Before The Leap
As the cougar moved around investigating a large rocky outcropping area, there were areas of extreme lighting contrast between shadow and brightly-lit scene that made capturing this image a difficult matter – but one of choice, although the best choice is not always what is intuitive. Often the intuitive approach one might take is to expose fully on the subject’s body as it moves from light to dark, and back to light, and take whatever poor images you get from panning with it, as other elements in the scene blow out without detail. Or instead expose for the rest of the elements which are stationary, and wait until scene develops till all elements are lit as needed. I usually choose the later. But even then the resulting balance of the image in comparison to the negative space created by dark areas of the exposure may be suspect, if you don’t plan for and envision where the subject of the image must be in relation to the stationary elements you are exposed for. Look ahead of your subject’s path by a second or two as it moves through the troubled dark areas of the scene. Expose fully on the brightness of the area you expect your subject to move into, compose for the scene’s elements where the subject does not yet exist, and then attempt your patience while waiting for your subject to move into place. Does it always work? No, of course not. But luck shots are when planning and opportunity meet.
As a matter of composition in the world of photography, there are many "rules" subtly at play here, like rule of three’s for example. But perhaps a more unknown composition consideration that is very powerful when used is the concept of “Negative Space”. Simply put, “negative space” is the area which surrounds the main subject in your photo, while the main subject is known as the "positive space". Negative space defines and emphasizes the main subject of a photo, drawing your eye to it. It provides "breathing room", giving your eyes somewhere to rest and preventing your image from appearing too cluttered with "stuff". All of this adds up to a more engaging composition.
In regards to this particular image, Instead of isolating just one element in the image through usage of negative space, I chose to isolate 3 completely different elements in different areas of the image, leaving healthy amounts of negative space between all...yet in the absence of so much detail, the 3 isolated elements all combine to allow the viewer's mind to complete the story without needing to reference or get hung up in the clutter of anything else.