Go On a Photo Safari At the Kansas City Zoo
August 15, 2011
Many amateur photographers enjoy wildlife photography, but the realities of daily life often don’t cooperate with our ambitions. As an amateur wildlife photographer myself, I can tell you that the key to success is time spent in the field. For most of us, time is a very precious commodity, and we just can't spend all day every day out in the wilds. To make matters worse, wildlife is... well, wild. Animals don’t always show up when and where it’s most convenient for us. Professional wildlife photographers can travel all over the world and spend days, weeks, months, or even years in the field just to get a single, compelling shot. All in all, wildlife photography can be a little discouraging to the beginner. But fear not! There is a place full of exotic wildlife where the animals appear on schedule every day! I’m talking about the Kansas City Zoo.
The zoo is the perfect place to explore new techniques and let your photographic creativity flow. The animals aren’t going to run off and hide, or fly away. In fact, most of them are rather accustomed to people. Some of them, like the lorikeets, are downright friendly. Most of all, they present you with a wide range of wildlife, from tiny tree frogs to enormous elephants on which to practice your art. Here are some tips to help you get the most from your zoo photo safari:
- Many animals are most active in the morning and evening, so get there early.
- Animals don’t like 100 degree summer days any more than we do, so those aren’t your best bet for great photographic opportunities. Experienced zoo goers know that spring, fall, and cool overcast (or even rainy) summer days are the best times to see active animals.
- Photographing animals behind glass can be tricky. Reflections and glare often overpower the subject. Turn off your flash, and get as close to the glass as possible. I use a lens hood and put it directly against the glass.
- Autofocus usually tries to focus on the closest subject, in this case the cage or the glass. If you keep getting photos of the cage and not the animal, switch to manual focus.
- Don’t hog a good spot. Take your photos, and then let someone else have a shot at it.
- Attend the Keeper Chats and ask about the animal. When is it most active? Does it exhibit any interesting behaviors? When is feeding time?
- Go beyond point and shoot. Read your camera manual!
- Read up on wildlife photography with these MCPL materials.