I’m not Dorothy but today I saw lions and tigers and bears at the Folsom Zoo and Sanctuary. I’d not been there before and it was a delightful place. I’m trying to catch up on my photography class assignments and a recent assignment was to go someplace where animals are in cages and photograph them so that the cage bars don’t show. We were asked to use a tripod, a large aperture, and manual focus, and to take our time and fiddle with settings.
I was at the zoo for more than an hour and a half about midday as the temperatures rose and the sweat dripped down my back. At least there is lots of shade at the zoo and I was glad my water bottle hooked onto my jeans. I met a docent who was excited to tell me that the young mountain lion, Cedar, would be let out into the main enclosure with one of the other mountain lions for the first time. This docent was to sit and observe the interaction for a couple of hours. I set up my camera and tripod and waited with her as one lion paced anxiously and occasionally disappeared into the indoor enclosure. I was unable to get any decent photos of that lion because it kept pacing and using manual focus proved difficult for me with a moving target. When a zoo staff person advised the docent that the anticipated connection would not happen, she left. The zoo staffer then told me that there was one lion in a cave around the corner.
Photographing the lion deep inside the cave proved almost impossible. I could barely see him. Focusing was next to impossible into the darkness. I was so intent on the manual focus that I forgot to open the aperture wider and so my photos of him were not very good. I bumped up the ISO but didn’t open the lens. He did not take his eyes off me while I tried to take his photo. Another docent approached and told me that the tiger was lolling about on his back in his cage and she took me to see him. By the time we got there, the tiger had moved to the back of the enclosure and was barely visible. I did manage to get a few decent exposures but still forgot to open up the lens. Besides, it wasn’t too exciting to watch the back of a tiger’s head as he slept.
I made my way to the bears and found a delightful and engaging black bear, I think it was Tahoe, perched in a hammock made by weaving old fire hoses together. Tahoe was enjoying destroying cardboard boxes and just doing what bears do in captivity. Besides the loudly calling peacocks roaming the grounds, Tahoe was the only active creature that I saw in the zoo today. I set up near her and by this time, I realized I needed to open the lens and finally managed to get the cage bars to almost disappear. I spent 30 minutes watching and fiddling with settings. When I was done, I returned to both the mountain lion and tiger exhibits but they had all disappeared to the coolness of their indoor sanctuaries. I’ll go back to the zoo when the weather’s cooler and when the animals are awake and are more inclined to roam about.
Mountain Lion: in a dark recess and aperture not large enough for the bars to disappear:
Focal Length 300mm
Increased exposure with Curves
Tiger; increased ISO but still too small an aperture:
Focal Length 300mm
Bear: largest aperture at that focal length and the bars are almost gone. I was able to return the ISO to 100 because there was more light in this area of the sanctuary and I could use manual focus more easily than with the moving lions because this bear was content to stay in the hammock.
Focal Length 270mm