Sunny skies and plentiful wildlife! Sounds like Africa right? Nope, San Francisco Zoo! Alicia and I had great weather and high expectations for a great group of photographers.
We always start with orientation, to help the students get some ‘start points’ for photographing wildlife. There are a few basic approaches. Most photographers either shoot manual, or aperture priority. I like to give a brief run-down of both and the pros and cons to each and let the students decide which they’d like to try.
Once we get through with that it’s time to shoot some critters!
The first stop is the lion enclosure. The lions are usually most active first thing in the morning…but on this occasion they were being typical feline…sleeping. They got up and moved a bit, and gave the cameras a few good stares…but mostly they were sleepy kitties, and we had to make due with the nearby rhino that was quite a good sport, even blowing some kisses at the class towards the end!
When the animals are behaving it’s hard to stay on schedule, but we have to have our class at the Grizzly enclosure by just after 11am so they can get prime real estate for the bear feeding fun. This feeding is really ideal as it’s very close to the type of natural mayhem that happens in real life wildlife photography! We help the students to adjust their settings as the light shooting through the thick glass can change the shutter speeds some.
Down time is ALWAYS a good time to re-check your camera settings, and make some test shots so that when the good stuff happens you’re ready to fire away. The students found out when both those grizzly girls came running out of their home into the feeding area and went straight towards them and started plucking live fish out of their pond! NO TIME TO CHANGE SETTINGS NOW!!! Luckily they were all ready and we saw some great shots on those cameras!
While we were on our way from the bears we stopped to shoot the polar bears…this time one of the bears was playing in her water pond, and I’d never seen that before…the class got some good shots of this great white bear doing the back stroke!
Time FLIES on the zoo workshop, before we knew it, 1pm passed, and we were done with lunch and off to the Gorilla enclosure to shoot these wonderfully animated primates. It was super cute to watch the littlest gorilla, Hasani, playing with one of the other female gorillas. She was really patient with him as he prodded her and kept trying to bite her feet, hands, and shoulders. The class got some good exposure in working with animals that have very dark fur, which was the perfect contrast to the polar bears we had shot earlier.
Alicia and I were both really pleased to see the class starting to get the hang of the settings, and getting super close to dead on each time a change was required….good looking histograms on all those cameras!
The final stop of this day was the meerkats, prairie dogs, and raptors….funny they put the main killer of these two rodents right next to them…no wonder they look so paranoid all the time!
The meerkats were posing wonderfully (and kind of awkwardly as well) and the class got some funny, and cute shots of these expressive little guys (they WERE guys too ☺ )
By the time we hit the owls and raptors, the class had the settings almost done perfectly, we just helped them slow down a bit and really try to make sure their backgrounds were more natural, rather than positioning the owl in front of people….a few steps can place the owl in front of foliage which makes for a more aesthetic and natural image.
This day FLEW by, We had so much fun getting to know everyone and helping them learn a bit more about their cameras, and how to shoot wildlife! The animals were the other stars of the day and they really put on a great show for the lenses today!
Until next time,
Brian, Alicia and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team
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