Be Ready For The Second Shot

February 9, 2010

Photo Tips, Wildlife

Last summer I was fortunate to have some unusual visitors to my back yard.  We had a cicada invasion, and the insects were crawling up out of the ground and making their usual racket. Siting in my office, I thought I saw a dog run across the clearing.  On further inspection, it was a Great Horned Owl!  To add to my surprise, TWO juvenile owls waddled out of the underbrush.  All three were after the tasty morsels emerging from their sleep.

Seeing a Geat Horned Owl around these parts is rare, and having two juveniles on the ground in one’s own yard even rarer.  I knew I had to get to work, for this might be a fleeting moment.

I had no idea what I was in for.  It took me two weeks to get a usable shot.  These guys earned their reputation as the top of the avian hunter chain, as they could see and hear my every move.  I tried a Doghouse blind, laying on the deck, laying in mud, a Kwik Kamo blind–enough things to make my wife start muttering about “obsession”.  Finally I tried TWO Doghouse blinds, so the little rascals would be confused about where I was hiding.

Once I was able to keep the owls in the yard while I was in one blind, my problem became composition.  What owl would look my way when nice juicy cicadas were on the ground in front of them?  Any noise I made, including shutter noise, would make them look up and scurry.  Then it hit me.  The first shutter click might get their attention, the second shutter click could be my shot.  That’s how I captured the image above.

My lesson was: stay on point past the first shot.  Don’t line up your shot, only to pull away after your first shutter click. Stay focused and concentrate on what happens after your first click.  Be there for the second shot, the third shot and more.

You never know what might happen after that first shot.  The second one may the the one that nails it.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 5 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Chris is the owner of Outdoor Photo Gear, an online photo retailer specializing in photo gear for the active outdoor photographer. He is also our Gear Guru here at DPE.
Chris is also an avid nature photographer, concentrating on avian images. His images have been published nationally. You can visit Outdoor Photo Gear at

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3 Responses to “Be Ready For The Second Shot”

  1. Bernie Says:

    That is a great story Chris and a good tip too which applies in many situations.

    I’ve had some portrait subjects that were very formal in their approach and getting something natural can be hard work but they often relax immediately after hearing the shutter. I think there may be a market for a device that does nothing but playback the sound of a shutter firing at the click of a button held in your off camera hand.


  2. Wanja Says:

    Had more or less the same experience with little birds. I thought I saw something in a hollow tree, but it was to dark for me to see what, so I just took a blind picture with a rather long exposure (being afraid that I might flash hundreds of bats out of it, right into my face). On the click of the shutter, five small birds opened up their mouth, thinking their mother came to feed them :-) .


  3. David Says:

    A very good tip indeed. Wish I’d known this earlier, would have helped with my bird and wildlife shots.



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