Check out the inspiring work of top pro photographer Jim Zuckerman and you'll find such a surprising range of subjects, including wildlife. Check out his remarkable image of a poorwill skimming a pond at night to drink on the wing. The small body of water, Jim Z says, was manmade specifically to attract bats and birds in the dry desert environment near Tuscon, Arizona.
Jim Z shares his thoughts and shooting techniques: "I used a PhotoTrap, an electronic device that sends out an infra-red beam that’s tripped by the animal. I set up the camera in daylight hours to focus precisely on the beam.
"The biggest problem facing this kind of high-speed photography is the lag time of the camera. I was shooting with the Canon 5D Mark II, and this is not designed for this kind of specialized work. When a high-speed subject breaks the beam, by the time the mirror locks up and the camera’s shutter opens, the bat or bird will be three or feet past the critical point of focus and out of the frame entirely.
"Therefore, the way I had to do this was to fire the flash units while the shutter of my camera was open. There is no delay at all using this method, so the flash units illuminate the subject when it is still in the beam.
"I used a long cable release to manually fire the camera, and I set the shutter dial on ‘B’, or bulb. I had an infra-red light on the pond along with an infra-red video camera and TV monitor. This generated a black and white image of the pond that was bright enough to see what was going on in the dark. It was actually like wearing night vision goggles. As soon as a bat or bird approached, I hit the button on the cable release to open the shutter. If the animal flew in the desired flight path (and many times they missed the beam or they flew away from the camera instead of toward it), I got the shot."
Technical date for the photo: 400 ISO, f/16, with a 300mm f/2.8 Canon lens, one extension tube, and an Induro CX-214 tripod.
Notes: Jim Zuckerman is a top stock photographer and published author who teaches many excellent online photography courses at BetterPhoto.com, including Taking the Mystery Out of Flash Photography, Perfect Digital Exposure, and Eight Steps to More Dramatic Photography.