Keep Your Eye In The Viewfinder And Away From The Screen
by John Downey
On our last day driving from Kolchambo to Addis Ababa, we (fortunately) ran into a washed out section of the main road and were detoured up a steep, rocky 14km that elevated to a windy and cold 3500m plateau. The views were amazing. After about fifteen minutes of climbing, we came to a smooth, golf course-like hill with a view of the valley that was so deep, it seemed fake. I left our car to check it out up close and was mobbed by three kids selling wool hats. Minutes later, I motioned for Ji and Ella to join me and watch Gelada baboons and goats feeding on the hillside.
The kids wouldn’t give up. They were so close behind me that the baboons wouldn’t stay in place. One of them put a hat on my head and another pushed one into my hand. “Yelim, amasekenaloh.” No thanks. They persisted. Finally, I explained that I needed them to stay back so I could approach the dominant male. All this time, I was shooting away with my eye sunk into the viewfinder. Point here – if you’re shooting wildlife, the LCD doesn’t work, at least after checking initial exposure via the histogram. You click, then check the screen… do it again and miss a shot. That’s why point-and-shoot cameras without a viewfinder miss their mark. Wildlife and kids move around a lot. To get The One, you have to keep clicking away. After all, you’ve got memory so use it! When there’s an opportunity unfolding in front of you, keep pressing the shutter and don’t keep checking. Save that for when you get home.
That’s what happened here. I shot close to 200 frames of these baboons, most of which were of the 200 pound male. I wanted a sharp image of his eyes but he constantly jerked around and it was pissing me off. So I just kept saying to myself, “C’mon, look at me dammit… c’mon, c’mon, c’mon…” The first couple of frames are ok, but I knew they weren’t going to make the cut. As the big dude moved away from me, he perched for about two seconds on the edge of the grass ledge and… bam, nailed it.
Then he disappeared below. It happened so fast, there would have been no time to check the LCD and raise the camera up to my eye again.
The last image here, while far from a great shot, shows the baboon precariously sitting on a rock that hangs over a thousand-meter drop. Only a long lens that provides a shallow depth of field can give a general idea that the background is a long, unnerving ways away.
I was pretty happy knowing I had captured the shot envisioned. When I started walking back to the car to leave, uh oh, I was confronted by the little devils again.
I bought the damn hat.