All morning I had the Carly Simon song Anticipation running through my head. I couldn't figure out why until I looked at my photos from this mornings outing. I must of, at some point in the morning, triggered the word "anticipation" as a result of what I was photographing. And just like that, the song was in my head.
However you want to phrase it, anticipating your subject's actions will help to improve your photo. As I photograph wildlife, I have to anticipate what that animal might do. That means reading up about their behavior, studying them in the field, taking in the surroundings and being patient.
For example, this morning, I woke up a couple of hours before sunrise with hopes of going out to photograph some wildlife. It had snowed the night before and the temperature had dropped, but there were still clouds to the east and a little fog from the steam rising from warm water in the nearby rivers, ponds and streams. Would the clouds dissipate in time to let the sun shine through at sunrise?
I headed out to Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge east of Denver just as the sun was breaching the horizon - the clouds lifted. Anticipating the weather is an important - but uncontrollable - piece of nature photography. In Colorado, the day after a winter snow storm is very often a beautiful but cold, sunny day. Today lived up to that trend.
I first went to the north side of the driving tour at the Refuge in hopes of finding the bison. They were there - but on the wrong side of the fence. The light was getting gorgeous - warm and soft thanks to the fog in the cold air. But I noticed the pasture gate was open and that the bison were facing that gate. So I decided to wait. Sure enough, about 30 minutes later, that herd of about three dozen bison strolled down the fence line and through the gate right into beautiful morning sun and fresh snow on the ground.
Then I spotted a herd of mule deer in the distance near a lake at the Refuge. There were two bucks following about a dozen does and fawns. I considered at first that they were too far away but changed my mind when I reviewed the situation - they were using a game trail I had frequently seen them on in the past. This trail crosses the road near where I was so I decided to turn around and wait. Sure enough the does and fawns meandered down the trail and across the road. The buck followed and I captured some stellar shots of a buck coming over a ridge.
So in each situation, I reviewed the surroundings, referred back to a few memories of what I had seen and experienced in the past and created my own luck for some pretty good shots today.
As Louis Pasteur said, "Chance favors only the prepared mind." That includes our knowledge and insight that we bring with us to each location.