I have mentioned on occasion a couple of things: first, that I’m a pretty patient person when it comes to taking pictures (as long as it’s not too cold out!); and second, that I share the view of the great nature and wildlife photographer Martin Bailey (see the links page…) that luck plays a significant role in photography. Take for example the shot of the hawk that I posted earlier (Why “Always”?, below). Yes, I had the camera sitting next to me, and yes, I was driving through a wildlife refuge. Those things were not luck. But I happened to see the bird, and have time to get the car stopped, window down, camera on and up, and then shoot just as he took off! That particular dose of planetary alignment had not a whit to do with patience, and almost everything to do with luck. But sometimes, those things seem to combine to make what ends up being a great shot.
I heard a photographer once say, and I really wish I could remember who it was, that you should never assume that you have “the shot” and take off. Stick around, he (or she) said, and you might see something that is more than what you already have. I was driving through the park one afternoon, and saw an adorable squirrel in the fork of an old tree. He was having a snack, and I stopped to practice a little bit. I took three or four shots that I really liked, and started to set the camera down, when I remembered that advice and left it up for a moment. Maybe twenty seconds later–which seemed like a half hour since nothing was happening, hence the reference to patience again!–he started to groom himself in the way that small mammals often do, rubbing his paws on his face. I blasted off about ten more frames, not having any idea whether they would be worth keeping and frankly not caring much; then he quit, and headed around the back side of the tree. Before driving away, I paused to look at the LCD on the back of the camera, and behold:
(Before those of you with good eyes start to type, yes, I know that the shot is noisy, and over-sharpened. I’m experimenting with Photoshop Elements but I’m not very good at it yet. I just wanted to get a post up on this subject, and while I’m not proud of the edit, I am pretty happy with the image!)
The little fella (or whatever) almost looks like he’s shy and hiding from the camera!
So if I had gone with my usual behavior–“I got the shot, now I’m moving on to the next thing”–I would have missed this one. Of course, I could have sat there for another ten minutes without seeing anything interesting, and that’s what patience is all about. But I got lucky. Speaking of luck, the settings on the camera weren’t luck this time, as I had just finished shooting this guy in the same spot “on purpose.” This was taken with my 60D (for which I still owe a review) with the Canon 70-300mm IS lens, in aperture priority mode at f/5.6, with +1 exposure compensation. The camera did its part, giving me 1/400 sec and ISO 320. A couple of points–the 1/400 speed is the camera compensating for the focal length (I took this at 300mm), which is why it chose ISO 320 instead of dialing back the ISO to, say, 200 and clicking slower. And the 320 should not have generated as much noise (grain) as is in this shot, so I’ll be looking at what I did wrong in Elements to create that noise.
In any case, it’s a cute shot. It’s a good lesson. And it’s a reminder that sometimes the more patient you are, the luckier you get!