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.