Photography at the Zoo

Photographing animals requires one thing above all else; Patience.

Whether you're photographing your own cat or dog at home, or if you're in an exotic location with wild animals, capturing them at the right moment when they are doing something amazing is difficult.

ISO 800, 100mm, f/4 at 1/40 Sec

You can't ask animals to change position or move to a new location. You have to wait for them to be in the right place and in the right light.

You can't ask them to do something interesting to make your photo better. You just have to wait until they do it, and be ready to capture it.

The only way you can get better at photographing animals is to observe and wait and practice.

A great place to do this is at your local Zoo. You get to practice photographing animals, and your entry fee goes to rare and endangered species conservation and research.

While I was in Portland a few weeks back I spent an afternoon at the Oregon Zoo to practice my skills. It was a rainy overcast day which is great for avoiding dark shadows and high contrast, but also meant there was less light to enable fast shutter speeds.

I had to go really high with my ISO settings (remember ISO increases/decreases your cameras sensitivity to light, but also increases noise at high ISO), and with my camera (which is a little old) this means an increase in grain. With full frame cameras you can set your ISO quite high without it affecting the quality of your photos, but not so much with cropped sensor, older cameras like mine.

I still have a long way to go when it comes to photographing animals/birds/any moving object, but I really enjoyed practicing at the Zoo.

Here's 5 quick tips for photography at the Zoo

1. Observe and learn

IMG_1910

Observe your subject and get to know some of it's habits, then find a position that works - no distracting wire or smudges on the glass- and stay there. You will notice certain patterns of behavior by simply observing them, and if you practice patience you can simply wait for your subject to come back into the frame you have set up. If you know you have a spot which works, it doesn't help to try chasing your subject around from outside the enclosure.

2. Minimize distraction

IMG_1932

Set up your shots with minimal distracting elements by getting in close and focusing on the eyes of your subject.

If you have to shoot through glass find a clean spot (or wipe it clean yourself) and get in close with a lens hood to avoid reflections.

If you have to shoot through wire get up close and use a high aperture (low f stop number) to ensure the camera doesn't focus on the wire.

IMG_2021

Either try to capture your subject so it seems like they're not enclosed, or use the enclosure as part of your image.

3. Get to know your camera

IMG_1987

While you are observing your subject take some practice shots to see whats going to work. There's nothing worse than missing an awesome shot because you haven't adjusted your settings.

If you want to freeze motion you need fast shutter speeds (1/500 sec or more), high ISO and wide open aperture. Use TV mode for action shots.

If you're shooting in low light you can increase aperture, and set the ISO quite high in order to decrease the shutter speed.

Practice with all three settings to find what works.

4. Be OK with imperfection

IMG_1854

Don't obsess over getting the perfect shot the first time. Think of each photograph as a lesson which you can learn more from.

Don't stress if you can't get a shot of a particular subject (the lion enclosure had huge sheets of filthy glass in front of it making it impossible to get a shot of them). It's ok if some of your shots don't work out.

Learn from each experience.

5. Enjoy the moment

IMG_1885

Don't forget to take time to actually appreciate where you are and what you are experiencing.

Consider the incredible animals you get to see and be respectful of the Zoo rules (don't try to climb on anything to get a better shot).

Conservation Zoo's conduct research and do what they can for endangered species.

If you are so inclined you can help out by purchasing a Zoo membership or even by volunteering.

If you are interested in photographing wildlife go to your local Zoo and practice your skills.

Here's a few extra shots from my afternoon at the Zoo.

IMG_1969

IMG_1979

IMG_2006If you liked this post and would like to read more your can subscribe to my email or connect with me on Facebook. Thanks for reading!

 

Photo of The Day: Macro

30 Days of Smartphone Photography Day 29

While exploring the Oregon Zoo in Portland I took some extra time to practice my Photojojo Macro skills. 

20140713_185338

Besides the incredible animals, the Zoo also had beautiful flowers everywhere and here's the tiny petals  of one of them.This flower was about the size of a Australian 10 cent coin or US Quarter.

Remember with Macro shots that you need to hold your camera super still to avoid blurry photos. Because it's so magnified any amount of movement will show up.

Use both hands to hold your camera and practice slow steady breathing to help avoid sudden movements.

If you have one, it really helps if you use a tripod,  rest your elbows on a hard surface, or even just rest your phone camera on a surface as close as possible to the object you're trying to capture.

