#19 in the Judging a Photograph Series
Last week I mentioned that chicken wire is the bane of my life when it comes to taking animal portraits. I no longer have any pets so it’s zoos and farm parks for me, and they all have wire fences making photos tricky. Things look easier in the Tropical house or Hothouse display where a clear sheet of glass is all that is in the way. There are still some problems to overcome.
- It’s very dark
- The glass shows reflections and glare
- The animals are hiding
Short of chatting up a keeper for a bit of help, I have no clever ideas for dealing with point number 3 above. I did tackle the other problems more successfully.
Dealing with the dark
To deal with the dark, I’ve tried several things which have all worked well.
- Turn up the ISO
- Open the aperture very wide
- Use a monopod
A monopod takes up no more space than a walking stick. It gets mistaken for a walking stick by other people who may offer seats and hold doors for you. It’s happened to me! It’s like one leg of a tripod with adjustable height and the camera screws on top. It steadies the camera and can add up to two stops on an exposure.
Dealing with the glass
To deal with reflections and glare on glass there are a few tricks I try.
- Move my feet – try standing in a different position at a sideways angle to the glass
- Put up my hood or get someone to hold a jacket up behind my head to cast a shadow
- Wait until there is a crowd behind me casting a shadow on the glass
- Never use flash
Flash is probably banned anyway. It’s not kind to use it near these hothouse animals.
I took all these photos on a 100mm macro lens at ISO 500 or 640. The aperture was f2.8 or f3.5. Two are bearded dragons and I’m sorry I don’t know the name of the green lizard. For the first bearded dragon shot I am standing too close and the depth of field is too shallow. The tip of the nose and back of the head is blurry. Next, the green lizard has a distracting background with strong triangles of black and white.
The last bearded dragon photo has worked perfectly just as I wanted, with his (her?) whole head in focus. I entered this shot in a portrait competition but I can’t remember if it got a highly commended or nothing at all. Some judges love animals in portrait competitions, but not all. I was happy with it, anyway!
Once I got the hang of taking photos in a hothouse I started to have fun. Have you had success with this too?
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Read the previous blog in the Judging a Photograph series – click here.
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