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Photography QnA: Animals, Pets, & Wildlife Photography

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Category: All About Photography : Photographing Specific Subjects : Animals, Pets, & Wildlife Photography

Learn tricks for pet photography and how to shoot wildlife photography in this section. You can also check out this Wildlife Photography article for additional tips and tricks. Want to learn more about how to shoot wildlife photography? Take Jim Zuckerman's How to Photograph Animals & Wildlife online photography course.

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Photography Question 
Jeanine M. Bailey
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/26/2007
  1 .  Zoo Photography
I'm VERY new to the world of photography, and I'm having a blast learning from all the wonderful people on BP! We are heading to the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium this week, and I was wondering if you all could share any tips and suggestions for taking pictures while I'm there. I am using a Canon Rebel XT with an EF 28-135 lens. I'm also planning on bringing my sister-in-law's 70-300 lens. Thanks so much!!

8/18/2008 6:26:28 AM

  Hello Jeanine,
Take a tripod to the Zoo and use the 70-300 lens. Be patient to get some animated shots. When shooting through glass, keep the lens against the glass to prevent reflections.
In the aquarium, you will also be shooting through glass with low light so you may have to bump up your ISO to 800 or 1000 and shoot wide open (f/2.8 or f/4) to try to keep your shutter speed at 1/60s (when hand holding). You can brace yourself against the glass as well. I have gotten away with a monopod at the Seattle aquarium since they are easy to maneuver and don't take up space and then I can shoot at slower shutter speeds to get more DOF or lower my ISO setting.
Have fun - Carlton

8/18/2008 8:42:46 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  What Carlton says, Jeanine. Plus: always shoot with a hood!
(Need one? Get one here FREE: http://www.lenshoods.co.uk/).

Have fun!

8/18/2008 9:22:58 AM

Kristy A. Keene
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/29/2006
  Hey Jeanine!
Of course, a tripod is a must. Also, if there is a lot of glass exhibits, you might want to invest in a rubber lens hood to hold against the glass. It does a wonderful job of eliminating the glare. Another important thing to remember is that zoos often don't provide a lot of shade, so going midday will produce harsh lighting in your photos. I would suggest going early morning or late evening. But, of course, the most important thing of all is to have fun and take TONS of photos!
Hope this helped you!

8/18/2008 9:23:48 AM

Jeanine M. Bailey
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/26/2007
  Thank you all very much!!

8/18/2008 4:37:55 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  Photography is not a world, its an Island. Here its like survivor, GOOD LUCK!!

8/19/2008 2:39:43 AM

Robert Brosnan
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/17/2003
  Hi Jeanine,
You should call the zoo and see if tripods are allowed. Some zoos have a policy of no tripods without their permission. Our local area zoo does not allow tripods during a regular visit. Perhaps you might get away using a monopod.
Robert

8/19/2008 5:11:01 AM

  Jeanine --

I've been to the Pittsburgh Zoo several times, and you can bring a tripod. You also need a long lens, as suggested. And bring your fastest lens too. The facility housing monkeys, orangatans, baboons is quite dark, so you'll need the tripod and fast lens. Also be patient, and you'll get some terrific shots. Be sure, too, to check out the penguins and seals. Cute. Happy shooting, Jeanine.

8/19/2008 6:18:44 AM

David Miranda
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/1/2006
  While your're at it, head over to the Pittsburgh Aviary. You'll be up close and personal with some rarely seen birds. To repeat, use a tripod. Be concious of back grounds also. If the Spectacled Owls cooperate you can catch them snacking on mice. It's a great place to get some tight shots of many birds including a snowy Owl and Bald Eagle. Wide open is the way to go due to the distance between bird and BG.
David

8/19/2008 9:48:10 AM

  While a polarizer filter will also help reduce the glare and add saturation, low light makes its use impossible due to losing two stops.

My lens wasn't particularly fast with this capture at the New England Aquarium in Boston. Because the exhibit was already incredibly dark, I did not use a polarizer. But, I had a tripod which I turned into a monopod because of the crowds and moved next to a wall to help brace the tripod turned "monopod." http://tinyurl.com/5w7hbe

8/20/2008 5:35:00 AM

eric brown

member since: 5/1/2004
  i have been to this zoo its a nice place my suggestion is to double back I got a great tiger shot the third time I walked around their little path an if you have kids with you I got a great shot of a child's reflection in the glass of the wave pool ( wave crashing from a bove looked awsome) unfortnetly its a kid I dont know would be alot cooler if it was some one I knew thats my 2 cents worth have a great time

8/21/2008 8:00:37 AM

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Photography Question 
AHMAD S. QURAISH
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/19/2007
  2 .  Taking Better Bird Photos
I like to take bird pictures ... which lens would be best? The problem is the birds are afraid and far away. What is the best technique? My Camera is a Canon EOS 400D. Thanks!

12/26/2007 11:52:21 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
 
  Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM
 
 

Hi Ahmad,

you need a EF 600mm f/4L IS USM lens and a very sturdy tripod.

12/27/2007 8:36:40 AM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  Hi Ahmad –
I do a fair amount of bird photography and have learned a few things: first, the most important "accessory" you need is knowledge of the bird you are attempting to photograph. Get a good bird book for your region and study not only the picture of the bird, but something of its habits. If you take time to sit quietly, in your car, behind a window or near a feeder, and watch the birds, you will begin to learn something about their behavior and thus be better able to anticipate your shot.
As for equipment: I use several different lenses – Sigma 70-500mm, Canon 70-200mm, and Canon 28-135mm. I generally use a tripod, but on occasions, I shoot handheld or use a bean bag resting on a fence post, tree limb, car window, etc. Once again, if you know something about the bird you can more easily guess where to focus for the best results. Plan on making multiple images, since sometimes you will need to shoot rapidly in order to capture that one good image. I tend to select a fairly high shutter speed and it helps that my Canon 5D has a constant focus mode that permits clear focusing even if the subject moves during capture.
Be prepared for at least some level of frustration when trying to make good images of birds. I suspect that even the real experts have days when nothing goes right and each image is somehow flawed.
Good luck!

12/27/2007 9:45:39 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
Of course Irene is right, Ahmad: you do not need that very expensive (although very great) lens in order to capture good bird images. (It's also very heavy BTW! Big prob for hiking!). But it would increase your hit rate tremendously.

Indeed, the single most important factor in getting good bird images is knowledge of bird behavior. But there is also a shortcut to long focal lengths: if for instance you should get a 300mm (35mm equivalent) lens and used your 400D's digital zoom at 2x you would effectively have a 600mm Field of View! Bingo!
The trade of is that you get smaller images, less pixel width and height. But your 400D's 10 megapixels can take a dent, imo.
You will, still, need a good tripod, however!

Have fun!

12/27/2007 8:00:59 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  For serious birding, lens choice will depend upon the quarry you seek. A fast super telephoto prime lens of at least 300mm that will accept matching teleconverters will be a wise choice for raptors or any other skittish species.
Waterfowl and wading birds can be easily approached in public parks and preserves where they've become accustomed to humans. In this scenario, shorter focal lengths will suffice.

12/28/2007 1:09:59 AM

AHMAD S. QURAISH
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/19/2007
  i found sigma 170-500mm f5-6 APO
is it good for these kind of photos?

12/28/2007 1:23:38 AM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
If you're after birds you want crisp, clear, and tacksharp focused photos. So if the reviews of that Sigma lens are anything to go by I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole, because "crisp, clear, and tacksharp focused photos" are exactly what the Sigma does NOT seem to deliver!

See: http://tinyurl.com/2yqx4s.

Ahmad, the expression says "you get what you pay for". This lens seems to indeed be be VERY cheap (compared to e.g. Canon's equivalent), and I expect you to be very disappointed with it, so that you would feel you wasted 695 dollars!

The digital zoom method I outlined above may be not too much different in image quality, but it would save you 695 bucks!

If you get an extra lens, get the best quality you can possibly get in that class if you don't want to regret your purchase later.

Have fun!

