Being fast is not enough


There’s a lot of action in this photo, just like I wanted but it just doesn’t seem quite right. Perhaps it’s because the deer is leaning so far forward that you half expect the next scene will be an unfortunate face plant into the snow.

I have come to the unhappy conclusion that not all running is equal.

It all started when I decided that I needed more action in my wildlife photos. Hanging around looking cute really only works if you’re cute and even then it wears thin with repetition. I was going to add action to my repertoire!

Who could have foreseen that taking shots of animals running with the wind would be difficult? I immediately discovered significant technical difficulties – some might even be legitimately blamed on the equipment.


This is as close as I’ve gotten to getting the shot of the deer jumping over the fence. It has all the right elements except for the fence and the deer on top of it. The fence is just to the right of the photo in case you’re curious.

I had barely begun to discover the full extent of the problem when I made the profound discovery that there weren’t a lot of creatures that ran toward me. No matter where I stood, I always seemed to be in the wrong spot. It was impossible to guess where they would run.

Initially I thot it would be a good first test to capture a deer jumping over a fence. I have witnessed the scene enough times that it would be reasonable to think I might have gotten it, but no. It’s surprising how many things have gone wrong. I have heard myself mumbling, would you mind doing that again? In the interest of alleviating suspense, they have a perfect track record of never repeating the performance.

A few years later, I decided that I would be happy capturing animals running without adding to my butt collection! I have been more successful with this. However, even when I met most of the technical challenges, my photos were still missing the very things that drew me into the pursuit. Beauty and grace were in short supply.


Now these guys are amazingly fast and I was pleased to get all four hooves off the ground. Unfortunately the photo looks more like suspended animation rather than the full power and beauty of raw speed. How do you teach Pronghorn to look fast?

My photos would clearly show deer or other animals running but quite often they were landing on their front feet. This had the comical effect of looking like they are about to tip over. I’ve also captured them with their feet crossed over beneath them. This is definitely better but still not the stretched out power look I wanted. I have come to the conclusion that they are non-photogenic runners. It’s sad but true.

I’ve only caught one fox running and it was quickly clear that it knew how to run properly. Not only was it fast but it looked fast which may be more important in a photo. Beauty and grace were in full supply.


Now this looks fast!

I may have to pick my runners more carefully in the future. That should only make things easier!!!

Latest Comments

  1. Teju says:

    What beauties! very beautiful captures!


  2. Honie Briggs says:

    The day after Thanksgiving I saw a bobcat. Yes, here in suburbia,cruising across my neighbor’s driveway, slinking along the fence line toward a wooded hillside next to my house. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was there, right there in front of me, and before I could catch my breath, grab my camera, and race to the other side of the house, he was gone, camouflaged between the trees. Awesome things happen fast. Very fast.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      That would be a neat adrenaline rush! I guess you never know when or where it happens next but mostly likely without your camera! I completely understand the relationship between awesome and fast.


  3. toughlittlebirds says:

    I think the problem with the first deer photo is that his face is turned away, and the problem with the pronghorn is he has no long hair to show motion – the fox is all beautiful streaming fur. They’re both still neat photos for seeing how the animals move, though. I like that the second deer photo omits the fence: it looks like the deer just decided to kick its butt up in the air for the heck of it.

    I relate to this post as I just took an in-focus photo of a Cooper’s Hawk in flight, and it’s awesome – except he’s going just a little too fast so the tip of his bill is cut off. Argh!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Don’t you just hate it when that happens? The trouble with part of the bill missing is that it’s entirely possible some people might notice!! There’s always the proverbial next time.

      Now I wish I had all your ideas for the deer photos before I published this – I could have made the post more interesting. That streaming fur is quite the advantage.

      I appreciate the comments.


  4. melodylowes says:

    Not to worry about your lack of ‘deer whispering’ prowess – those unusual positions are fascinating! Catching an antelope with all four feet off the ground? Priceless.


  5. Phil Lanoue says:

    Wow that fox really does look fast! Tremendous shot of this very cool animal in a great setting.


