The challenge of animal photos

Animal photography can be very challenging. The animals can provide a great deal of charm and amusement. But getting the results you want will require some time and lots of patience, especially in zoos, where bars and fences always seem to be in the way. Getting rid of these obstacles will require a telephoto lens, preferably in the 135-mm to 200-mm range. I have successfully used a 90 mm with the lens shade removed, however; it just fits nicely into that diamond fencing so prevalent in many zoos and animal parks.

Another way to conquer the bars is with a 200-mm or close-proximity lens, which can be placed close to the fence for the picture. The fence won't appear in your picture but will act more like a diffusing screen, making your picture slightly soft. Longer lenses also enable you to put the background out of focus, which gives a pleasing effect, especially in zoos.

Angles are important, too. Being at eye level with your subject or a little lower will usually bring pleasing results.

Don't forget real close-ups. There are lots of patterns that are most interesting - spots, stripes, and various textures you can have fun with. Keep in mind when working really close to your subject that depth of field is restricted: Any camera or subject movement can cause your pictures to go out of focus.

The countryside is undoubtedly my favorite location for photographing animals - small farms, lakes, and streams where all the creatures are found in their natural environment.

The spring offers many opportunities for the newborn lambs, piglets, and ducklings, plus a variety of many others. Don't forget the barn cat, which usually holds special interest among all the animals on a farm.

Try to capture the mood and character of your subjects - get involved. Animals have many expressions which indicate their moods, and it's your job as a photographer to capture those that give an indication of the subjects' character.

Available light is almost a must. Flash will result in harsh lighting, which takes the mood out of your photo; it will also make your subjects very skittish.

Silhouettes can be fun, like a farmer feeding a calf from a pail at the entrance of the big barn door. Just expose for the light outside the barn, paying attention to the background, and you will get a photo interesting to all.

Patience and an understanding of your subject will undoubtedly put into your photo album pictures that will long be remembered and enjoyed by everyone. Keep in mind that since animals can't talk or take directions, there's a special challenge in photographing them. But the results will be very rewarding.

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