Monday, February 25, 2013

Zoo Photography, Week 2


We've got no lions this week, but we've got more tigers and this adorable bear (say it with me..."Oh, My!"). (If you missed Zoo Photography, Week 1 - you can read it here.)

The polar bear at the Indy Zoo is a senior lady who spends most of her days lounging on the rock overlooking her built in pool.  And, no, I'm not sure why I've slipped into a writing style that sounds like I'm trying to write a singles ad for a polar bear.  Anyhoo...We walked by her enclosure three or four times over the two weeks and she was doing exactly what I described...until the very end of class - when she was sitting up and I got this shot.


It was very obviously shot through the thick blue glass at the front of her enclosure that would let you have a good view of her underwater if she were swimming.  After she posed for us a bit here, she headed over to a big rock and went through a wide variety of poses.  My friend Diana said the one I opened with was her favorite.  I agree that it's one of the best of the set.  I also had to put this one below in because I liked how she just flopped herself down on that rock in a "I'm Sexy and I Know It" pose - and now I have that song in my head to start the day.  Ugh!


But, week 2 of Zoo Photography wasn't all good (from a picture perspective only - the class ROCKED!).  We started out in Oceans which would generally be my very favorite place.  However, taking pictures in here was uber frustrating.  The thing I took away is that I experimented and tried to take photos I ordinarily would have just walked away without even trying - like attempting to get at least one decent picture of a ray swimming by.  This was the best one - and I still am not happy with it. 


A non-photographer friend was looking at the photos I took in oceans and just oo'ing and aw'ing over them. I tried to accept the compliments, but all I see are the scratches in the glass.  And this was, by far, the best shot I got.  We shot these using off-camera flash connected by a Remote Flash Cable.  If anything good came out of the frustrating time in Oceans it was getting acquainted with that camera cable.  Jackie had mentioned it the week before and all three of us in the class (one person didn't come back for week 2) went out and bought one to bring to class.  I'm really happy that I have it now as I've wanted to take a few shots with off-camera lighting, but pocket wizards and all that fancy stuff is not something I'm ready to tackle yet.  The cable is a really good starter step for me.

Jackie let me hook on her Macro gear again to try some photos in the focus tanks.  Fish move too much!  This was the only shot that I was willing to share.


The penguins were only slightly easier to shoot.  I came away with this as my favorite shot.  My exposure was pretty high and the photo is still really dark.  But, penguins are adorable in any light.


Once we were all severely frustrated, it was time to head outside into the sun.  One of the many awesome things about taking a class with an employee of the zoo is that if you're taking the class in the dead of winter when an exhibit like "The Plains" is supposed to be closed - you can still go in there.  We had the plains all to ourselves and with the exception that we didn't get an opportunity to snap the lions because their yard was too icy (the keeper in charge of that area was worried about them falling), we got a few great opportunities back there.

First up, were the cheetahs.  As we approached, she was standing up on her log - checking us out.  I think this is my favorite shot of the day overall.


Realizing we weren't going to be very exciting, she headed over and laid down in the sunshine.


We also spent some time with the wild dogs which you have to shoot through glass.  As I shot them and took quick looks at my LCD, it looked like I was getting through the glass okay.  Note to self - ALWAYS zoom in when viewing on the LCD.  I must have been at a bad angle - in every single position I stood in - because when I got them back to the computer the photos were terrible.

While I'm on the subject of photos I didn't share, we also got a lot more opportunity this week to shoot through the mesh and wire of enclosures.  None of those shots turned into something to share - the best shot I got was of an otter's buttocks.  However, the concept of how you do it became a lot more clear this week since we got more practice time.  Now, all I need the next time I head out is an animal that will actually stay in one place in some sort of stance worthy of a picture and I might have something to share.

While we were back in Plains, we got an extra surprise - four of the elephants were out!  Meet Tombi.


The light was pretty harsh on them, and about the only part of everyone but Tombi that we were seeing were their hind ends.  But, Tombi was nice enough to hang out right by the water and have his portrait made for a while.  I'm not overly excited about any of the shots, but getting to see the elephants is always a treat.  The Indy Zoo has one of the most successful breeding programs in the nation for elephants and there are, I think, nine total elephants in our herd.  You can read more about the elephant program in Indy here.

Class was almost over, but as we were walking back we swung through forests to check in on Petya (the male tiger who we photographed so much last week) and the female tiger.  Petya was playing with the blue ball in his enclosure.  I did manage to get him in motion as he pounced, although I'm not entirely happy with the image.


Before taking this class, I probably would have been ecstatic with that photo, but not being zoomed out wide enough to get his whole body was a big mistake on my part and if you're looking closely at the image, there is blur in some places I'd rather there not have been blur - faster shutter speed would have been better here to get a crisper image.

The female tiger across the way was behind DIRTY glass (which made me feel right at home given how dirty Lindsay's paws get and how incredibly hard it is to keep my floors clean during this time of year).  However, I managed to snap one good shot of her through a small clean spot.


As we were headed towards the White River Gardens area to wrap up class, we grabbed the polar bear photos I opened with which was a nice way to end the class time.

Overall, this was the best Indy Photo Coach class I've taken.  There were only four of us in the class - with only my new buddies George and Amberlee showing up for the second week.  Since there were so few of us - and we spent a good amount of time hoofing it between exhibits and just chatting - I got to know them better than I've gotten to know people in all the other classes I've taken.  

Jackie was an excellent instructor. She gave us each a lot of individual attention and her calm, quiet manner was just right for me personally.  I learned a great deal, but also enjoyed spending three dedicated hours two weeks in a row focused on nothing but shooting pictures.  I've not been taking enough pictures lately and it felt really good to have my camera in my hands.  I need to schedule more time like that for myself in the rest of the year because I always, ALWAYS feel more motivated and excited when I do.

I hope you've enjoyed this journey with me.

Did you do anything fun this weekend?  Snap any great pictures?  Share with me in the comments!


  1. We are all our own worst critics Kara - your photos are great!

    1. Thanks Cheri. I had a load of fun in the class, but I'm glad we had both sessions so I came away with loads of photos I'm really proud of. If it had just been from this week it would have been a little frustrating.


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