San Francisco Zoo: Introduction to Wildlife Photography Workshop - November 16th, 2014

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

The San Francisco Zoo is an urban oasis. Nestled in against the Pacific Coastline, the Zoo is home to over 1,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals, representing more than 250 species.

On this mild and mellow Sunday, the Aperture Academy was hosting some of the human photographer species. Phil and I met up with 7 fantastic ladies in front of the main Zoo entrance. After Phil and I got to know everyone’s name, their equipment and desire for hanging out with us on this beautiful November Sunday, we started our San Francisco Intro to Wildlife experience.

We got everyone’s feet wet with an up close encounter with the Giraffe exhibit. The large and lumbering giants are a favorite of many. As the giraffe stood next to the trees, it made for the perfect combination, long necks alongside long tree limbs. Phil and I assisted with compositional basics and well as the appropriate settings, including, aperture, shutter speed and iso. Explaining how changing one affects the other. Otherwise known as the exposure triangle. Our lovely ladies were getting warmed up and were ready for more animals.

The big cats are a favorite. The lions and tigers are simple majestic. The large male lion was hanging out with his lioness. The pair together, made for some nice images, and our students are really starting to get the hang of this. One more cat encounter was on tap before heading over to Grizzly Gulch. The last cat we spotted (pun intended) was the beautiful Snow Leopard. This is the only exclusively alpine cat in the world. Amazingly they were only just photographed in the wild in 1971. Although this stunning cat was not in the wild, we still had a blast photographing her. I let a couple of the students try out my 100-400mm lens. Don’t think they wanted to give it back.

We moved on from lions, to tigers, then of course bears. The grizzly sisters that inhabit grizzly gulch were rescued from certain death in Montana. They were orphaned as cubs and raised by fish and game. Returning them into the wild did not work out, as they were to use to human-induced food rewards. The Zoo agreed to take them, rather then allow the planned euthanasia to be executed. Today they live plush life in a fantastic exhibit. There are many areas of glass in the exhibit that allow you to photograph them up close and personal. Some of the students captured some real in-your-face shots. It was spectacular. After watching the grizzlies eat their lunch, we were ready for ours.

Right in front of our lunch destination, the Leaping Lemur Café, we paused to photograph the chimpanzees. There were 3 of them hanging around. Phil and I assisted with some exposure compensation for those that were highly backlit. After some monkeying around, we had a nice lunch.

The Flamingo exhibit is right next to the café, so as some finished eating they took their hand at some flamingo photography. Flamingos get their beautiful color from the pigment in the food they eat. Curving necks make for great compositional “S” curves. Simple and elegant, they allow us to capture some stunning images.

The afternoon was flying by, and we had a few more exhibits to visit,

The Lowland Gorillas are one of my favorites. It was great fun watching the gorillas interact with one another, as well as with us. One of the females though it was great fun to put leaf branches on her head. She definitely seems to react to our applause, as she balanced and ate the branch. She stuck her tongue out and even clapped. The large male displayed his dominance, while the young Hasani played with a blanket.

After the gorilla encounter we made our way into the Children’s area.

The Children’s section is home to some really fun animals, including the Meerkat and Prairie dogs. We had some fun in the petting zoo area and took our group shot among the wooly Navajo Churro sheep.

As we walked towards the exit, there was time for one last quick stop at the Lemur forest. A group of four sat under a red heat lamp. Because they were black and white in color, it was an easy choice to make the images monochrome, in order to eliminate the red color of the heat lamp.

Phil and I had a lot of fun with our fantastic female photographers, as we said our fond farewells for the day.

Until Next Time,

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

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