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San Francisco Zoo: Introduction to Wildlife Photography Workshop - January 18th, 2015

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

What could be better than spending a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with the animals at the zoo? Brian Rueb and I met our group of twelve enthusiastic photographers at 10:00 AM in front of the zoo and wasted no time. After a quick introduction and a tutorial on wildlife photography, we were off to capture some quality moments.

We started our adventure with cat kingdom. First and foremost, Brian and I went over how to use Aperture Priority to select our ideal depth of field and then went on to shutter speed and ISO. The tigers were not shy, but actually rather curious. They periodically came up to the glass to visit our fellow photographers for some candid moments. After pacing for awhile, the big cats eventually settled down for a nice tongue bath. We next moved on down to Lion Lane to see our friends with manes. These guys were the epitome of relaxed – they were lying around like housecats and rolling onto their backs while sunbathing, busy living it up!

Ok that's enough cat talk, let's go see some grizzlies! The zoo is home to two orphaned female grizzlies from Montana. They were considered "problems" due to food rewards from humans and were saved by the SF zoo from euthanization. After a few test shots of the lighting and a quick review of white balance, we were ready for some action. We set up on the other side of the pond as the handlers stocked it full of wild salmon. These bears were hungry…real hungry. They pounced, foraged, and chomped for a solid fifteen minutes – which created quite the splash. Our group came out with some real-time knowledge of quick-draw shooting and some great shots to show for it.

We next meandered over to the Bald Eagle Perch to visit our winged friends for a few minutes before stopping by the Polar Bear exhibit. The polar bears proved to be tough subjects, but we managed a few shots when one curious bear played with a bucket and showed off its playful nature. We also visited the primate quarters for the chimpanzees and Brian and I went over how to tackle both high contrast situations and exposure for darker subjects.

After a much-needed lunch break and some Pink Flamingos, we strolled on down the lane and found the endangered snow leopard. This leopard is a sight to see! Rarely seen in the wild, this cat was first photographed in 1971. It's not surprising that this animal is elusive – it has an immaculate coat of camouflage. Brian and I gave a few tips on how to get shots through the fence without including the netting. The students really liked this and decided to stay awhile. We spent nearly a half hour watching the big cat climb around its zoo home, all the while showing off its big teeth and massive tail.

When everyone was satisfied, we peeled over to the Western Lowland Gorillas for a few captures of the furry family. The lenses came back out for one last time for these local favorites. It's always a show watching the adolescents run circles around the elder male silverback in attempts to annoy him with their childish antics. Although this is one of the larger pens in the zoo, we managed to capture some nice moments with our longer lenses. All in all it was a gorgeous day to be a photographer at the San Francisco Zoo and we hope to see everyone again soon.

Until Next Time,

Phil, Brian and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team!

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