Sunday, March 09, 2008

Obtaining Wildlife Reference Photographs-Part 2

Once I'm at my chosen Zoo or Wildlife Park the first thing I will do is find out when the feeding time of my chosen animal(s) is. If I've gone to photograph one of the big cats then they are usually fed 6 days of the week and on the 7th they fast. So check that out, you can give the facility a ring, they will usually be happy to give you that sort of information.

If the feeding time is advertised then you need to be in place at least half an hour before, because:-

  • The animals tend to be moving about in anticipation

  • It will get really busy around the enclosure and you need to have selected your place.

  • After feeding the animals usually retire for a sleep
You do need to have a look at the position of the sun (I know to see it is a rare occurence) and try to have it behind or to the side of you for the best lighting.
If the cage has a glass viewing panel as well as mesh then I sometimes choose to shoot through the glass if the mesh is double or triple and quite small.

If it is a fairly large mesh I will shoot so that the links do not obscure an important part of the animal such as the eye or ear setting. I will also kneel or bend so that I shoot on eye level with the animal to reduce distortion.
I shot this cheetah through mesh, it isn't a good photograph but plenty good enough for me to use as a reference. His face was at a slightly odd angle which I have straightened a little.

If I choose to photograph through the glass, the first thing is to pick a spot which is reasonably clean, I usually use a tissue to give it a quick rub.Then put the lens right up against the glass, this will reduce glare and reflection. Again try and take the photograph at eye level for the animal unless you want to paint a different viewpoint.

Wherever you choose to stand, you will have to be patient and take an awful lot of photographs. Most of them will not be that useful, but patience usually pays off if you watch the animal to see which area of its enclosure it prefers. You can sometimes see a path worn in the grass where the animal often walks.

If you are photographing an animal which is either allowed to roam free or has no mesh then patience is the only requisite.

I sat and watched the Meerkats at Edinburgh Zoo for an hour before this one came and sat right in front of me.

I live reasonably near the Wildlife Park in the Lake District which has several species of free roaming lemurs, wallabies, ostrich, etc. The photographs can be taken with any size of camera, my son takes excellent photographs with a small digital that cost less than £100. Do not be put off by thinking your camera is not good enough.

In the last post I will consider what to do with the photographs once you get home.

Just to show that you can take good underwater shots putting the lens against the glass. I took this photograph in the Aquarium in Stanley Park, Vancouver, Canada.


Unknown said...

Excellent advice! I wonder if the "lense up to the glass" thing would work well for the underwater animals. The zoo we go to in Chicago has a great underwater viewing spot for dolphins.

Gayle Mason said...

It does work Nicole, I'll add an underwater shot onto the end of my post

Making A Mark said...

Brilliant advice. I've never thought of putting my camera against the glass!

When is their perky time and when is their sleepy time? On the whole is it better to go mornings or afternoons?

Jeanette Jobson said...

I've used that 'lens against the glass' and it does work beautifully. I only wish I lived near a zoo to get some interesting animal portraits.

Gayle Mason said...

I find the animals are less active during the middle of the day, but it really depends on feeding time, weather and species. Plus if there is anything different going on like the addition of a new animal.
I'll do a house exchange for a while Jeanette, you can come and live near Zoo's and I'll live in your beautiful part of the world:)
Seriously, I am fortunate in living withing a reasonable travelling distance of several Zoo's or Wildlife Parks.

Bob Ebdon said...

Thanks for such a helpful post Gayle, I will make sure my last blog is amended to point to this, and highlight it again in the UKCPS group.

Gayle Mason said...

Thanks Bob, appreciated.

Anonymous said...

What a cool find, thanks for sharing.

Gayle Mason said...

Thanks Eric