Sarasota Jungle Gardens – Sarasota, Florida

I was fortunate to have a private class with a student at Sarasota Jungle Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. I had been there once before when some family came down from the northern states. This was quite some time ago, however the image of the host of the bug show shoving Madagascar cockroaches into his mouth still stick with me. When I arrived it still looked the same as when I was there before. The view from the parking lot doesn’t scream animals, however once you go into the lobby that totally changes. The student that I was working with was getting ready to go to Africa and wanted to practice photographing animals with her new Nikon. Granted, shooting animals in captivity is a little different than chasing lions out on the Serengeti. This is one time that you may want to leave the raw chicken at home.

Since I hadn’t been here is some time, I wasn’t sure what to bring. I ended up fitting my Nikon with my 70mm-300mm lens. I have to say that I really like this lens, as it’s light and sharp. Not to mention that it’s much quicker focusing than my 80mm-400mm. I always carry about six camera cards with me as I’m shooting high res RAW files and I can only get 150 photos per card. I like using 4gig cards as this is an insurance policy. If a card goes corrupt, which has happened more that I would like to admit, I haven’t lost the days shoot due to all the photos are on one card. My camera is getting long in the tooth, but still works well. It’s only 12.5mp and that is how I can get away with 4gig cards. Those of you who are pushing 18mp-36mp, you may want to consider going to 8gig cards. By the way if haven’t heard, Nikon is working on a 45.5mp sensor! This is great if you want to wallpaper your living room with your photos, forget the frame!

After the money was paid we went outside and we were greeted with a series of parrots. I always like photographing these guys as they are colorful and are always doing something with their feet or feathers.

 This parrot at Sarasota Jungle Gardens in Sarasota, Florida was playing wtih his foot while Spencer Pullen photographed him.Time For A Pedicure – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Apparently the first parrot that we came across was having a foot issue. I suppose he was prepping his nails for a new polish color? The parrots were under grass huts, which meant they were under shade. Shade is great, but I really made out on this location, as the ground was all white shell fill. As you can see from the above photo, he looks lit and he is. The white shell is acting as a giant white reflector and throwing light back up on the bird.

 This blue and gold parrot was pruning at Sarasota Jungle Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Taken by Spencer Pullen.Blue And Gold Pruning – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This parrot is in the same lighting situation. With the 300mm lens, this made it a breeze to fill the frame with his body. You will also notice how sharp the photo is; this is due to the lens and why I love manufacture glass. When photographing birds such as this, I like to shoot a whole body and a portrait. How many photos have you seen of full parrots, probably quite a few? How many tight portrait head shots maybe not so many? Treat birds or any animal as you would when you are photographing a person. You’ll be amazed at what you can capture.

 Spencer Pullen photographed this Red Tailed Hawk at Sarastoa Jungle Gardens in Sarasota, Florida.Red Tailed Hawk – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

As we moved around the corner we found their “Birds of Prey” exhibit. There was a vast array of birds on display that are hunters. Photographically speaking this was going to be a crap shoot if they were going to turn out. There was a wooden barrier in front of the walkway to keep the people back from the cages; I suppose this is a good idea since some dumb kid from the shallow end of the gene pool would stick their fingers in the cage. The cage itself is made of thick wire and is tightly woven. I have taken photos through fences and wire before, but this stuff was industrial grade. I zoomed the lens to 300mm and put the camera as close to the enclosure as possible, reaching over the wooden barrier without endangering my fingers. This made the fence 98% transparent. With some Photoshop cleaning up I was able to get something, if you look closely you can see a little remnant of the fence. My motto is this; a photo is better than no photo. You don’t know unless you try. You can always delete the bad ones and no one will know the difference.

 This Florida Snapping Turtle was posing for Spencer Pullen and he photographed him at Sarasota Jungle Gardens in Sarasota, Florida.Florida Snapping Turtle – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This is one of those times that I don’t mind having harsh sunlight. I exposed for the light on the turtles face and the edges were a little darker. This looks like I used a flash to bring the focus on his face. He crawled up on a rock and was checking us out. He started to pose so we took advantage and started snapping away at the snapping turtle…anyone still with me after that one?

These fighting flamingos were photographed at Sarasota Jungle Gardens in Sarasota, Florida by Spencer Pullen.Rumors Around The Feeding Trough – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

If you aren’t used to being surrounded by wildlife this may freak you out. In the main area there are dozens of flamingos walking around. I had to really watch what was going on, as these guys would come up behind you and honk you in the butt. Since there are so many and they are all doing something different, you have a real opportunity to get some different shots. The good news is that there isn’t any wire or fence to deal with. In the photo above there were three flamingos trying to eat the same food. As we know in the animal kingdom this doesn’t work. I have the same tendencies when I pull up to a Krispy Kreme! They started to snap at each other so I kept shooting frames as they battled it out for the last piece of food. This reminded me of when I used to work in the corporate world and you would see the same folks around the water cooler catching up on the days gossip.

 Spencer Pullen photographs this bird as he takes a bath at Sarasota Jungle Gardens in Sarasota, Florida.Bath Time – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

In the flamingo area there is a big pond for the birds to use as their personal pool. At the waters edge was these gray birds taking a bath. Sorry I have no idea what these are as there wasn’t a sign for them. I’m sure someone out there can tell us in the comment section. I call it a “wet” bird! Anytime I see water flying, this is a great time to try and freeze the action. I set the camera to 1/1000 of a second to ensure that the water drops would be frozen in the air. I also had the camera set to continuous or burst mode to make sure that I would have a few to choose from later.

If you are in the Sarasota area, I would recommend stopping by and seeing this attraction. The price is fair and there is quite a bit to see. Don’t be surprised if you see another post on this venue in the future. I didn’t get a chance to walk all of the grounds. Most of the attractions are out in the sun so this may be a great place to visit when it’s cooler out. Take lots of camera cards, a long lens and some comfortable shoes. This will allow you to practice many different types of photography in one place. Just remember to keep your fingers out of the cages!

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. You got some great shots of birds. I especially like the one with his foot in mouth and the “wet bird”.

  2. very nice!

  3. Nice bird photos by someone who claims not to favor birds! By way, I think your gray bathing bird is a Laughing Gull.

  4. Great photos and story. Yep that is a laughing gull taking a bath.
    Linda O

  5. always a great place to visit — C

  6. Great photos! Thanks for sharing. My favorite is the feeding trough.

  7. Nice photos and I always enjoy your commentary.

  8. I remember this event I was there! Some of my shots were almost as good I was using the same lens just not the same expertise.

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