Saturday, May 2, 2009

Photographing Zoo Animals

     Going on a photographic safari in Zaire or maybe the Okavango Delta is probably on the short list of many amateur photographers. But lets be real; an extravagant safari across the globe probably won’t happen for most of us. There is something special about photographing animals in their natural environment that words can’t really convey.
    If you’re’ like me and enjoy capturing images of animals regardless of the venue then a local zoo may have to suffice. Zoo photography can really be quite rewarding in that you never really know what you will bring home on that media card, as every outing will undoubtedly find animals in different states of lethargy or lack thereof.
    First and foremost I would suggest several visits a year to you’re local zoo as the experience and results will be different every time, also it’s a great way to support the animals. Try to visit on weekdays to avoid crowds. I generally just use one lens and bring a backup. The lens of choice for me is the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG HSM II Macro Zoom Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras
There are times that more focal length would be helpful but more importantly the F2.8 speed is a huge asset in the very dimly lit exhibits and give a very shallow depth of field for blurring out obvious zoo backgrounds.
    To make you’re photographs stand out from the rest it is important to isolate an animal and not try to encompass an entire scene. By doing this you can come up with very unique perspectives of animals not usually seen. If possible take an unconventional route through the zoo based solely on the suns trajectory. By doing this you can use the natural spotlight effect the sun provides in able to highlight an animal’s face.

    In regards to indoor exhibits and dealing with glass enclosures this creates another set of obstacles. Depending on your particular camera and it’s ability to control noise will determine a ISO setting that will suite the noise threshold that you can personally accept in you’re photography. Photography of reptiles and the like will require shooting through thick glass. I look for the cleanest spot and then remove my lens hood; this enables me to virtually press the lens against the glass and avoid angle glare. Here is an example
of a gator I shot through thick glass and I found it looks as though I had an unobstructed view.
    Have fun exploring you’re local zoo and best of luck capturing unique images of the animals. To see a few more of the animals in the Oregon Zoo, go here.

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