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Tuesday, 27 October 2009


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What is this thing called film you speak of?

Incredible photograph. Congratulations to Rodriguiz.

"What is this thing called film you speak of?"

An antiquarian type of sensor.


I might be wrong.
This reminds me of an Adidas ad, with the song by the yeahyeahyeahs-Squeack E.Clean, and directed by Spike Jonze.


Anyhow, spectacular shot. Surprisingly, quite humble.

Where it does show that quite some times, the most apparently simple thing can be very convoluted to realize.

That's an elegant leap! look at the wolf's poker face while jumping.

OK, I'll be the first to say it: that is a really, really cool picture!


I saw the shot in my local rag and the print was truly dreadful which was not a surprise. The above is a much better way of viewing the shot and is one of those examples where papers can't compete with online content

Nobody makes natural history programs like the BBC!

Wonder if he got a second shot of the wolf, dazzled by the unexpected flash, completely botching the jump, hitting the gate, then ripping apart the camera in a fit of embarrassed irritation? ^_^

First or not,
I'm sayin' it too.
That photo is beyond awesome.
Go film!

That is insane... what an amazing shot.

In light of the recent posts about taking pictures of black bears in coal mines with high sensitivity CCD's, I thought it was interesting to note that this was taken with ISO 50 film! Granted, this was taken at twilight and flashes were most definitely used to great effect, but this should serve as a reminder that technology isn't necessarily the limiting factor to making great pictures.

I love that photo, and really appreciate the back story on how committed he was for so long, to get exactly the shot he wanted.

I work sooo differently.


José Luis Rodríguez is a well known photographer in Spain, specially in Ávila, where both of us live (in fact, he lives in Salobral, a small village 12 kms from my town).
He has developed a personal style in nature's photography along many years.

Nevertheless, it is said his ego is still bigger than his great capabilities.

It usually irks me when prize winning shots are taken with IR triggers instead of someone's finger on the shutter release.. but I think I'll make an exception for the guy with the medium format retrocam and a LOT of patience :-)

Looking forward to the exhibition this year.

"Granted, this was taken at twilight and flashes were most definitely used to great effect"

Yeah it makes me wonder what actually happened to his Hassy and other equipment *after* the picture was taken. Did the wolf suddenly go crazy from surprise and maul the camera? Was the photographer anywhere near the setup when this happened, possibly in danger?

With an 80mm lens on 6x6 it's not like he's using a birding lens to get this shot. Although, granted, we don't know how much he cropped.

David: You don't think that picture required serious technology? "Custom-built infrared trap" sounds like fairly specialized technology to me!

"Rodriguez reportedly planned his shot carefully and worked out his technique over many years."

I'm glad you reported that. I was listening to a BBC radio programme the other morning and the presenter referred to the winning photograph of the leaping wolf. He said that he would have been very pleased to have taken this shot, the implication being that it was a snap and, hey, I can do that. Have you noticed how everybody is a photographer? If it was a painting or musical composition few would lay claim to being able to achieve any level of competency. But give a man a camera and he's instantly an expert. Those of us that strive for a good photo usually fail and have nothing but breathless admiration for truly talented and committed photographers of Jose's calibre. Rant over! Simon

Wasn't last year's winner also an infra-red trap shot?


The striking thing about this image and the fighting yellowhammers that won the junior award is the forethought ( foresight?) planning and patience required to acheive these images.

Jose Luis Rodriguez is like John Smith.
If you want to see some of his photos it's not so easy since there are quite a few Jose Luis Rodriguez in the web including Spain's Government president and a famous Venezuelan singer.
See some of his amazing work at:

Miguel, I've been interested in ego in photography ever since living in Japan back in the '70s and '80s. Westerners were still a bit rare back then, so I had the chance to meet a lot of big-name photographers when they came through town. Many were pretty easy going about their fame. But a certain number were mighty full of themselves. Somehow, compared to say writers or painters, photographers seem prone to it. Maybe an interesting subject for a post?

That image *is* truly beautiful... but, and not to rain on anyone's parade, how much of it is "his", given that he "captured it using a photographic trap that included a motion sensor and an infrared barrier to operate the camera"? I'm asking this, being a member of the "photographers with 20 assistants to do the actual job shouldn't be called photographers" school :)

Of those on the BBC page, I found the springtail-on-snowflake one to be, if maybe apparently "easier to get", but so full of poetry that I was won over.

Well -- planning the lighting, locating the camera, getting the trigger built, placing the trigger, and of course studying the wolf behavior deeply enough to know where to put the stuff, are what made the photo.

The actual building of the trigger seems no different from the actual building of the camera, the tripod, the flashes, or the making of the film -- not something we expect each individual photographer to do themselves (these days).

