South Lakes Wild Animal Park: The Ultimate Interactive Experience

After looking back at my posts, I’ve realised that I never actually talked about my filming at ‘South Lakes Wild Animal Park’ back in May 2013 so that’s what this post it about.

I first approached the zoo just before Easter last year after deciding that I desperately needed some more experience in filming animals. If I’m going to film animals in the wild then

having a go at filming animals closer to home seems like a good way to practice and gather some more skills in that particular area. When they got back to me, I was told that the zoo would like a short promotional video about the hand feeding elements and after having visited the zoo in the past, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do what I enjoy and get up close to some of the animals at the same time. The only problem at this stage was the fact that, as the name suggests, the zoo is in the South Lakes in Cumbria whilst I was down in Wales in Cardiff but luckily I was off back home for a bit the next month and so it all seemed to come together quite well.

That was until I checked the weather reports. Oh dear. It had been quite nice leading up to the filming; all the pre-production planning was done and I was looking forward to getting back out and doing some filming but the weather didn’t think so. It was going to rain. I worried quite a bit beforehand as my camera isn’t very waterproof and my cover can get in the way but there was no point worrying about it; it’s always best to just get on with things instead of dwelling too much on what could go wrong. So we set off hoping for the best and looking forward to the day’s filming.

The filming itself went well and it was nice to get up close to and take part in some of the hand feeding with the animals as well. The giraffes in particular were a highlight as their inquisitiveness led to some good shots along with the curiosity of the lemurs who made sure that there was definitely an entertainment aspect to the film! Likewise, the penguins wereScreen Shot 2014-03-17 at 17.34.08also incredibly entertaining and one in particular to a shine to my camera and tried to have a little nibble before wandering off to be fed some more fish along with his friends. It was definitely nice to be able to see such well looked after animals and see other people learning so much about the conservation projects needed to save so many of the species.

During the day, as expected, it did rain quite a bit so it was a case of getting all the outside shots sorted in the odd dry patch and pretty much fitting in around the weather. It was a bit annoying at times as I needed to get shots of the visitors walking around the park which was a little bit hard when people were running for cover every 10 minutes but I think we got there in the end! Filming isn’t always straight forward and if it is, expect something to go wrong in post-production!

Overall, I have to say that although it was challenging at times, this particular promotional film has to be one of my favourite projects. Being able to interact with the animals whilst also maintaining professionalism was a valuable lesson and one that I know will be incredible useful in the future. I have heard a lot of people talking about zoos and saying that they are cruel places and yes I agree that some of they are but this one definitely isn’t. The animals are free to wander in huge enclosures and with the expansion of the park, even bigger spaces to roam around and they aren’t forced into the hand feeding activities; they can come and go as they wish. If they were herded in and forced to interact with the visitors then I wouldn’t have filmed there but that really wasn’t the case. My only complaint is that it would have been nice to have taken some more photographs as well as filming, the big cats were the perfect subjects, but I suppose that’s for another visit!

Here is the final promotional film:


Eye To Eye: Animal Encounters at the Zoo

As I’ve mentioned before, many people think that photography at zoos is an “easy” way of photographing exotic and interesting animal species and yet when it comes to it, it’s really not easy at all. Like in the wild, the animals movements can be unpredictable and smears on glass and fine wire fences can prove to be a real problem at times, especially when there are a lot of visitors eager to get up close to themselves. However, it is also a very satisfying experience and the perfect way to practice animal photography on a smaller scale.  People may judge the very nature of the genre yet if natural history filmmakers use zoos to obtain difficult shots or sequences they couldn’t in the wild, why can’t photographers? For me, zoo photography allows me to get up close to animals I couldn’t normally see without paying a fortune to travel the world and so providing that the animals are well cared for and there are conservation programmes in place, zoos are a photography paradise.

The following gallery was created to showcase the connection made between the person and the animal, through a long stare or fleeting glance. In my opinion, the inquisitiveness of each one highlights the individual personalities and really illustrates the idea that humans are just a single part of a huge, interwoven and global natural web.


Photography At The Zoo: Take 2

Bitten by the bug of zoo photography (again!), last week we headed to Bristol Zoo to have another go. With such a wide variety of animals and a completely different way of showing them, it was a lot of fun trying to capture them in the best way possible. The glass, at times, proved to be a bit of an issue as it was a very sunny day and so there tended to quite a lot of reflection but the animals were all active and playful which made it all the more interesting. The lions in particular were some of my favourites as I’d visited last year when they were only tiny so it was nice to see them growing up and still so much trouble!

After last week’s post, I’ve had a few people commenting and saying that zoo photography really isn’t an achievement because you know where the animals are and so the mystery is taken out of it. Whilst I do agree with this, I think that as with anything it is important to improve your skills and practicing to get better and so for exotic wild animals there is no better place than a zoo or safari park to do so when it’s hard to travel abroad. As long as the animals are cared for well and there aren’t any welfare issues then zoos can be the perfect place to prepare yourself and learn more about your own style of photography.

Capturing Captivity

After being provided with a couple of tickets to Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Bristol in exchange for some marketing photographs, we headed back there on Thursday to try and obtain some better shots of the lions. It was a particularly chilly day so armed with hats and gloves we set off towards the big cats to have a little look at them first and to prepare a bit. Straight away one of the females walked over and seemed to know we needed to take photos of her, slowly walking to her sister, yawning and turning to face us. I had thought it would take a lot longer to get such good images and so I was pleased that we were then able to have a look around at the other animals as well including my favourites, the giraffes, and the magnificent tigers.

A lot of people have been saying that zoo photography is a cheating version of wildlife photography but I couldn’t disagree more. Yes the animals may be easier to spot but the majority of the time you have to be very patient and work around a number of obstacles in order to get a vaguely decent image. It’s a perfect opportunity to ‘rehearse’ your photography skills on wild animals that you wouldn’t normally be able to see and whilst I strongly oppose zoos where the animals are kept in terrible conditions and are quite clearly miserable, I find them extremely useful places for photography and expanding my knowledge and skills. Whilst researching this particular genre, I also came across a number of articles that pretty much said that unless you are able to make it look like the animal is in it’s natural environment, then you are taking an amateur approach. I think whilst this can be the case, showing some of the background can add a lot to a photograph like the cage and a big cat- it adds a lot to the mood and contrasting ideologies present in the images. I’ve chosen to use this method as well as trying to eliminate it too as I am very interested in showing the truth through my work as well as the contrasting ideas of freedom combined with captivity.