“Lucky Shots” by Ashley Hockenberry
A friend of mine who is a very accomplished photographer and film editor told me once – “There will be times when you capture the most amazing images just by virtue of being in the right place at the right time with your camera and clicking the shutter button.”
I didn’t realize how true that was until years later, when certain situations presented themselves which afforded me the opportunity to photograph subjects and situations I virtually never would have otherwise been able to do. Some would attribute this to luck. Perhaps that is part of it – but having your camera gear and the right lenses at the ready is not luck – it is preparation.
Expect the Unexpected
I cannot count the number of times that I have been out in search of one target species of bird or wildlife only to encounter something entirely different, unexpected which allowed me a great wildlife photo opportunity. The key is to always expect the unexpected. There will be times when we least expect to see what we end up encountering – perhaps we are photographing Songbirds and we encounter a Deer. Or maybe we are shooting landscapes and notice a butterfly or an insect.
Of course, the trick is that we along with expecting the unexpected, we need to bring along the right gear for various other photographic subjects we may encounter along the way. This is easier said than done – especially if you have to carry or “pack” it in on your back, along with a tripod and series of lenses. A camera body or two, along with a couple of zoom lenses, and a macro lens can get heavy.
While I have been guilty of bring too much and also of bring too little gear, I can say, it is much better to have too much! However, it is wise to use discretion and keep the list of items to a minimum and limit it to only what you really need – perhaps one macro lens, one camera body and one zoom lens it you are on foot. If you are in a vehicle, the sky is the limit; however, the objective is to have the equipment with you when your dream shot presents itself.
Having a couple of lenses at the ready, preferably mounted on separate camera bodies can really help – or at the minimum – have your gear at the ready as your drive or hike so that you can respond quickly when the you need to.
I remember distinctly seeing amazing wildlife photography opportunities in places like Yellowstone National Park, and seeing other photographers pulling off the road, getting out of their vehicles, unpacking their tripods and assembling them, then unpacking their camera gear, setting it up with the appropriate long zoom lens, calibrating, adjusting, etc.
You know the rest of the story – by the time they were finally ready to squeeze off the first shot – the Moose or Deer or Bear or Eagle has long since vanished. In some cases, I had already collected all the shots I wanted before they even squeezed off the first shot.
Here are some real life examples:
I was out photographing birds at a local marsh near Jackson, Wyoming, when someone said – there is a Red Fox with newborn kits a few blocks away – you should go over there and see if you can get a few shots:
While out looking for Blue Herons in Pennsylvania, I stumbled onto this doe and fawns:
These little guys popped up while out photographing reptiles in Singapore:
Green June Bug:
This Loon with baby was photographed while out fishing for bass in Ontario:
(Always bring your camera)
Look what I found while out searching for Big Horn Sheep in Wyoming:
You get the idea. I have probably had an equal number of situations where I said – “if I had only had my camera!” So, having equipment is one thing, but that is not everything. There is one other thing…
Be aware of your Surroundings
This may sound like the most obvious thing in the world, but it can pay big dividends. The best shots go to those who have keen wits and sharp senses. Try not to have “tunnel vision” and look all around. You will see more than you expect. There will even be situations where you have more than one photo opportunity happening simultaneously and you will be forced to choose which one to shoot.
It also helps to have another pair of eyes looking out for you – son, daughter, wife, husband, whomever. My son has spotted more hawks, owls and the like that I never even knew were there and was then able to photograph. Another side benefit of this is that you can avoid an accident while driving if you have someone else looking out for wildlife while you watch the road!
Ashley Hockenberry Nature and Landscape Photography