Thursday, September 4, 2008

Photo Talk: Not Taking Zoo Pictures

At first you might think this is some kind of posting about how it is only a cool photo if it is taken in the wild. On the contrary...I am not one who thinks taking a photo in a zoo is wrong. As far as I am concerned, I love to capture God's creation and help express its beauty...zoo or in the wild.

This post is more about taking photos in a zoo and not having the photo look like a "zoo" photo.

I have seen many posts at various websites where the photographer has taken lets say a photo of a lion and forgot to exclude rocks, fences, and people. The shot may be a winner with an expression or action that is priceless but with all the other distractions it turns out not to be a "money shot".

I am still learning everytime I go off to a zoo. Not only do I learn more about photography but I also learn more and more about what zoos in my area are even worth going to.

I like to see large, natrual looking enclosure and evidence that the animal is well taken care of. I also like to check out the lighting situation and make a plan as to what animal I want to photograph when.

It is funny...almost every zoo I go to says - "The bears are more active in the early morning and mid evening". It cracks me up because the zoo does not open until 10 am and closes at 5 pm. LOL...I can never figure out why they tell me such things.

So anyway...after you spend a little time figuring out what you want to do and when, it is time to crack open the gear and get rockin.

You best have a decent size zoom. Something you can get nice and tight with if need be. I have a Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L which can do the trick sometimes but there are times I add a 1.4 teleconverter to get a little distance.

Recently I added a Tamron SP AF200-500mm F/5-6.3 Di LD (IF) Ultra Zoom to my arsenal. I am very pleased with the zoom factor but it is not nearly as clear as my Canon L. I knew that when I purchased it so there is no real surprise.

I would certainly plan on using at least a monopod. Once you get used to shooting with one they are really quite handy. I personally would recommend a ball head of some sort so you can stay versatile with horizontal and vertical shooting.

When I use my bazooka...oh...Tamron 200-500mm it is certain I will need a tripod. I have tried to hand hold this thing but it is just better with a tripod.

Depending on the effect you are looking for, I generally try and stick with fairly fast shutter speeds - at least above 1/800th. You never know when an animal is going to blink, move, or turn their head.

Dont be too afraid of mid day lighting. Depending on the animal and how you adjust your exposures, it can really add character to the shot.

Another good practice it to switch your camera to burst mode. I like to take 2-3 shots in a row so I can ensure I am catching what I want to catch. If you have luck like me the first shot the deer closes its eyes. The second shot it sticks out its tongue. Maybe the third shot will be the winner.

I do a lot of zoo shooting. If you have any questions please feel free to drop a line.

Keep your strap around your neck and happy clickin!!

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