San Francisco Zoo: Introduction to Wildlife Photography Workshop - December 6th, 2015

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

If you are looking to get your feet wet in the big world of wildlife photography what better place to start than locally? This past Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting up with a great group of students who were ready to make a splash and learn more about this neck of the woods.

To start the morning off I met everyone in front of the San Francisco Zoo. This morning was a little bit different than most mornings at the zoo, and as we started off our orientation together it began to lightly rain. Cloudy weather is great for this type of photography giving nice even light, but rain can be another animal altogether so I left it up to the students. They had all come a long way to see some wildlife and fortunately they were not easily swayed so in we went!

The first primates on our list were the Madagascar Lemurs. These fuzzy, long tailed characters are a delight to watch and even more so to photograph. They can leap long distances from tree to tree and are constantly getting into loud, long-winded skirmishes with one another, which can be quite entertaining. Here I went over the basics of using Aperture Priority and some of the different shooting modes that are used when photographing wildlife. I had the students take a few test shots and then evaluated the images and gave them insight on how to get fast shutter speeds in the low light.

Next on our list was the Big Cat Kingdom. This is my personal favorite part of the zoo and it was looking good already. As we walked into the big cat area we noticed both Bengal Tigers were lying down directly in front of the main viewing area. Since we were there so early and it was sprinkling the zoo was almost empty. Can anyone say front row seats! The students giddily photographed the large cats while they showed their teeth and showed off for the cameras.

After visiting with the cats we headed on to the grizzly den. We were just in time to catch lunch with the two female bears. Today on the menu we had live fish and everyone enjoyed watching the bears wade around on their hind legs and catch the fish. Here we went over some different techniques for composition and white balance to correct for the green shaded glass we were shooting through.

After everyone had snagged some keepers, it was on to visit our sea lion friends. These two blind sea lions have quite the story to tell and were a riot to watch swimming, diving and howling as they did laps in the pool. Here it was important to get a fast shutter speed as they splashed quickly back and forth.

Next up on the list was lunch and just in time because the rain was starting to really come down!

After a bite to eat the rain was beginning to make way to sunlight so we decided to head down to the Africa section to check in with the Zebra and Giraffes. The students got some wonderful shots here as the giraffes stretched their long necks high into the trees above, and stuck out their big blue tongues.

We were making good time and had seen almost everything now so we decided to backtrack and go see cat kingdom again. As we walked up to the lion area I noticed that there was a new addition to the family. A sweet little 2-month-old cub named Cubbie! What a treat. Not only was the mother there but also she had a young one who was clambering around and playing with sticks. It was hard to pull away but it was time for us to head our separate ways.

Until next time,

Phil and the rest of the Aperture Academy

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

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