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Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Get a Great Zoo Photograph

Mother Gorilla Reaches Out a Helping Hand

Part One:  Be there

Yes, that's the simple trick to a good zoo photograph. No magic.  You just have to be there.  Go often. Stay for hours. If you are at the zoo for just one day and are roaming from one area to the next and staying at each spot for ten minutes, there is little chance you will see something like this, let alone photograph it. Jamani Gorilla is with her son Bomassa constantly.  She is always attentive to his needs, and she watches continuously, but intervenes less frequently.  At nine months old, Bomassa is a terrific climber, but he's not quite ready to climb a rock like this one. There's really nothing for him to grab onto.  Jamani is big enough that she simply steps on! But her beloved boy  is still tiny and short. So he tries and fails for a good fifteen minutes, and Jamani just sits there watching.  Eventually she reaches out that powerful and loving hand, and that's when I snapped the shot.  Then she lifts him and sets him down next to her. That was a nice shot too. But again, how would I ever have seen these sweet moments,  had I not been there, patiently watching?

Click to enlarge
So the next time you go to the zoo, hang out!  When you see animals you are particularly interested in, send the rest of your party on their way and tell them to come back in an hour. Just stand there and watch and wait.  Gorillas,  in particular,  move like glaciers. They are quiet for long periods. They huddle. They sleep. They sit.  But eventually they get up and change position. And if you are there for awhile, maybe you will see that majestic silverback walk out into the light and turn his face to you just so. That's when you get your shot!

Other animals may be more active.  Soak them in. Watch what they do. Notice which areas they go to again and again. Maybe you will see red pandas scurrying around and making their circuits on a network of branches. Keep watching, learn their patterns. Choose a pretty area they like to go to and point your camera right there. Frame up. Get ready to snap the next time they run over there.  If you are willing to wait long enough, you will get your chance. Now you have that beautiful animal, in an attractive area right where you want him.  Gorgeous animal. Well chosen background. You are well on your way to making a very nice picture of one of your favorite animals.  More zoo photography tips in later issues.  Follow us right here at ZooBabyBlog so you won't miss anything.