We had decided to celebrate my birthday by signing the whole family up for a ‘Breakfast with Wolves’ event at the Montreal Ecomuseum near our house. While taking pictures in a zoo seems to really be against the whole ‘wild life’ photography image, I brought my camera to practice. Carrying your camera everywhere is one of the top five rules to improving your photography, so I packed a few lenses (longest focal lengths possible).
We arrived early and were welcomed into a room for a general presentation on wolves. Once that was over, we had the gross job of putting their food together. It consisted of stuffing sausage liner with live worms, baby chick heads (yes, I said it), and other uncomfortable items. You then place the tube of awful into a hollow cantaloupe. This gives the live worms a fighting chance or something.
We walked to the enclosure, tossed in the food and watched the two wolves play and eat. I took a few images of the wolves as they ran around using my 55-250mm lens, but had some difficulty getting good composition. The trick is really to take a few bursts so that you can hopefully get them positioned at a good angle. The below image is the only one that came out. All the others either had the fence in the background or cantaloupe all over the place. Since we were looking down on the wolves, the only way not to get the back of the enclosure in the shot was while the wolves were at the top of a hill. The snow on the ground was also all trampled and dirty. It might have been nice to be there during a nice amount of snowfall. I will have to try that one day.
Animals in enclosures really do not lend well to any type of photography. As you can see from the images, you can almost always tell they are in an enclosure. The only way I have found to get good pictures was using a long lens (almost a given) and to get as close cropped as you can. Feel free to comment if I am missing something.
The foxes were running around like crazy when we arrived at their area. I knew I had to get a good picture of them, but had to figure out how. Not only were they running around like crazy, they were also fully enclosed in a cage. I wanted to get a shot without the cage, but in the first few images you could see it blurred in the foreground. I used a tip I had read about getting good shots from airplane windows and moved as close up to the fence as possible. Being at a long focal length, low depth of field, as well as being really close to the fence, allowed the fence to be so ‘blurred’ that it did not register in the photograph. I think it turned out pretty damn good in the image below. His(her) eyes would have been better a little more in focus, but I am still very happy with the image.
Another thing I discovered while at the Eco-Museum was that the best time to get pictures of the animals was during feeding time. I had been to the museum a few times, and I have never seen all the animals so active. I was able to get shots of almost all the animals out and about. I assume most places feed early morning, so arriving at first opening seems like a pretty good plan.
We finished the day with the little guy below. I tried to get his picture as he played hide and go seek with the kids. He was a tricky little bugger, but you have to admit … if you had a chance, you would take him home.
A Few Comments from the Shoot:
- Bring your camera everywhere
- Feeding time is a great time for active animals, even better if it is first thing in the morning
- To get rid of fencing, move right up to it. Longer focal lengths help to pull you way from the fence.
- Photographing in a zoo will almost always look like photographing in a zoo.
- I am a little stuck up about getting pictures in a zoo
- Wolves eat some gross stuff