12/28/2007 6:51:51 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  For future reference to anybody who wants to listen, any lens that has a zoom range that long isn't going to be that sharp.
So be prepared
And also, what kind and where are these birds that you want to get pictures of. I haven't seen that answered. Because if it's local birds around your house, it may take just sitting outside for awhile until birds start coming around.
Walking up to a bird makes it harder. Already being there is different. Because birds that are used to people walking by will still fly away once you look at them.
One more thing, don't confuse field of view with extra telephoto power. It's just cropping a picture to fill a frame.

12/28/2007 3:14:39 PM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  Ahmad – My best suggestion to you, and to anyone else who is truly interested in birds, is to visit the Birds as Art website and talk with the folks there. These people are really talented in their field of interest and can provide you with fairly specific advice and answer your questions with real experience.

I am always reading here that it is really hard to get good bird images without a good prime long lens. I’m not about to argue that this is not true; however, I’m continually amazed at how often I am able to capture a great image without using my long lens. We have a small farm and set out all sorts of feeders that attract many different species. I’m lucky to live right on the important Atlantic flyway – meaning that many different species migrate through our area. Hawks and other raptors hunt our fields and the occasional owl will nest in the tree line between our house and the field. I’ve spent time studying the habits of local species and have at least some idea of when and where they are likely to roost. It is, IMO, all about patience and trying again and again. Personally, I love all of it, even when the resulting images fail to meet my expectations! I’d love to own a Canon 600mm IS lens, but at close to $7000, it’s just not going to happen. So, I use my existing lenses as best I can and keep working on the technique.

Good luck and if you get any images, come back and post them here for us to see!

Irene

12/28/2007 6:01:16 PM

Bob Chance
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/19/2006
  Ahmad:

I do a good deal of bird shooting myself and use Canons 100-400mm lens. Even though this lens has image stabilization technology, I've found that shooting anything slower than 1/250 sec results in images not as sharp as I would like. I've since learned to use a tripod as much as possible.
Though shooting at a faster shutter speed may reduce blur due to motion, it also means shooting at a wider aperature and most lenses aren't 'tack sharp' at wide open aperature. The general rule is that most lenses are sharpest stopped down one or two stops.
Shooting at high ISO may eliviate the problem of shutter speed and aperature, but the higher the ISO, the more noise. Everything in life is a compromise. I try not to shoot above ISO 200 and unless my prey is in heavy shade, this seems to give me a good balance between fast enough shutter speed and sharp enough aperature. But you will find, as Irene pointed out above, that you'll have days when nothing goes right. You might spend a whole day shooting and thing you got some great shots, only to view them on the computer at 100% magnification and see how blurry they are.
Best of luck with your lens choice. My only advice there would be to stick with your camera manufactureres lens. It might cost more, but you'll have a higher quality lens and one that is less likely to give you compatability issues, especially when everything is electronic these days.

1/2/2008 4:22:05 AM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  I second Bob’s suggestion to use a tripod as often as possible. I am somewhat obsessive about using my tripod even when I am shooting at moving subjects. Last year I invested in a good basalt (light weight metal) tripod with a really good ball head. I never leave home without at least one tripod and use my light weight one when I have to hike into an area. Once you get the hang of things you can actually follow a moving subject by quickly moving the ball head – I don’t tighten down the knobs until I am ready to shoot and have been known to shoot without the knobs being locked. Again, it is all in the practice. I also have found that I can shoot at ISO’s as high as 800 without encountering unacceptable levels of noise; however, I am now using a Canon 5D which, I believe, has the capacity for higher resolution than some other cameras.

Irene

1/2/2008 6:15:55 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Ahmad, I think the best solution is to take the $700 you were going to spend on the wrong lens and RENT a great lens for the day(s). When I shoot surfing competitions magazines rent me a lens to use, like the Canon 600mm f4 IS...well they haven't got me that one yet...but I've used the Canon 400mm 2.8IS and it's HUGE and makes you look cool. You can throw a 1.4X on and you've got a 600mm f4IS. The rental fee is $100 a day but you've got to leave a deposit of the cost of the lens or $$6500. I've used the Canon 100-400mm and it's a fine lens as well.

1/2/2008 9:18:57 AM

  If you have a backyard you can also put out bird feeders to attract birds then place a blind nearby to shoot them from. I have a window not far from my bird feeders that gets me pretty close. Also, attach a natural looking prop on the bird feeder such as a branch or something. Birds tend to land in the same spot time and again while waiting for their turn at the feeder.

1/2/2008 11:42:19 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  I am a bit weary of Sharon's info...I set up a blind to shoot the ducks in my pool and the neighbors called the cops...12 gauges are VERY loud...but dinner was tasty that night.JK

1/2/2008 10:46:11 PM

  LOL Oliver! It doesn't matter in my neighborhood ;).

1/3/2008 9:16:12 AM

Judy T. Howle

member since: 12/26/2003
  I use a Canon 100 - 400 IS L and am fairly well pleased with it. The 300 mm f/4 + 1.4 extender combo has a little more reach and slightly better image quality according to several who have used both. That will be my next lens purchase.

If your budget doesn't permit the above lenses and the birds aren't terribly far off, you might consider the Canon 70 - 300 IS. It doesn't have enough reach for me most of the time.

My photos: http://imageevent.com/jhowle

1/3/2008 3:13:04 PM

W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
They taste a lot better when you leave them for a few days, Oliver/JK....

1/3/2008 3:23:10 PM

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Photography Question 
Helen N. McHugh
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/8/2005
  3 .  Best Lens for Wildlife Photography?
I need to purchase a lens for wildlife photography, and wondered if anyone had used the Canon 400mm F5.6 lens? Would the 300mm F4.00 + 1.4 teleconvertor be a better buy in terms of quality of picture? Any advice would be very welcome as I can't decide between the two options!

5/10/2007 3:11:02 AM

  Hi Helen,
A 400mm f/5.6 lens is too slow for wildlife photography. You will be frustrated that your photos won't be sharp in the shade and low light because your shutter speeds will have to be slow - unless you bump up the ISO. Above 400 ISO is never an attractive option. This lens is much less expensive, and it will be light, but the maximum aperture will be a problem for you.
I would look into a 400mm f/4 or a 300mm f/4 where you can use a 1.4X teleconverter. The latter works, but again you are stuck with the f/5.6 aperture since the teleconverter causes a loss of one f/stop.
Another option is to get the 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto. If you have a camera with a 1.5x or 1.6x magnification, that means your lens is a 300mm, and with a 1.4x you'll be at 420mm at f/4. I've used my 70-200mm f/2.8 IS with both the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, and the pictures are quite sharp.
Anyway, this is more food for thought.
Jim

5/10/2007 10:46:36 AM

Helen N. McHugh
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/8/2005
  Jim,
Thank you so much for your reply! Great to get feedback from someone as experienced as you! I did consider the slow shutter speed, but as I have the Canon 5D full frame camera ,I won't benefit from the magnification on the 70-200mm! Perhaps the 300mm F4 with the 1.4 teleconverter is the way to go! I have been dreaming of the 500mm or 600mm ... then I woke up!!
Thanks again, Jim!

5/10/2007 12:08:32 PM

 
 
  JZ example
JZ example
 
 
Helen,
I bought the 500mm f/4 a few months ago, and as you know, that's a huge check to write. But, wow, what a lens! I've taken a large number of incredible pictures with it already, including the one I've attached.
Jim

5/10/2007 12:15:29 PM

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Photography Question 
Leanna Fehr
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/20/2006
  4 .  Shooting Rabbits (With a Camera)
Has anyone been able to get a shot of a wild rabbit (jack, cottontail or whatever) in which the animal looks like it doesn't have a care in the world? If someone has, could you tell me how you did it?
Thanks!

4/18/2007 3:47:23 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Get a car-window mount and drive to where you have a good chance for a close encounter. A telephoto lens of at least 300mm will give you a nice-sized image in the frame. ... And when you see one, don't try to get out of the car to get closer. As soon as you open your car door, Ol' Buggs will surely scoot to the nearest thicket.

4/18/2007 4:03:31 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Tell the rabbit he has the winning powerball ticket. :)


Pete

4/18/2007 6:52:30 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  And how do they look different when a rabbit is stressed?

