Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘zoo’ Category

A few days ago I made a trip to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. and one of my highlights was visiting the massive Amazonia exhibit. While walking through the indoor rain forest, I could hear activity high in the trees and caught sight of some brightly colored small bird. I think there are also several varieties of monkeys that I did not spot and all kinds of amphibians and fish.

I was shocked and thrilled when a Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) flew over and perched a few feet away from me when I was observing an exotic duck. I had previously marveled at the photos of Roseate Spoonbills posted by photographers in Florida and other southern US states, but had never seen one before. The spoonbill seemed to be a bit curious about my presence and willingly posed for me.

It was nice that the Roseate Spoonbill was so cooperative, because I had only a single lens with me, a Canon 24-105mm zoom lens. Initially I was worried that most subjects would be too far away for me to capture with the modest telephoto reach of the lens, but it proved to be perfect when taking portraits of the spoonbill who was less than three feet (one meter) away from me.

My wonderful experience with this beautiful bird increases my desire to see a spoonbill in the wild. I really enjoy visiting zoos, particularly ones like the National Zoo that, I believe, make special efforts to care for the animals. The zoo gives me a chance to observe animal behavior, including animals that I am not likely to see in the wild, but it can never be a replacement for the overall experience of observing animals, birds, and other wondrous creatures in their natural environment.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

“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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

I haven’t seen very many Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) the last few years, so I was thrilled when I spotted this one yesterday at the outdoor butterfly garden at the National Zoo.

I chased after it as it flew from plant to plant, hoping that it would come to rest withing range of my camera. Once the Monarch had landed I circled around until I was on the same plane as the butterfly and got this shot. Fortunately I was close enough that I was able to fill the frame with the beautiful Monarch and a small amount of the flower on which it was feeding—this is an uncropped image.

It was midday and the lighting was a little harsh, but it did help illuminate the wing from an angle and showcase the butterfly’s spectacular colors.

I did take some photos of some of the animals at the National Zoo, which I will present in another posting, but thought I’d start with the Monarch Butterfly, an unexpected bonus of my brief visit to the zoo.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I don’t manage to go the zoo very often, but when I do, I tend to spent a lot of time with the cheetahs. There is something about cheetahs that I find irresistible, their combination of beauty and power, of strength and speed. In the largest enclosure in the cheetah exhibit area, there are normally three or four male cheetahs and they are the ones that I usually observe.

Last September I did a posting about the cheetahs at the National Zoo and this is an update of sorts. This past weekend I tried to concentrate on taking shots of the cheetahs in action. This was a challenge for a few reasons. It was late afternoon and the light was starting to fade and there were limited angles for the shots and some of the backgrounds were very undesirable.

I did finally manage to get some shots that I like, although I have trouble deciding which one is my favorite—I like each of them for slightly different reasons.

I’ll let you decide for yourself which one you like most.

cheetah3_blogcheetah1_blogcheetah4_blogcheetah5_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

The American Trail is one of the newest and coolest exhibit areas at the National Zoo, highlighting North American wildlife, including the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis), that I featured in an earlier post, and the North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis), pictured here.

When I arrived, the zookeepers were spreading food all throughout the area inhabited by two otters. It was a lot of fun to watch the otters scurrying about, searching for the food. They were incredibly energetic and curious (and difficult to capture in a photo).

This is my favorite shot, because I think that it does a good job of expressing some of the otter’s essential traits.

otter1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

I don’t know where the male lions were this weekend when I visited the National Zoo, but there were three or four female lions and it was fun to watch them play together.

I tried to get a group photo, but they were about as cooperative as kids, with one of them turning her back and another sticking out her tongue.

lioness3_blog

After a while they seemed to get bored with me and I caught one of them in a big yawn.

lioness2_blogI wanted very much to get an action photo, but the lions seemed content to lounge around together. This is the closest thing I got to an action photo. I like it a lot, even though it is not super sharp, primarily because of the body position and the angle of the shot.

lioness1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

To supplement their diets, the beavers at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. get crunchy vegetables like carrots and corn.

