Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Omaha Zoo – Lemurs

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 400, cropped

The zoo featured a good-sized, outdoor lemur enclosure. This was the best of photographic conditions: outdoor light and no bars between the lens and the subject. As a result, none of the photos in this post have been retouched.

One of the first shots I got was the walking lemur above. However, for some reason the majority of the little guys seemed to be going the other way. That led to a lot of pictures like this:

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 400, cropped

While Cute Overload goes crazy for this sort of thing every year during “Tocktober,” I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the critter butt shot.

Fortunately for me, the zoo train came by, made a lot of noise and spooked the lemurs. So I got some pictures of them headed the other way in a hurry.

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 400, cropped

Some of the lemurs had the misfortune (or perhaps fortune on a hot day) of living indoors in the Madagascar building. A few of them – such as this pensive-looking subject – were in somewhat well lit areas.

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/50, f/5.6, ISO 4000

Quick technical note: the combination of a wide aperture and longer focal length leads to a narrow depth of field, which is why the lemur is the only thing in clear focus in the shot. In this case, that’s actually a good thing, as I don’t want the tree or the background to draw attention away from the subject.

Others were in a nocturnal area. I’d pretty much given up any hope of shooting in the dark when I noticed a handful of lemurs hanging out next to a light. They ended up being one of the best shots I got all day. I even made an I Can Has Cheezburger post out of this, though as of this writing it hasn’t gotten enough likes to make the main page.

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 4000

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Omaha Zoo – Sea Lions

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 400, cropped and retouched

The sea lions were a study in harsh lighting. They’re outdoors in an area with little shade. Further, their tank was being cleaned (to the considerable chagrin of the largest among them), and with most of the water gone the sun reflecting off the walls and bottom of the enclosure made good exposures a real challenge. All the pictures in this set have been treated to a level adjustment of one kind or another.

Still, the sea lions make great subjects. Proper exposure brings out their textures, slick if they’re wet and furry if they’re dry.

Nikon D7000, 135mm (28-200), 1/1250, f/9, ISO 400, cropped and retouched

As with people, look for shots of animals interacting. It brings out personality that you might not see in individuals by themselves.

Nikon D7000, 42mm (28-200), 1/500, f/11, ISO 400, cropped and retouched

This was a fun shot. The water wasn’t quite deep enough for the large sea lion to make it back up to the rocks. Though his attempt made a splash. Literally.

Nikon D7000, 135mm (28-200), 1/800, f/5.6, ISO 400, cropped and retouched

The last one is my favorite of the set. This sea lion looks so comfy and happy swimming around.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Omaha Zoo – Cats

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/200, f/5.6, ISO 1000, cropped and retouched

For the next few weeks The Photographer’s Sketchbook is going to consider the fine art of taking pictures of animals in zoos, using shots I took during a recent trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. Let’s start with the big cats, such as the fine specimen above.

Here we have a tiger in close to ideal circumstances for indoor zoo photography. Reasonably good light. No bars. And the subject appears at ease. The photo required a bit of cropping to eliminate some foreground clutter. And the image had an odd blue tint that fortunately came right out with a minor color level adjustment.

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/20, f/5.6, ISO 1000, cropped

That isn’t to say that a bar-free indoor shot is always low hanging fruit. This puma was posing perfectly (she actually seemed to respond positively to being photographed), but the light in her enclosure was so shadowy that the low shutter speed required for the shot added some camera shake and marred the image.

At least it gave me an excuse to try the new shake reduction filter in Photoshop CC:

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/20, f/5.6, ISO 1000, retouched

Still, it’s better to get the shot to start with rather than rely on editing to fix mistakes. I’ve tried the shake filter on some other photos with less impressive results.

Nikon D7000, 35mm (28-200), 1/60, f/4, ISO 400, cropped

Speaking of bars, they’re one of the biggest problems you’ll face photographing in zoos. Outdoor light couldn’t have been any better when we were there. But if the subject is close to her bars, the bars are going to end up in the shot.

Nikon D7000, 72mm (28-200), 1/320, f/5, ISO 200

Even the best pose won’t help an image that says “jail” way more than “magnificent creature.”

Nikon D7000, 200mm (28-200), 1/160, f/5.6, ISO 400, cropped

On the other hand, if the subject is farther away from his bars, then you may be able to zoom in, focus tight on the subject and make the bars so blurry that they practically disappear. You can see a little fuzziness caused by the out-of-focus mesh of this jaguar’s cage, but for the most part they’re invisible.

Nikon D7000, 32mm (28-200), 1/200, f/7.1, ISO 1000, cropped

However big a pain those bars can be, they’re still a good idea. As I’m sure the kids in this photo would agree (especially the kid on the right).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

World War One Memorial

Nikon D3000, 10.5mm, 1/1000, f/13, ISO 1600, edited

Someday I’m going to walk into a museum in which all the exhibits are brightly lit and I can shoot flash-free to my heart’s content without cranking the ISO way up and the shutter speed way down.

Last Wednesday was not that day.

The World War One Museum is an outstanding collection skillfully presented, well worth the trip. And in its defense, the museum does allow flash photography. Of course that doesn’t help much with stuff in glass-fronted display cases. And as one might expect, a flash doesn’t help much in a large room.

Thus the photo I took in the entry hall had lighting issues. Here’s what it looked like straight out of the camera:

Nikon D3000, 10.5mm, 1/1000, f/13, ISO 1600

Nor is it simply a matter of adjusting the light levels. Just lightening the image wipes out the properly-exposed Liberty Memorial visible through the skylights. It also amplifies the noise caused by the high ISO. The result looks like this:

Nikon D3000, 10.5mm, 1/1000, f/13, ISO 1600, edited

We can get around the over-exposed skylights by masking them off before adjusting the light levels. And we can eliminate some of the speckled look by applying Photoshop’s noise reduction filter.

This “problem child” photo is also a good lesson in not trusting my camera’s automatic settings. There’s no earthly reason for the shutter speed to be 1000 in a room with no moving objects. The aperture is also narrower than it needs to be. Adjusting those settings manually might have made the shot brighter and allowed me to cut down on the noise by using a lower ISO.