Focus on Travel Photography

Classic Vacation Shots Shooting from the Air Shooting from the Land and Sea Signs Along the Way Photographing Your Cruise Parades and Ceremonies Stage Shows and Events Zoos and Aquariums Fireworks Silly Pictures Around the Campfire
Zoos and Aquariums
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Zoos and Aquariums

It may not be as thrilling to photograph a lion or a zebra in a zoo as it is in the veld of Africa, but you can still take some terrific pictures. Because you can get much closer to your quarry, you can work with shorter lenses. While you might need a 400mm or 600mm telephoto to bring a lion or a polar bear up close in the wild, in a zoo you can get similar shots with lenses in the 180mm to 300mm range, or shorter. With smaller animals and reptiles behind wire or in glass enclosures, you can even work with macro lenses.

When composing pictures of captive animals, shoot some images that disguise the captive aspect and others that exploit it. To keep the human environment from showing, look for vantage points that hide fences or other barriers. You can make wire fencing or bars seem to disappear by working close to them with a long telephoto and using a wide aperture for shallow depth of field; be sure the autofocus frame is on the subject and not the bars. Conversely, if you want to make a statement about the plight of animals in captivity, look for shots that emphasize confinement: a leopard peering out from between steel bars, for example.

The two problems you'll encounter in most aquariums (and many reptile displays in zoos) are the dim lighting and the thick glass. Though you may see people trying it, don't use on-camera flash through glass; you'll only get a picture of the reflection of your flash. With a DSLR you can have a friend hold an off-camera accessory flash against the glass, but using a faster film is easier and keeps the light more natural-looking. Press the lens right up to the glass to avoid reflections.

As in the wild, animals in captivity have both active and quiet periods. Generally they are most animated early and late in the day and before feeding times. Finally, remember that captive animals of all types are already under stress; take great care not to add to it. Better to lose a shot than become another insensitive tourist.

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