4/18/2007 9:45:01 PM

Leanna Fehr
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/20/2006
  Thanks to everyone who responded:) Gregory, when a rabbit is "stressed" It'll look like it's frozen until it thinks you've noticed it then it'll be going the other way. I liked your idea Pete, I had to laugh:) Bob, thanks for the suggestion, the only thing, is my camera doesn't zoom very far, so that won't work for me. Does anyone know how to get close to a rabbit without it noticing you? Leanna

4/19/2007 10:43:11 AM

Stephanie M. Stevens

member since: 4/20/2005
  I was in a campground once where there were rabbits everywhere, and I guess they were fairly used to people. I got really close to them by going one step at a time. Take a step, then stop. they perk up and look at you but eventually go back to eating or whatever. when they go back to ignoring you, take another step. It's slow, but it works with tamer animals.

4/19/2007 11:17:24 AM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Leanna,

From my hunting experience, when you are in a truly wild situation, i.e. the woods, you are usually going to walk right up to them and not even see them until you get so close that they run (very very fast). They will usually scare you too because you are not expecting the rabbit to be there and it is almost impossible to get a shot, oops, better say photograph.

In a more tame situation where they are used to people, as Stephanie explained, you can creep up on them step by very slow step and maybe get close enough for a photo.

There really is no way to go out and call them in as you would a turkey, so you are going to probably have to depend on a lot of luck.

4/19/2007 11:40:31 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  What Todd said is true, since most small game animals who have grown accustomed to having strange things pointed at them usually wind up as dinner that evening.

What I've found effective when stalking skittish critters is to get down to their level...on the ground and literally crawling closer to get off a shot or two before they scoot.
I've never tried this approach with rabbits or hares but I've used it on other species that have evolved to fear ANYTHING that walks upright and looms over them from above.

(Just take a quick glance around first to make sure no one is watching you.) ;)

Bob

4/19/2007 4:23:46 PM

  If you want to go to the trouble of using a blind that's one way of getting animals closer to you. I've had wild rabbits in my yard and had I wanted to take pics of them I would have tried feeding them then sitting inside something until they got within shooting distance.

There are also wild animal calls you can get at a from outfitting stores such as Cabela's. They are digital and make a noise like a distressed animal would. I have never used one but in nature magazines I've read you can even bring in deer with those. They say they'll come out of curiosity. I don't know any of this first hand. Good luck!

4/19/2007 5:03:19 PM

Leanna Fehr
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/20/2006
  Bob, may I ask what type of creatures you've tryed this on? Thanks Stephanie, Todd, and Sharon, for the good ideas. Todd, you said something about not being able to call rabbits, this I can understand as rabbit are prey, but do you know of a bait that might work? Thanks everyone!
Leanna

4/19/2007 6:17:52 PM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  I guess you could try buying some rabbit food at the local farm goods store. They mainly eat grass, grains, and fruits and vegetables. They love clover, (remember Thumper in the movie Bambi?),

http://courses.ttu.edu/thomas/classPet/1998/rabbit1/new_page_3.htm

Heck, I've seen them in my back yard eating fresh cut grass/weeds.

4/19/2007 7:03:03 PM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  I don't know if this link helps any at all.

http://www.gardensafari.net/english/rabbit.htm

4/19/2007 7:20:22 PM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Leanna,

Where are you going to try to get photos at these rabbits? Back yard? Woods/forest?

I've been sitting around thinking about this. The problem with sticking some bait out in your back yard is you never know when they are going to come to the food and eat. You'd have to sit there for hours and probably wouldn't see one rabbit. When you left and came back the food and the rabbits would be gone.

When we hunt deer, we plant food plots for them. Things they like to eat like wheat, oats, rye, etc. We plant it before the hunting season so that the crop comes up 3 to 4 weeks before the actual hunting season comes in so that they have time to establish an eating pattern if you will.

After going through all this work, we still may sit there for several hours before even seeing a deer. I'm talking 24-48 hours total time sitting in a deer stand before even seeing a deer.

So, I guess the point is, you'd have to put out some food at regular intervals, or plant a plot and monitor what happens.

I usually see wild rabbits (mind you this is during deer season which is October through January) between dusk and dawn. They seem to eat early and late.

But; if you could get them a steady food source, like with a food plot, they would be more apt to come out in the day light hours.

I know that rabbits really like White Clover. Even more so than Crimson Clover. I've watched them many times eating the white flower and green leaves of the clover.

I hope this helps and hasn't been too graphic. I understand there are a lot of people sensitive to animal rights.

4/19/2007 7:46:00 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  I would not recommend baiting wild animals with food. They can become accustomed to being fed and may alter their lifestyle around what they find waiting for them at timed intervals.

I like Todd's approach of actually planting a grain field. It will remain, and all animals can benefit from the food source long after the hunter (or photographer) has left the woods.

To address Leanna's question:
I've used a low-level approach to sneak up on fawns, marmots, ground squirrels, waterfowl,...even snakes.
I once crawled to within 10" from a basking black racer to get a full-frame head shot.
I got my photos and as soon as I stood up, he took off like a shot.

Bob

4/20/2007 4:12:16 AM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
 
 
 
First; let me say that I believe it highly unethical to bait animals simply for the purpose of making it easier to photograph them. If you study the work done by the real wildlife masters you will find that all of them strongly oppose such practice.

As someone who photographs a lot of wildlife, let me share a few ideas;

If you want to photograph any animal it pays to learn as much about that animal as possible. Know when they are most active; what they eat; when they are mostly likely to be sluggish, etc.

A long lens (telephoto) is essential to capturing realistic wildlife images. Even rabbits who have grown accustomed to people will move very quickly if you get too close.

Unless you are using a point and shoot camera, set your controls shutter speed priority and select a fast speed so that you can capture the image should the animal move – and they will move

A car, when practical, makes one of the best blinds. Either use a beanbag (my choice most of the time) or a car tripod for stability

Good luck!

Irene


4/20/2007 5:26:53 AM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Irene brought up a very good point and my suggestion was not to advocate baiting. I too do not agree with this practice. I don't do hunting and I'm not about to do it photographing. The food plot practice, though, is not baiting and as Bob stated, food plots provide a steady source of food for all wildlife long after the hunter/photographer are gone.

4/20/2007 5:37:23 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Baiting and food plots are the same thing. Providing food in a place that didn't have it before to attract an animal.

4/20/2007 11:33:32 AM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Greg,

I respectfully disagree with you; but, you are welcome to call it what you like.

4/20/2007 11:38:36 AM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  Hi Todd –

I understand your point about food plots versus baiting and to some degree I can appreciate the need. However, the problem is that once a food plot is available animals become conditioned to finding food at that location. They alter their behavior and territory to take advantage of the easy pickings. In many of the areas in which I have worked over the past couple of years (I do travel and nature writing) they have encountered serious issues related to the establishment of food plots. I don’t know where you live; however, in most of North America previously open land is being gobbled up for development forcing many species to alter their behavior in order to survive. Then either a hunter (usually a group of hunters) or, IMHO worse yet, a group of “animal right activists” establish a food plot. Good hunters do this in a knowing and planned manner that can benefit both hunters and their prey – well, to some extent their prey. No matter the reason for these plots and no matter how well planned and managed, they do alter the behavior of animals. This is not always negative, but it can have unexpected and unwanted consequences. In my area of the country combined factors of over-development and lack of open space has given rise to a real problem with predator species such as coyote. Then someone plants a foot plot and this brings in even more coyotes to feed on the species who visit the plot. You get the idea.

This is a very hotly debated topic among hunters, naturalists and others, including some real nuts on all sides. I’m not about to argue this point too vehemently since I am not an expert. I just think that it is something that anyone who is concerned with wildlife needs to at least think about.

Now, let’s get back to photography!

Irene

4/20/2007 5:39:03 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  If I liked to call it something else as if that gave me some kind of pleasure or put me at ease, I'd still be wrong because it's not about liking one name over another.
If you find spot X on the first day of hunting season and drop a bale or rye there and then go set up somewhere, it's no different than finding spot X and dropping some rye seeds so that by the time the first day of hunting season comes you'll have a bale's equivalent of rye so you can go set up somewhere.
It just saves you having to carry some more bait to spot X the next hunting season.

4/20/2007 7:27:01 PM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Irene,

Thanks. I agree with all your points. I am a hunter; but, I also try to protect the rights of these animals. Most of my time in a deer stand is spent sitting there with a camera pointed at them and not a rifle. Just ask my buddy that I hunt with. He still rags me for not shooting.

