“God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant, and the cat. He has no real style. He just keeps on trying other things.”
– Pablo Picasso
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As a child the joy of seeing animals at the zoo was unmatched. When I lived in Arizona, the zoo of choice was the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium (the aquarium part wasn’t there when I was younger). Feeding the giraffes was the best part of my visit, and even now, when I go back to visit the zoo, I spend a great deal of time feeding and photographing them. They are one of my favorite animals to photograph, and they are one of the few animals I’ve come across that enjoys getting their picture taken.
Just down the walkway you will find zebras, several types of deer and antelope, and the old rhino who lives there. Most of these animals could not care less that you’re there. In fact, in all the years I’ve gone to this zoo, I’ve only seen the rhino acknowledge one person, and they were feeding him. The zebras, during the cooler months of the year, will prance and kick, enjoying the weather. Their playful movements always warm my heart. Having grown up with horses all my life, I feel a sort of connection to them, even though they aren’t quite as friendly with the idea of people.
Throughout the zoo, there are scattered birds of the big and small variety. Some of them are caged, while others are free to wander around the grounds, and do as they please for the most part. Peacocks, flamingos, and parrots bring a lot of amazing life to this wonderful place with their wide range of colorful feathers. While most of them aren’t extremely fond of people, you do come across a few parrots who, with some coaxing, might talk to you. That always gets me excited!
The Wildlife zoo also has predators, and they bring about a certain respect and majesty, even though they are behind a fence. Most of the big cats in this zoo are tigers, and most of them are white tigers. Though they have lions, and leopards as well. But big cats are not the only predators here, they have manned wolves, african wild dogs, and a several others. Most of the predators are hard to photograph here, because the fences don’t really allow for an open view of them. So, if you’re looking to get a great tiger photo, this is sadly not the best zoo to get it.
A zoo is a great place to practice animal photography, and this little zoo was where I started to gain the ability to easily photograph them. Though, just about any zoo will work. Living in Minnesota now, I find myself at the Como zoo often. They are a smaller zoo than my usual, but they are free, and they have animals that you wont find in the Wildlife Zoo (like bears, wolves, and sea lions). Plus, it’d cost a lot to go all the way back to Arizona every time I want to go to the zoo!
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If you want to try your hand at animal photography, try going to your local zoo a few times. Getting photos of animals can be hard, and it takes patience. They might not be doing what you want them to do, but if you’re a good photographer, you can turn what they’re doing into a great photo. But if you’re not happy with what you’ve got, move on to something else and come back later. Chances are, they’ve moved or are doing something different by the time you get back.
The zoo is also a great place to get drawing references. If you’re longing for great inspiration to draw one of the animals at the zoo, take a camera, pad of paper, and pencils and get to work. Taking a few pictures of your subject (they don’t have to be great pictures) will give you a few references for when you go home. Before jumping into the drawing(s) you want to do, play around with a few quick sketches of your subject (QUICK, not a masterpiece, but a rough, non-detailed sketch of the overall shape). These will also give you good references for later, and will help you to get acquainted with the movement of drawing your subject.
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Thanks for reading! <3
Photos are mine.
(all taken at the Wildlife World Zoo)