The Importance of Research
Simply knowing what you want to photograph and where you might find your subject isn't enough - and here's why.
One of the species I have always wanted to photograph in the wild is the Sri Lankan Green Pit Viper (Trimeresurus trigonocephalus) and when I had the opportunity I did all that I could to prepare and maximize my chances of seeing one in it's natural environment.
I already knew that there are different populations of Sri Lankan Green Pit Viper; some found in the drier plains of the island, others more coastal and the most famous are those found in the humid jungles and wet forest zones. Although I already knew a little, it wouldn't be enough to just go into the jungle and try my luck. I had limited time on the ground and needed to find out as much about my subject and it's behaviour patterns beforehand, so that I'd be able to find one and photograph it.
I spent hours reading about the prey and hunting methods, giving me an idea of the exact environments they'd likely be found in - and more importantly I discovered that they hunt primarily at night. This information allowed me to conclude that they would be found by water-sources; rivers, streams and pools of water but as an arboreal species they would be slightly higher in the foliage during the day - absorbing sunlight in branches above, storing energy and digesting their previous nights meal rather than waiting to ambush prey lower to the ground.
Although it took several hours of meticulously scouring the bushes and trees besides a selected stream, we did eventually discover one poised just above head-height below a clearing in the canopy above.
It was one of my happiest moments in wildlife photography so far - shooting a species that I'd read about and seen pictures of ever since I was a young boy. A dream come true.
If I hadn't spent the time researching my subject, learning it's behaviour and understanding the animal more intimately then chances are I wouldn't have seen one. There are always the coincidental moments in photography; where you just happen to be in the right place at the right time - but this isn't something that can be relied on, and even less so if you are setting out with a particular species in mind or have been commissioned to photograph a particular animal.
Dedicate a little time to research before your next wildlife photography trip and I promise you, it will almost certainly pay-off.