Photographing through the cage

Shooting through the cage can be done, this spotted jaguar was shot through the cage, the cage doesn't show up in front of it, however, it is evident behind.

Shooting through the cage can be done, this spotted jaguar was shot through the cage, the cage doesn’t show up in front of it, however, it is evident behind.

We are nearing the season to head out to local zoos with cameras to try and get that perfect big cat photo. There are a number of different locations where you can go to photograph animals. Locally, many people in south Niagara will visit Safari Niagara in Stevensville.

This cat is way too close to the cage to get a decent shot. Wait until it's at least 10 feet away from the cage.

This cat is way too close to the cage to get a decent shot. Wait until it’s at least 10 feet away from the cage.

There, the animals are in cages, and to get that great photograph we have to contend with the cages. In order to help the amateur photographer heading to Safari Niagara for the first time, here are some tips to help you get good shots of the animals there.

First and foremost, you need to be prepared to take a lot of photos. It takes quite a few to shoot through the cages and have it all come together. You have to be patient.

Make sure that there is space between the animal and the cage. If they are too close to the cage, it will show in photos. The further away they are, the better chance of being able to minimize the cage showing in the photo.

Using a telephoto lens will be a big help when photographing through a cage. All photos for this article have been taken with a Nikon 300mm lens. Using a lens in the 300mm to 400mm range will result in better photos.

By using a 300mm lens and an aperture of f/5.6, this lion has been photographed through the fence, the fence virtually disappearing from the photo. You can still see the fence a bit around his closed eye.

By using a 300mm lens and an aperture of f/5.6, this lion has been photographed through the fence, the fence virtually disappearing from the photo. You can still see the fence a bit around his closed eye.

Telephoto lenses have a few effects associated with them that help when photographing through cages. They help compress the subject matter, make things appear to be flatter, two dimensional and greatly reduce the depth of field.

A reminder that depth of field refers to the amount of the photo that is in focus from the point closest to the photographer to the point furthest way. A telephoto lens will have a shallow depth of field associated with it, which means that the fence closest to you will become hazy and out of focus therefore showing less in the photo.

Making sure the area of the cage I was shooting through wasn't in direct sunlight helped reduce the effect of the cage in this photo.

Making sure the area of the cage I was shooting through wasn’t in direct sunlight helped reduce the effect of the cage in this photo.

Another thing that will help with depth of field is the aperture setting. All examples in this article have an aperture of f/5.6 set so that the fence will be out of focus in the foreground and to greatly reduce the sharpness of the fence if it appears in the background of the photo.

Sometimes the cages are bright wire, sometimes they are a darker wire. I have actually had more success taking photos of the animals through the brighter wired cages than the darker ones. Light seems to be the major factor to help reduce the effect of any of the cages in your photograph. If the cage area you are shooting through is in bright sunlight, there is a better chance it will stand out more. I always try to find an area to shoot through that isn’t in direct sunlight.

Also, shooting at an angle to the cage, not straight on, will lessen the effect of the cage showing in the photograph.

It can be a lot of fun taking photos of the animals at local zoos, but, dealing with the cages is very difficult. These tips hopefully will help you when you head out for a spring visit.

Remember, though, the real key is patience. You will have to take a lot of photos of the animals to come up with that perfect shot.

My favourite shot of the white Royal Bengal Tiger took several visits and about 300 photos to get everything to come together perfectly.

My favourite shot of the white Royal Bengal Tiger took several visits and about 300 photos to get everything to come together perfectly.

 

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