I’ve got to say ever since getting the new teleconverter extender for the 70- 200mm lens I’ve really been itching to use it. The Air Show was a good opportunity but it was a bit of a failure on my part because I wasn’t prepared with my batteries.
In August, my girlfriend and I had agreed that we were going to go to the Toronto Zoo but unfortunately mechanical issues with my car forced us to change our plans. We then decided on date in mid-September which was good for both of us, as it turns out the weather on this particular day was perfect, the sky was blue and there was plenty of bright sunshine with virtually no cloud cover and it wasn’t overly hot so the animals were active.
I was super excited because not only is the zoo interesting from an educational standpoint but many of the animals are exotic and have brightly coloured fur and feathers.
The first problem that I ran into almost immediately was that I tried to use teleconverter all the time even when it was utterly unnecessary. I had to kick myself in the head a few times to actually detach it from the 70 to 200 mm lens. Once I removed the teleconverter I was able to lower my f-stop number but still keep my subject matter crisp and in focus and I really did learn where to use the teleconverter and where not to.
While the outdoor exhibits were relatively easy to shoot they did provide their own unique challenges, for example some of the animal enclosures have fairly tight metal meshing which meant I had to get the lens right up to the fence to see through the metal otherwise it would’ve provided for an ugly photo.
Some of the outdoor enclosures were also heavily shaded and some of the animals such as the Tigers wanted to sit in the shade. Not only did this put them relatively far away from me but it also meant I would have to use a much slower shutter speed with the extender while still trying to keep everything in focus without shaking the camera and creating motion blur.
Lastly some of the outdoor exhibits had very thick glass which naturally distorts light and also creates a very hazy look to the photos. The only way around this was to look for parts of the glass that were clean (no dirt) and focus the best shots looking straight through the glass at a 90° angle.
Without a doubt the indoor exhibits at the zoo proved the most challenging to photograph. Many of the exhibits had a mixed system of plexiglass and metal fencing somewhat obstructing the animals and the lighting was also very dim compared to the outdoors. One of the exhibits which housed naked mole rats and a number of various types of bats had virtually no light; I had to force the camera and lens to its limit in order to achieve usable photos.
In another case the lemurs were relatively easy to photograph since they weren’t obstructed however due to lighting conditions I was forced to use a lower shutter speed and unlike the other animals these guys were just crazy hyper, they would not stop moving for one second, I think I took about 200 photos only to achieve six or seven which are actually usable that I was happy with.
I had some similar frustrations with the North American river otters, between distortion from the glass barrier and the fact that they were moving at what felt like supersonic speeds underwater I had to take a plethora of images only to achieve a handful that I was satisfied with.
Out of all the exhibits at the zoo that I saw one of my favorite moments was at the end of the day. The zoo was technically closed and my girlfriend and I were slowly making our way out when we stopped by the Australian Kangaroo exhibit. I noticed a rather large kangaroo standing not overly far away and I began taking photos and realized when I was reviewing them that this kangaroo had a baby Joey tucked into her pouch. It was one of those photos that simply make your heart melt.
All in all I had a great time at the Toronto Zoo it was fun working with the numerous challenges presented but it was also great to see all these animals out and about and make use of my photographic tools to their fullest extent. The Zoo is also a world class facility, all the animals are well taken care of and the zoo grounds are massive so you get a good workout too!
The complete set from my trip to the Toronto Zoo