San Francisco Zoo Wildlife Photography Workshop, April 16th, 2011

San Francisco Zoo: Introduction to Wildlife Photography Workshop - April 16th, 2011

Night Photography Workshop Students with Aperture Academy

Our April Intro to Wildlife Photography Zoo Workshop started off with very active and happy animals, and a perfect layer of fog between us and the warm sun. With an even split of Nikon and Canon shooters we set off together on the hunt for that perfect, wild animal shot.

Answering the calls of the super cute and very talkative penguins- instructors Brian and Alicia had all of the students turn their dials to “M” for the group’s first shoot in manual mode! Quickly introducing on-camera light meters, explaining f/stops and shutter speeds- the clicks firing from our group were echoed by our new little friends as they serenaded us to fall in love! (With them, and the manual setting!!)

They were too fun to leave, but after announcing that grizzly bear feeding was going to begin, we tore ourselves away and headed over to the gulch. Though we were all anticipating some feasting action on the trek through South America we had time to say a quick hello to animals we spotted along the way. As we raced the Little Puffer Steam Train the last bit of the walk, we arrived to find the grizzly sisters in a full-fledged sibling squabble! As they chased each other about with food, fueling the groups’ shots, the shutters were set high; stopping splashes of water and flopping fish! Just across from all of the action- Sureshot, the bald eagle, teased us with eye contact and chirps- only until she had enough and hopped right out of our perfect, foliage-framed shot.

Leaving bear country, we stopped to bid adieu to the polar bears! They were posing for us, ever so calmly, allowing us to really focus on the correct exposure. The fog was definitely on our side during this wildlife workshop!

Heading onward to the Cat Kingdom, Alicia made a pit stop and had the students expend some energy by flying as the cranes do while posing for a very fun group photo! When we reached the Lion’s den, the male lion was preening in the light, and the female sauntering around him at the perfect pace for us to practice some more action shots. There are a few vantage points without glass in front of them in the big cat grottos, and as the shots were fired, it was almost as if these mammals were looking more and more prestigious, just for us.

The harsh light from the sun was still filtered away for us, as we made out way over to see the baby gorilla, Hasani. He is growing up quickly and always plays around the preserve with a frolic that gets every viewer, photographer or not, cooing and smiling! There are eight different viewing areas, which give us hundreds of photo-ops with different lighting conditions, backgrounds, and gorilla activity.

Tearing ourselves away again, we made our way to the birds of prey where the students were lucky to see the Eurasian eagle owl and the VERY rare, African crowned eagle. Although these birds are perched, they still flap their wings and talk to everyone around them- giving us many opportunities for practicing our bird portraits. Brian gave the students pointers on what angle a bird’s face should be photographed in order to distinguish beak shapes, and when to release the shutter for that desired eye contact!

Just as we entered the petting zoo, the fog slowly started breaking apart- giving us nice reflections in the duck ponds! The miniature donkeys, West African Nigerian dwarf goats, chickens, and sheep were excited for the sun to come out. As always, everyone loved getting up close and personal for some fun wide-angle shots of their silly faces. As we gave a quick review and encouraged all the students to keep shooting through the weekend on manual mode, the sun broke though to full daylight!

All of the students, Canon and Nikon shooters alike, no longer feared “M” mode and were eager to keep shooting! All of the photographers that attended this workshop captured beautiful images and left with new tricks in their pockets and friends in their photography community. What a perfect day!

On behalf of Brian, Alicia, and the rest of the Aperture Academy staff, thanks so much for another great workshop experience! We look forward to seeing you again in the future.

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