I don't shoot more than I will eat. (Sorry, that sounds bad; but, is really good.) You are right, the coyote is becoming a problem in the U.S. and here in Georgia and didn't start untill about 6 or 7 years ago for us here. They are getting more active.

I see your point. I will not suggest the "food plot" idea for photographing animals any more.

Good job. And by the way. Wildlife is very important to me. One of the greatest sights I've seen are Osprey's diving for a fish and their tallons coming out of the water with a fish in them. Unbelievable! I honestly would rather watch.

4/20/2007 7:28:01 PM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Again Greg. Call it what you like. I'll not get into an arguement over this because neither you nor I will be able to convince the other they are wrong. And it's not worth my time!

4/20/2007 7:32:48 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Some things like math aren't involved with convincing.

4/20/2007 8:07:54 PM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  Hi Todd –

I live in New England now, but I grew up in Montana. Around here far too many so-called “hunters” have no clue as to how to behave in the woods; how to track or how to safely handle a rifle. I find this somewhat incomprehensible because where I grew up you learned to handle a rifle as a young kid and grew up in an environment where safety and responsibility were natural. Anyway, I am far from being anti-hunting; I believe that some of the best conservationists are hunters. What I worry about is the irresponsible misuse of land; resources and animals.

The issue of food plots goes back and forth among conservationists and environmentalists and I suspect will always remain a point of argument among these folks. Anyway, thank you for your thoughtful remarks. I suspect we are pretty much on the same page.

Hey, get out and shoot with that camera – it’s spring, finally!

Irene

4/21/2007 10:49:09 AM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Irene,

I actually spend more time in the deer stand with my camera than I do actually hunting them with a rifle. You are correct about a lot of the hunters. They are unsafe. I am very particular where I hunt, whether it be with a camera or a rifle because of this.

A kind of funny story as a side note here. Georgia has a hunter safety course that is required if you are under a certain age or born before a certain date. When I started hunting, I missed that date by a few months. Now, I was taught by The Marine Corps how to handle a weapon and I was an expert marksman. I still had to take that course. I could have taken the test and passed it without even taking the course. I called the DNR to see if they made any allowances for prior or active military and they didn't. I probably knew more about handling weapons and the rules for identifying my target than most of the guys teaching the class.

My wife and I are flying to Key West in the morning for a week. I can't wait. And yes, the camera is going with me.

I have a friend that is an avid turkey hunter and he and I went out a couple weeks ago when the season first opened. We had just arrived at the spot we were going to hunt, I had my camera and not a shotgun, and he made a call. 2 toms gobbled and were only a few yards away. We set up facing the way we thought they would come and as luck would have, they came in behind us. All I could do was look over my shoulder and watch this 1 tom put on a show I had never seen before. It was truely amazing to watch him strut. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to set up correctly next time.

Some day I hope to make it to the New England area. Think I've got to get a faster plane before I do that though. I hate flying commercial so I try to plan my vacations within a decent flying distance of my home airport.

4/21/2007 11:10:55 AM

Jill Love

member since: 1/16/2006
  I live in the country on a dirt road. In the spring the bunnies are so busy chasing each other around they hardly notice me. Out on the dirt road, they scamper and chase each other and I can see them really well from a long distance away. I got down low in neutral color clothes and slowly moved toward them as they chased each other around. I got several shots of them nose to nose, and even one hopping right over the top of the other like leap frog! It's amazing. They knew I was there but didn't care because I didn't move and didn't make any sounds. Eventually they chased each other off into the woods. I'd be happy to send you the pics to see or post them. Just go for a walk down a country dirt road. You'll be amazed what you'll find.

4/24/2007 5:31:22 AM

John Nunziato

member since: 1/27/2004
  Hi Leanna,
I just approached very quietly..
when I spot something on the side of the road...
please have a look..
John Nunziato's Premium BetterPholio™
Thanks
John

4/24/2007 6:37:35 AM

Sonja 

member since: 11/4/2007
  I have pet rabbits not quite the same I realize, but rabbits are crepuscular, meaning that they generally sleep during the day and during the night, but are ready to play at dawn and twilight, so you might have good luck trying to shoot during that time, when they are most active. I know thats when I get better pics, unless I just want pics of the buns napping (so cute!)
Hope that helps, Sonja

1/31/2008 7:48:54 PM

Respond | Ask Your Own Question
 
Photography Question 
Sharon K. King
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Sharon
Sharon's Gallery

member since: 4/2/2005
  5 .  Pet Photography Tips and Tricks
I was asked to do a pet photo shoot, which will be held at a Senior Living residence. I am planning on taking two lights with umbrellas. We will have two scenes for them to choose from - photos with Santa and a winter scene. They are expecting approximatly 50 animals, but really have no way of knowing exactly how many will show up. I can use ANY suggestions you can give... on posing, keeping the animals attention, camera settings etc. etc. Beside covering my expences, most of the proceeds will be donated to Animal Friends of Western Pa. I am hoping this will be good exposure for me. I am getting nervous! Thanks, Sharon

9/28/2006 10:28:05 AM

  Sounds like a fun project! I've only practiced on my own dog. She sits/stays and will not move until I give the command which makes it easier to set her up in a pose, but she gets bored. My dog understands what certain words means so I can always make her look alert by saying something she likes to hear, like "treat" or "duke" or "walk." Try asking the pet owner what kinds of words the pet responds to. I don't shoot in a studio setting so I'm afraid I can't help you there. Good luck!

9/28/2006 10:42:37 AM

  Sharon,
That sounds like a very exciting shoot! I’m one of the BetterPhoto Instructors - teaching Photographing Your Dog with Any Camera and Photographing Your Dog with an SLR Camera. I have a few hints that might help with the dogs:
  • First and most important, try and recruit an animal-loving friend to assist you as an “animal wrangler”. They’ll probably have fun, because they get to play with pets all day. This person will hover just out of the active picture area, and can help keep the animals from bolting. If an assistant is impossible, have the owner do this job.
  • Whenever possible, include the owner in the shot. The dog will be more comfortable. And you can usually work out a “hugging” picture that actually controls the dog or other animal.
  • Don’t rush the dogs. Have the owner let the dog smell the whole set first. It takes about 30 seconds, and you’ll probably get a better result.
  • Bring a LOT of dog treats. The wrangler can stand next to the dog and feed them for sitting, then step back the instant you shot. Even the youngest dog will stay for treats. Use non-crunchy, single-gulp treats, like soft commercial treats, Bil-Jac liver bits, cheese sticks (break them into 40 pieces), or tiny cut-up pieces of hotdogs. And by small, I mean 1/4 the size of a dime or about 80 pieces out of a hotdog! ALWAYS ask the owner if the dog can have them, because many have allergies or health problems. If not, try a tennis ball or toy.
  • Let the leash dangle loosely to the ground and have the wrangler step on it. If you can borrow a 15-foot lead, even better! Only take off the leash if you are in a contained room with no other dogs around.
  • Find the highest-pitched squeaker toy you can at a dog store. ToyShoppe has some under $3 that are much louder than most. Small ones are great because you can hold them behind your camera, and squeak it by squishing it with your thumb into the camera body. That way it seems to the dog that the noise is coming from the camera itself, and they’ll look straight at the lens. Use it judiciously. They’ll soon tire of it, or be overstimulated by it.
  • While you’re there, pick up a Kong (looks like a small black or red toy) and put biscuits or a smear of peanut butter (or both) in it. The dog may lie down and become obsessed with it. Great! Then get his attention with the squeaker, his name, or your best “meow” and he’ll look up from it. You can donate the toys to the Animal Friends organization afterwards!
As for poses, the most important thing is to get down to the animal’s eye level. If it is a person with their pet, either have them get low with the animal or raise the animal up - this will avoid too gappy a composition. You may want to bring a picturesque chair (or borrow one from the Senior Center Lobby). That way, the owner can sit with a smaller pet in their lap - an especially good plan for senior clients.
Other suggestions:
  • If you raise the animal, make sure they are safe. Puppies and older dogs should never jump off anything taller than their shoulder.
  • Check your monitor often. Do some tests with the lighting, and then set the exposure in Manual Mode (assuming you keep the same lighting and you are practiced at using Manual Mode). This will prevent your in-camera meter from getting fooled by all-white or all-black animals. Even so, you may have to under or overexpose on certain animals.
  • If you can bring or borrow a laptop, it might be a good idea to check the shots for critical focus and depth of field throughout the day.
Most of all, have fun!
Good luck ... and please post a few of the shots afterwards!
Jenni Bidner

9/28/2006 3:41:44 PM

  Thank you both for your suggestions! I really appreciate it. Jenni, WOW, some great tips! If this all goes well, and I am asked to do a lot more pet photos, I will have to sign up for some of your pet portrait classes.

