Wildlife photography has to be one of the most challenging and time consuming photography genres, however it can be the most rewarding when everything falls in to place at the same time. Wildlife photography is something I frequently dabble in, although because of other commitments (i.e. real life – 9 to 5 job, a wife, a pet bunny and a motor home) I don’t have the time to really get in to it and give it a proper go. The extent of my wildlife photography is snatching a few photos of different animals that appear when I am out and about in the countryside with my better half. I don’t get to plan my wildlife photography, I don’t get to stalk different animals, I don’t get to set up feeding stations or dens, and I don’t get to set up hides to sit and wait in. My wildlife photography is pretty much a “run and gun” affair, and that’s the best I can do.
Zoos and safari parks are a great place to capture photos of animals, and this is something I like to do whenever I get the opportunity. A day out at the zoo is the perfect opportunity to grab some photos of animals however I only get a few hours with the camera (before my wife gets bored and wants my attention – which is only fair) so I usually have to work faster than what I would like to.
You’d think getting decent photos of animals in zoos would be easy wouldn’t you? I mean, the animals are captive and can’t run away (not too far anyway) and they are tame and used to humans. That said, the animals can still hide up in their enclosures – and this is something you can’t do anything about. If an animal wants to hide somewhere in its enclosure there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, other than sit it out and wait until the animal decides to make an appearance.
Another problem I frequently encounter taking photographs at zoos are metal bars. If the animal is far enough away from the bars it is possible to throw them out of focus and make them “disappear” in the final image by opening up the aperture and shooting wide open. If the animal is too close to the bars there is no way to throw them out of focus, even shooting with an f1.4 aperture, so you are at the mercy of where the animal wants to sit.
I like photographing monkeys and primates however I do struggle at times. In my experience, I find monkeys and primates often sit right close to the bars, making it impossible to throw the bars out of focus, which is very annoying. Sure, there are times when the monkeys will be far enough from the bars to make them “invisible” in the final photo, but you often have to wait around.
During a recent trip to my local zoo it was a warm day and the animals were very sedate and inactive. The kangaroos were sprawled on the grass sunning themselves, the prairie dogs were underground (with the “watchman” standing by the entrance of the burrow keeping an eye out for predators), the big cats were taking shade under the trees, the monkeys were in their pens………. There was no animal activity or movement at all. It is easy to get tack sharp sots of stationery animals but the photos aren’t very interesting, are they? There are times when capturing interesting photos of animals is nigh on impossible, and there is nothing you can do to change it. At the end of the day we are at the mercy of the animals.
There are many photographers out there who seem to be under the impression that capturing awesome photos of captive animals is easy and takes no skill at all, however this simply isn’t true. Capturing interesting and unique photos of animals in zoos and wildlife parks to be proud of is a real challenge, and any photographer who thinks otherwise is mistaken. If you do manage to capture awesome photos of zoo animals, or any animal in captivity for that matter, you should be proud of yourself for a job well done.
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.