Wildlife outings can be tricky... especially for beginning photographers. I can't think of anything scarier than going into a big wilderness wildlife experience unprepared for the photography portion. Luckily for photographers, we offer up a beginning wildlife workshop at the SF zoo so folks headed out on a great adventure can get some time behind the lens beforehand... and make those mistakes at the zoo as opposed to making them on a safari. Every wildlife photographer will make some mistakes, and making technical decisions is part of every wildlife experience... but knowing what might happen ahead of time can help one prepare.
I met a group of 4 wildlife enthusiasts for a fun Sunday of exploring the zoo. After going over the basic camera settings, and trying to strip it down to something everyone could manage, we set off to put it into action...
Our first stop is always the big cats... they release them into their enclosures first thing in the morning, and that's usually the best time to get them doing something other than sleeping, which cats of any size do most of the day. The tigers walked their enclosures for a brief period of time before settling down near the viewing window for a nap. I encouraged the group to get close, shoot profiles of their faces, and try to get shots of their eyes, when they looked towards the glass. The problem here was the tigers were almost TOO close to get any kind of images... so we moved on to the Lions. The male lion, thought firmly in relaxation mode, was a treat to watch and photograph; rolling on his back, and generally trying his best to get comfortable. From a photographic standpoint, I try to help with working up ISO to get a faster shutter speed... then using the exposure compensation to make adjustments. Our apertures are always low, so we can let the most light into the camera.
The lion was awesome... but it was time to make our way to the Grizzly bears... we took a little longer making it to the Grizzly bears because the newly acquired black bears were putting on quite the show. These two youngsters were orphans rescued from Alaska. While not related these two have quickly become good buddies, and had a blast wrestling. This was great for the cameras to capture!
By the time we hit the grizzly bears, they were fast asleep. We let them be, and made our way to the tropics. Here we get to really work on pushing our ISO performance as everything inside is operating in lower light. Parrots, Ibis, and an assortment of lizards, frogs, make up this enclosure, and it's a lot of fun to move around looking for these creatures.
After a brief lunch break we continued our search for animals watching monkeys, gorillas, giraffes, more birds, and another visit to the black bears on our way to see the wolves.
Wildlife is always about fast shutter speeds, and thanks to the variety of enclosures, and lighting we got plenty of practice using our ISOs to raise the shutter speeds, and making slight corrections with the exposure compensation. People filled up some memory cards today! That's the best way to make sure you're getting enough practice... SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT!
Until next time,
Brian 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.