Boys and girls today we will have little a lesson on “do as I say … not as I did”.
You see; I had a great opportunity to capture some awesome shots of the Bornean orangutans at the Topeka Zoo…. it didn’t go as well as I would have liked. Due to the colder temperatures outside that day, the orangutans were indoors where they snuggled up with cozy blankets and passed the time by watching the visitors on the other side of their window and enjoying nice long winter naps.
Now; when shooting through the glass, or Plexiglas, windows at the zoo you run into a few problems; problems like glare, reflections, poor lighting and tinted glass, and those darn dirty windows. I am fully aware of these problems and I know how to deal with them.
To deal with the glare only use your flash if it is absolutely necessary. I try not to use mine at all in this situation and instead choose to turn up that good ol’ ISO and adjust the shutter speed and aperture accordingly. It works as long as you don’t get that shutter too slow and cause yourself a lot of camera shake in your image. [Here's where the first do as I say ... not as I did comes in. Yes, sadly I had my shutter too slow more than once during that visit.]
If you do have to use your flash change the angle of your flash; either by tilting the flash head or if you are using a fixed angle flash change your shooting angle by stepping to the side and shooting at an angle instead of straight on.
To handle those ugly ol’ reflections make sure you take a look around through your view finder before hitting that shutter button. Just to look for reflections that may show up in your image. [I managed to miss the larger reflections but as you can see in some of these images; a few small ones snuck in there. Again do as I say boys and girls and not as I did. Watch closely for those reflections!]
What to do about that poor lighting and tinted glass that can cause the colors to look all wrong. Well; there are two ways that I see you can handle this one. Adjust your white balance setting in camera at the time of the shoot. [Here we go again kids... I didn't and don't usually take the time for this one. Yes; it is a bad habit of mine. I rely far to much on post processing for this one.] I simple use Canon’s DPP software to adjust my white balance after the fact, and as you can see, sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes I still don’t get it exactly right. So what I’m telling you to do for this one is practice, practice practice both of these techniques and get really good at the one that works best for you.
Dirty window? We all have them. Why should the orangutans and their friends be any different than us? Most of this dirt and crime will be on the inside of the glass and the only thing you can do about that is… move to another spot. For the dirt that is on your side of the glass you could carry a small towel in your bag that can be used to swipe a way some of those smudges. [You caught me. I had no small towel in my bag.] Another option is if you are familiar with the zoo and know what their cleaning schedule looks like; plan your visit around that schedule and shoot away as soon as the windows have been done!
Why is a dirty window an issue? Aside from the obvious ugly spots in your image a dirty window can actually interfere with your camera’s ability to focus on the animals behind it. And here’s another do as I say … not as I did tip for ya. Boys and girls don’t be afraid to switch that lens over to manual focus when and if the situation calls for it. Had I done that one little thing alone I would have had better results.
I imagine that in these small low res images you might not notice all the mistakes I made; and that’s fine with me. But I will share this last one with you. A 100% crop that shows you how I should have taken the extra second and focused manually on this adorable baby and kept a closer eye on my shutter speeds to prevent that nasty ol camera shake.
And thus ends our lesson on “do as I say … not as I did”. I hope you have learned a thing or two! Now back to the rest of the images from this visit. I do hope I have done a better job with the other animals.