Afternoon in a Zoo

Last year in mid October I was visiting my family and together we spent an afternoon in a local zoo. It was an interesting and enjoyable walk through the park watching all those various species. Unfortunately I had my camera with me that was equipped with the 18-55mm kit lens only. No the perfect gear for taking shots of animals. But, I took this as a chance to get to know, what is possible with this limited equipment. Taking photos of animals in a zoo is quite challenging, because of all the fences and buildings that can disturb a scene heavily. Animal shots should look naturally, even when taken in a zoo. This is not always possible, as my results below show.

55mm  f/5.6  1/50sec  ISO400
My first photo shows a Yellow-spotted Hyrax while eating. These animals are so cute and adorable. The compound was designed in way that visitors are able to get within the fenced area. This is really nice because you're quite close to the animals. And from the photographer's view there is nothing between the camera and the target. There were lots of scenes where you could hide the fence and buildings, but this guy at the food pot was too sweet. It was so funny to watch him eating carrot strips with half of the meal hanging out of his mouth.

55mm  f/5.6  1/50sec  ISO800
Next animal I took photos of was an Emperor Tamarin. These apes are sweet as well, with their long white beards. At this location I had to shoot through the fence. It was not easy to catch one on photo because they were running and jumping fast through the compound. Most of the time they climbing up and down the fences, which is absolutely not a nice scene. At some point of time this guy was resting at branch in the center of the compound. The fences around him are blurred and not that visible anymore. Fall foliage hides them even more. Unfortunately these Tamarins have such long tails, that I had to cut it off, to get a nicely framed scene.

55mm  f/6.3  1/100sec  ISO800
The Leopard is such a majestic cat. I had two locations from where I could watch it. Both were through a glass window. The first location would be ideal because no buildings and fences were in the frame. But the panther was busy with eating some meat and did not look at me. When he lifted his head from time to time, he looked the opposite direction. So I moved to the second window. Here I used the short moment when he lifted his head again to take this photo. Unfortunately the fence in the background is too clearly visible. But the Leo looks awesome.

55mm  f/5.6  1/50sec  ISO800
Taking this photo of a Snowy Owl was quite easy. I could get close to the fence and the holes were large enough to shoot through it. The bird was sitting at a branch at about the height of my shoulder. The funny thing here was the owl itself. While the body does not move at all, the head turns around at nearly 360 degrees. This is so crazy and looks so unnatural. Like a motor is turning the head around. I waited til the owl looked at my direction and pressed the release button. Did you notice the huge claws at his feet?

18mm  f/7.1  1/125sec  ISO800
With this goat I tried some funny wide angle shot. Unlike other animals the goat was quite curious or it was just begging for some. It came close to me. The fence was built of thick metal bars with some good distance between them. So I could reduce focal length to minimum without getting any bar framed in the scene. I had to go down on my knees to get at face height but this even reduced the timidity and the goat came even closer. Wide angle shots of heads and faces are funny because they produce cartoon like results. Heads and faces turn out over-proportionally big compared to the rest of the body.

55mm  f/7.1  1/125sec  ISO800
The last photo I want to show today is also a funny one. It shows a cute Meerkat. These animals are so much fun to watch. They look sweet and their behavior is funny. While many of them are running around or eating at least one is standing up on a higher place observing the surroundings. Sometimes they were standing on small hills, which is a scene I would have preferred. But this guy did choose a trunk. First he was looking to the opposite direction of me, but with some whistle I could get his attention. What a cute guy.

All these photos were taken with an EOS 600D and an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom kit lens. The camera was set into P mode and calculated aperture and shutter speed automatically. ISO was at fixed value of 800, to get reasonable high shutter speeds at overcast sky light conditions. I did not have a tripod with me and shot hand-held.

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