Photography from the Zoo

Wanna be a better photographer?

I do! I always try to improve my skills by pushing out of my comfort zone and create different images from different places.

I always try to improve my skills by pushing out of my comfort zone and create different images from different places.

So how do you do it? One of the best ways is to continually practice and expand your skillset. Anyone who is at the top of their game in any sport, yes I consider photography a sport as well as an art form, practice daily. Why do I consider it a sport? Depending on your photographic genre you need coordination, timing, and stamina. This goes for shooting sports, weddings, wildlife or other fast moving situations. Why art? Art because you need to create or recognize wonderful lighting in order to have your images rise above the ordinary. Both the ‘art and sport’ parts of your work can be improved by working on your muscle memory. And, you guessed it, that takes practice.

Guess what? Your composition gets better when you practice too.

You also need to practice your post production as well… And the more you do it, well you get the idea.

I always try to improve my skills by putting myself in different situations and today I’ll share some images from the Phoenix zoo. For a little accompaniment push the button to listen to Paul Simon’s song ‘At the Zoo’.

Paul Simon with Garfunkle “At the Zoo’ from around 1967. (am I showing my age here??)

orangutan original captureOrangatang at Phoenix Zoo. Captured with Lumix FZ1000 1/40th sec f4 ISO 200 – With a range of 25-400mm the FZ1000 is a very handy lens covering a wide variety of situations.

“OK Bob, so how is this zoo practice good for practicing other types of photography?

I’m fighting crowds to get the angle I want. Looking to capture expression which happens very quickly. In this instance, I am also going to be working hard in my post processing because this image was made in less than ideal lighting conditions through a thick, colored, and dirty pane of glass.

Did I say it wasn’t an ideal situation? That never happens on a regular photo shoot… (cue the laughter bouncing off the walls!)

orangutan black & white image phoenix zooHere is the final image I was able to pull from the original capture.

A couple of post processing tips I picked up from working on this photo of the orangutan. Adobe Camera RAW has a feature called DeHaze. This was quite helpful in getting a lot of the reflections and dirt on the glass to disappear. Did a much better job than I thought it would!It was designed to help with scenics to take some of the blue out of a landscape image but it worked very much like a Polarizing filter in this situation. I will be revisiting this filter more in the future. I love how tools and setting designed for one thing can be leveraged to do more.

After the initial processing in Photoshop I moved over to my favorite black and white conversion tool NIK Silver FX Pro 2. I made my black and white selections in the filter. These process out onto their own layer, and with a Mask, additional adjustments can be made. One more time back into Silver FX Pro 2 (it’s free now!) and I made some adjustments to the Structure, dialing in very strong enhancements to the mid tones and the fine structure. I changed the Mode of that new layer to Luminosity and filled the mask with black. Then I was able to paint with white on the mask to selectively sharpen specific areas of the image.

Last on the list was a Soft Light Mode Layer to dodge and burn.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

PS – More from the Zoo tomorrow