Colleen Sternberger Fine Art Photographer | In Like a Lion . . .

In Like a Lion . . .

March 05, 2013  •  1 Comment

Welcome to March everyone!  Here in Kansas March came In Like a Lion - I hope it goes Out Like a Lamb.  I have been busy the last few weeks preparing for the Las Cruces Arts Fair so I have not worked on any new images.  March coming In Like a Lion jogged my memory about one of my very favorite fine art photographs - Razi's Rock.  

I am fortunate that I have seen an African Lion in the wild, but for many people their only chance to see one is in a zoo.  The same can be said for elephants, giraffes, rhinoceroses and many other animals.

Zoos are great locations to photograph animals, but they also present many obstacles in getting the perfect shot.  There are a few things you can do with your camera and lens to come away with a “keeper”.

One of the big challenges at a zoo is photographing an animal in their exhibit without also photographing the fence or glass that separates the animal from the visitor.  To help with this:  get as close as you can to the fence, use a longer focal length, choose a wider aperture and wait for the animal to move back from the fence.  This works well for DSLR cameras, but what if you are using a point and shoot with no control over aperture (aka depth of field)?  Try switching to portrait mode which uses a wide aperture.

A few other techniques that will help you in photographing animals at the zoo are:  filling the frame, watch the background, focus on the eyes and treat the animals as moving subjects by using a fast shutter speed (or let your camera do the work and choose sports mode).

There are two things you should never do when trying to capture a great image of a zoo animal.  First, never climb on the exhibit fence or (gasp) climb into the exhibit.  Second, do not tempt the animal to come closer by offering food treats.  If you fill an animal up with popcorn or some other treat they will not want to eat the nutrition packed meal that their keeper will offer them later.  Hmmm – maybe I will write more about zoos in a later blog.  What do you think?  

          Razi's Rock

Razi's Rock

People often ask me how I was able to get into the exhibit with the lion to take this photograph because they do not see a fence in the image.  I was not in the exhibit with the lion (see the first thing never to do when photographing zoo animals above) - I used the same techniques that I mentioned earlier.  I used a long focal length - 420mm, wide aperture, got as close to the fence as I could and made sure the animal was back from me.

After all of this I took the picture into my digital darkroom and made a few adjustments.  I cropped the picture tight and then did some selective dodging and burning.  I blurred the background to exclude the fence and then started processing with NIK filters.  As the image transformed I decided to add a texture to totally eliminate the background.  I added some contrast and a vignette and called it good.

Razi's Rock can be found in my Animal Ambassador Portfolio  This is an image of the male African Lion at Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, KS.  

Razi is a very handsome guy – and he knows it!  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of my image.  You may ask zoo questions too.

Thank you for sharing your time with me – I truly appreciate it.  Colleen

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Kathy Sexson(non-registered)
that razi is a handsome boy! i love this picture! and great advice to wanna be zoo photographers about respecting the fences and animals. so important for everyone's safety!
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