Pern's Ponderings

Check here periodically for my musings on photography. In this space, we'll explore how I achieved particular photographs, tips and tricks to get the most out of your camera or even just my thoughts on the world at large. 

Getting the Shot (Or Not)

  A coyote rests in the grass on a foggy morning inside the Galilee Bird Sanctuary in Narragansett, Rhode Island. 

A coyote rests in the grass on a foggy morning inside the Galilee Bird Sanctuary in Narragansett, Rhode Island. 

The coyote crouches, tensing, waiting. Its fur ripples as the sinewy muscles prepare to fire, launching the canine 15 feet across the small creek. I square up the coyote in my viewfinder, my own muscles also tensed, ready to fire the shutter and capture the moment the coyote leaps across the abyss (OK, it was more of a small dropoff). 

Suddenly, a moment of doubt creeps in. Am I zoomed too tight? Am I going to cut off part of the coyote's tail as it jumps? Or worse, it's snout? 

My hand moves to twist the zoom on my Sigma 150-600mm lens, giving me a little more breathing room in the frame. But as I twist, I pull the lens oh-so-slightly to the left. Anyone who has ever shot with a superzoom knows that a little movement at the lens means a large movement in the field of vision. 

I quickly tried to compensate and return to the coyote's stance, but to my horror, the animal chose that exact moment to make its move. It soared from left to right across my viewfinder as I panned to the right. I quickly reversed course and began firing the shutter in grim hope that I could get lucky. 

By the time I located the coyote again, it had splashed down at the edge of the stream and was climbing out. I reluctantly kept firing, hoping it had caught a fish or that I might capture some other interesting visual. Instead, it climbed out of the water and trotted off into the woods, out of sight and, more importantly, out of frame. 

I've been kicking myself since that recent morning for doubting my original intent. Stylistically, I generally prefer framing my subject as tightly as possible, leaving enough room at the edges of the frame to adjust sizes for framing, but giving the viewer as much detail as possible. 

I've shot plenty of birds up close and personal and achieved great results, despite the difficulties present by a tight zoom. Just days before I spotted the coyote, I saw a fox perform a similar ritual — resting in the grass of the sanctuary before getting up, stretching out, moving off to the woods and leaping across an obstacle. I was quite satisfied with the shots I captured of the fox, including the leap, and I was zoomed tight to make the fox fill the frame. 

Yet, at the pivotal moment this day, I doubted my own ability to keep the coyote framed properly while in motion and the result was that I missed the shot completely. The lesson: Trust yourself, trust your instincts and trust your skills. 

It's easier to live with missing the shot when you've given it your best effort than when you miss it while make an adjustment because you let doubt creep in. 

I missed the shot of this coyote leaping across a small stream just days after capturing some nice shots of a fox resting, stalking and leaping.