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Page 8 by Henrik Nilsson

Written By onci on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 | 5:49 AM


Getting that Special Shot by

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to come across an osprey nest that provided some pretty spectacular shooting opportunities. A young osprey pair constructed their nest on a piling about 25 metres from shore. The nest really couldn’t have been in a better location. Throughout the spring and summer, I spent countless hours observing these beautiful raptors.
So what do we do as photographers in order to maximize these opportunities. Here is what worked for me:

1. Learn your subject. What does it eat, when and where does it hunt, what time of year do the young hatch and so on. You get the idea. With this particular osprey nest, I quickly learned that once the egg was laid, the female remained on the nest the vast majority of the time. Thus I knew the male would have to bring back fish to the nest in order to feed his mate. Naturally that would mean osprey with fish in the talons flight shots.

2. If You Think You Might Need It, Bring It. Nothing is worse than getting to your favourite spot and then realizing that you’ve left the right tools at home. Yes, I’m talking about that extra memory card, the extra battery or the lens you thought you’d never pull out of your bag. Been there, done that.

3. Light, light and light. For photographers, this is one of the most important factors in getting that special shot. The only shooting location for this nest was south facing. Of course, the best natural light occurs in the morning and at night. I also know that at the nest, the prevailing wind was from the west. So what does that mean? Well, most of the time, large birds land and take off into the wind. With light coming in from the right (and remember I’m facing south), the best time of day to shoot at this particular nest should be in the evening. And it was.

4. Something Special. Static shots of osprey are, well, nice. But a shot of an osprey bringing a fish back to its mate with the golden light at sunset – now that’s really nice. A shot of an osprey having a special moment with its young – that’s also great. So rather than getting the less than inspiring shot, look for something special or unique. Photographs are always better if they have a story to tell.

5. Hurry Up and Wait. Most importantly of all, I knew that in order to get that special shot, I had to be out there. I had to ‘earn’ it. And how do you do that? Well, it means getting off the couch even when you don’t feel like it. It means get up early in the morning on your days off. And much of the time, I’ll hurry to that special spot to, you guessed it, wait. Wildlife has its own agenda and many times I’ve come home with nothing. But one thing is for sure, you won’t get that great wildlife shot from your couch.

Making great photographs isn’t always easy. But by studying your subject, its behaviour and the environment your shooting in, you’ll have a greater chance of making that large print that’ll look great hanging on your wall.

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