12 February 2016

Friday Photo Tip: The Chess Game


One of the things I love about nature photography is what I like to call “the chess game”. Whenever I am photographing a wild subject I try to get in it’s head and anticipate what it is going to do next. By trying to stay one step ahead of my subject I can be sure that I am in position to capture different behavior and action shots. This is one of the reasons that it is so important to know all you can about your subjects and their behavior.

Take this image of a Coyote pouncing for instance. I know from experience that when a Coyote walks forward very slowly, looking at the ground intently, while cocking it’s head slowly side to side, it is trying to triangulate the vole it hears beneath the snow. Most likely it is going to pounce very soon, and try to pin the vole to the ground beneath the snow with it’s front paws. So in preparation I open my f-stop to get a faster shutter speed in order to freeze the coming action. If I have a zoom lens I back off on my framing and place the coyote low and left in the frame to give room above for the pounce, and I get ready to fire off a burst as the action takes place.

Wildlife will give you all kinds of clues. Waterfowl almost always do a wing flap at the end of a preening session. Birds will face into the wind, and usually defecate just before they fly from a perch. Wading birds pull back just a bit before they strike at a fish. Become a better chess player and be a better nature photographer.

Good Luck and Good Light!

Image: Coyote Pouncing, Yellowstone National Park, WY
Nikon D300S, 600mm, 1/2000 @ f5.6, ISO 320