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How do we move beyond the basic record shot and record something that pulls at our emotions? One way is to capture interactions. From lions and cheetah fighting over a kill to a baby baboon turning to its mother for comfort animals are constantly interacting with each other. The challenge, as a photographer, is to capture those interactions and the relationships they represent when they occur. Calling relationships an element of composition might be a stretch, but incorporating relationships into your photographs can increase their impact and help them to stand out from the crowd.
Even when successful, capturing an interaction is often not enough. The goal is to capture the interaction in such a way as to showcase the relationship in a clear, unambiguous manner. Good images are simple, without distractions. The more elements we add, the more potential distractions exist, and the more difficult it is to hold the viewer’s attention. As a consequence, a good relationship image requires three things:
- Both animals must be captured in a pleasing manner. Usually we only have to worry about one animal at a time. Who cares if the baboon sitting off to the side is drooling while he sleeps. Unfortunately, we do. Both subjects must look good or the image will fail.
- The interaction must be crystal clear. A lot can be shared in a simple glance, but that doesn’t mean the camera will capture it. Most interactions do not record well on film and it is only through repeated attempts that we have a chance to capture the few that do.
- Eliminate all distractions. This might seem obvious, but it is essential. If there are any other distractions, the viewer will not focus on the relationship.
Interactions are a one of the most difficult, yet rewarding aspects of wildlife photography. While our attempt to photograph them fail more often then not, the successes are often the some of our most compelling images.
This mother and baby baboon were photographed in Tarangire National Park during a wildlife photo safari. As often happens when photographing a troop of baboons, photographic opportunities could be found in every direction. The key is to slow down and look of the little interactions and relationships that result in strong images. Just such an opportunity presented itself when I spotted this young baboon hugging its mother. The image was captured using a Canon 1D mark 2, 500mm IS lens, at 800 ISO. The image was shot from a vehicle using a beanbag to support the lens.