Sunday, August 16, 2009

luck and the wildlife photographer

of all genres of photography, wildlife photography is one which gets your adrenaline pumping! however, my learning in the past five odd years that i have been doing wildlife, is that a good photograph hinges on two things - patience (and loads of it) and luck. and both these are critical for a single reason... neither the light (which to me is the most important element) nor my subject is in any mood to listen to me. at the right moment, the sun goes behind a cloud and i lose the chance to get that great photograph or that beautiful tigress refuses to come out from under the shade of the tree so that i can capture her beauty in all its glory!!!

patience is obvious, especially in bird photography. you need to wait for the right moment to get that great shot. recently i was in kenya shooting wildlife. in the evening, my guide spotted a leopard on a tree with an antelope kill. i spent the next two and a half hours rooted to the same spot with my camera on the leopard following his every move. unfortunately the light started fading and so i gave up but next morning at 5.00 i was back to the same spot and lo and behold, the leopard and the kill were still exactly where i left them the day before. i spent the next three hours waiting for the early morning light to light up the leopard and my patience paid off.

but how luck plays a role was driven home by another incident in the same trip. i was driving along in this park called tsavo east and i spotted at tawny eagle perched on a low branch. i of course stopped and took a few photographs and then settled down to wait for the eagle to fly so that i could get a better shot. after about half an hour the eagle obliged me by taking off and flying to the branch of another nearby tree. i was thrilled that i got a good shot and was lowering my "bazooka" lens when my eye caught a movement under the tree on which the eagle had just settled down. a closer look and "wow" it was a cheetah sitting and finishing off his kill. i then realized the the eagle was waiting for the remains. the beauty was that the cheetah was less that 15 feet from my vehicle and none of us had noticed the cheetah for over half an hour since all our attention was on the eagle. it was pure luck that the eagle flew to the tree and drew my attention to the cheetah below.

much like fishing guys and their big catch that got away, wildlife photographers also love telling stories about their exploits. but as i listen to them all, it strikes me time and again that all you need is a lot of luck and loads of patience to get great wildlife shots!!!

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