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What is “Wild,” anyway?

There’s a lot of discussion about whether taking photos of wildlife in zoos is ethical, or even qualifies as “wildlife” at all, for that matter. I don’t get into that debate, because as a learning photographer, as are many who read what I write here, I don’t have the luxury of buying a bunch of long-zoom gear to take shots of wildlife in the wild. (Although my birds are all in the wild…) The Akron Zoo weighed in on this over the last few years, by having a photo contest for photos taken of their animals.

This shot is my entry (one of a couple, probably) into that contest. Tough shot, not because the “captive” subject was all that elusive, but because the subject was separated from the lens by a piece of glass. Add to that the fact that I was using a zoom lens (didn’t want to get caught unprepared with a distant subject and not enough reach) so I was far enough away that the reflections were visible. Had to move around a good bit to make ’em go away.

The bare details–Canon 60D, Canon 70-300mm IS lens at 70mm with the IS on. ISO 500, f/4.0 at 1/100 sec. No flash, obviously, not just because of the reflection off the glass but because it would have spooked the crap out of this beautiful jaguar. (By the way, there’s no I in jaguar.

First pic


Had to freeze my butt off to get this, and almost went in the river. But what did I really learn here? The value of AI Servo focusing mode, and a good bit about shooting in manual. More on this later. For now, this is just an experiment with the WordPress iPhone app.

Added later, as promised, since it’s hard to type this much detail on the iphone keyboard: I heard someone on This Week in Photo suggest that shooting gulls was an easy way to gain experience in bird photography.  This was a good suggestion for us Northeast Ohio types since there is a gull every six feet, all year ’round.  So I went to the bend in the river and figured I’d stand there and wait until the birds showed up. No waiting… there were dozens of them, and they were feeding.  Not sure what most of them were eating but I know what this one caught!

I started by switching to AI-Servo mode, for what was probably the first time. This was something I heard Martin Bailey talking about (see the links page), and he described it as kind of a continuous re-focus.  It works.  The other lessons here? I shot this in aperture priority at F/6.3 and 1/320 sec. and that turned out to be right for this shot, but not many others!  Later I switched to manual to see what I could learn and figured out that the camera did a better job of picking settings than I did.

Looking back on this shoot, I probably would have shot at a smaller aperture to reduce the risk of the subject going out of the focused area.

Details: T1i with 70-300mm IS USM lens at 300mm, F/6.3, 1/320, ISO 320 (by coincidence), +0.3 exposure compensation.