San Francisco Zoo Wildlife Photography Workshop, May 11th, 2014

San Francisco Zoo: Introduction to Wildlife Photography Workshop - May 11th, 2014

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

The San Francisco Zoo is one of our favorite workshops with so many awesome animals to see and photograph! It is in many ways a perfect place to get better acquainted with the camera, and the various skills associated with photography. On this bright, beautiful, clear, warm Sunday morning, Brian Rueb, and Matt Granz met an eager group of students with various experience levels for a great time of learning photography. We began the workshop with our usual introductions. This time in orientation is where we get to hear where everyone is coming from photographically so that we can focus on individual needs within the group. Soon after orientation we were off! The big cats are usually more active in the morning so that was our first stop. With the Tigers already sleeping in the warm sun, The lions turned out to be the mane (sorry for the bad pun) attraction. The male did a lot of yawning and roaring which made for excellent dramatic images. We just love it when the animals cooperate!

On our way to photograph the grizzly bears feeding time, we stopped to see the polar bears. Just like the tigers, they were rather sleepy as well so after a few nap orientated pics were taken we went straight to where the big show was about to start. We always like to arrive early at the bear feeding, which gives everyone a standing spot right in front! For best results we switch over to our widest angle lens because the bears always come right up to the glass (and us!). They tend to run, and stand, and splash a lot which makes for very dramatic images. They also quite often look very cuddly and sweet. After the feeding, many in our group shot pictures of the two bald eagles in the neighboring pond. Then it was off to the seals who were very active swimming around in their pool. Here we taught about watching the habits of the creatures in order to get a shot that had a particular interest, such as one of the seals kicking up water with its nose each time it made a particular turn. By this time our tummy’s were rumbling, so we made our way to the Leaping Lemur Cafe, to eat and talk about photography and look over our pictures.

After eating a healthy and satisfying lunch we got the group back together and took pictures of the beautiful pink flamingos. There are so many interesting ways to capture them! If you focus in close enough they can become a beautiful abstract image. Of course they also look fantastic standing together all on one leg each as a group, with their bodies reflecting in the water below them.

From here, we headed straight for the primates. We were very happy to see the whole gorilla family out and about. The baby was still looking as cute as ever and was taking rides on it's mother's back. The large Silverback mostly stood guard, but would every now and then give us "The Stare" which he seems to do for the sudden burst of camera clicks that greet this action.

With memory cards filling up with many great images from this area, we then headed over to the Giraffes and Zebras exhibit. There's so many ways to capture these animals, and they often congregate, so we suggested our class to use a higher f/stop somewhere in the neighborhoods of f/11-f/16 in order to widen their depth of field, thus keeping more animals in sharp focus. There was a lot to shoot and we shot it all. Both here and with the gorillas we also get to use our zoom lenses with longer focal ranges to bring the animals up close and personal. Another thing we love about the zoo is that if things wind down for a moment, all you need to do is just wait a few minutes and they'll get busy all over again!

This time also found a new addition at the zoo, and we wanted to photograph it too. The new red panda was only one day in its new habitat and was comfortable enough to come right up to us next to its glass wall. It sure is a cutie and we all strained to get close and snap a few. Last stop was at the prairie dogs and meerkats. We love to shoot these little guys (with our cameras). After watching them play for a while, and taking lots of pictures, it was finally time to go home. The workshop ended and everyone was excited to edit their new shots! Because the Zoo closes at 5pm, some students stayed to practice their newly acquired skills as well. It was another great day at the San Francisco zoo!

Until Next Time,

Brian, Matt and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team

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