For most of the subjects that I shoot, I already have the perfect image hanging somewhere on the walls inside my head. This doesn't always happen right away, but usually after my first attempt, having experienced the behavior of the subject and seeing the location, I have a pretty good idea of what I want. Unfortunately with wildlife photography, what you want is not necessarily what you get. :) When the light is perfect, the subject is not there. When the subject is there, the light is terrible. Or when the light is perfect and the subject is there, it is in the wrong position, facing away from the camera, or not doing what you want it to do. Frustrating as this might sound, it is also one of the reasons wildlife photography is so addictive - you keep trying to get the shot you're after.
I visit Japan every year, and one of the highlights of the tour are the beautiful and highly endangered Japanes crane (Grus japonensis, also known as red-crowned crane), the second rarest crane in the world. The graceful winter dances of these elegant birds are a joy to watch and photograph. I have planned this trip during winter when there's usually lots of snow. As these birds are primarily white, the shot I really wanted to get was one where you'd have a white foreground (snow), a light gray sky, and the birds on the horizon - different shades of white and gray. As often, this shot proved to be much more easy to produce inside my head than in the field. On last year's visit though, all the elements briefly worked together in perfect harmony.
It had been snowing continuously on our last morning, so the snow was fresh and the sky was fully overcast. The light was soft and all around us, and the cranes were doing their usual thing - throwing their heads up in the air and calling as loud as they could. Once small group was walking up a slope, removing all background vegetation resulting in a clean and graphic scene with low contrast and very subtle detail - just the way I like it. When they simultaneously started calling with their beaks pointed upwards, I took this shot. It's moments like this that I enjoy most, probably because they don't happen very often.
Nikon D3, AF-S VR 200-400/4.0, 1/800 @ f/10, ISO 400