Learn How to Get Awesome Pictures from your Next Trip to the Zoo!
July 3, 2015 at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE
I finally made it to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha this past weekend. I was pretty disappointed by the number of large animals that were missing due to the construction and I really wish we’d had more time when we went, but I had the opportunity to rent a couple awesome zoom lenses to try out, so I was still in heaven.
Let me just say that a zoo is the BEST place to try out a new camera and/or lens! You have lots of different lighting conditions, everything from creatures leaping back and forth full speed to critters that could win an all day staring contest. You also have plenty of macro photography opportunities, animals as far as the eye can see, and if you’re like me, there are always cute kids in tow interacting with the animals. Don’t forget that there is also usually beautiful landscaping if you want to get a few nice family pictures!
I used my Canon 6D body, Canon 85mm 1.2 lens, and the lenses I rented were the Canon 70-200mm F2.8 v1 and the Canon 100-400mm.
From the moment I arrived, I couldn’t wait to get over to the tigers to see what those lenses could do. I was with a large group though and had to be patient. Finally, about 30 minutes before the zoo closed, I got my tiger pictures! Since the large cats are my favorites, I’m going to share those first. The female tiger in the open habitat was easily my favorite attraction. She was pacing and roaring and putting on a show for us. As much as I enjoyed her energy, I was thrilled when she plopped down to pose in a spot where I could put the zoom lens to work.
I didn’t get any really good pictures of the male tiger who is all over the news for embarrassing himself the day before we were there, but here he is sizing up my adorable daughter.
Sadly, as I write this, I just saw a headline that the male lion, Mr. Big, who was sweetly snoozing away when we visited less than a week ago, passed away today. Rest in peace, sweet kitty.
It’s pretty hard to get a great shot of any animal when they are lower or higher than you. Just like with kids, it’s best to be eye level for that special connection and you always want to focus on their eyes. You may need to get creative with the environment, but if you can foster a moment where her eyes are locked on you, you can create a masterpiece.
When you are shooting through a wire or glass barrier as I was doing for many of these pictures,
put your camera into manual mode and crank your aperture wide open (the f stop should be as low as your lens will go). This is going to create the smallest possible depth of field, thus blurring out the foreground and the background. This is also going to let a lot of light into your camera, so unless it is fairly dark, you will probably need to go with a very low ISO and fast shutter speed to prevent your images from being overexposed.
I was surprised to see f/4 for these dark, indoor images, but it turns out I was zoomed in quite a bit for these last three pictures. I was very close to the subjects in the insect images below, so it looks like I switched to either my 85mm or my Sigma 35mm ART (f1.4), which I forgot I brought. I do remember my bag being ridiculously heavy and my husband playing pack mule!
For these darker images, shooting in RAW is going to make a HUGE difference. All of that extra data collected is going to allow you to drastically brighten up an image with much more clarity. Needless to say, all of your pictures are going to be much better if you collect all that data with RAW setting instead of just JPEG.
Enjoy the rest of my favorites from this fun trip to the awesome Omaha Zoo!