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San Francisco Zoo: Introduction to Wildlife Photography Workshop - Jan. 21, 2013

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

Written by Instructor Brian Rueb

We had a great group assembled ready to shoot, and all had a LOT of GREAT questions. Scott and I were just talking about that before the workshop began that we hoped we would get a lot of questions as it shows interest and helps keep us on our toes.

After orientation we explained a couple of different approaches to shooting wildlife, The Aperture Priority Mode and the All Manual mode and the reasons and advantages to both.

The first spot was the lion den. We arrived right when the cats were released from their back room. They were SO good to shoot today.

Big Cats often sleep…a lot…but these cats actually moved a bit before settling in for ‘cat naps.’ When they did lay-down it was always in a way that made it nice for us to photograph. We caught a few intimate moments between the male and a female as they nuzzled one another.






The Grizzly Bears were next, and they were as exciting as ever. Scott loves to point out that this is the only place where he can point out with utter certainty what an animal is going to do at a given time….and he was right.

The bears have a pretty predictable routine here, and that makes it much easier for us to photograph. While we shoot, we stress the importance of ALWAYS checking your settings to make sure that the shutter speed is fast enough to get a nice crisp image. It takes practice but people really start to figure it out over the course of the day.

We made a few stops along the way to eat lunch, and shot the flamingos after we finished eating. I love to show how to use the flamingos to shoot in monochrome with the cool varied pink tones…it also helps showcase repetition of shape, and shallow depth of field.

The Gorillas were the highlight of the post lunch shooting, and they were really behaving well today. We saw a scuttle between a few of the primates, and the little Hasani was really getting into mischief as well, even picking up a handful of hay and hurling it at the giant silverback as a sign of juvenile defiance. Everyone got a lot of nice shots of these wonderfully expressive apes.

The final stop of the fast paced day is the meerkats and raptors. I always think its funny to put the poor meerkats next to the raptors, but maybe they do it to keep them on their toes and always on the lookout. It certainly makes for nicer poses to shoot that’s for sure…and we love to see the little critters strut their stuff for our lenses!

Time flew by on this class. Lots of fun, and interested students made for a great day for both Scott and I!

On behalf of myself (Brian), Scott, and the rest of the Aperture Academy team, thank you for a great time at the zoo!

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

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