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Archive for the ‘zoo’ Category

“Don’t mess with me while I am eating.” That seemed to be the message that an American Bison (Bison bison) was sending to me during a recent trip I made to the National Zoo. The bison had lifted its enormous head, twisted it violently in my direction, and looked right at me. It then returned to calmly munching on some hay.

Who knew that bisons had such flexible necks?

American Bison

American Bison

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Otters are so much fun to watch. They seem to be very inquisitive and playful. One of their favorite pastimes appears to be chasing each other around.

I am familiar with the North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) and have been lucky enough to see one in the wild at my local marshland park. These images, however, are of Asian Small-clawed Otters (Aonyx cinerea) that I observed at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. last Monday.

There is a large group of these otters in an enclosure on the Asia Trail and I spent quite a while watching their antics. They seem to be in almost constant motion in and out of the water, so it was a fun challenge trying to get some shots of them.

Asian Small-clawed Otter

Asian Small-clawed Otter

Asian Small-clawed Otter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the times that I have visited the National Zoo the Giant Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) have been indoors, but this past Monday I was thrilled to see that they were outdoors and active. There are two levels for viewing the pandas and I was on the upper level, giving me an unobstructed view and some relief from the large crowds.

Here are a couple of my favorite shots. The first one is of the youngest panda at the zoo, Bei Bei, who is a bit over a year old, and the second image shows him with an adult panda that I assume is his mother.

panda at the National Zoo

pandas at the National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was really cool (and only slightly disconcerting) to look up and see a hairy orangutan crossing almost directly overhead on a pair of ropes while I was visiting the National Zoo on Monday.

A series of ropes and towers connects the Great Ape House with another building called the Think Tank. The orangutans can move freely back and forth between the buildings at certain times of the day. Their overhead transit system crosses one of the major roads in the zoo and there are no nets or any other obstructions between visitors and the orangutans.

As you can see from one of the images, there is some kind of system on the towers that keeps the orangutans from climbing down one of the intermediate towers. I was amazed at how effortlessly the orangutan moved and never really worried that it might lose its grip and fall into my arms.

orangutan at National Zoo

orangutan at National Zoo

Orangutan at National Zoo

Orangutan at National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The National Zoo in Washington D.C. is a wonderful place to explore and has the added bonus of having no admission fee. On Monday I wandered around the zoo for several hours, visiting some of my favorite animals and taking a lot of photos.

Here are some of my initial favorite images: a lioness, a cheetah, a beaver, and an elephant.

lioness at National Zoo

cheetah at National Zoo

beaver at National Zoo

elephant at National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What kind of subjects lend themselves to black and white film? Can you decide beforehand and try to see the world in black and white, as I started out trying to do, or do you decide afterwards, as most people do when converting digital images to black and white?

This is the continuing story of my experimentation with a totally mechanical Nikon F SLR loaded with Ilford HP 5 Plus black and white film. I wandered through the streets of Washington D.C. looking for subjects and came upon this bust of noted Soviet human rights activist Andrei Sakharov outside of the Russia House restaurant on Connecticut Avenue.

I worked hard on this one to try to compose it and shoot it in an interesting way and I like the way that it turned out. It turned out that focusing manually is tougher than I thought, even with the visual assists in the viewfinder of a film camera, like the micro prism. I was definitely out of practice and I worried that all of my images would be soft and out of focus. This image reassured me that if I am careful, I can get relatively sharp images and capture details like the texture that you can see on the hands and the head of the statue.

Andrei Sakharov

Eventually I made my way to the National Zoo and last week I posted some digital shots of some of the animals that I encountered there. The zoo posed a big problem for me in getting a proper exposure, because there was a mixture of harsh midday sunshine and shadows. As I looked over my negatives, I realized that I need to meter more often—I took a series of shots of lions that were sometimes in the sunshine and sometimes in the shade and overexposed many of the shots.

However, one of my favorite images of the roll of film was this one of a female lion that was properly exposed and captured a good amount of detail. At this point in the day, I had switched to a Tokina 80-200mm lens to give myself a bit of additional reach.

lion

So could I take the kind of wildlife/nature shots that I normally feature with a film camera? It would be tough to do so, but this shot of a Monarch butterfly suggests that it would not be impossible. The pattern of the Monarch is so well-known, that most of us can imagine its orange and black coloration without actually seeing the colors. This is the only one of my black and white images on which I did a significant crop, and you can see how the background has become a bit grainy.

Monarch butterfly

For folks who are interested in the process, I developed the film with Ilfosol 3 developer, a general purpose developer. I exposed the film as though it were ISO 200, instead of the box speed of ISO 400, and learned that pulling the film like this is likely to lead to lower contrast (while shooting it at higher speeds will tend to give more contrast). I scanned the negatives with a Canoscan 8400f scanner as TIFF files and did a few adjustments in Photoshop Elements 11.

So what did I learn? I learned to slow down and be more deliberate as I contemplate my shots; I learned to look past some of the colors of the world and search for shapes and lines and contrast; and I leaned the value in producing my images in a manual, hand-on way, leading to a greater sense of ownership of those images.

I learned a lot, though clearly I have a lot more to learn as I continue to explore this new/old area of photography.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On a trip to the National Zoo earlier this week, I was walking around in heat of the summer sun, unlike most of the animals, who were relaxing in the shade or finding other ways to cool off.

This female lion was dozing in the shade and would periodically raise her head and look in our direction with sleepy eyes.

lion

This tiger decided to swim a bit in the water of the moat at the front edge of its enclosure. I couldn’t tell how deep the water was—at times it looked like the tiger was merely walking in the water and not actually swimming.

tiger

This cheetah seemed a little agitated and was not relaxing. It was walking back and forth along the fence line that separated its enclosure from the adjacent cheetah enclosure.

cheetah

I’ll probably never go on a safari and see these beautiful creatures in the wild, but my trip to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. afforded me a glimpse of their power and their majesty. I am happy that the National Zoo is active in efforts to ensure the preservation of endangered species, in particular the cheetah. Check out this article for more information about those efforts.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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