Werribee Open Range Zoo

Lion Cubs

On Monday I went to Werribee Open Range Zoo with my sister. When I’ve been taking a lot of photos of people – doing portraits or con photos – I always need to decompress by doing something completely different.
When I heard that there were four newborn cubs at Werribee I knew I wanted to go and see them before they got too big! We were really lucky, because that day was the first time people were allowed up close to the glass (they had to be introduced to crowds very gradually). They didn’t seem bothered at all, and made a great show of sharing their first bone, rolling around on the grass practicing pouncing and stalking, and bothering their parents.
One of the best parts was watching them all sit up when they heard their dad growling, and then start to run around trying to growl like him.
They are such beautiful, graceful animals and it was so rewarding just sitting quietly and watching them. The lion cubs were obviously the big drawcard, but I found the lioness just as captivating to watch. She seemed very patient with her new babies, constantly making sure they were all getting a chance to eat the bone and giving them baths. She didn’t seem overly bothered by us all watching, every so often casting us a glance but then going back to her newborns. The photo that I took of her was probably my favourite of the day.
This did nothing whatsoever to quell my wish to one day do a proper safari. I can’t even begin to imagine how amazing that would be.

Werribee Open Range Zoo // August 2016

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!

Werribee Open Range Zoo

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.

Beautiful Gorilla, Werribee Open Range Zoo

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 :/

Majestic, Werribee Open Range Zoo

Hippo, Werribee Open Range Zoo

For more of my wildlife (and other) photography check out my portfolio – Stardust and Melancholy Photography