My sister and I took ourselves to Werribee on a beautiful Winter’s day to try the “off-road safari” at Werribee Open Range Zoo here in Victoria. I’d been to Werribee before, but I’d never gone on the safari.
We had a really great safari tour guide, Matthew, who told us about the shift in zoos and wildlife parks away from the traditional attraction sites of the past to a focus on conservation and education, and the animals we saw definitely seemed to benefit from it.
They are given strictly limited human contact (only what conditioning is needed to help keep them manageable and safe) and the environment and species social groups help them to maintain their natural behaviours. It was actually really moving to see how happy and settled they seemed, even when we were driving around near them.
The only part I was disappointed about was that after the tour, we went to see the Lion enclosure but it was largely blocked off. The big cats are my favourite to photograph, so it was hard to take photos that worked from such a distance. I managed to get a couple of photos, but I wasn’t as happy with them.
I’m not really sure what prompted me to try editing them in black and white, I think I just tried it with one of the giraffe photographs and liked how striking the effect was. I did edit a couple of photos in a sort of low contrast, semi-matte colour, boosting the levels of the blues and greens using saturation levels in Lightroom, then selective colour in Photoshop. I made sure whatever I was doing with the colour in Photoshop to keep watching that the whites stayed white, which is always a good guide to keep things looking realistic (unless unrealistic is what you’re going for).
Taking photos of wildlife is, obviously, a completely different skill set to taking convention photos or portraits, and so it’s nice to stretch yourself and do something different!
Everything I’ve read has said that Wildlife photography is both one of the most popular forms of photography and also the hardest to break into. It is expensive both financially and time-wise, and there are very little avenues for one to make a living from it, unless you are lucky enough to be discovered by National Geographic or Discovery.
But I still love going to the zoo and taking photos. I find it both relaxing and challenging. It helps me to slow down and concentrate, to take differing conditions and make them work. To make it look like the pictures aren’t taken at a zoo takes a lot of work. I’m constantly awed by the animals and feel very humbled taking their photographs.
Werribee was a completely different experience than Melbourne Zoo. It felt less “caged”, and I could get really close. It was a very rainy day, so there was hardly anyone around. I felt very free to take my time, to sit patiently and watch for the right behaviour/mood/frame. It was one of the best experiences I have had photographing so far. A perfect precursor to how hectic the next few weeks will be :/
For more of my wildlife (and other) photography check out my portfolio – Stardust and Melancholy Photography