A journey into the eyes and mind of a naturalist.

A Trip to the Zoo: Part 2

In my opinion zoo’s are a photographer’s lighting nightmare.  I know there is some great potential the take sweet pictures but how to make the light work for you camera is the tricky part.  I took my opportunity last week to play with some of that light.  Around every corner there was different types of lighting, artificial or otherwise, shadows, and subjects.  Here are some of my results.

Here a flamingo makes use of it seemingly useless bill.  These birds are filter feeders and strain out small invertebrates from the water.

The lighting here was natural, through the sky-lights reflected in the water.  I had a tough time getting my shutter fast enough to stop the flamingo’s rapid motion.  I took about 50 pictures and this is the one I am most satisfied with.


This is a Scarlet Ibis preening itself.   One trick about going to the zoo is to go the moment they open the doors.  The animals are usually most active and will quickly settle down into their exhibits.  Get there early while they are still ‘doing something’ other than laying around staring out into the crowds.

This picture was a challenge in several aspects.  It is a bit blurry but not too bad for what I was dealing with.  I had the bright direct light of the sun on the bird, the motion of the bird, and the stability of the lens to worry about.  I recently ‘rediscovered’ my 80-300mm lens from my old 35mm.   This shot is taken with that lens maxed out at 300mm (hence the blurred image).

River Otter.   Here is an example of tough lighting.  First it is underwater which makes for some interesting effects on the camera’s sensor.  Second there is natural and artificial fluorescent lighting.  And third the little otter were so playfully zipping back and forth (they are otters after all!).

I think this shot was pretty good considering all of the above mentioned obstacles.  I could have sat there all day trying to get a better picture, maybe that’s what the pros do…


Bactrian Camel.  SO, when you don’t get to the animals right after the zoo opens they are usually just sitting there wondering why they can’t past those troublesome gates.  This produces another problem for the photographer,  how do you find a good shot among a bunch of animals just sitting there?   Here I think I found something.  I tried to work with the different textures and shadows of the camels sitting next to each other.

These camels are endangered in the wild and are native to the high plateau and deserts of Mongolia.


I just like this one,  it’s a Prairie Dog.


Coyotes are the tricksters of North America.  I have had several experiences tracking these amazing canines in the wild.  It was pretty heart-breaking to see this one in a comparatively small enclosure.  I worked with the light and the angles on this shot to make it look like a wild animal.  I tried to get the fences out of the background.


At least one animal had all the right lighting on it!   USA!  USA!  USA!

I can remember when it was a rare event to see these magnificent birds in the wild.  I can still remember in vivid detail the first one I ever saw.  It is amazing!

Today I hardly bat an eye when one is overhead.  They often fly right outside my classroom window.  The birds usually grab the attention of a couple of students, but I wonder if these birds still grab the awe of today’s youth like they did for me.

We are raising a generation that does not go outside.  What is the fate for some species if we do not know the feeling to see these animals in their natural habitat?  Looks like zoos are better than extinction, but they are no replacement for the real thing.


Up Next:  Summer stragglers



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