Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tip #47: Use Your Ears

Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus swainsonii)
Canon 7D + 300 f2.8L IS @ iso 640 and f2.8

Strange advice for a visual artist, but the ability to listen may be the difference between a missed opportunity and getting the shot. 

As wildlife photographers we are faced with an endless list of challenges. Patchy light streaming through a dense forest makes for a metering nightmare that places bright hotspots adjacent to deep shadows. Despite the futile pleas, animals can't perceive our benevolent intentions and flee the moment we enter their comfort zone. Blood parasites mob exposed skin during frantic journeys through thorn infested thickets. All of this and more conspire against us, distract our attention and adds haste to the process. The products of our efforts are glamorous, the process is not. 
Looking for a Mate
Canon 7D + 300 f2.8L IS @ iso 640 and f2.8
Long hikes to less than spectacular locations or tough shoots in sub-zero temperatures often lead to the need to be done. As the body shuts down so does our receptivity to the sensory rich world. Once finely tuned when the day began, we are broken as dusk approaches. However, it is when we reach this terminal point, that we must stop and give ourselves a moment to listen. It is this breaking point where an elusive opportunity will present itself. Every photo adventure I have lived, has had one. Exhausted and hungry, I begin to walk fast and ignore my surroundings. I hear the noises pepper me through the woods, but I ignore their calls. If it were not for my intense curiosity or obsessive drive to make just one good image, I would miss many of my best wildlife encounters. So, as you try to block the distractors at the end of a day, do not shut down your sensory system... stop and listen!

Photographers Note: 
After missing breakfast to  catch first light in a tropical valley, we spent the rest of the morning working macro subjects. By noon we were famished and began to hike back for lunch at the lodge. The calls of  mating toucans competed with  my desire to be done; thankfully, I chose to listen. After seven trips to Costa Rica, I finally have images of toucans that make me smile.
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