I have been looking at a lot of pet portraits. I think the most elegant ones are on very simple backgrounds, just a few little props like Christmas balls, a santa hat or a few wrapped gifts surrounding the animal. I would like to get some tight crops too, so your eye just sees the animal. I love the idea of the Kong. That may settle the animal down and relax them and force them to lay down. I am hoping to have a room I can shut the door, so the animal can be unleashed and not distracted by other animals waiting to be photographed.

The shoot is scheduled for October 28th. I am getting excited. Thanks for all the tips. I will share some photos with you when it's over!
Sharon

9/29/2006 4:49:57 AM

Danielle E. Rutter
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2006
  Sharon,

I don't have any advice that Jenni didn't already give but I just wanted to say thanks! I love Animal Friends. I've gotten two cats from them and I think they're an excellent organization. People like you keep them running! I hope it gets you the exposure you want. :)

10/3/2006 3:13:32 PM

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Photography Question 
Stephanie M. Stevens

member since: 4/20/2005
  6 .  Zoo Photography Tip
I just wanted to share something I learned the other day at the San Diego Zoo, even though I think a lot of you probably already know this. If you have to shoot through bars, the best way to do it is to zoom out as far as you can. That way the bars will blur and be difficult to see, provided the animal is far enough away. However, if the sun is shining on the bars, they will be so bright they could ruin the pictures anyway, so you should try to position yourself so that you are shooting through shaded bars, if there are any. Hope this helps somebody somewhere.

7/19/2006 2:03:14 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  If digital or a negative that's to be scanned, if light is shining on the bars, you still might be able to hide that with some levels work with Photoshop.

7/19/2006 4:35:55 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  my mother in-law used to do that,my head was never in the shot.
but it was film,how did she do that?
thanks stephanie for trying to let us know how to get it right.without the fix and i'll take care of it later,in bs,oh typo,ps.
are your toes hurting from that?might have stepped on one.
gee I scratched my left eye today while mowing,pirate here,tried to get it into photoshop and fix it,still got the patch.
well I guess not in the photo?snake eyes looked cool.kind of a bart simpson on crack.
I don't even have a disclaimer.
i'm just hoping you can't all hate me at once,i could be wrong?
ok,oh have a nice day?
i'd sign this but then you'd know who I was.

7/19/2006 8:14:25 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Nitrogen levels still high I see.

7/20/2006 12:01:10 AM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  just trying to start trouble,thanks for the chuckle gregory.

7/20/2006 7:56:55 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Wait a minute !!! Sam, your mother-in-law is behind bars?? What's she in for and for how long? Should we send her an old view camera with a hack saw inside the bellows? Whaddya think? :>)))
Mark

7/20/2006 2:06:06 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  she should have been as many times as she cut my head off,or at least animal cruelty.thankfully i'm not part of that zoo,er family anymore.
by the way,does anyone know how to get those numbers off a mug shot?
thanks for the tip,sam

7/20/2006 2:52:16 PM

  ROFL @ Gregory!!!

7/20/2006 3:38:45 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Can you get that way from Helium too?
M.

7/20/2006 7:08:38 PM

Mike Rubin
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/15/2004
  My father has that problem. Maybe they think it's artistic to cut off heads!
Thanks for the laugh.

7/20/2006 7:31:27 PM

Allan L. Whitehead
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Stephanie, if there are wire cages involved you can eliminate them by doing a 'manual focus' on your subject while getting relatively close to the cages and that will all but eliminate the wires. I find that this works very well with my Nikon D200 - Allan W

7/25/2006 3:54:02 AM

Daniel G. Flocke
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/31/2004
  I use a 300mm f/2.8 and a 500mm f/4.5 prime lenses when I'm at the Zoo. For the best results get as close to the bars as possible (without breaking the rules of the zoo), also, dont stop down the lens too much (F/2.8-5.6) or you will bring the bars back into focus again no matter how close you are.

Best of Luck,

~Daniel

7/25/2006 6:31:36 AM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  thanks very much allan and daniel,it all helps.nitrogen levels...to the bat cave robin.we must save gotham city.
oh boy..

7/25/2006 6:36:59 PM

Rob Zuidema
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/19/2005
 
 
  The Bat Cage
The Bat Cage
 
 
Yes Sam...to the bat cave, er...cage.

(I couldn't get quite close enough to the cage to 'focus out' the cage, though.)

7/25/2006 7:41:55 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  very neat image though.thanks

7/25/2006 8:03:57 PM

Ann Kittelsen
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/19/2006
  Thank you,Stephanie, for sharing a tip when you learn it. I knew this but many may not have and if nothing else, we all got a good chuckle out of some of the responses. :)

7/26/2006 9:43:40 AM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  hey,this can be fun?
well allright..

7/26/2006 7:04:44 PM

Stephanie M. Stevens

member since: 4/20/2005
  What I meant was that bars in pics like Rob's would be much less noticeable if taken through bars that were shaded, instead of in sunlight.

7/27/2006 7:58:50 PM

Rob Zuidema
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/19/2005
 
 
 
Yes Stephanie, if the bars in that pic were shaded it would have been less noticeable, but if possible, it is better to get as close to the bars as possible. Then with a wide aperture, focus on the subject and the bars should almost disappear, like as in this picture here.

7/27/2006 8:26:57 PM

Rob Zuidema
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/19/2005
 
 
  Lovebirds
Lovebirds
 
 
Yes Stephanie, if the bars in that pic were shaded it would have been less noticeable, but if possible, it is better to get as close to the bars as possible. Then with a wide aperture, focus on the subject and the bars should almost disappear, like as in this picture here.

7/27/2006 8:27:26 PM

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Photography Question 
Melissa Hallum
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/18/2005
  7 .  Places To Get Great Animal Pictures
After browsing through some of the galleries here at BetterPhoto.com, I'm amazed at some of the great photos of animals, exotic and local. I am an 'amateur' photographer. I absolutely love to take pictures of animals and landscapes, but I'm kind of getting bored with taking pictures of my cats and at my farm. I was just wondering if anyone could give me some tips on where I might go to be able to find some great subjects. I'm open to all suggestions. Thanks for your help.

1/10/2006 10:21:57 PM

  Look for zoos and drive-through animal parks in your area, wildlife refuges, parks and protected areas where they aren't so frightened of humans. Look on your state's travel promotion Web site. They usually have good ideas.

1/11/2006 3:10:53 AM

Daniela Meli

member since: 3/1/2005
  Or take a trip to Kenya or Tanzania! The Massai Mara and the Serengeti are great places to see amazing animals.

1/11/2006 4:48:57 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
 
 
  bat dog
bat dog
 
 
If you just need a change ... well, shooting out of a local pet store can be fun. The zoo is a blast, but the best time is in the rain. Just some thoughts.

1/11/2006 2:07:08 PM

David A. Bliss

member since: 5/24/2005
  Parks and wildlife refuges are good places, and since the animals are fairly used to people, you can usually see a lot of them and get fairly close (but not too close, since they are wild animals, after all). You don't want to stress the animal or risk getting hurt.
Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier National Park are all places I have been that have done well for me. State parks can be good for waterfowl and other birds, deer, etc. Beaches tend to be good places for waterfowl like herons, egrets, ducks, gulls, etc. For wildlife, remember the environment you are in. You will see much more wildlife in an area that supports more life than in, say, a desert. I have seen deer and sheep on my trips to Arches and Canyonlands, but not nearly as often as I have in Rocky Mountain NP.