  6. Mike Powell says:

    I agree with the comment that suggests that you need to go to Africa. The cheetah seems to be the epitome of what you are looking for–long and lean and really fast. I am not sure that you will ever get that same look from a deer (though I love your shot of the deer doing what appears to be a handstand). Like everyone else, I love the image of the running fox. I also really like the title you chose for the posting. It reminds me of the Canon commercial from the early 1990’s, which proclaimed that “image is everything”–maybe the animals you are shooting need to hire a public relations firm to assist you in making them look faster.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Another wonderful set of comments. Africa would be quite something. I think you’re right about the cheetah – that’s probably everything I want as long as I could somehow keep up! I wish I had thot of the handstand comment – good one. I struggled with finding the title for this and kept changing right to the last minute so I’m glad it works. I wasn’t around in the early 1900s so I missed that commercial:) But it sounds interesting. I actually think a PR firm would do little to help those deer – I have come to the conclusion their body structure makes them run a certain way that isn’t the look I’m after.


  7. Lara Armes-Venter says:

    That shot of the fox is amazing!


  8. DMgirl says:

    I am sure those perfect runners will show up sooner or later! The fox definitely seemed to be a bit more cooperative than the others though. 🙂


  9. Deb W. Trotter says:

    Love the fox photo! What a beautiful animal.


  10. Rick Alonzo Photography says:

    Keep it up Lyle! Practice, practice, practice! Challenging shots are so fun, aren’t they?! 🙂


  11. Cornel A. says:

    Now that fox looks so fast!!!! And love its tail!


  12. sagescenery says:

    I love this post! The photos are great! And I so admire your perseverance!!!!


  13. niasunset says:

    being fast is not enough… This is amazing post and great shots. I loved them all. As always you are so nice. Thank you, love, nia


  14. gingeralicia88 says:

    Hahaha, this made me laugh 🙂 Awesome!


  15. westerner54 says:

    Great post. Love the levitating pronghorn, even if he doesn’t look fast!


  16. Victor Rakmil says:

    Remarkable photographs!


  17. Terry Brown says:

    Staying with an open aperture like f4 and shutter speed on par with focal length (400th/sec at 400mm) and panning with the animal I have found to be a good starting point for showing motion with larger animals. Helps to get rid of the static feel but as you say, it is not easy. Slightly easier with birds because of the natural tendency of wing blur compared to the body movement. Motion shots are quite pleasing when Done right……I too am still practicing though.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      That’s so true. I also make my life more complicated since I really want the blurred action photos to have some sharp parts – a little soft just makes me not like the photo (mine and others). Perhaps I’m still reacting to all the blurry shots I’ve taken over the years. Maybe with time I’ll loosen up my preferences and with practice, find the sweet spot. I still prefer the stretched out look of the fox to the running poses of deer.


  18. Mark Conway says:

    Beautiful captures Lyle! Absolutely adore the fox!


  19. Hanna says:

    The pictures are great. The fox is good model 😉
    Your post has a superior title 🙂


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I changed that title quite a few times so I’m happy it landed somewhere good. That fox really put on a show for me and I will be forever grateful. Appreciate your comments.


  20. Steve Boer says:

    Something else that would help with the feeling of motion would be to use panning. Of course this increases the difficulty by several orders of magnitude!


    • Jeff | Planet Bell says:

      Bad luck to not get the fence in the shot with the deer. That would have made the photo. As it is, it looks like a slightly crazy deer. The fox photo is great. Do you know what he was chasing?

      You need to go to Africa. I got some bizarre photos of animals running their, usually flying. On the plains, being eaten (and thus needing to run) is always a real possibility.


      • Lyle Krahn says:

        Jeff – yes, I have learned to expect to live with the disappointments of near misses though I never live it. The fox was chasing some ravens that were a hanging around a little too close while the fox was hunting.

        I can only imagine what it would be like in Africa. There are definitely some fast hungry predators there.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Steve – panning is certainly an option. I should probably try that more often to get better at it. While I was panning in these shots, my shutter speed was set to freeze the action which of course is quite different. My added challenge is that I tend to prefer having something sharp in the photo. Blurred legs or wings are fine but then often the body gets a little soft too and the whole effect is disappointing to me – though others like it. The running motion of deer really leaves very few poses that look fast while the stretched out fox is my mental image of fast.


  21. foresterartist says:

    These are awesome shots, but I get your point.


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