If you liked my photo of the day and would like to see more of them subscribe to my email or connect with me on Facebook. Thanks for reading!

 

The 5 Best Android Camera Apps

30 Days of Smartphone Photography Day 28

Most smartphone's have great inbuilt cameras, but if you want your photos to really stand out there are hundreds of apps which can help you capture and create beautiful images.

The problem is deciding on which ones to use. If you look up the best camera apps you will get pages and pages of recommendations.

Rather than listing out 50 apps which you could try, here's 5 apps which I actually use and like on my Android smartphone.

1. ProHDR Camera $1.99

While your in-built camera can capture great photos at one exposure level, ProHDR Camera combines 3 separate photos taken at different exposures to create beautiful vibrant images. This app is awesome for situations when either the background is too bright, or there is too much shadow in the foreground.

Use this app to capture the most amount of colour in your images and bring out detail in overly bright or shadowed areas.

20140624_205609

hdr_00053_0

hdr_00048_02. CameraZOOM FX $2.99 for Premium or Free Lite Version

CameraZOOM FX has all the features of your regular camera app with added bonuses to help make taking beautiful photos so much easier. With controls like touch to focus/shoot, white balance, timer and burst modes and nightshot mode, CameraZOOM gives you the extras you need for awesome shots.

Use this app in place of your built in camera for greater creative control. CameraZOOM-20140712164215043

3. Pixlr Express FREE

Pixlr Express gives you everything you need to quickly edit a photo to make it really stand out. You can make minor adjustments, or you can add filters, borders, text and stickers to create an image with a message.Screenshot_2014-07-12-14-41-46

Here's some of the awesome features of this app:

• Explore the tools: easily adjust the contrast and brightness of your image, or focus on one color with the color splash tool
• Easily crop, rotate and adjust images when saving and sharing. 
• Choose from four pre-defined dimensions (or input your own custom dimensions) for fast and flexible image resizing after editing. 
• Create and customize a photo collage by editing its layout, background, and spacing. 
• Share your photo directly with friends through Facebook or email, or just save it back to your photo library.
• ‘Auto Fix’ photos for a one-click fix to balance out colors, adjusting for poor lighting conditions.
• Explore the growing catalog of additional effects, overlays, and border packs.
• Look like a pro with cool photo effects such as focal blur, denoise, and more. 

Use this app for post editing to bring colour out or to completely change your image.20140709_195059

20140709_195059_20140712142248168

4. Dropbox Free

I have talked about Dropbox before hereDropbox is a free service for securely storing and sharing photo’s, videos and documents online. The Dropbox app means you can access the service on any device. I find Dropbox most useful when I want to quickly access photo’s from my phone (Android) on my iPad, or when I want to share photo’s and documents without having to email or use a USB.

Screenshot_2014-07-12-14-48-24

5. PhotoGrid Free

Make collages quickly and easily with this app to create interesting images which tell a story. If you like using Instagram, use Photogrid to make your photos stand out and capture the attention of your followers.

Screenshot_2014-07-12-14-44-13PhotoGrid_1405203724307[1] There you go! 5 Apps to help you capture and create beautiful eye capturing images.

While my phone camera is awesome as is, it often doesn't capture what my eyes see, so basically all my photos taken with my phone have some touch ups done before I share them.

If you liked this and found it helpful  you can subscribe to my email or keep connected with me on my Facebook pageInstagram and Twitter.

 

Photo of The Day: Smartphone Macro

30 Days Of Smartphone Photography Day 27

I can not even explain the amount of patience which was required for this shot! 

Flies are flittery, zipping, whizzing speedy little buggers and catching one while it's still is exceedingly difficult!

But I got him! It only took a few (many!) goes.

This is my photo of the day, taken with my Samsung Galaxy S II with my Photojojo Macro lens.

I am pretty impressed if I do say so myself!

Now you know what an American blowfly looks like. I did try to capture a wasp in action but it kinda got narky about (you need to be within an inch for macro shots) it so I left him alone.

Here's the obliging blowfly perched on a strawberry leaf. 20140709_171807

If you liked my photo of the day and would like to see more of them subscribe to my email or connect with me on Facebook. Thanks for reading!

