...you make my heart sing.
Ever since I was little, I have loved animals. I remember being very young when my dad purchased two bunnies for us. I loved watching them. Not long after that I found a robin on the sidewalk on my way home from school. We named it "Rob," nursed it back to health, and banded it. Once it was big enough and healthy enough, we released it. It was awesome for the next several years to hear about it or see it in our yard. My grandparents both lived on farms so I was always around cattle, hogs, and sheep. It was so much fun and just enriched my love for animals.
That love has carried over to my photographic hobby. It started with birds. They were plentiful, and it was fun learning about all the different species that I had never heard of before. There are plenty of other wild animals around my home, that aren't birds. I've captured images of fox, coyote, rabbits, deer, and raccoon, to name a few. I've traveled to national parks to capture bison and pronghorn. I'm always excited to capture a new image of wildlife. Seeing them in their natural habitat is always preferable to capturing images of them in a pen. Lacking around my home however, are exotic animals.
The Kansas City Zoo has quickly become one of my "Go To" places to capture wildlife images of things that I couldn't see in the wild (well, not until I have money to travel the world, and my wife lets me leave the safety of America). They have a great selection of animals that, even though they are in pens, you can find ways to capture their images as if they weren't.
My favorite animal to photograph is the Cheetah. There is a mound right in the middle of the pen that is higher than the fence, so when the Cheetah is on that mound... you can't tell it's in a pen. I often time my visits so the sun is in the west so that as the Cheetah is laying, the sun will be highlighting her beautiful coat. I haven't gotten to see them yet, but the zoo just got 3 new male Cheetahs!
There are also areas where you can capture images of the African Lions, if they choose to sit/lay/walk in the right area. If they don't, you can always go into the viewing area and take shots through the glass. It is difficult to get a clean image, but if you take enough, with slight changes between each image, I can usually get one in good, sharp focus.
I love the two aviaries that the zoo has. There are many options to capture images of exotic birds in ways so that you can't tell they are captive. Since the birds fly free in the area, you can spend hours to just sit and wait for them to come close. Or you can move to where they are and hope to not scare them. They are very used to people so they normally don't mind you getting fairly close to snap an image. There are also many areas to shoot where the background is trees so that it doesn't look like you are in a giant pen.
There are many other areas that are fun to try to get images at also. The Elephants are always in an area where you can take close-ups of them, and not get the background in the way. The Hippos are almost always in the water, which will give you angles to shoot them at where you can't tell they are in a man made pond. The animals that free range the giant grassland enclosure can often be photographed with no obstructions or distracting backgrounds. I like trying to get the tiger also, although his cage is much smaller and it is more difficult to get and image without a distracting background.
One skill I have worked on is taking photos through glass. If you can master that technique, you can get some good shots of the Polar Bear or the Chimpanzees. The Gorillas are also behind glass, but if they are in the right area you can get images of them without the back wall in the image. My wife loves the penguins and I love the challenge of getting an image of a penguin through the glass. I love how I have to think about my images before I take them and try to plan for good backgrounds.
I've also gone to the Omaha Zoo, the Des Moines Zoo, and the Sioux Falls Zoo. Each of these zoos have areas where you can get some good quality images, if you are patient, and think before you shoot. More blogging will be done about those zoos in the future.
Song: Wild Thing by The Troggs