Archive for June, 2009
On fathers day, I went to the zoo to take some pictures and I thought I’d share some of the shots and some of the things I have learned about ‘zoo shooting’ that might help you get some great shots at your local zoo.
The first tip is the time of day you go. The San Antonio Zoo offers early entrance (7:30) to zoo members and I take full advantage of it. I go early in the morning for a couple of reasons. First and foremost for me, this is South Texas and it gets really hot really fast. I don’t do well in the heat so the early start time helps keep me from melting. Second, and probably a more important reason is that the animals are more alert early in the morning. They are looking for food and expecting interaction with their keepers. This is one of those things you might want to contact your zoo about, as there are different schedules for different animals. For instance, this Cheetah has play time every afternoon and she knows it. The keeper actually teased her with her toy so I could get this shot on a previous trip.
By the time I got around to her on this trip, she had already been fed and was just laying around relaxing.
I had the same problem with the Sumatran Tiger
However the Spotted Hyena was still waiting on breakfast which allowed me to get this intent shot
CAGE BARS AND WIRE
Another thing folks really hate in zoo shots is having the cage bars in the picture. Most of the time, they really detract from the story you are trying to tell. But if you’re careful, you can shoot the shot so the bars/ wire don’t show up. First get as close to the bars as you can and open the camera aperture wide open to get as much depth of field as you can. For instance:
I shot this one through wire just like you see in the back ground. Being very close with the wide open aperture makes it disappear. Some that can add problems to this is if you can’t get close to the bars/wire. At the San Antonio Zoo, there are often hedges between the shooter and the bars so you are standing back 3-4 ft from the wire. In this case you can’t get close. With a little practice, I was able to shoot using a long zoom lens, with the aperture opened wide up and get pretty much the same effect.
This one and the one after were shot about 4 ft away from the wire and about 6-7 feet away from the monkey.
And this one was shot about 7 ft away through black cage wire.
Sometimes, however, the bars can actually add to the story, like this.
SHOOTING THROUGH GLASS
Another problem photographing zoo animals is shooting through glass. There are two basic issues with glass. One is dirty glass that’s smudged with finger/nose prints. I take a small container of wet wipes and, if the smudges are on the outside, simply clean them before I shoot. If they are on the inside or you don’t have wipes, the only thing I can suggest is to adjust your angle to hit a clean spot.
The other problem with shooting through glass is reflections. These become even worse if you are having to fire the flash. The key to getting these shots is to change your angle. Instead of shooting perpendicular to the glass, adjust your angle to 30-45 degrees and the reflections should diminish. This may take a little trial and error to find the right angle for the shot, but that’s the great thing about digital.
These were all shot through glass by standing at an angle to the glass.
And these were shot through glass with a flash.
So do a little research, gear up and head out to your local zoo for some great photography! It’s always a blast.
When we last left our hero, he had loaded lumber on to a cart at the local Home Depot, and then, finding that he couldn’t get it cut first, unloaded it all back to the shelf.
The next day (Saturday) I decided that I would just go get the lumber, load it in my Hyundai Elantra, drive it home and cut the wood myself. I drove to Home Depot after running some errands and loaded up all the 2X10′s (plus a few extra) I would need along with the stringers and a couple of bunji cords to tie the trunk down with, paid for it, then loaded it all in the car and drove home.
At home, I decided to lay down and take a little rest before starting my project, and as I lay there, being grateful for A/C, it dawned on me that instead of 4ft wide steps, I had enough lumber for 8ft wide steps and that this would mean I wouldn’t have to cut a single board. “Pure genius”, I thought to myself.
At about 4:30, I couldn’t take it any longer. I got up and began grabbing tools.
“Whatcha doing?” my wife asked.
“Gonna go get started on those steps,” I replied.
“Umm…it’s 102 degrees out there. Maybe you should wait until it cools off a little,” she said, with some concern in her voice.
“I’ll take some water with me. I’ll be fine.” And with that, out the door I went.
I knew the first thing to do was remove the old steps so I grabbed my cordless drill and began removing screws. “Whew…it’s hot!” I thought. “Better take a swig of that water.” With that, I continued taking screws out. After a few more screws were removed, “Damn, it really is hot! I better chug some more agua,” then back to the screws.
As the last screw came out and I pulled the old stairs away, I looked down at my work with a small amount of satisfaction, but mostly it was the thought that I really had to get these stairs built because I just removed my easy way back into the house. At this point, I realized I was getting a little lightheaded, as no miracle from above had occurred and it was still, in fact, hot. “I’ll bet the animals are hot too. I’m gonna take a little break and go run some water in their troughs, just to top them off,” and I proceeded about the yard with the water hose running and deciding which trough needed the water the most. I dropped the hose in the large trough and went back to my task.
I took another nice long drink of, by now, luke warm, water and grabbed the stringers. Not being much of a carpenter, I just kinda screwed the stringers in by eyeballing them, then realized again that it was hot and I was getting lightheaded. I decided I would just throw the lumber for the top step on so I could get on the porch easier and go inside, take a break and cool off. Unfortunately, my lack of carpentry skills reared their ugly head at this point. I hefted the 8 foot 2X10 out of the car and placed it on the top step, only to watch it wobble back and forth unsteadily. “Well, I guess the cooling off break is going to have to wait.”
I removed the board and decided that maybe measuring would be a good idea, so I unscrewed two of the stringers and measured the placement of the one that was left. I would make the others match this one. As I began to measure, I was feeling very lightheaded again and finally decided to toss in the towel for the moment. I would just climb back onto the porch (no small feat for a fat, outta shape guy) and go inside for awhile and finish later. With the skill of a mountain goat with Cerebal Palsey, I scaled the porch and went inside.
“Did you finish?”
I just grumbled and headed for the bathroom. A cold should would lower my body temp and make me feel better. I staggered into the bathroom and turned on the shower only to be greeted by extremely low water pressure. “What the…” Then it dawned on my that I had left the water running in the trough outside. So I turned off the shower and headed back outside. I scaled down the porch again, turned off the water then began climbing back up the porch, only to catch my leg on a old screw that was sticking up. Even though I was lightheaded, I grabbed the drill and tightened down the offending screw and, once again, scaled the porch.
With the outside water turned off, I hopped (hobbled) into the shower and immersed myself in the cold agua. After cooling off in the shower, I relaxed on the bed, figuring that I would get up and finish the stairs in a bit when it, ahemm, cooled off.
After a couple of hours, I decided to get up and try again. The back is the only entrance and exit to the house as we don’t use the front door. But now there were no stairs which meant doing much of anything was impossible. As I arose from the bed, I noticed pain. Immediate pain. Back pain, arm pain, shoulder pain, etc… Apparently my body is not used to all this lifting and such and was rebelling. But the work had to get done so, I trudged forward.
I went outside and scaled the porch again, trying not to fall on the way down. This time I measured the stringer height which helped a little, and then laid the 8 ft steps across which fit pretty well, although not exactly. I began screwing each stair into place when I realized I was running low on screws. Consequently, each stair got 3 screws instead of the 6 it needed (Don’t worry, I got more screws and put them in a couple of days later.)
After putting the handrails on, I glanced down at my handiwork with more a feeling of relief than satisfaction. I took another drink of lukewarm water and headed inside for another cold shower and a rest. After lounging on the bed and surfing the net for a couple of hours, I got up to start dinner when my entire body seized up. This was even worse than before. I could hardly move. And tomorrow was my day to go take pictures at the zoo. I’d been looking forward to that for a week now and would really be disappointed if I couldn’t go, but how was I going to handle lugging around camera equipment and tripod in the heat when I could barely move?
Will our hero be able to take pictures? We he be able to get up out of bed? Or is he paralyzed for life? Or at least the rest of the weekend? Tune in next time for ‘The weekend fiasco – Part 3 – The Zoo Chronicles’
Sore…that’s what I’ve been feeling for the last few days…sore. And it’s now worse. There are several reasons for this, all of which would be too long for a single blog post, so this story will be broken up into smaller, bite size chapters, for your easy consumption.
Now let me just start by saying I’m not going to just whine. I find comedy in my suffering in and I think you do too, so let me lay out the events of the previous few days.
Stairs. That’s where the story starts, is with my back stairs. You see, 5 years ago I built a small back porch/deck on the house and put a small, 2 ft wide set of steps on the deck. Now the stairs are old and really, 2 ft is not wide enough for taking dogs in and out. So I decided we needed new steps, grand steps, 4 foot wide steps…yes…that’s what we need …4 ft wide steps.
Now I drive a fairly small car so the prospect of driving 35 miles with 8 ft 2X10s hanging out the back wasn’t that appealing, but a friend told me that Home Depot will cut each board one time for free. “This is perfect!”, I thought. I could get each board cut in half, it would be easier to manage and I wouldn’t have to make any cuts at the house. I could just screw it all together. Easy, huh? A quick call to Home Depot confirmed this and I set out on the start of my epic journey. I felt much like young Frodo Baggins, who also had no idea how bad he was going to get screwed by life just for walking out his front door.
So I went to home depot and loaded up my cart with 2X10s, which is no easy feat for a fat, outta shape guy like myself. I then began dragging my loaded down cart around looking for an employee. When I finally found a young gentleman in a Home Depot smock, I proudly and smugly asked who I should talk to about getting my lumber cut. I was greeted with a strange look, followed by, “We don’t do that here.”
I met the strange look with puzzlement. Wasn’t he aware of what my friend had said? And the what about the phone call…yes, the phone call confirming it with Home Depot? Was he somehow out of the loop on Home Depots board cutting policies?
“But I called and asked and they said…”, I trailed off.
“I don’t think we’ve ever done that here. “ He began to yell at another employee on the other end of the isle. ” Hey Brian do we precut preassure treated lumber?”
“Have we ever cut preassure treated lumber?” Ok guys, I got the point. I am a complete idiot. You don’t have to rub it in.
“Not that I know of.”
He turned back to me, and in a tone usually reserved for addressing a 5 year old who doesn’t understand that milk actually comes from cows, not cartons, he explained that they don’t cut the pressure treated lumber because their ventilation system is not OSHA certified to vent the chemicals that would be given off. Apparently they’ll cut every other kind of lumber EXCEPT the pressure treated.
I felt slightly less out of my mind to learn that it was the particular kind of wood I had, not all wood, that was subject to this policy and that my hearing and comprehension were not going the way of my waistline. Home Depot does, in fact, cut wood, just not the kind I wanted.
Not wanting to try to fit the large load in the car, I then proceeded to unload from my cart all that I am loaded. Again, this was no small feat.
I went home disappointed, but resolved that I could probably get the lumber home safely through the 35 mile trip and just cut it myself at home, assuming my saw was in good enough shape. Later in the evening, I checked it out and, while not in great shape, the saw was functional, so I decided to go back and get the lumber the next day.
And so ends phase 1 of my fiasco.
Here’s a shot I got of Cooper the Dachshund looking very sad, mainly because I’m not throwing his ball for him currently. I hated the background so I made it black and white, which set the dog of quite nicely. Day 8 of Project 365
I’ve been taking quite a few pictures of the moon lately and have posted some on flickr. Unfortunately, pictures of the moon get kinda old really quick, so I am just gonna bore everyone one last time with the latest one. I think it turned out really well.
I am an old school flickr guy. I was on flickr prior to yahoo. And while I think smugmug does a much better job displaying my pictures, flickr to me, is all about the community. That being said, there has been a project group floating around flickr for a few years called Project 365. You can probably figure out from the name what it’s all about, but just to make it clear, you take a picture that kind of represents your day, every day for a whole year. Now you don’t have to post it every day, you can bulk load when you get the time, but there has to be one picture for every day.
This project has always intimidated me. I just didn’t think I would be able to follow through with it, but I have decided to put my nose to the grindstone and try. I have successfully completed the National Novel Writing Month project (write a minimum 50,000 word novel during the month of November) as well as two National Podcast Post Month projects (produce and post a podcast every day for the month of November). I even was able to do NaNoWriMo and NaPodPoMo simultaneously this past year. Based on this, I am fairly confident I can do it for a month…a year, I’m not so sure about.
But since I am going to try this, I’m gonna share a few Project 365 pix every so often here at hoboslanding and what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t show you the very first snapshot.
Although I am somewhat ashamed to admit it, this is how I start almost every single day. This is my burst of caffine. Some people hit the coffee pot, I hit the dew. So what better way to start off the project with something representing the way I start each day?