Wildlife 101: Portraits are Pretty – But Action Shots are Awesome

January 7th, 2010 by Rick Sammon

Here are two of my favorite pictures from one of my Botswana workshops.

I like the portrait of the lion; the side lighting adds a nice sense of depth and dimension to the image. Remember: light illuminates; shadows define.

Lion Portrait

I also like the way this guy is looking directly at me. The eyes are well lit and are in focus, which is important in most wildlife – and people – photography.

The action shot, however, is much more interesting. It show the lioness giving a “lovebite” to the lion – after three days of mating, according to my guide.

Lion Action

Because I had my mind set on getting an action shot, I was prepared to get it. In other words, I set the goal of getting the shot. I envisioned the end result.

The info:

  • Canon 1D Mark III was set on rapid frame advance to capture the peak of action.
  • Focus set to Servo (automatic focus tracking).
  • Shutter speed set to 1/500th sec. to freeze the action.
  • Aperture set to f/8 – to ensure that both lions were in sharp focus.

I composed the scene with lots of dead space around the subjects so that a paw or tail was not cut off. (This image is cropped tight for more impact.) I also shot with both eyes open, so that I could keep an eye on what else was going on in the scene.

My lens: Canon 100-400mm IS lens – which is sharpest at f/8, by the way.

When you are photographing animals – and people – portraits are pretty, but action shots are awesome.

Explore the Light,

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One Response to “Wildlife 101: Portraits are Pretty – But Action Shots are Awesome”

  1. bry says:

    Wow…the lions look so majestic, beautiful cats and great photos.

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful camera shots.


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