A Passion for Wildlife Photography (PART 7), Predicting behavior (2)


Animals are more active early I the morning and late in the day as opposed to mid-day when the light is harsh and temperatures are higher. Therefore you have the best chance to capture images that are dynamic at these times. Cameras that perform well (little noise) at higher ISOs are beneficial when the light is low and yet fast shutter speeds are still required.

Spectacled caiman on a ranch in Ibera Argentina. Late afternoon and warm color.
On a pond in the Falklands. Skipped dinner to photograph this and other birds on the pond. Lots of activity as the sun was dropping lower in the sky.
On a pond in the Falklands. Skipped dinner to photograph this and other birds on the pond.

Careful observation of your subject over time is the key to capturing action and behavior. Alterations in body posture, shifting weight, and adjustment in muscle tension (whether noted cognitively or sensed subliminally) can suggest some change in behavior. For instance, shifting of body weight of a resting animal may indicate it is ready to stand or possibly stretch.

Jack Rabbit stretching.
Jack Rabbit stretching.

Birds stretching or flapping wings can often precede flight. Sandhill cranes lean forward before flying. Herons often bend knees and stretch out neck before flying. Seabirds landing on rocky cliffs often employ their wings to provide stability. Birds bathing typically splash while cleaning feathers and then shake off the excess water.

Catching its balance after landing on rock ledge.
Catching its balance after landing on rock ledge.
Canvasback duck bathing.
Canvas back bathing.
Cinnamon teal bathing.
Cinnamon teal bathing.
Black-necked swan taking off from pond. Neck outstretched preceded flight.
Black-necked swan taking off from pond. Neck outstretched preceded flight.
Humpback whale preparing to dive.  Can predict the point at which the fluke will appear dripping water by observing the curvature  of the tail at its base.
Humpback whale preparing to dive. Can predict the point at which the fluke will appear dripping water by observing the curvature of the tail at its base.
Leaning forward before flight.  Sandhill cranes, Bosque del Apache.
Leaning forward before flight. Sandhill cranes, Bosque del Apache.
Bends knees and leans forward before flight.
Bends knees and leans forward before flight.

Chattering and agitated movements within a flock of birds frequently precedes the arrival of more members of their flock, the departure of birds, or the approach of a threatening predator.

Puffin landing. Birds on the ground became animated as the other approach.
Puffin landing. Birds on the ground became animated as the other approach.
Chincoteague NWR. Greese on ground are agitated and vocal as the new group approached of landing.
Greese were vocal and agitated before leaving the pond.

Photography during breeding season is often rewarding since activities increase – turkeys strut, elk lock antlers, deer mark territory, etc. Nurturing behavior between adult and young often results in touching photos.

Black Browed Albatross preening each other. Pair bonding during breeding season.
Black Browed Albatross preening each other. Pair bonding during breeding season.
Otter protecting young. Difficult to get this photo since rocks were slippery.
Otter protecting young. Difficult to get this photo since rocks were slippery.
King penguin caring for new born.
King penguin caring for new born.