Anticipation is a key to capturing great wildlife moments

Coyote Mousing

Watching the amazing things wild animals do in their daily lives is often amusing and exciting to experience. Hey, that’s why we invest the time in the field. However, understanding their behavior, understanding what we may expect, and carefully observing the details enables us to be prepared and anticipate when that magic moment might occur. This coyote picture is a great example of success through anticipation.
I occasionally visit this meadow near where I live in lake Tahoe in search of wildlife (I anticipate their being here). When I saw this coyote slowly zigzagging through the meadow grass, I knew he was hunting for field mice, voles and ground squirrels. I quietly picked a spot slightly ahead of him, in the direction he was meandering, and set myself up in the treeline for cover. Then, I observed.
When he heard movement in the grass he froze, his ears swung to the front and his head pointed directly at the prospective meal. Importantly, I noticed that he would crouch, putting all of his weight on his hind legs, prior to bounding into the air toward his prey. Now, whenever he would stop, I would set my focus, then move his current position to the side of the frame, anticipating that he would leap into the scene. This gave me a composition that was natural for the eye to observe.
I also metered the scene and set my exposure time appropriately to freeze the impending burst of motion.
Anticipation enabled me to capture the “decisive moment” that I am sharing with you now. It also enabled me to relax and enjoy the show, as I was confident in being prepared for the shot. I was able to both shoot the action and enjoy the natural beauty that brought me to nature photography in the first place!

Photo Tip:
Study, research and plan in anticipation of the animals you are likely to see in the location you plan to visit. Prepare your gear with appropriate lens choice, tripod, and exposure settings in anticipation of what you may see in that setting. When you do find the animal(s) you hope to photograph, observe every aspect of their behavior in anticipation of that decisive moment that will make the shot you dreamed of.

Equipment used:
Nikon D300, Nikon 200-400 F4 AF VR, Nikon 1.4x teleconverter, Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head, Gitzo 1325 Carbon Fiber Tripod.

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