How to Be Prepared for the Wildlife Shot of a Lifetime

Some of the best photographic opportunities happen when you least expect them. In this video from John E. Marriott, he shares valuable tips on how to always be prepared for the surprise wildlife photo of a lifetime.

The first step for capturing any split second rare image is to have your camera out of the bag and turned on. I’ve been guilty numerous times where I’d come upon wildlife in perfect light on my hikes but my camera was stored away in my bag. When this situation occurs it’s even more difficult to get set up because I have to move very slowly in order to not scare the animal away. And as you can imagine, by the time I get the camera out, turned on, dials set for the scene, and perhaps mounted on a tripod, I’m pointing the lens at an empty landscape.

In the video, Marriott takes this a step further and teaches how to be prepared even while driving out to your favorite wildlife spot.

Finally, Marriott suggests having your camera default settings optimized for the “worst case scenario.” He describes this as the times when there is very little light to work with and wildlife pops out. This means having your ISO at the limit of acceptable quality for the camera, aperture is set wide open, and the shutter speed dictated by aperture-priority mode. The resulting image may not be technically perfect, but with your camera at the ready, there’s at least a chance you’ll get something incredible instead of fumbling with gear and enjoying neither the moment with an animal or any photo to take home.

[via Exposed With John E. Marriott]

Ryan Mense's picture

Ryan Mense is a wildlife cameraperson specializing in birds. Alongside gear reviews and news, Ryan heads selection for the Fstoppers Photo of the Day.

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I have got some funny tales of the "ones that got away." Heck, I even think they've purposely taunted me on some of my hikes. Like the time I finished my hike with not one sighting of any kind of wildlife, then as I'm driving away and look in the rearview mirror, there's a deer trotting right past the back of the vehicle. Frustrating at the time, but after a while, they do make good stories. :)

Luck: When preparation meets opportunity.

The key as covered is too have your settings ready. I can walk for miles without seeing anything but I am constantly shooting images where I "think" an animal might be. So if it happens to come together I am already one step ahead.

Not exactly wildlife photography related, but I was photographing a night time baseball game. I had my 80-205mm f4.5 lens and Kodak TMAX 3200 film loaded. I set my Canon A-1 aperture priority to 4.5 and let the shutter speeds fall where they may.
But being prepared is critical; camera out and on.