Last weekend I met five wonderful budding photographers at the San Francisco zoo for an introduction to wildlife photography. The great thing about the zoo is that you can hone in your skills to prepare for the real life situations you may encounter in Africa or even just your backyard. We did a brief introduction to get to know one another and I followed it up by going through some of the baseline settings that we would be using throughout our day. With 100 acres to explore and photograph we got an early start just after the zoo opened.
Our first stop was the river otters. The otters are usually hard to catch but today as we walked by we noticed two otters splashing around in the water and playing with each other. This was an opportunity we just couldn’t pass up. The otters took turns rolling around in the pool and climbing around on their hollow log as the students got used to capturing moving subjects by using fast shutter speeds and panning with the animals.
Next-door was the big cats section. I figured that we had better go see them before they had their lunch and were tired from digestion and the afternoon sun. We saw the tigers first and they cooperated nicely giving us some nice opportunities for some great shots. Here I explained some more camera settings and how to eliminate the glare from the glass.
After seeing all of the tigers the students were becoming a little more confident with their cameras. It was time for the grizzly bears! We headed over to the grizzly cage for lunchtime to get the bears in action as they rooted around the cage for their food. The two rescued bears climbed up and down on an old tree while searching for some cabbage and even walked right in front of the glass giving an up close and personal view. After hanging out with the grizzlies we went to see the polar bear and the sea lions. The sea lions were having their lunch too and the students were able to get some nice shots of the zookeepers feeding them.
All of this lunch was making us hungry so we headed over to the cafe for a hard earned bite.
After lunch we went to visit the pink flamingos. Wow! These might be the smelliest birds on the planet, but boy are they beautiful. Here I worked with the students on composition and talked about singling out just a few of the birds to make a more intimate and powerful image. The flamingos were great but it was time to go see our primate friends!
As we started over toward the primates we heard the lemurs screeching and hooting so we hurried over to have a look. When we arrived the lemurs were spread out all over the cage, climbing on trees and getting into mischief. After the lemurs was the gorilla sanctuary. When we arrived to see them the big male silverback was sitting on a rock enjoying the afternoon. He posed for us for a good fifteen minutes before retreating into the den. By then we had some great images anyway so we headed over to see Africa.
Africa was full of life as usual. The giraffes and zebras were bustling around and gave us some nice opportunities some photos. Here I walked the group through how to eliminate the man made structures to make the shots look more natural. They caught on quick and grabbed some nice one’s.
After we had seen all of the Africa section our time together had run out and it was time to part ways. What a fun day with a great group at the San Francisco Zoo!
Until Next Time,
Phil and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team!
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