Best lenses and techniques for Zoo photography

heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,155Member
edited August 2013 in Nikon Lenses
Went to the Zoo last weekend with a photogroup. It was fun.. Planning to go again soon.

Some of the group had a terrible time with their Small Sensor P&S, lots of blurred shots, the flash firing and glaring off the glass and lighting up the fencing of the cages. the fencing clearly in focus !

Brought along my 200-400 F5.6 Tamron and my D7000 and got some nice shots. However, I had a few issues too. That lens was way too long for some of the large animals. even for the smaller animals Its close focus was not too close and I had to step back and get blocked by the crowd. Had a lot of blured shots and I had to up the shutter speed bec. I was hand holding that beast of a lens. That caused the the aperture to go down and loose sharpness and miss focus due to the thin DOF. ISO also went up causing noise to increase. Made me wonder if my 18-200 or even the 150 macro + 1.4TC would have been better! another of the group took his 28-300 FX with a D7000. That seemed a great combination and he had a lot of good shots! It was a fun day nevertheless and I probably stayed too long at certain enclosures cos I missed out on more than half the place!

I guess the question is, how do you guys meet the many challenges of Zoo Photography? If possible please highlight some challenges that you have met, so that I can be more prepared the next time I go there.

image
Post edited by heartyfisher on
Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

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Comments

  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    I have gone to our zoo numerous times this summer. Depending on the animals I have found my 105 f2.8 and 300 f4 to work the best. I haven't had any issues with iso and kept it at 200 all the time since it was sunny. Really I have had pretty good success in the zoo compared to other situations. I like both of the mentioned lenses because the focus very closely.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • KillerbobKillerbob Posts: 729Member
    I have been shooting Zoos quite a bit, and found that my D7000/70-300mm combination really worked wonders, especially when on a monopod. My D800/80-400mm has served me well also, and again, always with a monopod.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited August 2013
    For me the 70-200 2.8 /w the 1.7 Teleconverter mounted on my monopod has served me very well. In addition, I have taken my CLP for those times when I want to shoot threw the glass and remove as much of the reflection and unwanted glair.

    Happy shooting....
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • KillerbobKillerbob Posts: 729Member
    A few taken in Zoos in Denmark:

    Hanging out
    D7000 | Tamron 70-300mm @ 300mm | 1/400 | f/7.1 | ISO 100

    NIK_7070
    D7000 | Tamron 70-300mm @ 300mm | 1/160 | f/5.6 | ISO 100

    The Tamron 70-300mm is a great cheap lens. It's not the fastest (f/4-5.6) but it has VR and it is light to walk around with. In comparison, the Nikon 80-400mm is a better lens, but the same speed, and it's a lot heavier. Hence I still walk around with my Tamron, even on my D800...
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    I used my 18-200 back when I had it and I much prefer my two primes I lised above. I think it also depends on what type of shot you want...a really zoomed in of the aninals face or the whole body. Even at 300 it isn't long enough sometimes if the exhibit is large. And of course the size of animal. Lastly in the low light shots such as the snales at our zoo I just crank the iso up...not really any other way there.
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • GarethGareth Posts: 159Member
    The best way I find is to pick a lens, pick the type of shot that works best with that lens, and just ONLY take that type of image. By restricting yourself like this you will get numerous great shot and not a whole lot of average ones.

    There are HEAPS of things to take photos of at the zoo and this is where most people fall down. They try to get a shot of everything rather than a couple of really good shots. Breaking news: The animals aren't going anywhere. You can always go back!

    Watch the light. I find back light works really well and creates a nice rim.
  • Vipmediastar_JZVipmediastar_JZ Posts: 1,704Member
    My last trip I had the d800 and 24-70. It worked great for most shots. I did shoot dx crop mode for some that needed reach. I have looked at them but not edited (jpg vs raw thread)
    The lens worked great for the monkeys during nap time and the lion relaxing on the tree branch.
    My next trip this Month I'll take the Nikon 85mm 1.8g and for future I'll take the 70-200 (when I buy it)

    The lens was a great choice to include candid family photos and the animals at the zoo.
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,155Member
    Lastly in the low light shots such as the snales at our zoo I just crank the iso up...not really any other way there.
    In which case .. Were there any keepers ? or should we plan on a fast lens with a F1.8 or F1.4
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 981Member
    Here are some from the zoo.
    105 F2.8
    DSC_0092

    300 F4
    DSC_0020

    300 F4
    DSC_0101

    300 F4 through a fence
    DSC_0032

    105 F2.8 through thick glass
    DSC_0116-1

    105 F2.8
    DSC_0068-1

    105 F2.8
    DSC_0064-1

    Ok sorry...carried away. Anyway for the indoor low light stuff. I haven't had good luck with my 35 F1.8 which is my only faster lens. I like my 105 for these because it focuses closely and has a little reach. I put the lens up to the glass and take them that way. It seems to be the only way to get rid of glare and reflections. Obviously with flash you will never get a decent picture if there is glass between you. Shoot RAW and use some noise reduction if you up the ISO. Oh yeah the only downside of the 105 is it can hunt a little. I have had a hard time in an aqurium setting getting it to focus quickly enough. Something like the 85 F1.8 might be better for that.

    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited August 2013

    I put the lens up to the glass and take them that way. It seems to be the only way to get rid of glare and reflections.
    Get yourself a Circular Polarizer (CPL) for your favorite lens and this will solve your glare and reflection issues. Note: Get yourself a 77MM CPL and then buy step-up-rings for the lenses you use most.
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,155Member
    thanks guys for the info.. so far it sounds pretty hopeless for the P&S guys . unless you can get a clear line of sight without glass or fencing in between the subject and the camera....
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    Zoos are so varied it is difficult to find one lens to use. I carry the 70-200 and 400 and use the TC1.4 and 2.0 as needed. Wire fencing can be overcome by wide apertures and being close to the fence. And, in rare instances even a short lens...35 or 50mm on FF can be used for an overall view.

    Give me about three weeks as I have an assignment at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I can describe the entire two day shoot.
    Msmoto, mod
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,155Member
    @MSMOTO .. Sounds like a fun task !
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • ElvisheferElvishefer Posts: 329Member
    edited August 2013
    1) get there as soon as the gates open
    2) know where you're going
    3) know what focal length you'll need for each shot
    4) bring appropriate lenses, TCs, etc.
    5) hope the animals cooperate

    Otherwise you'll be bucking crowds and the sun; and while it's possible to get good shots in this environment, chances are you'll have to do a lot of editing. Try to avoid pointless wandering because you'll likely be carrying a lot of gear and will tire early. Know the feeding schedules if you like blood and guts. ;)

    Something I've heard of but haven't managed to make happen is that some zoos run photo tours for groups before opening or after closing. That would be awesome as our zoo in Toronto tends to be open during marginal light and is always crowded.

    Also, our zoo is open 364 days a year; try shooting in winter, it can be a lot of fun on a mild day. Fewer people and the animals look/behave differently in a snowy environment.

    I've shot the 24-70 2.8 (rarely), 50 1.4 (you'll want the fastest lens you have for low light), 70-200 2.8 (use this most, with CPL and 2x TC), 200 f4 micro (rarely, it's a great focal length for indoor macro shots but a bit too slow) and before my gf hijacked it, the 105 2.8 (when I'd use the 200 today, only the 105 was brighter but sometimes not long enough).

    I also bring along a tripod (for spaces where I can set it up without a kid taking it out), the monopod, and google 'Lens Curtain' - an accessory that's like a giant black cloth lens hood with suction cups you can attach to glass displays and cut reflections. Not always practical but it works great.

    Zoo shooting is fun but frustrating for me because, yes, the animals are right there in front of you and with a little work you can shoot them... but the other people/photographers around are a huge obstacle to deal with. I'd love me some exclusive access!

    70-200 f/2.8 TC 20e III:
    image

    70-200 f/2.8 TC 20e III:
    image
    Post edited by Elvishefer on
    D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 24-70mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4G, 200mm f/4 Micro, 105mm f/2.8 VRII Micro, 35mm f/1.8, 2xSB900, 1xSB910, R1C1, RRS Support...

    ... And no time to use them.
  • Vipmediastar_JZVipmediastar_JZ Posts: 1,704Member
    edited August 2013
    The tiger shot is G-R-R-R-EAT!
    Post edited by Vipmediastar_JZ on
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    My thoughts are on day one to discuss the zoo layout with one of the zoo execs, then do a walk around carrying from 24mm up to 135mm lenses. I will do my overall shots at this time. Once an overview is completed, I will plan my tele shots based upon schedules of the feeding, the activity of the animals as described by staff, and of course the lighting. Total time for this is two days of shooting, but weather may push this out to even four or five days. I want at least half a dozen or more of these from the shoot:
    Colorado Springs_5_07.28.13 REV
    Msmoto, mod
  • ElvisheferElvishefer Posts: 329Member
    @msmoto - weather might push it to four or five days, but don't forget the animals are the other wildcard - the more time you spend with them, the better shots you'll get. I envy you for your 400 2.8 / TC combo (where appropriate of course). Many people can get a 135 mm perspective of zoo animals, but few can get quality 400 - 800mm shots. Have a great time and I look forward to seeing your pics.

    p.s. I would have thougth Adamz would be all over this post - he's done some great zoo work!
    D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 24-70mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4G, 200mm f/4 Micro, 105mm f/2.8 VRII Micro, 35mm f/1.8, 2xSB900, 1xSB910, R1C1, RRS Support...

    ... And no time to use them.
  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 4,321Member
    My normal set of lens for a visit to the zoo are:
    --Really really great walking shoes
    --Nikon D300
    --70-200mm F/2.8 Nikon zoom lens
    --1.7 X teleconverter
    --Monopod with Sirui head
    --200-500mm Tamron zoom lens
    --Hoodman Hood

    However, on the last trip I used my wife's D90 and the following:
    --Nikon 18-105mm kit lens
    --Nikon 70-300mm lens
    --Monopod with Sirui head
    --Hoodman Hood
    I got terrific pictures with this configuration. At the petting zoom for kids I stayed close to the kids and adults feeding the animals.
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 5,874Moderator
    Best techniques: manual focus and manual exposure, best gear is what you've got with you.
    Always learning.
  • blandbland Posts: 811Member
    Great animal shots, everyone!
  • Vipmediastar_JZVipmediastar_JZ Posts: 1,704Member
    edited August 2013
    This past Sunday we went to the zoo because my dad wanted to take my daughter to the Zoo so we did a family trip.
    I started out with the sigma 35mm for the family shot with the dinosaur and fountain in the background at Brookfield zoo.
    I switched to the 85mm 1.8g and shot mostly at f4 because I wanted to see if my future purchase of 70-200 f4 would work out and it did. The light was great and the day was hot but I managed.

    85mm was a great FL. I wasnt able to zoom into the the animals and I didn't crop either. I figured I would include the environment and crop as needed. I focused on exposure and composition.
    A tele zoom would be ideal for some shots but I managed the 85mm and it also turned into a candid portrait session of my family.

    I actually enjoyed taking pics with this two lens than my 24-70 due to weight and the minor extra reach from the 85mm.
    I have a few projects to finish before I work on my two zoo trips.

    There is one exhibit that stood out for us. The bear exhibit had a bear right at the window sleeping and my dad sat on the floor with my daughter. It was a nice composition and moment and while my daughter turned to me for the photo the bear started to rise it's head and move it and while everybody was startled my daughter is smiling.

    I'll try to submit that photo soon if possible.

    Also as for techniques a monopod could have helped in a few spots put for 95% it was not needed in my case.
    Post edited by Vipmediastar_JZ on
  • KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 359Member
    edited August 2013
    @ Vipmediastar_JZ

    Just curious if you're shooting FX or DX. Thx. Oh, and did the f/4 ever force your ISO up?
    Post edited by KnockKnock on
    D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii
  • Vipmediastar_JZVipmediastar_JZ Posts: 1,704Member
    @ Vipmediastar_JZ

    Just curious if you're shooting FX or DX. Thx. Oh, and did the f/4 ever force your ISO up?
    FX with the D800. I wanted to use all mg pixels so I didn't crop or shot in dx mode.

    By my rules I try not to go over ISO 800 and if I do max at 1600. So to answer your question no it didn't. Plus the animals where all Lazy except the dolphins. So I everything worked out with exposure.

    Also for the dolphin show the splash section is actually farther than advertised. Good thing I saw the saltwater coming my way and used my hat to cover the camera.

  • traylorctraylorc Posts: 5Member
    edited September 2013
    A few shots taken with the D800 and the new 80-400MM:

    _DSC7731
    _DSC7864

    _DSC7973
    Post edited by traylorc on
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,155Member
    That d800 & 80-400 combo sure looks great for zoo photos!
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

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