50mm Lens, Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photography

I go to the zoo, encounter a few problems

For this trip to the St. Louis Zoo I went to the bird house. The problems there for photographers include:

  1. Low light
  2. Cage wires
  3. Distance from the birds

For me you can add:

  1. Forgetting to take down the names of the birds.

I’ll come back to the problems is a minute, but for now the birds:

ISO 500 50mm 0ev f/13 0.6s

ISO 500 50mm 0ev f/13 0.6s

This was probably my most successful image.  I actually got two exposures of this white winged wood duck, which I merged in HDR to bring out some of the really interesting detail this duck has. Notice I actually know the name of the duck as well.

Here are some other images, notice how many don’t have names:

So, of the seven birds featured in this post, I know the names of three.  Pretty bad when you consider I had a strategy for remembering the names.  The thought was to take a picture of the display sign whenever I took a picture of a bird.  Not a bad idea, but I guess I didn’t follow through because I came home with a bunch of birds but not a bunch of names.

As for the more generic problems I listed, here is what I did.  First I bumped my ISO to 500, usually I stick to as close to 100 as possible.  I was using my 50mm lens, because I can get my f-stop to 1.8, allowing as much light in as possible.  Where possible, I tried to have a fast shutter speed.  What I was trying to do with that was blur the cage wires as much as possible.  Because a fast shutter speed cuts down on the light, my shutter speed varies a lot in these images.  The shutter speed range is 1/30 to 1/320 depending on the shot.  I also used my tripod.  The birds were already moving, I didn’t want to add in camera shake.  As far as the distance from the cages, I did the best I could.  There were certain birds that I could not get close enough to to get a decent shot.  Either the bird was too far away for a 50mm lens, or the cage wires were to prominent in the images.

So, when you are taking photos of subjects and want to remember proper names later how do you do it?  I guess I could use some tips!



22 thoughts on “I go to the zoo, encounter a few problems

  1. Your alternative captions made me laugh!
    When I wrote my post on the Museum of Scotland revamp, I visited the museum with the intention of taking plenty photos to use (have to really remind myself to use more than words!). I had to beg my husband to go back the next day to take pictures of the information signs, as I realised I’d forgotten to do that…


  2. I try and remember to do the sign first and then the bird, but…. you can still end up with a bunch of signs that you can’t remember which goes with which bird because the zoo puts more than one type of bird in some of the enclosures! Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t!!!! (nice post)..


  3. A couple of pointers I have learned along the way, put your lens right up to a hole part of the fence so it will capture the scene and not the fence. also, i take a picture of all the animal name plates and history. after i have blogged about it etc, i delete those pics. This is so better than having to carry around a tablet and pen too. But never the less the images are still fantastic!


  4. I have no advice since I often forget the proper names of my own garden plants (not that I could pronounce them right). Your pictures are wonderful, and that’s what counts.

    Blessings ~ Wendy


  5. My Tropical Home says:

    lol…I have the same problem as you…and I tried to get the bird with it’s name in one shot and then take another of the bird only but I end up getting shots taken at weird angles 😉 I still go round with a pen and something to write on, usually the back of a receipt that I find in my bag if I need to know the names of the animal subjects. I usually end up going for the same generic name or creating something fictitious 🙂

    It is hard to shoot birds with a 50mm lens (or I guess I just lack the experience) but I think yours are pretty good considering these were moving. I have tried using the subject tracking function in my camera to keep the bird in focus and to take continuous shots in the hopes that at least one shot would turn out decent.

    Have a good weekend!



    • You bring up a really good point Mary, use of tracking and/or continuous shots, is a good way to shoot moving subjects. I do use the highest burst mode that my camera is capable of for the same reason that you do 🙂 That’s the beauty of digital, you can throw away lots if you have to. I carry a notebook with me, but honestly almost never feel like pulling it out. In this case, the bird house is pretty low lighting, so my 50mm at 1.8 offers a lot more light than my kit lens which starts at 5.6. So with that lens I can get a faster shutter speed, but the most obvious trade off is that I have to be a lot closer to the subject. Thanks so much for your comments.


  6. poppytump says:

    You got some impressive shots there ! So much to think about with taking photographs … I’m stumped for a way to remember too LOL


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