1/11/2006 2:18:26 PM

  Living on a farm should give you a little bit of an advantage as far as wildlife is concerned. If I lived on a farm, I'd try to find a spot where I could set up a permanent blind and get a predator call from an outfitter such as Cabelas and spend a little time in the blind trying my hand at calling wildlife to me. You could get something like a 'distressed rabbit' call and if an animal is close enough they will come to investigate. Coyotes, bobcat, fox, and I've read that even deer will come out of curiosity. There are calls for as little as $10 that claim to bring animals as far away as 1/2 mile.

1/11/2006 3:47:42 PM

Gen Nagase
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/31/2003
  Also, check out the National Wildlife Refuge map and see where they are located in your state. You may be pleasantly surprised to fine one nearby. Also, join the local and National Audubon Society and take field trips with the experienced birder(s).

1/11/2006 6:02:01 PM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/3/2005
  I get bored too. It seems I have to travel further and further away to get something to shoot. Not just animals but landscapes and such. I drove around and around one day for three hours in South Winsdsor CT looking for things, I got almost nothing, a couple farm shots...thats all. I guess it helps if you know the place but then its all been done before. I wish I could get back to the everglades this year but that aint gonna happen unless one of you guys wants to give me a couple grand for the trip...(hint hint)lol
-zacker-

1/11/2006 6:22:02 PM

Melissa Hallum
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/18/2005
  Thanks you guys...I had thought of the zoo, but the area where I live has a rather small zoo, and I sometimes question the health of some of the animals. As for the locations that you gave me, I'll try to check them out...thanks again for your input.

1/12/2006 4:56:59 PM

Kathy 

member since: 6/13/2003
  If you can find a wildlife rehabilitator, they might be willing to let you take photos of animals they have in their care. If they agree, give a donation. Rehabbers are unpaid and spend their own money caring for the animals.

1/17/2006 6:09:41 PM

jean ray
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/22/2004
  Don't forget aquariums! They are great fun. Marine fish and invertabrates come in an amazing array of color, shape, and texture. Flash is generally permitted, except for a few species that may be harmed by it, and as long as you either shoot with your lense right up to the glass or at an angle, you won't get ugly refleections. Also, most aquariums have marine mammals and birds, and some have tropical birds, too. And they are a great place to spend time in a city during nasty weather.

1/17/2006 8:07:47 PM

eric brown

member since: 5/1/2004
  ther are even a few places where you can pay for private photo time one north of toronto (northwoods) one outside Minneapolis, theres one down in texas with some really nice big cats, theres a cat rescue place in tampa(iam going there next month) theres a wolf place in new jersey of all places a nice little raptor center in vermont an another one not far into new hamshire then theres all ways triple d game farm if you have lots to spend if you find any more on line could you share with me please I too am always looking for cool new spots eric trnbaron@aol

1/18/2006 4:32:13 AM

ahmed elmasry

member since: 7/7/2004
 
 
 
ahmed

1/18/2006 9:14:57 AM

Aaron  Reyes
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/8/2005
  try animal shelters? you could get them when they take the dogs for walks. maybe you were looking for something more exotic than dogs though...
I think i've heard that some zoos won't let you photograph if they think you're a pro. maybe hide the nice lens in a bag when you first get there?? even if you're not a pro they might see a nice camera and just say no.
i've wondered if that's really much of an issue. anyone else heard this?

1/23/2006 5:14:57 PM

Deja Webster
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/1/2005
 
 
 
Hi Melissa
I agree with Aaron, check out your local animal animal shelter.
I take pictures every week out at our shelter. Our local newspaper uses them for a weekly ad showing which pets are available for adoption.
It has been an incredible learning experience and something I look forward to doing. You learn to get better with any type of fast moving object.
I take all the dogs shots outside and for the indoor pictures of our cats I stick one of those natural light bulbs in a floor lamp. I don't have any fancy equipment so the bulb helps on a gray day.
I put the cats on a office chair covered with a white towel or sheet to make them stand out. I can move them around by moving the chair. I always shoot from the floor or ground for those "eye" shots that will find them a home. I also get head shots more often than full body shots for the same reason.
Deja

1/23/2006 10:55:39 PM

Deja Webster
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/1/2005
 
 
 
Hi Melissa
I agree with Aaron, check out your local animal animal shelter.
I take pictures every week out at our shelter. Our local newspaper uses them for a weekly ad showing which pets are available for adoption.
It has been an incredible learning experience and something I look forward to doing. You learn to get better with any type of fast moving object.
I take all the dogs shots outside and for the indoor pictures of our cats I stick one of those natural light bulbs in a floor lamp. I don't have any fancy equipment so the bulb helps on a gray day.
I put the cats on a office chair covered with a white towel or sheet to make them stand out. I can move them around by moving the chair. I always shoot from the floor or ground for those "eye" shots that will find them a home. I also get head shots more often than full body shots for the same reason.
Deja

1/23/2006 10:56:26 PM

Deja Webster
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/1/2005
 
 
 
Hi Melissa
I agree with Aaron, check out your local animal animal shelter.
I take pictures every week out at our shelter. Our local newspaper uses them for a weekly ad showing which pets are available for adoption.
It has been an incredible learning experience and something I look forward to doing. You learn to get better with any type of fast moving object.
I take all the dogs shots outside and for the indoor pictures of our cats I stick one of those natural light bulbs in a floor lamp. I don't have any fancy equipment so the bulb helps on a gray day.
I put the cats on a office chair covered with a white towel or sheet to make them stand out. I can move them around by moving the chair. I always shoot from the floor or ground for those "eye" shots that will find them a home. I also get head shots more often than full body shots for the same reason.
Deja

1/23/2006 10:57:58 PM

  Deja!
This is so weird. I did a search on "rabbit" and clicked on the link and recognized your pics and then saw your name! I love this puppy shot! (Deja & I met in a BetterPhoto course last summer for anyone else reading).
Lynn

1/27/2006 7:13:40 PM

Shannon Cook
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2006
  Melissa -

There is an amazing place 90 minutes north of Phoenix and 25 minutes south of Sedona in Arizona. It's called "Out of Africa WildLife Park". I was lucky enough to be there when they had 6 month old baby tigers that we got to play with! You can also take a little tour in a jeep and feed giraffes! Got a couple great shots of that. Or if you have any dog parks in your area, those are always fun.
Shannon

1/31/2007 1:31:42 PM

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Photography Question 
Manetta M. Argue-Raab

member since: 12/15/2005
  8 .  My Cat Shuts Her Eyes
I bought my first digital camera. The cat shuts her eyes when the flash goes off, even from a distance. The camera has a red, laser-like "focus" light. Could this be the problem? The cat never did this when photographed with a film camera. Thank you very much!

12/15/2005 5:58:42 PM

Brendan Knell
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/17/2005
  Did you use a flash with the film camera? Try using the same shutter speeds as on the film camera. I doubt that it is the focusing laser. If none of this works, just try and get the room bright enough so you don't need a flash.

12/15/2005 6:08:13 PM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  It could well be that the preflash focusing light on your digital (which your film camera probably didn't have) is the warning for your cat to shut her eyes. To her, the flash is likely not a pleasant thing to experience - and like Pavlov's dog, she has learned that when the orange-y light goes on that nasty flash will go off a moment after. What about just raising the ambient light in the room so to eliminate the need for the flash?

12/15/2005 7:09:59 PM

Brendan Knell
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/17/2005
  Bob, I've turned off the focusing laser, and they still shut their eyes.

12/15/2005 7:17:05 PM

  I have a Nikon D70. I was having that problem as well and it was the preflash causing it with my dog. When I figured out how to change it, my dog stopped blinking.

12/15/2005 7:50:29 PM

  Get a new cat and start over. Once they are flashed, they will never again look at the camera and you are reduced to catching them when they are sleeping. They hate flash.

12/16/2005 4:25:04 AM

  LOL Carolyn! My sister's husband was holding their cat for a pic once. I thought he was going to scratch both our eyes out. I never tried taking his pic again, and he's a pretty cat.

12/16/2005 5:44:06 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Good answer, Carolyn! (A used cat is a whole lot cheaper than a new camera.) :)
That point notwithstanding, I agree that increasing the ambient light (or the ISO) would eliminate the need for flash and solve your dilemma.

