Some zoos that I have been to are a real nightmare…photographically speaking. Due to animals that would like to possibly have you for dinner, they have double fences in place to keep everyone safe. But trying to shoot through a fence or worse yet, a double fence can be a challenge to say the least. A couple of weeks ago I sent out a shout out to see if anyone would like to go to the zoo. A few folks responded and said lets give it a go. We decided to go to Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida. This zoo has been rated number one by Parents magazine and the fences are kept to a minimum. This is not our first trip to Lowry, you can read more and see more photos at this post: Revisited: Lowry Park Zoo – Tampa, Florida – Part 1 and Revisited: Lowry Park Zoo – Tampa, Florida – Part 2.
Let me talk little bit about equipment that I took for this. The longest lens that I have right now is a Nikon 70-300mm. Having used the Nikon 80-400mm lens in the past, I wasn’t sure if my 300mm was going to be long enough. However, after using the 300mm I was pleasantly surprised that it was long enough. The enclosures can be quite dark so I also took my Nikon flash to throw some light in the shadow areas. I also used a device called a Better Beamer that is attached to the flash that will extend the flash range. The flash by itself is good for about 30 feet but with a Better Beamer I can get almost 100 feet. This makes animals with darker hair or feathers easier to photograph. However, the Better Beamer caused me a little issue which will discuss later.
We took a group photo so we would know who to blame later. We had a nice turnout, even the Canon and Nikon people got along.
One of our first stops was where you can feed the larakeets. My wife was brave enough to actually feed them, at one point she even had five birds on her. Check out the YouTube video that is listed below. After she fed them, they flew up into a tree and started snuggling.
This photograph I almost threw away. They orangutan was in deep shade and the rock background was in full sun. Since I was shooting in manual mode I metered for the sunlit background. This made the orangutan almost black. However, this is a RAW file, I was able to take it into Camera RAW and open up the shadows. I’m still amazed at what the software can do. If this was not a RAW file, I may have had to throw it away.
This monkey was getting something to eat out of the basket that was next to him. This is a flash shot as you can see how well lit he is. Without the flash, trying to get his dark hair to show up would be major challenge. The Better Beamer allowed me to get the light in the middle of the enclosure. If you look closely you can see the catch lights in his eyes.
For this tiger photo, I had to shoot through the fence. To make the fence disappear, I put the lens right up against the fence. I also had to shoot a wide open aperture of f/5.6. Since the tiger was in the shade I had even lighting. He had a look on his face like I had bacon around my neck!
There are a couple of eagles that are in an open area, there is a sign that explains that they are permanently injured and can’t be returned to the wild. It seems as if they are a mating pair as one was up in the tree and the other was sitting on a nest on the ground. Again, the Better Beamer was able to reach in and help light the brown feathers to bring the details out.
We looked down and saw a turtle peeking out of some pine needles.
This is an odd looking alligator. I was taking up with his teeth! Green skin with yellow eyes, looks like something out of a horror movie.
I was in the right place at the right time to get these meerkats hugging. Since they were in full sun, this made getting an even exposure easy. I was shooting burst mode to make sure that I was able to get the pose that I was looking for.
One last little thing, after everyone one left, that is when the excitement started. Angie and I were waiting for the penguins to be fed. I had the camera with the external flash and Better Beamer attached. I was holding on to it, not realizing that I had the camera pointed into the sun. After a few minutes, I started to smell hot plastic. Thinking that I was smelling things, I didn’t think much of it. Then I saw smoke. I looked down and the smoke was coming from the flash. Apparently, the magnifier that was in the front of the flash concentrated the light into a narrow beam. The case that flash is in, started to smolder. How wonderful, a camera instructor managed to set his own camera on fire! Never a dull moment.
Angie’s Lowry Park Zoo Video – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved
Be sure to click on the full screen icon in the lower right corner of the video.
At the end of the day, it was a great day, the weather cooperated and we got some great photos. If you have never been, it’s worth checking out while the weather is cool. I would also go on a weekday if possible as it will be less crowded. Take the longest lens that you own and an external flash if you have one. Just be sure the Better Beamer isn’t pointed into the sun!
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean