Aug 13, 2009

Perfect models

Have you ever been looking for the ideal environment to develop and refine your photo skills? I found my perfect training ground at the Planckendael animal park, near Mechelen, not too far from where I live. This 'extension' of the Antwerp Zoo used to house breeding programs and animals that were old or recovering from illness; by now it has been developed into an extensive collection of interesting species, all enjoying spacious habitats. The abundance and variety of animals and vegetation offers lots of subjects to challenge your composition, focusing and lighting techniques. And no fuss about privacy or publication rights with these models!

This fellow is great for testing your patience and determination. To begin, you will find him sleeping high on a branch most of the time. Or when he's awake, he will turn his back to you and just sit there quietly for hours. If however you understand his activity pattern and know his feeding times (hint: ask the caretakers!) you may have a better chance - that is, if he's not hiding just behind that greasy spot on the thick glass of the cage... So a dose of luck, good timing and quick reaction, and a shallow depth-of-field may get you a koala shot like the one above.

No need for endless patience with this one: Oriental Small-clawed Otters are busy and nervous creatures, swirling around in small packs, always on the lookout for danger - and for food! They move fast and hardly ever sit still, and definitely will challenge your timing and focusing skills. You will be easily rewarded though as they are playful and take on charming poses...

He's seen it all, nothing left to surprise him... But don't be fooled: the eyes follow every bit of movement through the wire fence. The use of a long focal length combined with a large aperture makes the enclosure almost invisible.

Gear notes: D300, 70-200/2.8VR, TC-14E II

Click on the image(s) to see a larger version

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