12/16/2005 6:24:27 PM

Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/2/2002
  (Get a new cat and start over.) LOL, that was great, made me laugh right out loud. I have 3 cats at home and one at my office... The best shots are always in ambient light for me. I shoot both 35mm and digital, and it seems to be the same regardless. They are much more relaxed and stay in the position I'm trying to capture by not scaring them with the flash. Mine are indoors only, but I take them out on leashes (always 100% supervised) and get some great shots outside.

12/20/2005 9:37:10 AM

Abby Way
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/27/2005
  LOL! I doubt s/he'd be very impressed at being replaced! :-D
Our two cats have always been photogenic - one (Merlin) will even hold a pose till the shutter clicks, then strike another cute/ferocious pose. He seems to get a kick out of it! The other is a little shy, but neither seems to have that problem. Perhaps it's because they have been photographed since a very young age, so they've gotten used to it.
Most of my pictures are taken without flash, with the room lights on or the window shades open. Maybe if you get her used to having the flash nearby - i.e., photographing objects in the same room, then gradually start taking pictures of her, she might adjust. Or perhaps at food time, she might be more friendly and less prone to blinking.
Hope that helps. :-)

12/20/2005 12:41:49 PM

Chris McCoy

member since: 11/10/2005
  First of all, I am no camera expert but I've had the same problem. Using the Digital Rebel and a 420ex flash. What I found out is that the flash actually shoots a pre-flash to determine correct exposure, then I hit the "AE LOCK" and took a shot... no more kitty squinting. So I'd say, check out your camera manual and find out how it determines exposure and if there is any way to manually set it or lock it. Hope this helps =)

12/21/2005 5:01:13 PM

Taylor 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/25/2004
  My cat always blinked also.

1/2/2006 4:50:17 PM

Piotr M. Organa
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/12/2004
  Just do not use on-camera flash, Manetta! I have my D70 for almost a year and never touched it yet. Serious. :):)

1/2/2006 8:52:04 PM

  I can only agree with Piotr!! Every time I used my on-camera flash, they instinctly close their eyes. When I use the external flash, no problems... big black cat eyes :o)

1/3/2006 2:52:55 PM

Manetta M. Argue-Raab

member since: 12/15/2005
  I would like to thank all of you for your responses to my cat-shuts-her-eyes dilemma! I tried turning off the AF illuminator, turning off the red eye reduction feature and fussing with the AE Lock feature but the cat still shut her eyes. Then I tried turning up the room lights and not using the flash at all, and that works!! Her eyes are narrowed because she hates me now, but they're open! I guess I was just used to using an instant, auto-everything film camera all my life, and had no idea you could take pictures indoors without some kind of a flash. I can't thank all of you enough for your help. I am SO impressed with this website - it's just the greatest! Happy New Year to all of you!

1/3/2006 5:34:54 PM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Before you start the guilt trip in 2006, Manetta, your cat's not mad at you. It's just that with more ambient light, her pupils narrow - just like your's do in brighter light and they become dilated in the darker environments. Human pupils are round, and cats' have slit-like pupils, so it looks different - but it's the same thing. So Happy New Year back atcha!

1/3/2006 5:41:46 PM

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Photography Question 
Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2004
  9 .  Field Trip to the Zoo!!
I'm going to the North Carolina Zoo next weekend. I have a 28-90mm and a 75-300mm lens. Should I lug around both or just take one of them? Also, what kind of films are good for this, vivid colors or natural colors? I want to get an assortment of slide and negative too. I'm probably going to take about 4 rolls of slide and 4 of print. I think I ask the MOST questions on this site, but I hope everyone knows I love 'em and appreciate everyone's support. I tell all of my photographer friends about this site so they can see all of you guys' work. Well, thanks again.

6/28/2005 5:18:36 PM

  Justin, if you have to choose, take the 75-300 for its versatility, but I'd bring both in case you want environmental shots or bizarre pictures of animals with big noses. If your equipment's too heavy, you can rent a baby stroller and roll everything around. I find this useful near the end of the day when the %!?& tripod gets too heavy to handle.
In my film days, I used Velvia or Provia 400 almost exclusively because I love punchy colours. Nowadays with PS, you can use just about anything and correct the colour later. However, I wouldn't mix negative and slide film in the same session, because the exposure rules aren't the same, and I confuse easily. But then ... your mileage may vary.

6/29/2005 6:26:49 AM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  Just keep asking questions, Justin. I've learned a great deal, and I didn't have to ask.
i just got some pictures back that I took with the new kodak ultra color 400.the color is much better than the high definition, or Ffuji superia.but i've only found it in 36 exposure.
hth sam

6/30/2005 1:29:46 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Hi, Justin. You do need both lenses, but make it easy and take 2 cameras. If you want to use both slide film and print film, go ahead, have one kind in each camera. This is what I do occasionally - I like to shoot with both color and black & white film, and with both normal and telephoto zoom lenses.
My favorite films for zoos are:
Negative - Kodak Royal Supra, Kodak Ultra Color. High Definition is OK too, but it costs almost the same as the other two. Fuji Superia is just OK.
Slide - Fuji Velvia, Sensia (the amateur version, but very good), and Provia is good for animals too.

7/5/2005 7:24:00 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2004
  I've been reading Kodak's and Fuji's reviews on their professional films. I'm not understanding the difference between Fuji's Velvia and Provia. I get that the 64T is more for architectural and tungsten (commercial stuff) and the Astia is great for portraits. I have 2 rolls of Velvia 50 i'm taking. Which has more saturation and vivid colors, the Velvia or Provia. I'm getting confused and to me they sound exactly the same, except that the Provia's film's grain is finer. What are some differences Maria? Thanks.

V/r

Justin

7/5/2005 7:30:35 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  64T is the wrong film to use for zoos. It is made to be used in tungsten lighting, which is your usual household, banquet hall, & church interior lighting. Using it outdoors will make all your photographs blue. Velvia is the the most vivid-color slide film with the most saturation. It is the best film for landscape and flower photography. You can certainly use it at the zoo; it will make the animals and their environment more colorful. It is available in 50 and 100 speeds. To confuse you even more, the 100-speed has been improved, and is now available as Velvia 100; the older one is Velvia 100F. I haven't seen the new one yet, as it just came out. There is a definite color difference between the 50 and 100F; the landscape photographers can tell you that and so will I, as I have tried both on the same subject.
Provia does have slightly finer grain, but I don't know yet how it compares to the newer Velvia. Provia's colors are not as vivid as Velvia's, but they are more vivid than Astia film, which is best for portraits. Provia is great for a wider variety of subject matter; you can use it for everything. Your zoo animals will come out looking great with it. Also, it is available in 100 and 400 speeds.
The film you choose really depends on how you want your photos to look. If you want your colors to really pop out, use Velvia, especially for the more colorful animals like tigers, parrots, etc. But for zebras, elephants, and such, perhaps Velvia would add too much artificial color. And if you plan on getting any people in your photos, Provia is the way to go.
Neither film would be the "wrong" choice. If you can, take both kinds.
Hope this all helps. And don't hesitate to write again if you need to.

7/6/2005 12:21:00 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Given that "next weekend" has come and gone and it's probably too late, I will offer the following advice for future endeavors:

To capture true colors in outdoor lighting with slide film, use Provia 100F.
If there are artificial lights,..such as inside reptile houses and such, you will need filtration to balance the light. A blue 80-A filter will balance floods and incandescent lights (regular light bulbs), but will add 2 stops to your exposure times.

If there are flourescents,...your're screwed. (No, not really.)
There are ways around this difficult light for film users. You can use flash (which is daylight-balanced) to over-power the existing light if your subject is close enough,...(if it's use is allowed and if there are no glass enclosures to reflect your flash back into the lens.)
Or, if you are scanning the results you can correct the olive greenish tinge flourescents yield during post-production.

As far as which lens(s) to lug around,...I solve this simple problem by lugging EVERYTHING on a critical shoot.
I don't like to be in a position where I have to say..."Gee, I wish I had my (whatever) for this?" ;)

Bob

7/6/2005 12:50:55 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2004
  Well when I wrote next weekend, I stated it wrong, I just wrote it like that for simplicities sake, but its really this coming up weekend, Sunday to be exact. Hopefully the weather will hold out, its saying rain until next Friday (10days ahead Friday). So I hope I don't get screwed. Anyways Maria, I wasn't saying I was taking 64T I'll be using that for my apartment to show off to the family. Well I have 2 rolls of Velvia 50 so I might go and get a roll of Provia, probably the 100.

