Top nature shooters share their tricks of the trade.
To catch animals whose day starts only as daylight ends, Scott Linstead uses a motion-triggered camera. “My first task in photographing this big brown bat was luring it into within flash range,” he says. “I did it with a small artificial pond in the middle of the Amado, Arizona, desert. The water source in that very dry environment almost guaranteed a few thirsty subjects.”
Once the bats discovered his pond, Linstead lit them with four Nikon SB-800 Speedlights placed around its perimeter. With an infrared tripwire kit from Phototrap ($460, direct), his Nikon D300 fired automatically whenever a flying bat broke the infrared beam. At the moment of exposure, the D300’s built-in pop-up flash fired, triggering the optically slaved Speedlights.
“The system worked fine, except that the flash output was bluish and a little artificial looking,” says Linstead. “To compensate, I manually selected a warm white balance of around 8000K. To increase my chances of a sharp photo, I used f/16 for plenty of depth of field. The small aperture also prevented ambient light from contributing to the exposure, which reduced the chance of motion blur in the bats.”
When we first saw Tim Rock’s shot of a saltwater crocodile made in the Rock Islands of Palau in the western Pacific, we assumed he took it from the safety of a canoe. But, no. He was swimming inches away from the mature, man-eating beast.
How did he survive? With the help of a former crocodile hunter, Rock first captured the animal and fed it until it could eat no more and became somewhat lethargic. Then, using a fine but strong nylon fishing line, he wrapped its snout closed. “Because all the jaw power a croc has is used to close its mouth, it’s fairly easy to tie it shut,” he says. “Its jaw muscles were too weak to break our filament, although it was almost too thin to be seen. We felt fairly safe swimming with and shooting the croc this way, always watching for the powerful tail and pointy claws.”