The San Francisco Zoo is my favorite workshop with so many healthy and happy animals, I have found it to be a perfect place to get hands on practice with the camera and the principles of photography. On this hazy Sunday morning, Jean and I met an intimate group of seven students, of all experience levels, for a day full of photo fun! We began the workshop with introductions; it’s always helps to hear where everyone is coming from photographically, so Jean and I can focus on individual needs of the group. The zoo has three new editions- Jillian the tiger cub, a baby giraffe & a brand new baby gorilla. We headed straight to the African Savanna exhibit where we found the baby giraffe exploring her new home and running around! Because it was hazy and cloudy outside, we had the students use an ISO of 400 to ensure a fast shutter speed to stop the action!
In between the the baby’s laps, three grazing ostriches were lined up perfectly in a row, a perfect time to practice composition and teach the rule of thirds, which is more like a guideline.. anyways... : ) The zebra’s were eating directly on the other side and were close enough to have a chance to practice shooting their full bodies, or zoom in nice and tight for a face shoot. I just love it when the animals cooperate! On our way to photograph the grizzly sisters eating lunch, we stopped to say hi to the polar bears. One was sitting up in the cutest position, and occasionally turning his head towards us, teaching us the art of patience for this shot. We arrived early at the bear feeding, which gave everyone a standing spot right in front! I suggested that we should switch over to our widest angle lens because the bears come right up to the glass to lick off the honey. They both have permanent smiles on their furry faces so every shot of them is s’cute. We passed by the South American Tropical Forrest, one of the SF Zoo’s only indoor habitats, and we went in to practice shooting in a low light situation. It was dark enough to have an ISO up to 800 or 100, and the exotic birds were perched out in the day light let in by the window, giving us a chance at a really unique shot completely isolating each bird. There were also tropical frogs, turtles and green-winged macaws out and about, I wished for one second I could actually be in a rainforest... Our tummy’s were rumbling now, so we made our way to Leaping Lemur Cafe, to eat and talk shop, two of my favorite things!
I heard about the new edition to the gorilla family, and I was excited to see whether or not it was old enough for pictures! Many of the female gorillas were in their normal routine of roaming, posing, and eating, giving opportunity for ample shots. The silverback main man, was posted right outside of his front door, keeping watch and protecting the new baby. I noticed that his eyes were moving about as he rested his back up against one side of the doorway- there was the perfect chance for a frame-within-a-frame shot. Jean and I try to encourage each student to shoot many different angles and compositions through out the day, changing the orientation from horizontal to vertical can make or change a composition completely! As we made our way to the bird of prey, I saw the perfect spot for the infamous group shot taken at each workshop! In the middle of the zoo, a palm tree lined walk way, I remembered I always wanted to line up each student behind each other the trees, poking out from behind, cameras in hand in a vertical shot! A zoom lens, and an f/stop setting of 22 gave me the shot, & we were off towards the children’s zoo!
Last but possible the cutest of the zoo, we shot the meerkats and prairie dogs (with our cameras) and just around the bend in the bird of prey! The Eurasian Eagle owl was out on hand display, giving us a closer shot than usual! I love when the zoo team is available to talk with because they always have interested facts about and stories about the animals. The workshop ended and everyone was excited to get home to edit their new shots- because the Zoo closes at 5pm, some students stayed to practice their newly acquired skills!
Alicia, Jean and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team