Photo Tip – Have the camera out and turned on. Always be ready!

Photo Tip – Have the camera out and turned on. Always be ready!

This is my Photo Tip for capturing the unexpected… Always be ready, have the camera out and turned on, you never know what’s going to happen.

Capturing the Unexpected – Photo Tip

So many times I have been out and about, when I had the opportunity to capture something very special. You really never know from day to day when something truly amazing will pass your way. It would be even better if you could capture this event or moment. I have outlined some tips on this subject below and also my own photo gallery of times I was happy I had my camera ready

1) The first step is easy, have the camera with you as much as possible. 

Even if you only have a small DLSR like the 1100D which I use, it is small compact and light.

2) The second step is simply to have the camera ready

I normally have the camera out and on standby mode, i.e. turned on but sleeping. I then have the camera set on auto-focus and shutter speed priority (around 1/500s with an adequate ISO so as to be correctly exposed).

3) Choose the right lens

Normally, the unexpected things which happen will be in the medium to long distance. For example, an unusual bird or something in nature will not be landing right in front of you. Therefore, I normally have my 24-105 L lens or the 70-300 telephoto lens attached. I feel a wide angle lens serves no purpose in this situation.

4) Be aware of your situation and use photographers intuition

Photography can be a very mindful hobby and pass-time. As a result, while you walk the countryside or amble the streets of the city with your camera ready and turned on, you are every ready to capture a moment. If you hear something or see something in the distance which is out of the ordinary, get ready, it could be something photo-worthy. These fleeting instances will pass in moments, so get ready to shoot your moment.

My Photo Gallery – Moments when I have Captured the Unexpected

This is a photo gallery of times when I have been ready and I was lucky to capture moments which came and went in a minute. I have outlined underneath the details and locations of these photos.

Photo of Swan Landing - Shane McDonald Photography

This swan was photographed landing on a lake at Doneraile Park in Co. Cork. I heard the flap of the wings coming from behind me and just as I turned it landed. Camera: Canon 7D. Lens Canon 70-300 IS.

Cliffs of Moher, stupidity on the cliffs photographed by Shane McDonald Photography

This photo was at the Cliffs of Moher and this shows real stupidity (or bravery … I’m still not sure). Just as I turned around I saw a guy doing a hand-stand near the cliff edge. Luckily, I had the camera turned on and ready to shoot. I got 2-3 good shots of this outrageous stunt. Camera: Canon 7D. Lens Canon 70-300 IS.

My First Fox photographed by Shane McDonald Photography

This was the first fox I photographed. I had a loan of a Canon EF lens but the fox appeared without notice and I learned a lesson. My camera wasn’t 100% setup at the time so I had to act fast. The point being, if I hadn’t the camera ready and activated I would never have captured that shot. The only thing I wish I had done was to had the camera setup on shutter priority. Camera: Canon 450D. Lens Canon EF 200mm.

Spitfire at the White Cliffs of Dover - by Shane McDonald
Spitfire at the White Cliffs of Dover - by Shane McDonald
Spitfire at the White Cliffs of Dover - by Shane McDonald

While walking along the white cliffs of Dover, I head a low hum. A distinctive hum which I knew was a plane but I hoped it was the sound of a Merlin engine from a Spitfire. As I turned around, it was exactly that. Luckily, the camera was already in my hand and all I had to do was shoot. The plane had come and gone in about 1 minute 25 seconds based on the timings from my camera. Had I not had the camera ready I would have missed the majority of this amazing flypast.  Camera: Canon 7D. Lens Canon 70-300 IS.

Amazing Dragonfly in Ventnor Botanical Gardens by Shane McDonald

While at the Ventnor Botanical Gardens, I saw a few smaller damselflies around. However within a few minutes I could see a much larger dragonfly doing amazing loops. It would stop and then fly off. I noticed it liked one particular plant as it kept returning to it. I approached it but it flew off, so my technique was to stay near the plant hoping it would return. The dragonfly complied, and I zoomed from a distance of about 5 feet to capture this shot.   Camera: Canon 7D. Lens Canon 70-300 IS.


There is a famous saying, you miss all the shots you don’t take. It’s a bit over used but in this case it is somewhat true. If I hadn’t had my camera at the ready and I wasn’t looking around the nearby environment, I would have missed these great shots. I have many more photos I could have included here with the exact same story … The camera was ready and I was lucky with my timing.

Photography opportunities can be fleeting, be ready, know your camera settings and keep snapping.