Just before 10 am on this chilly Sunday morning, our group of five photographers met near the main entrance of the San Francisco Zoo. Clear blue skies, no fog, and a warm sun were great signs of the adventurous photography day that lay ahead. When our group all gathered, we talked about our plan for the day and introduced ourselves to each other. This included understanding everyone’s level of photography experience and learning the goals of the workshop today. From there, we were off. We all breezed right through the entry line with the tickets that Aperture Academy purchased in advance.
We headed to the back of the zoo where the bears are active as they await their breakfast from the zoo keepers. Unfortunately, it looked like the bears were not going to eat breakfast on time, but we were still able to capture great pictures. As the bears lay around, we could see them sit up and lay back down at different times as they were sheltered by trees. When they put their heads up, we got great shots of their faces. When they were laying down, we were able to use our long lenses and zoom in on their powerful claws. While in this part of the zoo, we also watched the Mexican wolves trot around their enclosure. A nearby black bear was still asleep and hiding in the shade, but it gave us time to talk about some exposure aspects, as we shifted between direct sunlight and deep shade. As we continued down the concourse, we went into the super-humid, rainforest building. We were treated to an upside-down sloth eating as loud birds flew about. We also saw cute little frogs and an enormous green anaconda. So many things to capture with our cameras. As we moved outside to cooler weather, we made our way over to the penguin exhibit. These penguins are always fun to shoot as they frolic in and out of the water. This enclosure also had some large pelicans. All the birds, big and small, made for great photography subjects. We were also able to practice using different shutter speeds to capture the animals.
After the Penguins, we wandered through numerous habitat areas, including the rhinoceroses and we were treated to a river otter poking his head out from his slumber within a burlap sack. Not only did the zoo animals allow us to capture great images, but we often had our attention grabbed by other plants and animals, including beautiful California poppies, bees, wildflowers, and hummingbirds. At every turn, photography options were plentiful.
At this point, we were already about halfway through our workshop and it was time for a food break. The San Francisco Zoo has a great cafeteria-style facility. We all grabbed a bite to eat and we were able to have conversations about photography ranging from this workshop to future workshops to an upcoming African safari.
With food in our bellies, we moved only a few feet and began shooting the flamingos. Though smelly, they are fun to shoot and offer many options, including capturing the whole bird or abstract shots by focusing close in on just the beautiful feathers or their beaks as they were tucked into the wings.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon moving through various parts of the zoo, ranging from the outback to the African plains. The gorillas, the anteater, and the giraffes were all hits with our group. Great shots were captured! One of the highlights was near the end of our day when we saw one of the snow leopards perched up high. It was alert and looking about in all directions. Looking into the fierceness of the eyes we knew could make for some dramatic photos. We talked about how to capture some of these pictures so people could go home with images they would be proud to hang on their walls.
Our whole group did a lot of walking today in the beautiful, cool weather. There is no doubt everyone captured some great shots. After nearly 5 hours of walking, talking, and shooting, most people headed to their cars to head home and scroll through their images while a couple of others continued to enjoy their afternoon at the zoo.
It was a great afternoon with great people. Looking forward to seeing everyone again at future workshops.
Until next time,
Kevin and the rest of the Aperture Academy team
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.