The Making of "Gotcha!"

How the winning photo of the "Series of Three" contest was made

By oneill in Photo Contests on Mar 25, 2024


Thanks to all the members who nominated, and then voted for my “Series of Three” image. There were a number of excellent images in this competition. I have been published, and have placed in a few competitions, but it never gets old; it is an honor to take first place.

Making the images for “Gotcha!” was fairly straight forward, but required a lot of very “patient” time in the field. The images were shot in Washington’s San Juan Islands in a lovely short grass meadow overlooking the ocean. There were three dens in a very large meadow, collectively with about a dozen fox kits. I spent four days sitting on a little folding “walk stool” with the day-to-day activities of three fox families going on around me. Pack a lunch, take some water, and become “landscape”, there was no need to hide, you just become another rock.

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The running shots were at 1000/sec, F7.1, ISO 1600 and the more static shot was at 1250/sec, F7.1, ISO 800. The Pentax K-1, and the K-1 Mark II, with their slow frame rate and shallow buffer are challenging for extreme action, while the new K-3 Mark III is spectacular.

On a late October trip last year for grizzly bears, I was able to capture a 27-frame sequence with the K3 III, of an adult grizzly running past me in water, with the HD Pentax-D FA 150-450mm @ 150mm, 800/sec, F8, ISO 1600. The subject fills the frame and all the images are sharp and in focus!

The fox triptych is actually three frames of a quadriptych. It is not often that you can capture a series of wildlife images that are similar, yet different, work well together, and tell a story. I was very fortunate to capture this.

While the actual image capture is not difficult, with wildlife photography, to be consistently successful, you need to remember the ten “P”s; proper planning and preparation, with patience, perseverance and practice, prevents piss-poor performance :) .

My focus, if you will forgive the pun, is capturing animal behavior, with the photographer preferably not being the center of their attention. When you see behavior, and you are not already shooting it is too late! You need to anticipate what is going to happen by knowing a lot about the animal and you need to be shooting just before it happens, not an easy thing to do.

For example: A few years ago I was in a boat photographing a grizzly bear, on shore, facing me with his front feet in the water. His front feet started shuffling in the water. I hit the shutter button on high continuous. The grizzly stood, spun sideways, took two steps standing, dropped to all fours and dove into the bush. I got 7 frames shooting at 4 frames per second, the last frame was his butt, it was all over in 1.75 seconds! But I got one spectacular shot of a grizzly standing and turning with water streaming off its paws, beautifully showing the movement.

I am not new to photography, and have been actively shooting wildlife for over fifty years starting with an Asahi Pentax S1 and a Spotmatic. With wildlife photography I have always relied on having a pair of cameras, in film days it gave you an incredibly fast reload, a back-up, or the availability of, a quick to use, shorter lens. Over the years I’ve used The Spotmatic F Motor Drive, D2DMDs, a couple of MX motor drives, a pair of LX bodies w/motor drives, MZ-S, K10 & 20Ds, K7, all the K5 and K3 variations, and the K1, all the digitals with battery grips.

In the early years I shot wildlife in black & white film as well, as most magazines used many more B&W images than colour, and black and white medium format 8x10 images were stunning, compared to a 35mm colour conversion. Using a Mamiya C330 Twin Lens Reflex @ 250mm, with a waist level finder for wildlife was a tad challenging though, if not hilarious! When Pentax brought out their 645 in the late 1980’s I switched from the Bronica ETRS Motor Drive, and since to the 645D, and currently have the Pentax 645Z and a Pentax 67.

Other than medium format I have only used Pentax equipment. For most of my wildlife shooting I currently use a single K1 Mk.II and a single K3 Mk.III.

- Murray

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