Wild animals in their actual habitat is one of the most amazing things to photograph. This comes mostly with an enormous adventure and experiences of a lifetime. For me personally, I had some great moments whilst on a safari. But as a "still-photographer" - which means I usually photograph things that don't move, capturing animals is quite something different than I am used to. You have to work with other focal-lengths and the rules that apply to those. So, before going on a big trip with no experience you better practice beforehand. And why not in a Zoo? Read further to read the benefits and what I achieved in our latest zoo-visit.
Let's start out with a few points speaking for and against practicing wildlife-photography in a zoo.
Of course, capturing animals in a zoo are not the same experience like in wild. In case you life in a region with a lot of wild animals available, it's probably more fun to do it there. But if you live in an area like me, where you see rarely any wildlife, a zoo is a great option. And you have some massiv benefits whilst practicing there.
There are some difficulties whilst photographing in a zoo. It's a little bit depending on which zoo or animal-parc you are, but most of them are related to all of them. Nevertheless, the problems can be solved - mostly. But it's something you don't have to deal with out in the field.
I guess all in all it's a cool experience to spend a day in a zoo anyway. And if you have your camera with you, why don't try this out. On the other hand, if you like hiking, spending the day in the nature is great to and you will have the chance to capture some animals. Although surly not in that density like a zoo.
On tipp regarding gear on this place. If your are a bit more serious about it, invest in some good lenses. The camera doesn't matter so much as long as it has a decent auto-focus-system, but the lenses do. Most animals, even in a zoo, aren't close to you and so you will need a telephoto-lens for sure. There are cheap options out there producing okay images and they will help you. If your ready to spend a little bit more on glass (which is always a good idea) there are a ton of amazing lenses out there that are just the perfect fit. I use mostly the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM, a great lens that produces sharp images. Good alternatives - maybe even the better choice - are either the Tamron 150-500mm or the equivalent Sigma 150-600mm.
Now let me write a bit about my experience and the reason why I wrote this all. We spend a day in the Zoo Basel a few weeks ago. I had an idea in mind which I liked to try out and therefore this place was ideal. As I recently bought the amazing book "Wild Encounters" by David Yarrow. This brought my to the idea to create a small series of black-and-white images from animals. I did a few of those on my trip to Namibia, but wanted to bring it a step forward.
All in all I tried to come as close to the animals as somehow possible. I watched for a background that wouldn't be to distracting and tried to avoid any visible fences or glass-reflections. In Lightroom I post-processed the images and brought it to Silver Efex Pro from the Nik Collection.
It was a beautiful day with some amazing animal-encounters. I tried new things out for the next safari, I also tried out a new style and even if not everything worked out as I wanted, I more than happy with the resulting images.
Please be aware that publishing images from a zoo mostly need a permission. They wan't protect there company from bad reputation but also their animals from disrespectful images. Thats completely understandable and make sense. So please, if you like me would publish some images, ask the respective zoo for permission. I asked Zoo Basel and they kindly gave me the permission - thank you for that!
Because of the restriction by Zoo Basel this images are not available as prints. But I have a lot more over in my online-shop or on my website matthiasbader.ch. Check them both out if you like. And you will find me on this social-media-channels:
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All images are copyrighted by Zoo Basel and matthiasbaderfotografie.