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San Francisco Zoo: Introduction to Wildlife Photography Workshop - April 21st, 2012

Wildlife Photography Workshop Students with Aperture Academy at the San Francisco Zoo

On this rare San Francisco morning, the sun was out and shining bright! Aperture Academy instructors Scott Donschikowski and Alicia Telfer were glad not to have any rain, and looking forward to the warm day to explore the San Francisco Zoo with a group of familiar faces! Starting with the traditional introductions- we shared our photography background, what we were looking to get out of our Zoo adventure. In this group of twelve, we had a few students who had taken our Intro to Photography workshop, exciting to apply what they had learned about their camera's capabilities to a wildlife setting. This particular workshop is a fantastic whether you are a beginner or a little more advanced because you really get the opportunity to utilize your camera to the fullest, while taking home some images of the beautiful animals living in this costal Zoo.

Making our way in towards the Lions and Tigers, we bypassed the pesky group of photographers asking to take group shots with ease, heading straight to the king. The male lion was sitting up front and centers, preening in the morning light giving us ample opportunities to capture some great shots of him from both sides of his enclosure. Behind us, a male peacock was calling to us, letting us know he was ready for his close up. It was a nice change in lighting condition because he was posted up in the shadows of the trees, allowing the students to see the difference between the camera settings and the results of their images.

We left to make it to the Grizzly bear feeding, which is always a good learning experience as we are forced to shoot through the enclosure glass, cutting out reflections AND the families visiting the Zoo. The two sister bears are always giddy with hunger, and are active to the cutest degree! We cover the importance of ISO, which is the sensitivity of the camera's sensor, in order to obtain a fast shutter speed to stop action and play time. Following the sounds of our tummy's rumbling, we stopped to say hello to the polar bears, and headed to the Lemur Café for lunch and an all inclusive question and answer period. At times, the instructors like to use break time, for image review that way during the last half of the workshop, students can apply advice given to them!! There were some superb photos popping up on the LCD screens, and smiles all across the board.

With full bellies and happy shutter fingers, we make our way to the gorilla preserve, to check in on baby Hasani- who is getting so very big!! We like to spend enough time here, and it's easy to lose track of it, because there are seven different vantage points and lots of activity going on. The male silverback knows when we arrive, because he sits and model for us, turning his head over his shoulder, giving us direct eyes contact and almost flirting with out cameras. Being such a sunny day, we were able to capture the gorilla's beautiful coats, almost shimmering, while they munched on their lunches. The circular enclosure and multiple vantage look-outs allow the students to practice framing, choosing backgrounds and composing their images with still models and activity! Wrapping up we head to the children's zoo, giving the students a chance to take off their zoom lenses and get up close and personal.

The meer cats were on watch out, and prairie dogs were scuttling around nibbling their snacks. The birds of prey were out as well, absorbing some vitamin D, flapping their wings, cooling themselves down. This final stop is fun because the animals are right in front of you, allowing the students the option of really zooming in on their faces, or pulling out and capturing more environmental portraits.

This Saturday's workshop was successful on so many levels, from photos captured, to learning about camera setting, to making new friends! For some, it is simply about having a fun day with no expectations, photographing animals with like minded individuals and possibly making contacts for future shooting! No matter what the motivation, a day shooting and learning is a day well spent.

Aperture Academy is a growing family of photographers, and it is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to see our students improve over time. On behalf of Alicia, Scott and the rest of the Aperture Academy staff, thank you so much for another great workshop experience! We look forward to having you back!

If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.

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