2018 Portraits of a King at the Franklin Park Zoo (Sep 16)

The Franklin Park Zoo is home to the “King of the Jungle, the African lion (Panthera leo). This blog is about how I took a series of portraits of this beautiful animal in the natural light and shadows of its surroundings. Hope you like the photos.

Two African lions live in the Kalahari Kingdom exhibit. In the late afternoon the lions were sitting in the shade under the trees at the right side of the exhibit. The shade was good for helping to hide the enclosure wall behind the lions, but made it challenging to get a different exposure of the lions, so that they would stand out in the photo. However, I noticed that one of the lions would regularly move its head, and when it did, it would catch some of the sunlight going through the tree leaves. This made for some interesting lighting effects and enabled photos to be taken of the lion in the sunlight against a dark background. Shown above are a series of photographs with the lion looking in different directions as its head was partially bathed in sunlight. To photograph these shots, a long focal length lens was used. In this case a Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens with an 2x extender III, to obtain a focal length of 1000mm. I focussed on the eye of the lion and used an f-stop of f/8 to get a balance of sufficient depth of field across the lions face and a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/500th of a second to minimize camera movement (in addition to a monopod and image stabilization on). An ISO of 3200 was used, and it amazes me how the digital cameras of today (in this case a Canon 1DX Mark II) can take photographs with virtually no electronic noise in the photo at high ISO speeds.

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