Monday, June 8, 2009

Bronx Zoo Visit [pictures don’t tell the whole story :-)]

The Saturday of last weekend was a wonderful day. Little bit of sun shine and little bit of cloud cover. If the photographer is decent, then he can make his visit to a zoo worth while.

Bronx Zoo – its a huge zoo, where animals are kept in their natural habitat – which is great news for animal lovers (I am one of them too, in case you are mistaken), but a nightmare if you are a photographer. I hadn’t realized this until I visited Bronx Zoo.

Troubles with keeping the animals in their natural habitat, if you are photographer are;

1. Its difficult to locate the animals

2. If you do, they are generally far off, which makes it difficult for you to shoot (I again thank my Zuiko 70-300mm, its God sent)

3. Once you locate them, every visitor to the zoo is on your toes to get a peek at the marvel (While I don’t have anything against the zoo visitors, but I do think they need to be given training on how to conduct themselves when they see an animal. Their reaction is like there is no tomorrow!)

4. And with the so many people literally on your toes, you can’t setup a tripod. (How dearly I missed my monopod? Well, only I  know!)

5. This is not a trouble for you as a photographer, but it does bother you when you see other photographers doing it– Why on earth would you buy a $700 (or more) SLR and have a pop-up flash on?! Its as if the pop-up flash is a magical light which will travel 100 meters away and perfectly illuminate your subject! Come-on! Read the manual before you use your SLR. Another thing – If you have your pop-up flash on, then it invariably means you are on Auto mode, if this is the case, then you are using your SLR as a point-and-shoot. Which means you are not fully utilizing the power of DSLR.

This taught me 2 big lessons, always carry monopod and ensure that you visit zoo on a week day  :-)

Now for the photography part-

Always remember the rule - of all the pics that you take, only 10 to 15 percent will come out good enough for “public display” (meaning the pics that you wont be ashamed of showing to people). And of these 10-15% only about 50% will be great pics. Out of 115 pics I took, 40 came out good, out of which about 15 I am really proud of.

This trip again reinforces 2 basic principles of getting great photograph

1. Shoot as much as your memory will allow – This will increase the number of good hits

2. Always shoot RAW – If I hadn't shot RAW, I would never have got the white balance (WB) right in any of the photography. So I had the white balance on Auto and left the WB adjustments to my editor, that's one less thing to worry about as a photographer. Apart from WB, there are number of adjustments you can make in a RAW editor. So shoot RAW.

Another important lesson I learnt was this – I always thought that visit to the zoo will be relaxing (as a photographer) as I can shoot the animals at my leisure. This myth was broken. The animals are so temperamental that most of the times you are in a blink-and-you-miss situation. So unless you have gone there as a professional photographer (and not as a normal visitor with family - like I had gone) with loads of time on your hand and someone paying your for being patient - you have very little time to change your camera settings  and remember the settings you are working with, as a result you will have pics which are not as you expected them to be. This is the reason why shooting in RAW and taking a lot of pics helps. As I always do and advice – shoot in Aperture mode, if you have Noiseware ( software or any other noise reduction software, go for higher ISO. You will not be hurt!

Now you know the reason behind the title “pictures don’t tell the whole story”!

For those who are keen on photography, I urge them to read Scott Kelby’s The Digital Photography vol 1 & 2

Now for some action

The King
This guy would not budge from his place and he was either sleeping or looking elsewhere. I had a tough time getting his pic, I tried using the EC-20 teleconverter, but it was too shaky hand held. This is the best I could get. Zuiko 70-300mm @300 mm
This is the one @ 600 mm zoom (1200mm equivalent for 35 mm)  using the 2x teleconverter. Notice the shake. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
His girlfriend was more obliging though, she came and sat very near to where we were standing.
IS was kept ON on all pics. For me E-30 IS is always a life savior
The little one was really cute :-) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
He was the one who gave trouble in Turtleback Zoo. This time I nailed him! (I know its not a politically correct language, but I wanted to shoot this beauty. I love the colour combination!)  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This one I love, shot @ 1/250 f/5.6. I adjusted the bokeh in Photoshop Elements 7 [REF] OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This guy was funny, he was sleeping peacefully… OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
…and just when we thought he wouldn’t show, he got up and decided to take a bath!
Again RAW saved me, the dive picture was terribly over-exposed as I was not expecting him to take the plunge, but I could salvage in RAW editor.
Most elusive creature was the Tiger. He was in the pose for 5 seconds and then disappeared. Shot over the heads of people at 300mm zoom. Again E-30 IS save my day OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The SAMBA Village. The Bronx zoo is divided into animals habitats by country. The SAMBA Village is a replica of village in Africa. Again Save by RAW for the WB. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Giraffes. Shot @ 300mm @ 1/320 F5.6 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Lemur… native of Madagascar OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The mountain goat, This one is nice because this was shot from the mono rail and I ad like fraction of second to shoot it.
@1/400 sec the lens did a pretty good job of focusing it sharp and probably so did the E-30 IS.

Enjoy & take Care!