We had such a great time on this outing that this will be a two-part post as not to bombard everyone with tons of photos. A couple of months ago, it was decided that a few of us were going to make the trip to Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida. The weather was nice and cool and blue skies, not bad for December! My wife and I had been there before, but we think it’s more fun going with folks who have never been before.
To prepare for our trip, we brought everything! I know that Lowry has a generous photography policy; heck you can even bring your tripod! Since I was meeting some friends that had never been, both my wife and I were loaded down with gear to make sure that we could get the best shots possible. Both folks who were with us were also shooting Nikon so this made it easy to swap gear back and forth. Now I see when Nikon people flock together as well as Canon, shoot, shoot, pass! I took a 70mm-300mm, 80mm-400mm and my trusty 18mm-200mm. I also took a few Nikon SB800 flashes. Since I had been there before, I knew that most of these creatures were going to be back in their attractions so the longer the lens the better. Since it was a bright sunny day I also figured that the shadows were going to be an issue, hence the flash to help fill in the shadow detail.
For this post I’m going to discuss some of the birds as well as some of the other crazy stuff that went on behind the scenes. If you ask to go shooting with me, I’m not responsible for what may happen! As we started off, there was a huge aviary that has exotic birds and allows them quite the freedom to fly around. As I have mentioned before, I’m not really a bird photographer so you’re going to have to excuse the creative descriptions for the ones that I don’t know.
You may have noticed in the cut line that my wife actually shot this one. She doesn’t shoot too many photos, as she is busy running her day spa. This is a testament to the power of Nikon! Ok, maybe aperture priority did help some. She was able to keep all of the vivid colors and the contrast looks good over all. This fellow was sitting on the ground and didn’t seem to mind us. This must have been the warm up shot as the rest of the birds were in the trees.
I hope I got this one right, I was told that it was a Kingfisher. For this photo, I was in pretty crappy light; half of his body was in full sun and the other in shade. It was time to employ the flash. Since he wasn’t that far away, I zoomed my flash head to 50mm and set it to ¼ power. This filled in the shadow and didn’t over take the rest of the scene. I find that I have to turn down my flash power most of the time to get a realistic photo, instead having the poor subject looking like they were photographed when a nuclear weapon was dropped. Also, notice the catch light in the bird’s eye from the flash.
As we were getting ready to leave the enclosure we looked up and there they were, bats. I had never seen bats this close up before. I was amazed by the facial detail. With the long noses, it almost looks like a dog with wings. I’m sure they weren’t really happy with me as they were trying to get some sleep and here I was flashing away trying to get a decent exposure. In the end, he just cracked his eyes, took a look at what was going on and went back to sleep.
Like I mentioned before, some things never change. This is Miss “Closer” (if you missed the last post, she was always asking to get “closer” so we nicknamed her “Closer”). Some how in a flash I was bamboozled out of my 80mm-400mm. I think it had something to do with her personal bodyguard standing guard. He looks like the Steven Seagal type and I wasn’t going to ask any questions.
I have to say, I have attended many seminars and classes for photography and this technique was never covered. I heard of needing to lie on your fellow man, but this is a little ridiculous. So here’s a tip, if you buy a heavy lens, be sure to rent a bodyguard when you go out shooting to hold the lens!
One of the best attractions is the Bald Eagle exhibit. These Eagles don’t fly away so I believe they are injured. There isn’t any wire or netting over them and they weren’t chained up. If you are looking to get within twenty feet of America’s best icon, this is the perfect place. The Eagles are in shade of a huge tree so you can’t get a bad photo here. These guys can be difficult to photograph as you want to expose for the white head and tail feathers, but if you aren’t careful, the brown body will go black. Access and great light, it doesn’t get better than this.
I’m sorry, but this bird looks like he has a bandana over his face and yelling “This is a stick up!” Not to mention with those two yellow parts sticking out of his wings, they kind of look like little pistols. He was side lit in direct sun so I knew this was going to be challenging. I exposed for the highlights so there would be feather detail. No flash on this one, it was the RAW file that saved me. I was able to go into Adobe Camera RAW and make some quick changes to the Shadow slider and bring out the detail.
The penguin exhibit is very neat to see, you can even see the little painted house they live in, no ice though. He walked up to us and started yelling. It must have been dinner time as he would go person to person looking for something. He was in the shade so getting the exposure was a slam-dunk.
There is a campsite that is set up as part of the decoration in one area. I noticed that there was a camera affixed on a stick that has been pounded into the ground. My father started with an Argus C3, I had never seen one before. I suppose this is what will be come of my current Nikon in 50 years, a lawn ornament!
There you have it, some of the birds and backstage fun that was had by all. Lowry Park Zoo is really an affordable place to take family and is also welcomes photographers and their cameras, which is refreshing for a change. If you have never been, plan to spend the day. There are places to eat as well; they’re some quick grab and go places as well as an indoor, air-conditioned, sit down options. I have to say, go when it’s not 100° degrees outside or you won’t see anything. We went a couple of years ago for Fathers Day and it was miserable. Not to mention it was so hot that we were like bacon sizzling in a cast iron pan, but all the animals were in the deep shade or it was too hot for them to come out. In the next post, I’ll continue the adventure with some of the other great animals that you will be able to see. Don’t worry you’re going to see some of yours truly at work!
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean