BACKYARD SAFARI - “The eye never forgets what the heart has seen.” -- African Proverb

“If there were one more thing I could do, it would be to go on safari once again.”

  • Karen Blixen (Danish author best known for “Out of Africa”, her account of living in Kenya)

Ah, Africa! A photographer's dream, a paradise, the majesty of God on display for all to see!

Which of us has not dreamed about traveling to such an incredible location to capture one of those National Geographic magazine images! Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or money for such extravagant journeys, but no worries, you don't have to travel halfway around the world to get some great wildlife photos, you can go on a safari in your own backyard!

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And what is even better, you can take the whole family along with you! Yes, the deepest, darkest, wildest parts of Africa or the Amazon Jungle are just around the corner and offer some great photo opportunities.

I am speaking about your local zoo of course!

I doubt you'll get that National Geographic photo there but you will be able to get some amazing shots if you take the time to look around and think outside the box. Let's take a look . . .

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Birds are a common exhibit at zoos and often roam and fly freely in some areas. They are colorful and seem to thrive on showing off for the camera. Always try to plan your zoo shots in ways that the photo doesn't appear "zooish". If you can capture an image that looks like a more natural setting the observer may not even know it was taken at the local zoo!

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This pair was putting on quite a show kissing and necking like two lovebirds. Parrots are great subjects because of their colorful plumes and playful antics.

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Flamingoes are another great bird to shoot! (err photograph)! They usually move slowly and will stay in a certain pose for several minutes before moving. They have bright feathering and ofter interact with each other.

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These two appear to be sending a message, maybe we should let them have some privacy?!

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Birds and water will often be found together, use the water to enhance images with reflections and ripples. Use faster shutter speeds to capture water droplets if you see them splashing or playing.

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Oh, and don't forget to look IN the water too, many zoos stock their ponds with colorful Koi and other species of fish. Our zoo has a candy dispenser full of fish food that gives you a handful for a quarter, a couple of handfuls can draw every fish in the pond and create a rainbow feeding frenzy to photograph.

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The other terrific part of the zoo is that you can go on safari in many different parts of the world by just walking a few hundred feet. Here we have a friend from the outback of Australia.

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These guys are all wondering what the funny humans are doing and how long it is to dinner time.

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Some zoos have places you can get up close and personal with the residents, this zoo has an observation and feeding platform for the giraffes where some will even stand still long enough to be petted (if you have a handful of food that is!).

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One thing definite about visiting your zoo is, just like visiting Africa or the Amazon, you never know what waits around the next corner and you may just see something you have never seen before!!!

I hope you all enjoyed this little write-up, and I hope above all else that you get some creative ideas for doing some local photography without having to make a long quest. Some tips for the zoo - bring a tripod, it will help to get some crisper shots - bring a zoom lens if you can, it will help your shots to be more up close and personal - always bring extra batteries and memory cards (I learned this one the hard way). Have a great day and live life!

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