“Spend some time learning the behavior of the species your want to photograph,” said Frans Lanting. I recall that important bit of information, back when he discussed wildlife photography during a lunch break at a weekend event at the Roger Troy Peterson Institute. That became the precursor to North American Nature Photographer Association NANPA‘s Annual meeting, which evolved after a short meeting that weekend, also supported by Frans, George Lepp, and others.
Frans spend days just observing Sanderlings on the California Coast, then the photography he did ended up in National Geographic. It made an impression and I’m reminded of that when I’m in Cataloochee Valley photographing the recently reintroduced Elk.
Every animal has certain behavior. By developing a feel for what they might do next, one can better have the right equipment ready and previsualize the opportunity.
Even when things are not going as planned – I remind myself that I’m getting just a little bit more experience with their behavior. Sometimes they romp around, take off running, or thrash around in the water like a bunch of school kids. And sometimes they just stare at me. One time when on foot, that stare was like, “What are you doing there?” Then I realized I had lost track of the Bull Elk. I looked on the other side of the Cataloochee Creek and he wasn’t there. Nervously, I glanced over my shoulder and there he was, coming across the water, right behind me. That’s what the Doe was staring at. Not a good place to be.
I backed out of there pretty quick. He came thrashing up the bank, but I was out of the way.
Another time two fawn were just standing in an open field looking around. The light was getting really nice. I pulled over. Focus and shoot, five shots. When back at the computer this one had emotion written all over it.