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Photography at Paignton Zoo

29th June 2018

ESF and Lottery logoTorbay CDT and Cosmic took a trip down to Paignton Zoo this month with a group of participants to show them the effectiveness of their cameras on their phones, and how wildlife and nature can provide some of the best photography opportunities. With it being a weekday, the zoo was reasonably quiet with only a few school trips and casual day trippers about, leaving us almost the entire park to explore ourselves.

Although, to be honest, if they wanted to just look at the monkeys, we could've stood outside and let them take photos of me!

Photography at Paignton Zoo

With a phone camera, the major limitation is the lens. A lot of the spiel around phone cameras as a selling point is the resolution they can snap a shot at, but if the lens isn't up to scratch those shots won't look as detailed or as effective as they could.

Thankfully there are solutions. Simple clip-on camera lenses are available at a very cheap cost, allowing for wide angle, fish eye and macro shots. We were able to demonstrate these and allow each participant to use them effectively to get the most out of their photography experience.

This was really evidenced when we happened across a Silverback gorilla having a sunbathe out in the open. Presumably to minimise the carnage that would occur should he have direct access to the visitors, he was behind a moat and fence several hundred feet away. For us, it was a case of selecting the right lens and using a careful amount of digital zoom to get the best quality shot possible.

Throughout the day, all the participants had a Photo Challenge sheet designed to get them thinking about what makes for awe-inspiring photography. Throughout we chatted about leading lines, and the Rule of Thirds so they would be able to consider the composition of their shots and improve their confidence with digital photography.

As the day drew to a close, we made the Big Cat compound our last stop. There was an amazing moment where a group of lionesses were sleeping on top of a little hut, perfectly in the middle of a natural frame made from the trees. The participants had been so keen to learn that they saw this frame themselves, rather than needing to be advised.

The creativity this session brought out in the participants was eye-opening, even for someone like myself who has worked with the group for over a year. Being able to combine digital technology and nature is always a challenge, but capturing it visually or sonically, supported by digital, provides a huge sense of achievement.

Next stop, Monkey World! Providing we can get windscreen wiper insurance for the minibus.