Friday, May 29, 2015

Let's Talk to the Animals

by Deanna

With summer almost upon us, the children out of school, it’s time for some summertime fun.  One of my favorite summer outings is a trip to the zoo.  Here in the Chicago-land area we are fortunate to have 2 large zoos, Brookfield and Lincoln Park, along with a host of smaller wild life refuges so if you are an animal lover like me, and especially if you like to take your camera along, I thought I would offer you a few tips on taking pictures at the zoo. 

Tip #1
The absolute best time to go to the zoo to capture the animals at their most active, is to go as early as you can in the morning.  Be the first in line before the heat of the day takes hold and the animals become quite lazy and tend to hunker down for their afternoon siestas.  The morning light is always at is finest and a bonus tip is if is just a drizzly kind of day, don’t stay home, the animals are usually much more active on a cool drizzly day, plus there will certainly be less crowds.  The colors become richer and not washed out or deep shadowed as when there is bright sunlight.  If you are not able to go early, another good time is to stay later in the day, when the light is less harsh and the animals are active again.  And if possible find out when the feeding times begin, then you will really see some action.

Tip #2
 Don’t be afraid of shooting through glass.  Yes, there tends to be problems with glare but a couple of ways to avoid or lessen the chance of glare is to place your lens right against the glass and for heavens sake don’t use a flash, talk about glare, you will have it in spades.  If you are still seeing glare when holding your lens near the glass, use your hand to shield some of the glare.  One of my friends once told me our hands are the handiest tools around.  (snort) And wearing dark clothing will help to avoid glare as well.  A lot of glass is tinted green, but no worries if you are using Lightroom or Photoshop you can manipulate the colors through these programs in post processing.  Shooting in RAW is a big bonus when you need to manipulate colors and even changing from color to black and white can give you some beautiful shots if the tint is too obvious.


Tip #3
 Shooting through wire is tough, especially if the wire is very close together.  Honestly when it is too close together I just give up, but if the wire is further apart you can manage to get a descent shot.  Step back a few feet and have your aperature wide open (the lowest number) and see if that works.  And if the wire is a distraction in the background you can always mask out the animal or subject and add a dark background.  Again changing to black and white and dropping in a dark background in post processing is another option. However many times by having your aperature wide open usually softens any distracting background and depending on the colors, it may even enhance the image.

Tip #4
Always be aware of the backgrounds, it can be as important as the subject itself.  Try not to have man-made objects in your images but sometimes it can’t be helped.  As you look through your view finder look all around, look at the corners and sometimes by simply moving your body you can capture a better image.  And then there are times that returning to the subject later might just be the trick.

Tip #5
Be patient.  You can’t pose animals like people, no sit, no smile, no walk towards me.  It just not gonna happen.  You have to wait until that moment appears, always have your hand on the shutter button and be aware.  Keep both eyes open….I know I have a habit of closing one eye, but I am working on that.  And before I forget, it is probably a good idea to bring a zoom lens.  I usually take my standby lens, Tamron 16-300.  It is great for just about any shot outdoors.  

I encourage you to take a trip to your local zoo, talk to the animals, and have fun with these tips.


Carol said...

Deanna! You are so talented! Capturing these wonderful animals like this is not as easy as it looks and these pics are stunners! You know I am a huge animal lover, and I really enjoyed this post! Thanks for the tips -Ill have ti get to a zoo this summer! That (prairie dog?) is so cute!

terriporter said...

Oh, Deanna, thanks for taking us to the zoo this morning! You caught some great shots and thanks for the tips as well. Love the meerkat (it's not a prairie dog, Carol!) and the sleeping cheetah and that last shot, adorable! This post really makes me want to take a visit to the zoo. Perhaps this summer when we're in San Diego (one of the world's best zoos) since it's getting too hot here. I'll be taking these tips along!

Dotti said...

Fabulous tips for zoo photography, Deanna. Every one of your photos is beautiful. I usually struggle at the zoo. It doesn't help when one's companions want to keep moving but I'll try harder the next time.

Nicki said...

Wow - what an outstanding lesson in photographing at the zoo with amazing examples. If only my domestic (and outdoor feral) cats were as cooperative.

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