2018 Animal portraits at the Franklin Park Zoo (Sep 16)

Last weekend went to the Franklin Park Zoo. The zoo is located near Franklin Park in Boston and is one of my favorite places to photograph. Hope you like the photos.

The Franklin Park Zoo has more than 200 species of animals and is organized into 12 exhibits including the Giraffe Savannah, Kalahari Kingdom, Outback Trial, The Tiger Tales, and Tropical Forest. These exhibits house animals that reflect the name of their exhibit. For example, the Kalahari Kingdom houses African lions.

For this photo shoot took a Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens (with an internal polarizer filter), Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens, Canon 2x extender III and a Really Right Stuff monopod (to hold the 500mm lens). The 500mm lens was used with a 2x extender so I could get tight shots of the animals. The long lens and wide aperture allowed me to photograph “through the fence” by focusing through an opening in the wire mesh of the fence, as well as helping to “compress” the image for added isolation of the subject. The 500mm lens also had the advantage of getting the animals attention, which I think helped with getting photographs of the animals looking right at me. The 50mm lens was used for photographs of the gorillas in the Tropical Forest exhibit. This is an indoor exhibit with low light, so used the lens at f/2.0 to maximize the balance between getting a sharp photo, a lot of light through the lens, and a wide aperture to isolate the subject.

Arrived at the zoo around 2.30 pm and headed to the Serengeti Crossing which contains zebra’s, ostriches, wildebeest, and water hogs.

2018 Franklin Park (A86I4076)Focussed on getting photographs of the zebra’s and had in mind a tight shot of a zebra with its head and body in black and white to emphasize its black stripes.

2018 Franklin Zoo (A86I4046)Then headed over to the Children’s Zoo for photos of the black-tailed prairie dogs. I found it best to photograph these animals from the left-side of the exhibit since you get a clear view without the perspex glass in the way. The prairie dogs are one of my favorite animals and its always fun to watch their playful behavior.

2018 Franklin Zoo (A86I4207)

The giraffe savannah was nearby by which has two Masai giraffes on display. For several minutes watched the giraffes so I could get an idea of their behavior and which parts of the enclosure they walked around before taking any photos. This way I had an idea where they would be relative to the light and shadows in the scene.

2018 Franklin Zoo (A86I4160)Next stop was the the Tiger Tales exhibit to see the beautiful Panthera tigris. This is a challenging exhibit to photograph at due to the glass that separates the animals from visitors to the zoo. However, you do get a great line of sight when the tiger sits on the platform in the middle of the exhibit and looks right at you.

2018 Franklin Zoo (A86I4219)On my way over to the Tropical Forest walked by the Outback Trail and noticed a red kangaroo sitting in the shade silhouetted by the mid-afternoon sunlight.

2018 Franklin Zoo (A86I4317)Upon entering the Tropical Forest exhibit I went over to see the Western lowland gorilla. Here I used the 50 mm lens and pushed the lens with hood right up against the glass to minimize reflections and artifacts caused by the glass lining this exhibit (next time I’ll bring a polarizer to minimize reflections). A lot of the time the gorillas would naturally stay away from the viewing glass, but their was one gorilla who liked to stay near the corner of one of the windows. So I sat on the floor and waited for the gorilla to return to this window, focused on its eye, and took its photograph at f/2.0. Its amazing to think that I was sitting mere feet from the world’s largest living primate, albeit with protective glass separating us.

2018 Franklin Zoo (A86I4191)Around 4.00 pm, the sun was getting lower in the sky, so head out of the Tropical Forest, and saw a beautiful wattled crane bathed in sunlight. Here I used the 500mm lens with the 2x extender and positioned the lens so I could photograph this bird between the large wire mesh of the fence.

2018 Franklin Zoo (A86I4410)Continued on my way to the Kalahari Kingdom to see the “king of the jungle” the African lion. At this time of day (around 5.15 pm), the lions were in the shade to the right of the enclosure. However, I noticed that one of the lions would move its head, and when it did, the sunlight would illuminate its head. So I waited for the lion to move its head and look right at me as the sunlight partially lit its face.

2018 Franklin zoo (A86I4456On my way out of the zoo I headed back over to the Children’s Zoo to see the red panda. The red panda was very hard to photograph since it continually moved around the exhibit and would spend little time in one position. I also think the red panda saw my 500mm lens and was naturally afraid of it. I guess it was thinking, “what is that thing”. After a while the red panda got used to me and I also got familiar with its behavior. I noticed that it would regularly climb the bamboo, so waited for this, since it allowed an unobstructed view of its face as it peered through the leaves.

With the zoo closing in a few minutes at 6.00 pm, I packed up my camera gear, and headed home. Had a great afternoon at the Franklin Park Zoo and will be back again. Thanks for taking the time to read this photo blog.

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