Being ready has its advantages. For a raptor, being ready means survive or starve. For a photographer, it is capturing a shot or dealing with disappointment.
These amazing raptors are always ready. Their lives depend upon being prepared to take every opportunity to seize their prey. To succeed and survive, they have been equipped with keen eyesight to spot even the smallest rodent scurrying in the brush; their strong talons are ever quick to “snatch up” (the linguistic origin of the name raptor) that prey; and their hooked beak ensures the meal does not escape. They are ever at the ready.
The photographer, too, must be always ready.There is an advantage to being ready. On my typical drive home, this beautiful Red-tailed Hawk was perfectly posed on a pasture fence, but only momentarily. Since my camera was lying ready on the passenger seat, all I had to do was slow down, put down the window and fire away.
Rarely do critters sit and patiently wait for me to get their photo. I have learned to be ready to get the shot before they fly or scurry off. I try to follow a few "Readiness Rules" I’ve set for myself:
Readiness Rule #1 - My camera rides in the front seat with me. You can’t take a photograph without a camera; and not only must it be with you, it must be accessible. I learned the hard way by missing an awesome coyote shot because my camera was closed in a bag sitting in the back seat.
Readiness Rule #2 – the right lens is on the camera. I swap lenses throughout the day depending upon what I am shooting. Sometimes I taking photographs in the dog kennels or outdoors, and other times in the cat studio. So, when I get in the truck (or go for a hike), I make sure my camera is already fitted with my telephoto lens for those occasional wildlife encounters on my drive home.
Readiness Rule #3 – the lens cap is always off. There is nothing more frustrating than raising my lens to shoot a bird that is actively flying off only to see black through the viewfinder. I’ve found the lens hood and some mindful handling is protection enough and replacing the lens cap after each shot isn’t really necessary.
Readiness Rule #4 - the right aperture and shutter speed settings are already selected. Most of the workday my camera is set to capture low-light shots of dogs in their kennels. But these settings won’t work for the outdoor wildlife shots. So when I step outdoors, I double check my settings.
Photo credits: William Wise.
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