We have no idea about assistants or such -- but none have been mentioned. Possibly I'm too cerebral, but I see no reason not to give overall credit to the directing intelligence that used various tools, inanimate and possibly animate, to produce a great result.

"You don't think that picture required serious technology? 'Custom-built infrared trap' sounds like fairly specialized technology to me!"

David: In my original post I was more referring to CCD technology (as discussed in earlier topics) rather than triggering technology, thus the reason I highlighted that he used ISO 50 film. But to address the specific question, no, I don't particularly consider IR motion sensor switches particularly high tech. I can go down to my local hardware store and get a motion activated light for under $20 now a days! With a few hours, a soldering iron, and some parts from my local electronics shop, I could easily build a motion activated camera trigger and call it a "custom IR trap."

As I said before, the limitations on capturing great images such as this are definitely NOT what tech exists, nor how much the tech costs. With the new CCD's capable of "black bear in coal mine" shots, Rodriguez might have been able to forgo flashes and use available light, but I doubt it would have made the shot any "better." Rather, as has been pointed out by you in your last post, it is the skillful application of his tools that generates great results. In that regard, I think we definitely agree! After looking back at the picture several times, I doubt that an available light shot would have produced the same striking drama present in the award winning shot. The dramatic layering and vignetting effects produced by the flashes are, IMHO, critical elements to the composition of this picture.

The cool new toys may make taking good shots like this a little easier, but Rodriguez has reminded us all that thoughtful composition and subject choice are FAR more important factors in generating striking images than how much darkness your CCD can capture.

(Off topic, my last name is Dye, so I did a serious double take when I got half way through reading your name!)


Thanks for the link! I think these pictures could have just as easily won:




I started linking to other great pictures, but there were too many of them. Wonderful work, big ego or not.


Ludovic, what if the prize was given to the real photographer - the honest and hard-working wolf? Does one mr Rodriguez then counts as wolf's 20 assistants? I think they are all great photographs exactly because they are so different, and are made so differently. Diversity is a resource, in photography too.
Janne, to retaliate to a strange flashing piece of plastic takes at least a human, wild animals are no good at it.

Speaking of technology in the service of capturing wildlife shots...


(I get a chuckle out of the fact they thought it necessary to label the photographer in the shot showing the set-up.)

Dear Zach,

Well, this would've been a fairly easy photograph to make with a finger on the shutter release. Any halfway competent sports photographer would be able to anticipate the moment and pull it off. A leap is a pretty predictable trajectory and is positively languorous compared to some maneuvers that regularly get photographed in the sports realm. It's not like trying to catch a bullet in midair on film.

In that situation, even you or I could probably get just as good a photograph when the wolf leapt over the fence.

Just one small problem. If we were there, it wouldn't happen.

Contrary to great Russian novels and schlocky horror films, wolves do not generally like to mix it up with the monkeys. Unless the wolf is seriously stressed, sick, or desperate, it will just politely avoid you. If you were there, behind a blind, waiting with your camera, the wolf would notice you long before you noticed it, carefully circle around behind you, and move on, with you unaware that ever happened. If it was feeling especially sociable or curious, it might come up and delicately sniff at you.

What it wouldn't ever do is jump over a fence in front of you.

Which means the easy option is out. You have to figure out an automatic setup that's going to get you the photograph you want of an event that is only semi-predictable and not under your control. This is HARD Photography, not the easy stuff where you get to decide when to push the button.

Not that hard or easy really matters: as Bob Nadler once admonished me, "No one cares how hard you worked to make the photograph."

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Jon Bloom sais:
"Unless the wolf is seriously stressed, sick, or desperate, it will just politely avoid you. If you were there, behind a blind, waiting with your camera, the wolf would notice you long before you noticed it, carefully circle around behind you, and move on, with you unaware that ever happened. If it was feeling especially sociable or curious, it might come up and delicately sniff at you.

What it wouldn't ever do is jump over a fence in front of you."

And what Jon Bloom said is absolutely right. So that the picture was taken under controled conditions: with a specially made trigger and equipment but also with a captive wolf into a big enclosure divided by a fence. If you put the meal in one side, the wolf will jump the fence every day to reach the food.

The picture is great, but it was takeb under controlled conditions. It is the only (and still very difficult way), as wolves are shy with humans (who are their only predators).
Congrats to José Luis for the amazing picture, but a bit less of fantasy in his explanations.

I suppose in some ways it's a nice photo. Technically interesting, certainly wouldn't want to have been near the wolf to make it myself.

But what I do wonder is, what does it say? "Here's a wolf"? Woop. "I managed to use IR-trap toys to get a photo OF a wolf"? Photos "of" are not talkative photos, though. It doesn't have a `wow'-factor for me. It might have done, had it said "fast-moving wolf" using second-shutter sync flash or panning.

Maybe I'm just a heathen, but I do like my motion photos to have some element of motion about them.

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