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San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park

You heard me right – they changed the name.  What was once the Wild Animal Park is now the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park.  These kind of changes always baffle me.  There’s nothing wrong with the previous title and it’s how everyone knows the place.  But a chat about branding should take place somewhere off this blog, where I have chosen for my business name … my name.

Anyway, the park is still really awesome, name change or no.  I remembered it from my childhood as being way better than the zoo, and it still pretty much is.  Aside from the normal animal exhibits, you also get to ride around in a tram and look at the animals in their “natural habitat” doing animaly things and suchlike.  The best photo stuff happened at the lion area, so I’ll show you that first.

lion at the san diego wild animal park in black and white

Mama lion decided to get up close and personal.  Naturally, there is a thick plastic wall between us.  These were shot with the 85, cropped sensor.

lionness diptych at san diego zoo

lion at the san diego wild animal park

There are lots of different animals at the park.  Like these fine examples.

siblings with the lorikeets at the san diego wild animal park

My dad looks like this basically all the time.  My brother only looks like this maybe 25% of the time.

dad and brother at san diego wild animal park

giraffes at the san diego zoo

lorikeet at the san diego zoo

I really enjoy photographing birds.  They always seem to be simultaneously startled, inquisitive and annoyed.  “What?” they continuously seem to be asking.  Anthropomorphizing animals is one of my greatest sins.

bird at the san diego zoo

bird and leonard at the san diego zoo

Do you want to talk for a minute about zoo photography?  A quick google search will get you lots of opinions from experts, but here’s some stuff I’ve learned.  First, you need a long lens.  I keep the 35 strapped on my cropped sensor (which makes it very close to 50mm or “normal”) probably 95% of the time.  But at the zoo, I ditch that in favor of the 85.  Why not my “kit” 55-200?  Because at that 200mm, wide open is 5.6, which is almost never enough light to make a crisp shot.  A motion-blurred tight image is worse than a wider sharp image, hands down.

Second, most of the animals are not doing anything interesting.  Yeah, I said it.  Those zebra way off in the distance milling about?  Boring.  The cheetah taking a nap behind that rock?  Lame.  The zoo is a big place and there’s no way to get a good shot of every animal.  Hold your clicks for an animal close to the glass or edge of his enclosure and wait for him to do something awesome.

After that, as far as I can tell, shooting in the zoo is just like trying to do portraiture, only you can’t give any direction to the animals and most of them don’t give a hoot (get it?) about you in the first place.  Go for the one awesome shot and you won’t have to process a million far-off elephants.  Oh, and don’t use flash on the animals.  That’s just not right.

wild hogs at the san diego zoo

cheetah tail at the san diego zoo

big horn sheep at the san diego zoo

Finally, they may not be the most technically brilliant photos, but my little siblings are just so cute.

piggyback rides at the san diego zoo

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