Miserable Photo Trip to the Zoo

Well, that was a bust. Our local Zoo had a “Photographers Morning”, exclusive access to the exhibits and beasties. This could have been really good, but two things let us down. The weather didn’t cooperate, which was the biggest problem. Grey, overcast skies do not make really nice outdoor wildlife pics. The second problem is more fundamental. The zoo has a new african plains exhibit, with new enlosures for cheetah, rhino, chimps and a couple of other beasts. It’s not bad except for too much glass and wire! The cheetah enclosure is a perfect example. The only area to see them is fenced off with a massive chainlink fence. No way to go over or around it – so you’re forced to shoot through it. This makes it impossible to get a nice pic without at lease a 300mm + lens as all you see is the fence! And the backgrounds – yeach! If you spend that much on an animal enlosure and their upkeep, a little thought about the viewers experience would be welcome!
Houston Zoo
This is also a problem with the chimps. There is a really nice area where they have a fake termite mound that the chimps can get treats by using sticks. It’s right by the glass so you can get really up close and personal – potentially some awesome shots….but could the designer include anti reflective coating on the glass? No! Millions on the exhibit, no thought for what 90% of the visitors are going to take away from them – their pictures.
Still, it wasn’t a total bust. I did get a couple of nice snaps…but it wasn’t worth dragging my carcass out of bed at 5:30am on a saturday for….
Houston Zoo
The experience also highlighted the equipment gaps and compromises I have made over the years. My longest lens is the Nikon 80-200mm F2.8 D. This is a great lens, but doesn’t have a matched teleconverter. I used it here with a modified TC-1.4E, which allows metering, but no autofocus. Damn – my manual focus skills are rusty! Using a D700 doesn’t help either, as I miss the 1.5 crop factor and pixel density. But, being able to shoot at 1600 ISO is the flip side with obvious advantages….

I’m not a wildlife photographer. I don’t have the kit for it or the passion…but sometimes it’s nice to get out and try something different…..

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