animals are active, interacting or whenever they’re in motion, the moment at which the shutter is pressed is crucial. There’s a fraction of a second in time that the movement or expression is optimum. Learning how to anticipate and capture that instant takes practice, knowledge of your subject, quick reaction time, persistence, instinct and, dare I even mention this, a stroke of luck.
An absolute essential ingredient that goes into knowing when to press the shutter is to become thoroughly familiar with your subject. You need to be able to anticipate its movement. If it flicks or turns its ears, does that demonstrate anything? If it begins to sniff the air, is this an indicator it will do something? Does a snort, growl or grumble illustrate anything? When a bird is prepared to take flight, what signs does it portray? Knowing what all these signs intimately is important to foretell what your subject will do. Whether you learn by trial and error or research the species before you head into the field, be sure to become familiar with its signs.
Patience and persistence are other ingredients that go into the recipe to capture the moment of truth. PATIENCE: There will be times when you’ll have to wait for that once-in-a-lifetime look, expression or action. You need to keep your eye glued to the viewfinder; you know that as soon as you take your eye away, the animal will do something amazing. You may think there’s something better around the corner and that may be so, but having patience can also reward you if you wait for the subject in your viewfinder to do something special. After all, if you do head around the corner, that’s when the subject you were just on will perform an amazing feat.
PERSISTENCE: There will be times when you have to work and rework the same subject to get that special image. This means returning to the same spot, hoping the animal will do something and being patient. You may be lucky and procure a great moment on the first go round, but you may have to return again and again if the potential is good. Good things come to those who are patient and persistent.
Many photographers stake their claim in their ability to consistently capture the moment of truth. Casual viewers of these types of images can often be heard saying how lucky that photographer was to be at the right place at the right time. Little do they know that on that specific press, a lot of time, sweat, enduring the cold, tolerating insects, etc. went into getting the shot. At times, you’ll be lucky and everything will fall into place with slight effort. But what many viewers don’t understand is that certain photographers are more consistently “lucky” and are able to reproduce this luck over and over again. Obviously, there’s a skill involved. Apply the above to make yourself one of the “luckier” ones.
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