"All of the above were shot at a zoo and none of them were quick and easy snaps"
During a recent camera club meet there was an interesting discussion about wildlife photography and photographing animals in captivity in particular. According to the bloke presenting to the camera club:-
The interesting thing was that most of the camera club agreed with this bloke. I say most because I was one of a handful of members who did not agree, and because of this the bloke presenting decided he would try and publicly rip me apart and make me look a fool. Yep, just because someone dared disagree with him and have the balls to stand up and put my point of view across, i.e. me, this pretentious idiot decided he would shoot me down for daring to pee on his fire.
I should point out that I wasn’t trying to pee on his fire, as this is something I don’t and wouldn’t do to anyone. If the bloke didn’t want our thoughts, ideas and opinions then he shouldn’t have asked for them. If this bloke didn’t single me out and ask me what I thought in the first instance I would have kept totally quiet, listened to his point of view and that would have been the end of it. The thing is the bloke asked me and because of this I told him, and I gave him an honest answer too. I don’t lie and never have because it is something I have never been able to convincingly do. When I was growing up my mum always used to tell when I was trying to lie, as could my first primary school teacher, so I basically gave up trying. Yep, I gave the bloke an honest point of view and he did not like it one bit.
So why did not agree with what this bloke was saying? Let’s break it down shall we……………..
“Photographing animals in captivity isn’t proper wildlife photography”
Wildlife photography is taking photos of animals and creatures right? Just because the animal or creature is in a zoo or a safari park, i.e. in captivity, it doesn’t suddenly make them ‘non-wildlife’ does it? Just because an animal is in captivity it doesn’t mean they become puppets over which you have total control.
In my opinion the comment “photographing animals in captivity isn’t proper wildlife photography” is utter rubbish!
“It is easy to capture good photos of animals in captivity and any fool with a camera can do it”
By this the bloke was basically saying that capturing good photos of animals in captivity doesn’t take any skill. Okay, taking a photo of an animal in captivity doesn’t take much skill, however capturing good photos of animals in captivity definitely does take some skill.
You may not have to run around and find/locate animals in captivity but this does not always make them easy to spot. Animal enclosures contain foliage, dens and other “natural” features the animals use in the wild when they want safety. Animals in captivity may be tame and used to people (to a certain extent) but if they want to get out of view they will use these hiding places, and there is nothing you can do about it. Photographing hiding animals in captivity is a waiting game and you have to be prepared to sit it out, which can take hours.
Even when captive animals are in full view there are other challenges to deal with, such as bars and glass or perspex screens. If the animal is sitting too close to the enclosure’s bars it will be impossible to throw them out of focus, even with very wide apertures. In order to get a good photo of the animal you will have to wait until the animal moves away from the bars, which is another waiting game, if the animal even moves during the zoo’s opening hours at all. Glass and perspex screens are often scratched, and full of smears or grubby marks, and these have to be considered before pressing the shutter button. The other problem with these screens, and glass ones in particular, is they are highly reflective, which is another problem you have to overcome.
Zoos and safari parks are busy places and there are always loads of other visitors looking at the animals or trying to take photos of them. Dealing with the other visitors and trying to get pictures without them in the way is a challenge in itself.
Even if you manage to hit it right and find an animal enclosure that is totally free of other visitors, an animal enclosure where the animal isn’t hiding and an animal enclosure where the animal is far away from the bars it doesn’t guarantee you will get a good photo, and the animal may simply not be playing ball. The animal may be laying there motionless (or asleep), the animal may refuse to look at the camera or the animal may have its back to the camera. None of these make a good photo do they? A good animal photo, like any portrait photo, has to be engaging and you need to capture this which is not an easy task.
There are many challenges to overcome when taking photos of animals in captivity, just like there are when photographing animals out in the wild. No animal photography is easy and it takes time, patience and skill to get good animal photos full stop.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.