Zoo photography hints anyone?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Polygon, Jan 27, 2006.

  1. Polygon

    Polygon TPF Noob!

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    I've been visiting the local zoo today to practise some animal photography. Got some nice shots (will post some of them later after post-processing) but also some problems. So maybe we could collect some hints for everyone going to the zoo with a camera here.

    Being a zoo, it has lot's of cages with a more or less fine grid. For the bigger animals where the spaces were wider I tried to get into a position close enough not to have a bar running over the animal. Of course that only works when the animal is far away, so talk about zooming and holding steady.

    In the bird cages where the grid was finer and I could get in closer I managed to get the grid so out of focus that it was not visible at all on the images while looking at them on the camera. The big surprise came when looking at them on the PC. The grid was moved from the foreground to the bokeh making it look all ugly. Example given here:

    [​IMG]

    I've noticed that it's more visible for brigther bokeh spots. So is there anything I can do about it other than trying to get a mostly dark and evenly colored background?

    Next problem I encountered was that for some cages the grid wasn't disappearing into the bokeh but making a layer of grey on the image and effectively washing out all colors. Seemed to happen especially if the cages were in the shadows.

    For the glass cages, might a polarizer help me reduce the reflections I'm receiving?

    I was also wondering how you guys get your bird shots so stunningly clear. I had the chance for the first time to get really close to those little guys and shoot them frame-filling. However even at f/11 (using 300mm) I couldn't get a little bird (size of a sparrow perhaps) sharp all over, the DOF was just too shallow (have a look at the image above, especially the tail. And this was an example where it almost worked because of the way the bird is standing to the camera). Is a tripod and furher reduction of aperture helpful here or will they get blurred because they are moving little bits? If so how do you manage to get them so big yet still extremely sharp?

    Are there any other good hints one should just know when shooting animals?
     
  2. Rob

    Rob TPF Noob!

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    Volunteer to help feed the animals and do keeper's chores in exchange for taking a couple of shots inside the cages. Make friends with zoo staff, chat and ask them the best way to photograph whatever.

    For glass cages, have a big black coat and make a cover over you and the camera up to the glass. Ask permission before you do this as it could scare the animals!

    Rob
     
  3. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    One thing to remember is that the camera usually keeps the lens aperture wide open until the shutter is tripped, and then stops down. What you see in the viewfinder only represents what you will see at the widest aperture. If your camera has DOF preview, you can use that to see what the image will look like at a different aperture. If you are trying to get rid of the cage, you probably want to shoot at the widest aperture anyway.

    A polarizer should help with glass reflections.
     
  4. Polygon

    Polygon TPF Noob!

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    Rob, yeah I think I'll try that volunteering next holidays.

    markc:
    That sounds like an unhealty circle then. Wide aperture = cage invisible but moved to the bokeh and subject not completely sharp. Small aperture = more sharpness but cage becomes visible. *sigh*
     

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