Photography is about focus. I’m not apologising for that pun.
Obviously images being sharp is a good start. But to get good, sharp images, it’s also important to be concentrated on what you’re doing. The number of times I’ve quickly swapped subjects without quite changing my camera settings to keep up with the change, and had slightly soft images as a result, is…high. I end up with a whole series of useless images that could have been perfectly fine if I’d just taken a second to check my settings. So being focused and mindful is important – especially if you work in Manual like I do.
But there’s also a lot to be said for getting distracted. Provided you can avoid the above problem, it’s important in wildlife photography not to entirely fixate on one thing happening in front of you (unless there is only one thing happening in front of you). In wildlife situations, there’s often a lot going on, different individuals or species coming and going, interacting, and if you’re nailed down focusing on one thing, you’ll miss a lot. I was photographing the gannet pair above when the entire colony of White-fronted terns burst into flight, filling the air with white wings. Lit by morning light against the dark cliffs. It’s an image I’m glad I was able to take – because I’m usually at Muriwai in the evenings when the cliffs are painted orange by the sunset. So even though I didn’t quite manage the photo of the gannets that I had in mind, because I got distracted, it paid off.
Focus is good because it helps you make the most out of a situation. But distraction is good because it means you see more potential images. Striking the right balance is hard, and sometimes I’m too distracted and I don’t know where to look! But every situation is different. Just keep looking around.
Being responsive to the changes in what’s happening around you will help make better images. Keep both eyes open!