High Speed Motordrive for Capturing the Wildlife Decisive Moment

In the past I have frequently discussed the importance of the decisive moment in wildlife photography on my workshops. Quite honestly, the decisive moment is the key to the holy grail in wildlife image making. Great light is wonderful, great subject and great composition are mandatory; but add the decisive moment with superb gesture and you will have an emotional winner every time.

I have heard it said by some fairly well known photographers over past years that ‘they don’t need motor drive’; and that they are capable of predicting and capturing the exact perfect moment with a single shot. Utter nonsense and nothing could be further from reality.

For a variety of reasons a high speed motor drive is an essential tool in wildlife photography (and not just for fast moving subjects such as birds). At 1/500th of a second for example, shooting ten or more frames a second (up to 20 frames per second on the Canon 1DX  MK3 with mechanical or electronic shutter) there is an opportunity to pick out the perfect frame in an animals movements. The paw lifted and at just the right angle, the micro second the ‘attitude’ and ‘gesture’ are perfect in combination with the perfect head angle and a serendipitous gust of wind. These are moments it is impossible to capture with single capture (unless it is a fluke). Sure, you can get lucky from time to time – but more often than not you will miss the exact perfect moment where as the photographer by your side shooting high speed will have the freedom to pick and choose from his or her frames.

In this example below (one of a burst of approximately 35 frames, taken over a period of about two seconds) we have the perfect decisive moment of gesture, attitude, light, subject and composition. A frame either side of this one capture lacks the raw emotion found in the image below. Sure, the frames either side are still good images, but they lack that magical feeling that so perfectly brings this image to life.

The downside to shooting high speed is of course it is very easy to end up with thousands of images to later edit. However, it is always better to have the image ‘in the can’ as it were and have to spend a little time sorting and editing than it would have been to miss it altogether….During my editing process I am picking out the frames that grab me on an emotional level and processing just these few images. I do keep the remainder of the RAW files as I occasionally refer back to them when I need a certain type of photograph. The photograph below was taken with the Canon EOS 1DX MK3 with a Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS MK3 at 70mm. I used a very shallow depth of field in order to soften the surrounding snow and place greater emphasis on the fox.

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