I go to Japan every year to photograph snow monkeys, cranes, swans and eagles, and as a result I have a lot of images of these subjects. My standard preparation is to find out what photographs already exist of the subjects I'm about to photograph to see what has already been done and where the possibilities lie to create something different. Composition and viewpoint are usually good starting points, but with many subjects, all the compositions and viewpoints have been tried before.
In an effort to create more original images of often photographed subjects, with more room for creativity, I decided last year to experiment with a technique that macro photographers use all the time, but which is very uncommon in mammal photography: off-camera flash. I have posted some earlier efforts here before, but here I tried to take it one step further.
Light is the very essence of photography, and as photographers we are depending on the quality of the light for the photograph to work. Instead of waiting for the perfect light, and hoping that the subject will be there when it happens, preferably with the perfect pose, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create the light myself.
Here's one where I used off-camera flash in a very unconventional way on a Japanese macaque. I positioned the flash behind the subject to emphasize the steam rising from the water's surface and I used some major underexposure to render the monkey as a silhouette with a nice rimlight.