Blind Photography At The Zoo

John and I recently became members of the Seneca Park Zoo, after allowing our membership to lapse for several years.  The zoo is changing and growing and we wanted to be part of the excitement.  I thought that the zoo would offer lots of great opportunities for photos.  It’s close to our house and it’s a really great place to spend an afternoon.

We went to the zoo and I took LOTS of pictures.  I found that the zoo is a very challenging place for an amateur photographer.  Glass, wires, bars, and fences all obscure the view for the camera.  I tried to be really careful, but still many of my photos were just terrible.  I can tell that the zoo will be a place to learn what NOT to do as a photographer.

I really love the tamarins.  They are so adorable.  They look like stuffed animals, as if you could pick them up and hug them.  At the zoo, they are behind glass.  I put my lens right up against the glass, to avoid glare or reflection in the photo.  The lighting in the enclosure is peculiar, so I knew I would have to make some adjustments when I edited the photos.  I stood in front of the enclosure for a long time and took tons of photos.  The little tamarins love to perch up high in their enclosure.  I really wanted two things for a photo: I wanted them at eye level and I wanted one to be looking at me.  After a long time, I decided that I was going to have no luck on either count. The best I could hope for was that they would sit still long enough for me to snap a picture.

The photo of the two tamarins together is my favorite, but the focus is off just a bit.

Another of my favorites are the sea lions.  They are a bit easier to photograph because they move more slowly.  In fact, the day we visited, we went to their “home” several times and they were mostly sleeping in the sun.  The photography challenge of the sea lion enclosure is the distance – the sea lions were quite far from me.  A second challenge was the bright sunlight reflecting off the light gray rocks the sea lions were sleeping on.  I did my best with positioning myself and using my zoom.

My camera is slow.  Between the time I push the button and the time the shutter actually clicks, there is a delay.  This makes it very difficult to snap a quick picture of a moving animal.  I found this to be particularly frustrating at the cougar enclosure.  The big cat was pacing around in a big circle.  I would position my camera against the glass.  John would say, “He’s coming.”  I would click the shutter and then…wait.  By the time it clicked, the cougar would have passed.  I have many photos of the cougar enclosure containing parts of the cougar’s body, but not many that show his face.

Of all the challenges of the day, the new elephant playground posed the hardest to overcome.  This enclosure is surrounded by wires that are a distance from where people stand.  It was very difficult to position myself so that a wire did not show anywhere in a photo of an elephant.  Also, the elephants were very far away from us.

Part of the challenge of being a low vision photographer is that I do not really know what photos I have until I get home and look at them, enlarged, on my computer.  I was somewhat disappointed that a couple of photos that I expected to be wonderful were not good.  This trip to the zoo was a huge learning experience for me.  I am planning some strategies so that I take better photos on my next trip.

I think that, for me, the most important thing is to enjoy the process.  Whether my photos turn out great or horrible, I love being able to see the animals in a clearer way through my camera lens.  I love the challenge of figuring out what went wrong, so that my photography can improve.


7 thoughts on “Blind Photography At The Zoo

  1. I went to the zoo yesterday and encountered some challenges. With all the caging, glass, etc. it almost makes you wonder how people got great photos for the zoo’s photo contest. But it has to do with your camera, trial and error, and patience.

    I’ve been working on photography of zoo animals at the Buffalo Zoo all year. Because I got a nice camera for my birthday, I decided to try it out so I could finally get better shots at the Seneca Park Zoo. My camera has a very nice zoom where if you zoom in close enough and hit the focus button on your subject, it can eliminate some if not all the bars blocking the animal. But in the main building I found it to be a challenge. And then the primates behind glass and caging, very hard and I gave up on them. Although in the past I’ve managed good photos of them with a less than spectacular camera, so go figure.

    Erasing the cages outside wasn’t as bad. But from my brief knowledge of camera (I should really practice with the manual setting) I can only erase the bars if the subject is further back in the exhibit. And you’re right, with pacing animals it’s hard. Another advantage I have with my camera is like a split second delay. So I can usually get the shot I want of the animal if they stay still for like 2 seconds. I couldn’t manage getting shots of the sea lions yesterday because they were swimming back and forth. Puff can be a good subject to photography underwater if you get his attention, but no luck yesterday.

    I posted some of my better photos on Seneca Park Zoo’s facebook page. It’s nice to hear of another eager photographer at this zoo.

    • Thanks for your comment, Andrew. I checked out your photos on the Zoo Facebook page and they are wonderful! It’s good to hear that you also struggle with some aspects of taking photos at the zoo and to hear how you overcame the obstacles. I am eager to return to the zoo and try again to take photos. Good luck with your zoo photography!

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  5. Hi get always motivated with the kind of posts you share with us about your life and experiences. I started following you since the day you got featured on and i get to learn a lot of new things from your blog. Photography is one of the challenge which i am trying to overcome.

    Tomorrow i am going to a blogger’s meet and thought to showthem the magic of blind photography. Hope everything goes well and my photos come perfectly. It is always nice reading your blog…..Keep posting mate.

    • Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you find my blog motivational. I am very interested in your bloggers meet. I will be checking your blog, hoping to learn more about it and how it went. Good luck with your photography. Thank you for commenting.

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