A case in point was this adelie penguin with its chicks (photo at right). I waited for quite a while. The two babies competed for food (even though it looks like they are buddies, the truth is they are fighting for survival), and I took many shots hoping for a peak moment with a clean background and where each bird was sharp.
This kind of thing lasts for only fractions of a second, so you have to watch the behavoir through the viewfinder and be ready to take the picture. If you watch them with your eyes, see the shot you want, and then go to the viewfinder to take the shot, it will most likely be too late.
How Patience Pays Off When Photographing WildlifeWhen I photographed the southern elephant seals, I used the same strategy. I watched them through the viewfinder without taking my eyes away until the action was over. I shot constantly, and all of my energies were spent in making sure the two animals were in tack sharp focus.
In a situation like this, since I was using a 500mm telephoto, the depth of field was very shallow. Therefore, I waited until the two seals were equidistant to the camera to shoot. In other words, when they were on the same plane, I knew they would both be sharp.
When I use a long telephoto lens, I usually shoot wide open - f/4 in this case - because closing down one or two stops produces very little additional depth of field. It is more important to have a fast shutter speed with long lenses.
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Article by Jim Zuckerman. To learn more about photography, explore the many online photography and Photoshop classes offered here at BetterPhoto.com.