good photos from the zoo

good photos from the zoo

Creating Good Animal Photos from a Captive Environment

I practice my wildlife photography by spending time at the zoo. There are a few reasons for this, and I’ll share them here to hopefully help you in your image creation and get feedback from you on my thoughts. You can always reach me through my email [email protected]

baboon portrait at phoenix zooA baboon named One at the Phoenix Zoo. I spent a bit over an hour waiting to get this portrait with eye contact in decent light. Black and white allow for concentration on his expression.

One benefit of photographing in a structured environment is that you can find animals. I know that it sounds simple at its most basic but you need the practice to become a good wildlife photographer. Exercise may be had at the zoo. Part of the training is to learn to focus quickly and in the right place. You may think this can be easy, but until you have tried it, I think you’ll be surprised how difficult it can be to acquire arresting and exciting photos.

mandrill at phoenix zoo photoThis Mandrill was sleeping for quite a while, but I hung around until he started foraging around in his enclosure. Expression and eye contact are paramount in making this a success. (the color of his features don’t hurt either!)

Just because the animals are captive does not mean that they will pose for you. Things such as eye contact and behavior can make or break an image. One of the items on which you are practicing is to see how an animal moves. How to stop that movement (or accentuate it for something more artistic).

orangutan at the phoeni zoo imageThis Orangutan was walking away, and I mentally willed her to look at me over her shoulder. I will often ask mentally for my wildlife to change position and it’s pretty cool how often it works.

If I can suggest one thing that you will learn that you can take with you into nature is patience. Even though you are in a target rich area, you still need to spend time, and lots of it, to get images with eye contact. If you run from enclosure to enclosure thinking you will get more varied photos you will be correct. But I suggest that the pictures will be less than stellar than if you spend more time with fewer animals.

More from the Phoenix Zoo in the next couple of days. Including the gear I use for making my images.

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob

long lens photography

long lens photography

Long Lens Photography – 100-400mm

I enjoy my long lens for outdoor photography. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment for isolating subjects against a background with nice bokeh. The longer the lens, the easier it is to have an out-of-focus background. The PANASONIC LUMIX G Leica DG Vario-Elmar Professional Lens, 100-400MM, F4.0-6.3 ASPH is a magical lens IMHO.

Here are some images from a walkabout at the Sedona Wetlands. I didn’t find many waterfowl as it was midday and possibly the wrong time of year. In any case, I always try to make the best of any photography situation and started looking for details. There are still some wildflowers scattered throughout. This attracts butterflies, birds, and bees.

bird with seed photoAdult female Lesser Goldfinch snacking on some wildflowers that have gone to seed

lesser goldfinch feeding photoI always look to capture ‘behavior’ photos as well as straight portraits of my feathered friends. Here the Lesser Goldfinch is working to get the seeds free from the plant.

butterfly image in flowersButterfly caught with shallow depth of field between the plants.

The butterfly photo was my favorite photo of the day. If you’ve chased butterflies in the wild, you know how difficult it can be to get an interesting image. I tracked this one for a while and looked to ‘sandwich’ the butterfly with DOF. I wanted a sharp subject surrounded by the in and out of focus flowers. This was made more difficult as there were not a ton of flowers in bloom and the wind was making the flowers dance as well. Now that I see the image here I’ll crop in a little tighter and loose the past prime flowers on the right-hand side of the photo.

bee in flower imageWasps one of our other pollinators were flitting between the blooms as well as the butterflies.

I choose this one to share as it has a different color with black and white stripes.

Back to the lens. One complaint I hear about the lens is that it is very stiff to zoom. It was designed that way not to suffer ‘lens creep’ when you hang it from your shoulder. I’ve found a perfect way to change the zoom. Instead of trying to turn the lens, hold the lens and turn the camera. It’s like opening a bottle of champagne where you hold the cork and twist the bottle. Makes it easy and you don’t end up with the lens creep!

When paired with the Lumix G9 you get 6 and a half stops of handholdability. All images were handheld in this post.

Yours in Creative Photography,    Bob


red rocks

red rocks

Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona

I am incredibly fortunate to live in a picturesque area filled with red rocks, blue skies, and bounteous wildlife. I carry a camera with me wherever I go. I used to try to do this in the past but found myself parking my camera when I wasn’t officially working because the weight was uncomfortable. As a Panasonic Lumix Ambassador, I find that I have a camera with me at all times because the gear is lightweight and gives me the quality I need.

bell rock sedona arizona photoPath down to Bell Rock in Sedona made with FZ2500

My quest for lighter weight gear was prompted by my wife Holly who pointed out that I was hauling thirty-five pounds of photo gear with me on personal trips. When I said, “What’s your problem? You aren’t carrying it.” She replied, “Neither are you as you often leave the gear in the room because it is so uncomfortably heavy. My wife is a brilliant woman who knows how to pierce my sometimes thick skull.

courthouse butte sedona arizona imageCourthouse Butte – Images processed with Adobe Photoshop and Skylum’s Luminar 2018 **

Today I’m featuring the Lumix FZ2500 which is a prosumer camera. It can do almost everything as it is an all-in-one with a zoom range of 25-480mm and tons of features. The FZ2500 is a little under 2 1/2 pounds. The beauty is that it can focus in macro mode almost as close as you can get the camera to the subject. With the built-in f2.8-4.0 power zoom lens, it has a reach of 480mm optical. That’s a long way!

closeup courthouse butte sedona arizona photoDetail of Courthouse Butte

One more thought is that many times a crop of the photo can be much stronger image and tell the story in a better fashion. Here’s square crop of the top photo in the post.

bell rock sedona arizonaA stronger rendition of the top photo with a square crop.

Yours in Creative Photography,    Bob

PS – Take ten bucks off Luminar or other Skylum software with the coupon code – COATES

wandering scottsdale

wandering scottsdale

Wandering – Scottsdale, Arizona

Today is the start of a new feature here on the Successful-Photographer blog. Wandering will have images from a walk around a place with no other objective than to see what images might be gathered. Wandering is a way to keep your eye sharp and experiment with new ideas or test out new gear.

The first stop on the SP wandering tour is Downtown Scottsdale, Arizona. Scottsdale is a high-end community with lots of art galleries and interesting new architecture mixed with buildings built in the ’20’s. I was down in the Valley of the Sun for meetings that started in early morning and stretched into the night with some downtime in the middle of the day. With full sun basting the town I thought it would be fun to put the infrared camera through some paces. For convenience, I mounted the 14-140mm (28-280mm full frame equivalent) on the LifePixel converted IR and set off to see what I could capture.

coates image scottsdaleFountain on the central circle.

image infraredWorking on the sign under the palms.

infrared photoGlowing palms against the modern architecture.

love is blackboard infrared‘Love is…’ bulletin-blackboard outside a restaurant. Even though there was no full sun the infrared capture renders this scene with lots of contrast.

nordstroms infrared photo scottsdaleNordstroms tower architectural detail.

Always having a camera with you allows you to take downtime and turn it into a learning experience. With the light weight and quality of the micro four thirds cameras, it’s easier than ever to always have a reliable capture device with you.

It’s a great time to be a photographic artist.

Yours in creative Photography,     Bob