Revisited: Lowry Park Zoo – Tampa, Florida – Part 2

I apologize ahead of time, as this post will be photo heavy. There are some great tips included and I will explain things as we go. First, this is the second part of the Lowry Park Zoo trip. If you haven’t read part one, I would give that at look over first, here’s the link: Revisited: Lowry Park Zoo – Part 1 – Tampa, FL. In part one we looked at some of the birds that are on display and how they were photographed. In part two, we will be looking at some of the other animals that the zoo has in its collection. This is by no means everything that they have; this is a very small snippet of what you can expect to see. I would have to do a ten-part post to do this place justice!

As I mentioned before, the weather was nice and there were clear skies. Clear skies are usually a good thing, but when you are a photographer, this means harsh shadows. To combat this, I employed the use of an external flash to help fill in some of the shadows. There are limits to what a flash can do, however if you have an external flash you have the option on how the light comes out of the box. Put on your safari caps and here we go. Click on the photos to see the full size versions.


An orangutan poses for Spencer Pullen as he photographs at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida Orangutan Portrait – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I hate to admit it, but the Orangutan exhibit is my favorite. They are so photogenic and they really put on a show for you. They must love being photographed. I was using a long lens for this photo and since it was a harsh time of day out, I used my flash. This guy was fairly close so I was able to fan out the light coming out of the flash to help cover his whole body. If you look closely, you can even see the catch lights in his eyes.

 This orangutan is a big New England Patriots fan. Photographed by Spencer Pullen at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. FloridaA Big Patriots Fan – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I usually don’t get into sports, however this guy seemed to like the Patriots since he put on a jersey! You can’t take a bad photo here. They are very calm, patient and just hang out. He was mostly in shade so this made getting an exposure easier.

An orangutan makes a hat out of some material at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida The Jokester – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

There are some days I feel like this, just pulling the covers over my head and going back to sleep. I have a feeling he was trying to get in some shade, I think he better find a bigger piece of material! Looking at this composition, this is a usual problem. The subjects face is dark under the brim of the “hat”. I knew I was going to have to throw some light at him to even have a chance of getting any detail in his face. Of course he was in the back of the exhibit so I was going to have to go for distance. I set my flash on nuclear mode and choose 105mm for the fresnel lens of the flash. This allowed me to throw a lot of light over distance in a straight line. As you can see from the photo, it did lighten his face and you can even see the catch light in his eyes.

 Angelina Pullen feeding a giraffe a piece of lettuce at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FloridaLunch Time – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I got my arm twisted and it was decided (mostly by my wife) that we were going to feed the giraffes. Up the platform we go and I got out of this when we arrived at the top and I told my wife that I would photograph her feeding the giraffe for the blog. This is how it’s done folks. Just like the laundry, just do it really bad once and you are fired from that job. I’m just saying! In this case, I exposed for the background that was in full sun before we bought the lettuce. Then I powered down my flash as the action was going to be happening right in front of me. I also set the flash to spread the light in a fan pattern, as I have to light my wife as well as the giraffe. When we were ready, I took one test shot and I was really close. Since we had limited lettuce that our wallet would allow, I had to get this right the first time. I kept shooting as fast as the flash would allow. Since I use rechargeable batteries from Energizer, they kept up with me. When I got back home I found this one with his big gnarly tongue hanging out trying to get his lunch. In this photo as well, you can see the catch lights in the giraffe’s eyes.

 Spencer Pullen photographs a tiger licking his paws at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FloridaPaw Wash – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

It was getting warm out by the time we arrived at the tiger exhibit. There was one tiger that was pacing back and fourth. I think he wanted back in his house but that wasn’t going to happen. I had a new challenge to deal with, plexiglass. For the viewers protection there was a plate of plexi installed. This stuff had been scratched and looked as it was over due for a cleaning. I treated this like a fence and took the lens hood off the camera and put the lens right on the plexi (you have a UV filter on your lens for stuff like this, right?) and I used a wide aperture. This made all of the imperfections disappear and now I could focus on the tiger. As the crowd left, I waited. He finally sat down and started to lick his paws. This is probably as close that I’m going to get to a tiger so I was pretty pleased on how this turned out.

 A black monkey posing for Spencer Pullen at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FloridaMore Fun Than A Barrel Of Monkeys – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

There are different kinds of monkeys in the park. I liked this one as he was in the shade and I could get a decent exposure. However, with all that black hair, this was going to be interesting getting detail in the shadow areas. As before, I set my flash to throw light for distance and hoped for the best. One of the best things that I bought was a Hoodman Loupe. This allows you to see the back of the LCD even in the brightest conditions.

 Meerkats look as a crow is making noise in their tree at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FloridaWhat’s Going On? – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

The Meerkat is another great place to watch for expressions. As I walked up, the whole family was looking at something. Come to find out there was a crow in their tree squawking up a storm. I think if they had a bow and arrow, they would have shot it! As you can see from the photo, the front most Meerkat is backlit from the sun and the rest of them are in shade. This photo would have been pretty much impossible without flash. I exposed for the highlight area and filled in the shadows with the flash.

 Spencer Pullen tries to figure out what setting to use on his Nikon!Numbnuts Screwed Up – Angelina Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I guess this is why you take your spouse/friend/family member/co-applicant shooting with you, so they shoot some of the behind the scenes material! I gave my wife my other DSLR to play with and this is what I found on the camera card when I got home. This is a typical look for me, dazed and confused, and supposedly not having a clue about laundry!

 Spencer Pullen photographing a waterfall at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FloridaNumbnuts Trying Again – Angelina Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I have to say that she did a great job getting this one. The camera even focused on the correct subject. There are also some waterfalls if you wish to get some of those silky water looks. This worked out as it was getting late in the day and they were throwing us out. The sun had set behind the water feature and this give the above photo nice even contrast. Just for the record, this is proof that I pick on myself too and not just my friends!

There it is, Lowry Park Zoo. If you have never been or are looking for something affordable to entertain family when they visit, this venue may fit the bill. Take the longest lenses that you own and a flash if you have one. The later you stay, the better your photos will be as the light starts to even out and you won’t have too many harsh highlights and shadows. One last thing, give someone in your party a camera, you just never know what they are going to come back with!

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Loved the pictures and the commentary. I know it was a lot of work but looks like you had fun.
    Thank you.

  2. As usual, enjoyed the photos, the tips, and the narrative. Gives those of us just beginning our “photo safaris” plenty of ideas and tips to keep us from getting too frustrated. BTW, price of lettuce has gone down. You can afford to go back and get plenty of shots. Make the giraffe and your wife happy again!

  3. Thanks for posting. Great animal shots showing their personalities.

  4. Thanks for sharing the photos & the insight. Flash can be the key…

  5. Love ’em!

  6. Great job . I always enjoy reading your blog.

  7. Spencer

    As always, I appreciate everyone’s kinds words. It was a lot of fun and there isn’t a shortage of things to photograph. It’s also refreshing to find a place where you can go and shoot and not have to worry about someone looking over your shoulder…

    Keep Your Glass Clean


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