Photojojo Camera Lens for Smartphones

30 Days of Smartphone Photography Day 26

Previously in my 30 day smartphone challenge I showed you my Photojojo wide/macro camera phone lens.IMG_1725

Today I have a quick how to and overview of all three lenses. Photojojo has all sorts of cool bits and pieces and I got this 3 pack of lenses (Fisheye, Polarizer and Wide/Macro) for $49.00. Photojojo claims these lenses will fit on any phone model, but be warned some phone covers won't work with these lenses and the magnetic ring. IMG_1741

Each lens comes with these little magnetic rings which you attach to your camera around the lens. You get a few extras too so no worries if it falls off (this hasn't happened to me and I have had the same ring on for a month now).IMG_1733Clean your lens and the area around it, then after removing the backing paper attach the sticky ring carefully to your camera. Make sure its lined up because they are kinda hard to move once stuck. You can remove the ring when you want to get it off, but it does leave some sticky residue.

Press the ring firmly onto your phone lens, then leave it to stick for at least half an hour before you try attaching a lens.

The lens simply magnetically attaches to the ring. IMG_1745

Easy! You're good to go. IMG_1743

Here's what each lens does

Fisheye

The Fisheye lens is a very wide angled lens which gives a hemispherical looking photograph as shown below. The first photo is from my phone camera as is at the same distance as the second photo with the Fisheye lens. The Fisheye lens takes in a 180 degree view and distorts everything so it appears like a bubble (or fishbowl).

This lens is really cool if you want to take photo's of scenes too wide for your regular camera, or if you just want to add a touch of wackiness.

20140708_160123

20140708_160116Polarizer

A polarizing lens is designed to block light at certain angles, produce more saturated colors and help to block reflected light from windows or water.  The lens helps to create a vibrant image so you don't have to do as much (or any) post processing. The first shot is my camera as is, and the second is with the polarizer attached.

The green of the trees definitely looks greener and the caravan in the left corner is much less blown out, but the sky is basically the same.

Use this lens on bright sunny days or if there is a lot of reflective light to capture beautiful vibrant images.

20140708_170045

20140708_170038

Wide/Macro

The wide/macro lens lets you take extra wide angle shots or super close ups.  The lens comes in two parts and you simply unscrew the wide angle top off the macro lens to use the macro function. Both together make the wide angle lens.IMG_1759

IMG_1758The first two photos below are as close as I could get to the lenses without my phone camera losing focus. The third image was taken with the macro attached and you can see how much closer I was able to get. There is much more detail and you get a nice blurred effect in the parts of the photo which are out of focus. You need to get very close with the macro lens to get a focused shot (between 10-20mm).

20140708_160254

20140708_160254

20140709_154144

The wide angle (shown in the second photo below) creates quite a lot of distortion, especially in the corners. You can crop your image to get rid of the dark corners though. This lens is similar to the Fisheye, just less intense.

Use this lens for wide landscapes.

20140708_160356

20140708_160349

Having a few extra lenses for your phone camera makes taking photos much more fun. I really like the wide/angle macro for getting close up detail.

If you're getting bored with your phone camera, there's nothing better than getting yourself re-inspired with a new lens.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful you can keep updated with more practical tips by subscribing to my email or connecting with me on Facebook.

 

Photos of The Day: Elowah Falls

30 Days of Smartphone Photography Day 24 Today we went for a hike in the Multnomah County to see the top and bottom of Elowah Falls. Obviously I have more than one photo in this post, but there were too many awesome moments to choose just one.

First off we went down hill to view the falls from the bottom of the valley. Here's the top, middle and bottom of the falls, since it was too high to fit in one shot. The hike induced enough huffing and puffing to really appreciate the amazing 213 feet tall waterfall.

IMG_1423 IMG_1428 IMG_1444After a refreshing misting of icy water from the falls we made our way back up to the top, then wound our way along the cliff edge to reach the next set of falls.

IMG_1450

IMG_1547

We stopped for lunch at the top of this waterfall on a small cliff edge which provided views right down to the bottom of the gorge. IMG_1593

IMG_1681We walked through the water up to the next small waterfall. It was a really sunny day so the waterfalls had a lot of shadows which isn't ideal for photography, but still really fun taking photos of the moving water. IMG_1701Here's some extra shots I took along the way.IMG_1581

IMG_1564

IMG_1467

IMG_1599If you enjoyed this post and found it useful you can keep updated with more practical tips by subscribing to my email or connecting with me on Facebook.