A View from the Zoo

Greetings from the road to Terre Haute.  Linda and I are on our way back home from our trip to French Lick (chuckle) and thanks to being so far behind on posts this month I have resorted to using our travel time to pump a few blog posts out.  Today we have a special treat and by that I mean a guest photographer.  The first stop on our mini-vacation was to the Indianapolis Zoo.  Linda and I loaded up all of our camera equipment and headed out for a day of mirror slapping.  Later that night, Linda post processed some of her pictures for her peeps on Facebook (sigh).  I must say, she produced some amazing shots and thought I would share them with you.  Let’s start with the big cats.

That cat came out tack sharp with nice detail in the fur.  The tiger also has a look of intent as it stares down a small child with a face painting of a deer… kidding, it was actually watching his mate (below) taking a morning swim.  In truth, I would hate to be a deer that came face to face with that killing machine.  The composition isn’t the only thing that impresses me about this particular shot.  The fact that it even came out at all is a credit to Linda’s photographic abilities.  The tiger was actually behind GLASS at high sun.  One might be able to dismiss this as pure luck (hints of a certain sunflower picture), but then she pulled out this shot.

She also captured the tiger’s mate taking a swim in their pond.  Again, tack sharp (check), captivating expression (check), difficult lighting (check) with the added composition element of reflection (score).  All that is plenty enough but yes, it was taken through the very same glass protecting it from us.  She actually manually focused these shots to compensate for the false glass readings.  My only credit point is I taught her how to take pictures in full manual exposure mode which she is now downplaying as just a refresher from her 35mm Pentax days.  This is probably a good time to point out that it was extremely hot the day we were there which is probably why a cat (notorious for not really liking water) decided to seek relief in the stream.  “How hot was it?… it was so hot, even the cheetahs had their sneakers off and lounging in the weeds.”

Although not through glass, this big cat shot was nicely done as well.  It was actually in mid sentence asking us if we’d be willing to get it a slurpy (antelope flavored) to help cool down.  One of the features at the Indy zoo was to test your speed against a cheetah.  I had heard the programmed announcer (Tony Stewart who helped fund this exhibit) initiating the races which were going off about 3 minutes apart.  I was actually feeling sorry for the poor cheetah having to continually race in blistering heat until I came upon the race site.  It was just an electronic simulation consisting of lights representing the cheetah’s speed above a single lane track for the human to run on.  If those lights were accurate, that cat can move!    The heat was getting to everyone that day and most of the animals were seeking any shelter they could find in their natural pens.  The polar bear below was taking a snooze when we first arrived at the zoo around 9:15am.

Hit the jump to see a few more great pictures of wildlife at the Indy Zoo

Due to the path we took through the exhibits, this is also the last animal we saw before heading back to the hotel.  Guess what, there he (or possibly she) was in the exact same position but it appeared it had taken a cooling dip since the fur seemed wet.   From a photographer perspective, harsh light on a white subject is about as difficult as it gets.  Linda was able to still get detail in the fur and as with tigers above, she accomplished this through glass.

Lastly, I give you (ummm guess that would be Linda gives you) a shot of the rhinos.    These two were definitely feeling the heat and basically stood there the whole time we were checking them out.  According to the exhibit literature they  actually sleep standing up and their eyes did look a little droopy.  Eventually one stuck its nose in the dirt and snorted out a dust cloud.  A visit to the zoo is not a full experience unless you learn something new.  That day’s take away was that rhinos have horrible vision.  They are badly nearsighted and apparently can’t really tell what things are until right on top of it.  They will even charge up to something just to figure out what it is.  To compensate for that deficiency their sense of smell is fantastic and can detect the presence of other animals long before you see them.  Of course, any animal wishing to really take on these beasts must have a pressing desire to win the animal kingdom Darwin Award.

In summary, we both thought the Indianapolis Zoo was nice, but a smaller version of the St. Louis Zoo which is one of our favorite photography spots and to be honest, that zoo is free.  The Indy zoo is 15.95 per person (we had a 10% off coupon from the Indy website), but the dolphin show was free – you have to pay additional fees at the St. Louis Zoo.  Note, both zoos charge you to park.  The kept it very clean and based on all the signs and construction choices they are very green centric.  I’m skeptical of their down 2 up 2 home thermostat program but I decided to overlook that.  Linda was very appreciative of their air conditioned dolphin show and indoor exhibits (penguins, shark petting and gift shop).  She was not at all happy with the reptile exhibit due to her irrational (my words) phobia where I thought it rivaled the one at the Denver Zoo.  To put how hot it was into perspective, we parked at the end of the aisle (end closest to the zoo) three or four rows from the entrance .  We were the only car in that row when we parked there in the morning.  At 3:00pm when we left the zoo, we were still the only car in that row and there were plenty of spaces even closer to the entrance gates.  If there was one benefit, we did not have to fight the crowds for good viewing areas and we could use our tripods pretty much wherever we wanted to – although Linda hand held the D90 with the 200mm glass for all these pictures.

I have to tip my hat to Linda on this particular shoot – my pictures are not post processed yet, but it will be hard to come up with pictures any better than these especially given the conditions they were taken.  If she keeps this up, she’ll be working professionally and I’ll be stuck sitting in the peanut gallery.

… but I have pictures of bat sex which trumps all hehehe

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