To Maria and Bob, thanks though for the EXTREME helpfulness, you guys answered exactly what I was asking and sometimes that doesn't happen!! Anyways, one more question while we're at it since I found the Fuji gurus. (sp?) Lets say its overcast and the light just isn't as bright as the direct sun (obviously) can I push both films +1 stop, Velvia 50 pushed to 100 and Provia 100 pushed to 200 without a gigantic noticeable difference? Or will it make a huge difference already? Thanks for your help! Always much appreciated.

V/r

Justin

7/6/2005 1:00:07 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Sure, you can push both films. But your image quality will suffer. Velvia 100 will give better results than Velvia 50 pushed to 100. Provia 400 is better than Provia 100 pushed to 200.
Pushing is for when there is no other alternative. It sounds like you want the best. So, since there is an alternative, please buy some Velvia 100 or 100F, and some Provia 400 as well as Provia 100. As Bob said, lug EVERYTHING around.
For fluorescents, by the way, I use Tiffen's FLD filter, and it works OK. So will a CC30M Magenta filter. Flash will definitely give you the correct color for your subject, but I take it one step further and put an FLD over the lens, and then a green gel over the flash. This balances both the color of the background (the FLD takes care of the green), and the subject (the green over the flash changes the magenta tint back to neutral). But don't worry about this at the zoo, unless you have some snakes in a room with fluorescent lighting!

7/6/2005 1:29:14 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2004
  yeah I wasn't planning on being indoors too much, i'm into the outdoors, lions and tigers and bears _____________ (fill in the blank) anyways I will do that then, since I have an alternative i'll just buy them all!!! velvia 100(F) and the provia 100 & 400. thanks for helping.

V/r

Justin

7/6/2005 1:32:13 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  It sounds like you're quite fussy about the quality of your results...(as well you should be).
Rest assurred that Provia 100F can be pushed a stop with little or no loss in image quality or in color reproduction,...provided your lens is of good quality and your exposure is right on.
I like to keep my spare camera body set at 200 for low light or for stopping action of really fast things in bright light. (Yea,...I lug that around too.)
It's always better to shoot at the recommended speed though.

7/6/2005 2:25:03 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2004
  Extremely fussy about my results. I'm in this for the long haul so yeah I guess I have to be fussy. actually one of my short term goals, as well with probably everyone else on the site is to take a First Place in one of the contests. Just a short term goal, I'll get it. Film is just so expensive!! and I mean processing, enlarging all that good junk. oh well but thanks again bob for helping.

V/r

Justin

7/6/2005 2:31:03 PM

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Photography Question 
Teresa K. Canady

member since: 2/16/2005
  10 .  Pet Photography: Ideas for Backgrounds
A friend of mine wants me to take some pictures of her two doggies. Does anyone have any good ideas of places to take them, like the park, etc.?

5/5/2005 2:44:22 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/27/2001
  Teresa,
Taking them to a strange environment might be too distracting to them if they haven't been to the park frequently, or have not become accustomed to visiting new environments. Some parks and other public spaces ban dogs, even on leash. If you decide to try it, check that out first.
The best photographs I have of our dogs and cats were done at home. I observed their behaviors, what triggered them, and where they naturally perched or traveled around the house and yard. I then set up conditions (and cleaned up any clutter) around their favorite "spots" and looked for pleasing compositions in those locations. Dogs and cats typically have favored "perches" from which they can watch things outdoors and the window lighting during the day can be pleasing if a good perspective of them is possible in that location.
Knowing what usually triggered certain behaviors allowed setting up conditions for them while I "lay in wait" to make the photographs. Even so, it requires patience. In general, dogs and especially cats cannot be posed unless they've been extremely well trained and obey commands without "breaking" from them. Pets that are disciplined are the exception, not the rule.

5/5/2005 8:31:36 PM

TRACY WILLIAMS
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/28/2004
  Hi Teresa, I take a slightly different approach to this. My preferenc is to not pose them, I think they look better acting like themselves. I do take them to a park I'm familiar with. Here in Colorado there are lots of little parks that I don't have a problem with being off leash. (Hint: if needed, tie a long leash to a tree and shoot the dog from an angle that the leash isn't in the shoot - it's pretty easy).

I take a multi-pronged approach: let the dog(s) out to run out the excitement and then start the shoot once they settle down a bit. During this phase I try for shots sitting, laying down, standing and moving (owner needs to guide them a little). Next phase, the owner brings out their favorite toy (balls, frisbees, squeaky toys) - then you get some action shots, which most owners seem to like the best. Last phase, the pup will have his/her tongue hanging out a little which are some great shots too. The whole process takes 25-30 minutes and its amazing to watch the dogs enjoying the excitement of being some place new. Its stimulating so they tire quickly and you get lots of expressions throughout the shoot.

As for the background - since I'm moving around so much I start near evergreens for a backdrop on the sitting/standing pics and then move out so that I'm in an open field and the backdrop is blurred for the last 2 phases.

-have fun!
Tracy

5/10/2005 10:25:09 AM

Eli Boyajian

member since: 2/9/2005
  Teresa,

I know this is a little off point, but check out Jill Greenberg's site - www.manipulator.com - which, oddly enough, features a magazine cover with a dog on it.

I think her entire site is loaded with great inspiration, but for me, the real treat is her studio portraits of monkeys. They are so well done, it's hard not to imagine there wasn't some posing going on - by the monkeys themselves!!

-Eli

5/10/2005 11:21:28 AM

Christy L. Densmore
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/18/2005
  Teresa, here are my suggestions. Your location and backdrop should be geared to the bred. If in the hunting group, try rough terrane that sort of thing if a field trip is in order. If staying where they live, don't look for a "fancy" spot for a working class dog or a working spot for a non working class dog. I do mostly Australian shepherds, these are ranch dogs so I look for rustic settings. A few tricks we have used at shows include a stranger (as long as the dog will tollerate one) actually holds the dog on leash, not the owner. The owner assists by standing in the direction we want the head and making the dog's favorite funny noise to get those ears up. Since in most public spaces you must have them on leash, try to have that leash hold someplace where you can clone it out.

It is typically easier to take them where the dog lives because you don't have the leash problem. But, even there, you may want the dog in a position that a leash would be helpful. There is a shot in my gallery that was taken of a group of Aussies using a brick wall and old bench. We had to use a leash for one of them sitting on that bench, I cloned it out and the owner loves this shot of her guys.

What ever you do, as others have said, be patent and have fun. I would love to see how they turn out. My favorite thing is looking at dog shots. All kinds.

5/10/2005 12:23:53 PM

  The best photos I got of our little dog was to set up a table and using my projector screen, draped a blue velour blanket over both. We put her on the table and my husband set her up and watched to make sure she didn't jump down. I made 'whiney' noises which made her look at the camera and cock her head. I had studio strobes set up, one on either side of the camera.

5/10/2005 7:46:47 PM

Theodore C. LaLone

member since: 5/11/2005
 
 
 
I just wait to see what happens. I don't pose my dogs I wait till they pose themselfs in a backdrop just "fits" I got a great photo of my Lhasa just laying in some flowering phlox. He was there for more than 2 hours and I got 52 photos to choose from. I kept 40 and entered one here. I just joined yesterday. But yes Have fun any why you decide to try thats the important part is simply to have a great time doing it.

5/12/2005 7:29:16 AM

Crystal G. Foust

member since: 4/13/2005
  My approach is similar to some of the other folks here. I do on-location photography and I find it is best to give the dogs some time to run around and get their energy out, get used to their surroundings if they aren't already, and get to know the dog a little bit, become friends with the dogs. I usually carry a variety of treats with me, and after asking the owner's permission, these are great to get closer to the dog or to achieve some unique shots. When I am shooting animals, I have lots of digital storage and I just snap away. And don't be afraid to get down to the dog's eye level as these shots can give you some incredible results. A very simple backdrop is to find an open area and utilize the green grass as the backdrop, just blur it out a bit. Good luck!

5/13/2005 10:07:40 AM

  if you can get them to stand still, dont even worry about the back round

5/14/2005 11:46:28 PM

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