Learn about taking photos in zoos, wildlife preserves, butterfly houses and more….

Who hasn’t seen those NationalGeographic movies or magazine photographs of African safaris and dreamed of being able to go along on one to shoot beautiful photographs in the wild?In my first article for Apogee, I mentioned the wildlife officer whose home I visited and how I marveled at his collection of safari photos from all over the world. But the most wonderful shot I saw was one that hung over the fireplace in his den. It was of the Sphinx and Great Pyramids. He sadly admitted that his young daughter had taken it with an Instamatic camera. At that point in my life, I realized that you don’t have to be an experienced photographer or have the top equipment to get an excellent photo.

As I carried the thought of the possibilities around with me for many years, I began applying the same idea to wildlife photography. Could I take safari-type photos here in this country? I’m happy to report that the answer was a resounding, “yes!” I did it completely within the region where I live–and, with careful planning, you can do it, too.

All of my photos were taken in wildlife reserves, zoos, nature habitats of different types, and in the woods. The problem was keeping the hand of man out of the photo. It can be done–as illustrated in the accompanying photos. Where you live dictates where you can go to capture your prey. I was fortunate to live in a somewhat wild region of Florida where alligators were abundant. But you can find butterflies and birds almost anywhere at some point during the year.In addition, zoos are becoming wilder and more naturally beautiful every time one is built. Sometimes, the environment is so convincing that you can imagine yourself in the jungle being examined by the animals instead of the other way around. So, opportunities abound for good safari shots.

Keep in mind what the habitat will look like. You may want to do a scouting expedition in the area without a camera first, just to determine what type of lens and film speed you’ll need. Most times, a zoom lens from wide angle to 300mm or 400mm will do fine. If the place is overhung with vegetation, then you’ll require film with a faster speed, such as 400 ISO. This speed usually does the trick, but on occasion you could use even faster film. The new films have much better grain qualities than others in the past.They allow you to shoot in lower light conditions and still get an excellent image.

As you stalk your prey, watch for that ever-poisonous “hand of man” in the background or foreground. A fence or paper cup or gum wrapper can mess up an excellent safari photo. Scan the viewfinder for these obnoxious little distractions, and keep them out of your shot. If it’s permissible, remove the trash so that others can enjoy the view as you do. But don’t tread on the plants or go beyond the boundaries set between the animals and the human visitors. You want to come back from your adventure unscathed!

If you choose a wildlife reserve, you may be able to take many of the shots from the safety of your vehicle. I’ve used this techniques many times, because animals in those places become accustomed to seeing vehicles and no longer fear them. To get the clearest shots, be sure that you’re off the road in a place where stopping is permitted.Then, turn your engine off to reduce vibrations.Some reserves even sell window pods to help you secure your camera to the window of the vehicle. Many sites have lookout points set up for observers and photographers, so be sure to look for these. If the place to which you’re going has an information center–as many do, then take advantage of it, as they often have maps of their trails with good photo sites marked.However, no map can beat your taking several trips yourself to discover your own places.

A good safari requires some good research before you head out. Below are lists I’ve found on the Internet to help you begin to decide where you’d like to go on your big adventure. You can pick a location that’s near you right now or a place close to your next vacation spot. Create a list of practical suggestions and present them to your parents.Perhaps, they’ll be impressed enough with your research to add one of your photo safari destinations to their next vacation plans.

Here are some places for which to search: zoos, aquariums, butterfly houses, botanical gardens, arboretums. What else can you think of?

Find books or guides to birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians in your area or in a place you will be visiting.

Check each state’s main home page for fish, game, wildlife, and parks.

Note: To find butterfly houses closer to you, just enter “Butterfly Houses” into your search engine and take a look. A word of warning, though–some butterfly houses may not allow photography inside due to crowded conditions. Be sure to check first. These are delicate creatures so be very careful when you do get the opportunity to photograph their beauty.As with all things in nature, protect!

By Willis Bird

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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