First, Happy PI day everybody! Time to take a break from our diets and have a nice slice of hot apple pie with ice cream J
This week I am attending a virtual conference on Wild Life photography presented by KelbyOne. Now you may ask, John are you planning on going on safari? Not really, but like all of the virtual conferences I have attend the past year, it’s not so much the topic being presented, but rather the techniques and practices that can be applied to all types of photography.
To get in the mood for my ‘Safari” lessons, last weekend we visited my local zoo. In the 40 years I have lived in Rochester, NY, the Seneca Park Zoo has always been my go to place for animal pictures. Sure, we have traveled to zoos in Buffalo, Syracuse, Toronto and NYC, but Seneca Park is real close and offers a wide variety of animals to photograph. So last weekend we took a quick drive up to the lake and checked out the happenings at the zoo.
Just a quick commentary. I know in today’s world there are photographers that will attack a post with camera setting as not being correct and tradition indicates that is the way it MUST be done. Let me also just say that I know there are a lot better settings and composition techniques that could be use, but these are what I have found to be very successful for me. So if you are inclined to criticize my setting have fun.
Normally when I plan on taking zoo pictures, my gear will include my Canon 70 to 200 mm lens along with my 2x converter. My setting aperture priority mode, f/5.8 to f/8, ISO 100 and white balance set to auto. I have found that at these setting, when I zoom in on the face I can usually block out the fences. I also set my camera to autofocus servo and continuous shooting so that when the animal move I have a shot at a few good pictures.
When I am shooting through a fence, I wait until the animal is further back in the enclosure so that I can blur as much of the fence as possible. When I shoot through glass, I may use a polarize filter if I remember to bring it. If not I will place the lens hood up flat against the glass to eliminate as much of the glare as possible.
When I compose my photo, the eyes are the targets. As they say the eye are the portal to the soul and the eyes on any animal can give you a good indication as to what they are thinking. The eyes of a lion on the prowl are more intense than when they are relaxing in the sun. So I focus on the eyes and then adjust my aperture to get as much of the face in focus as I can. I keep my finger on the back button focus and with the setting on servo mode try and stay on the eye for the entire shoot.
As far as the rule of thirds and not putting you subject in the center of the photo, I take a lot of liberty with these. Depending on the animal and their position, I will usually try and get the center dead between the eyes so the animal is looking right at the camera. Depending on the distance I like to have the frame taken up with the full head and very little background so to give the allusion that this was taken in the wild. When this is not possible I will play again with my aperture to blue the background as much as possible.
It would not be a complete trip if I did not address photography etiquette. I try to avoid times when most people will visit a zoo so that the crowds around the enclosure are small. At our local zoo the most popular animals are the Red Pandas, Penguins, Lions and Seals. So for these enclosure I may have to go back around a few time to be able to get a good spot. Also if there are a lot of children around I will go back later as even though I find a good spot, the little ones are not usually watching where they are running
My post processing is done first in Lightroom Classic. I will then bring the photo into Photoshop to sharpen the eyes. Using the Quick Select tool, I will circle the eyes and then use the Smart Sharpening filter to ‘Clean’ up the eyes and bring out as much detail as possible. In some cases, like when I do my Pet Portraits, I can get a faint image of myself in their eyes.
If you would like to see some of my wildlife photos, please visit my portfolio website and gallery. If you are tired of the same old landscapes and locations then try your local zoo, or even park, to see where the Wild Thing Are.