I had the chance to watch them eat this past weekend and took some fun photos of one of the beavers munching away on part of an ear of corn. This beaver, a female named Willow, was able to manipulate the corn really easily with her front paws and seemed to enjoy each bite as she slowly consumed the entire piece of corn.

I watched some videos on photographing animals at a zoo before this shoot and followed some of the tips, like shooting close-ups and paying attention to backgrounds. I did not, however, switch to shutter-priority mode, as suggested, but kept the camera in aperture-priority mode. I may have lost a few shots, because the shutter speed was too slow, but I was able to get decent results by using a more familiar approach.

beaver_corn_blogbeaver_corn2_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

The clicking sound of my shutter caused the napping cheetah to raise his head yesterday afternoon and look directly at me. He didn’t move the rest of his body at all, but stared intently at me for a minute or so. Reassured, he laid his head down again in his den and resumed his nap.

I visited the National Zoo yesterday and took photos of a number of different animals that I will share later, but I wanted to share this one immediately.  I like the cheetah’s expression and the positioning of the head and body. The darkness of the den really helps to showcase the beauty of the cheetah (and fortunately for me the cheetah was at the front of the den where natural light illuminated his face).

National Zoo does a good job in taking care of the animals there and, as is the case with the cheetahs, in working to ensure the survival of animals with a limited gene pool. For me, it is enjoyable to visit the different animals and to practice my photography skills to show the animals in the best possible light.

cheetah2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

A little over a week ago I posted a photo of a brown pelican at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. that was full of vivid colors in the pelican and in the reflections of light on the water. Today, I want to show the same pelican in a different way. I changed the angle of the camera and captured a background that was more somber and simple.  In post-processing I desaturated the colors a bit to place the emphasis on the textures of the feathers, the branch on which the pelican is perched, and the rock in the right hand corner. I toyed with the idea of going completely to black and white, but decided I liked the hint of a color in the beak and part of the pelican’s head, as well as on the branches. The overall look is more somber and perhaps a bit more formal.

I haven’t made my mind up yet whether I like this presentation of the brown pelican more than the previous one, but it certainly was fun experimenting with various settings in Photoshop Elements with the intent of making the colors less bright (usually I am moving in the opposite direction).

Somber brown pelican at the National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

A month ago the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. opened up a newly renovated, $42 million exhibit called the American Trail that highlights species of North American wildlife. The zoo’s website (which contains lots of information about the animals and great photos) notes that the majority of the American Trail species have rebounded after facing serious threats, thanks to the conservation efforts of many organizations, including the National Zoo.

This brown pelican is part of the American Trail exhibit. I don’t think that I had ever seen one live, and certainly not so close up. I love the beautiful colors of this bird and its wonderful pose, and it seemed willing to cooperate when I was taking the photographs.

Brown pelican at National Zoo

Unlike my photos of the red panda and cheetahs, I was not shooting without obstructions—here was a fence between me and the pelican. Following instructions that I read somewhere recently, I got as close to the fence as I could and opened up the aperture (to F5.6 in this case) and the fence seems to have disappeared.

Now that I have taken a few photographs at the zoo and had some success, I think that I will probably add it to my list of local places where I can find interesting subjects to photograph.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I photographed this red panda (Ailurus fulgens) this past weekend in Washington, D.C. at the National Zoo. According to Wikipedia, red pandas are native to the Himalayas and southwestern China. Like the better-known giant pandas, red pandas eat mostly bamboo, although they may also eat eggs, insects, birds, and small mammals.

I will probably post a few more shots of this red panda in the next few days, when I have gone through my zoo photos. However, I wanted to make a preliminary introduction of this delightful animal, suspecting that many of you may be unaware of the existence of a red panda. (Previously red pandas were classified in the families of racoons and bears, but now they have their own family and are the only extant species of the genus Ailurus.)

Red panda at the National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »