The San Francisco Zoo is one of the most fabulous places for photography. The unpredictable SF weather; the lush, well-kept scenery along with the lively & happy animals made this workshop exciting, eventful and memorable! We like to start with introductions, so we can get an idea of who everyone is, as well as what they are looking for in the wildlife workshop. It doesn’t matter what your experience level is- we try to make the most out of the time we have together and make sure that everyone has a good time! On this special day we had mostly new students, a few returning students as well as two younger photographers who were brave enough to hang out with the goofy adults on this Saturday!
Instructors Alicia Telfer and Ellie Stone, along with 11 of the most eager students yet, set off in to the SF Zoo on the hunt for the perfect shot. With the skies open and clear, we made our way to see the giraffes, emus and zebras. Some of the students were craving shots with shallow depth of field and great composition! Introducing the technique of a wide-open aperture along with fast shutter speeds, the results were in and we had only begun! Along the way, we try to remind everyone to change positions, move around to different vantage points and turn their cameras to obtain a variety of images to go through when returning home! After our striped friends became bored with us, and sauntered off. The perfect opportunity to make our way over to see Hasani, the baby gorilla!
The Zoo has one adult male silverback, four females and an infant male western lowland gorilla living at the Gorilla Preserve, a naturalistic exhibit featuring climbing rocks, tall trees and grass. The exhibit has 8 different vantage points around the preserve, really allowing our students to spread out and practice what they have learned so far! It was as if the gorillas knew we were on our way because 3 of them were standing right in front of us as we looked out of the first viewing area. As we made our way around, baby Hasani (getting bigger and bigger!) was wrestling and play fighting with his momma! They just happened to be in the shade of one of structures, so to keep everyone’s shutter speeds high, we had everyone bump up their ISO, and the cuteness spilled out from the back’s of cameras. On the pursuit for more photos, we moved on to Alicia’s favorite... PENGUINS!!
The penguins were working off their food comas- lazily laying around grunting, groaning and squawking. Their island was in direct sun light except for the the very end where a tree was creating mottled light on some of the better compositions. We explained that with most portrait photography, it is better to have even light cast on your subject- rather than unflattering and contrasty spots. We said farewell, and went to visit the napping lions and tigers.
Even thought the lions were out- the tiger was lounging around in the shade (which was not spotty at all!) and enjoying himself, giving everyone very cute kitty shots. His face was happy and he rolled around enough to let our photographers get some different images and great portraits of him. We headed on our way to the gulch to say hello to the grizzly sisters, polar bears and that handsome andean bear.
The grizzlies had lunch the same time as the penguins, so they were no where to be found! The polar bear, however, was awake and showing off for us. Making his way back and forth between his two grottos, we switched our cameras over to rapid fire and clicked away. Encouraging everyone to wait until he was looking at their cameras & to watch the edges of their frames to be sure not to cut off a foot or ear, the images popping up on the LCD’s were amazing! We wanted to take our group to a place in the zoo where you can literally stand just a coupe of feet away from the animals. Allowing for very close-up head shots, and details, it was time to move on to the children's loop and spend the last 45 minutes or so catching up with the prairie dogs, meerkats, hawks, farm animals and farewells!
By the end of the workshop, everyone had moved over to shooting in the advanced modes. Using their camera’s meters, the aperture priority, shutter priority and manual settings were no longer questioned! The mysteries of proper exposure, shutter speed, f-stop settings, ISO, white balance, and raw images were no longer a mystery.
Until next time,
Alicia, Ellie and the rest of the team at Aperture Academy!