Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Making the Most of Zoo Photograhpy

With fall [almost] setting in, my mind has been full of planning fun things to do.  There are pumpkin patches and apple orchards, walks in the park and photography sessions in the leaves, baking pies and festivals and Starbucks apple ciders.  Fall is also my absolute favorite time to visit the zoo!  Sure, it's enjoyable to go in the summer, but after a while all of your pictures start looking, well, the same.  Because the animals look like this... ;)

So! In case you decide you want to take advantage of the cooler season to visit your local zoo, here are some of the photography tricks I've found to make the most of your opportunity to see amazing animals, in spite of the photogenically unfortunate safety measures in our way.

One) Bring a Zoom Lens!

This provides so many options, especially when shooting outside.  I always carry around a prime (probably 35 mm) and some form of zoom (usually a  200 or 300 telephoto.) Not only does it mean you can take pictures of the animals even if they are not close to you, but, as a bonus, can be used as a rough replacement for binoculars for your group.  I am rarely the only one looking through the camera, even if I'm the only one actually taking pictures.

Two) Manual Focus

If you are not used to using the manual focus switch on your camera, I highly recommend using it when going to the zoo.  The autofocus built in most cameras has a tendency to focus on wires, bars, cages, even glass, instead of whatever it is inside that you are trying to take a picture of.  When you are using manual, you have the option of choosing where you want the focus to be.  It might take a bit of practice, and so will sometimes be a bit more fuzzy than you like (as in my bird below), but it will still be better than a picture of a wire cage.

Three) Pay Attention - to all of the animals.

Sure, you may be there to see the lions and tigers or bears (or with kids who either only want to see a single animal or can't stay on one for even two minutes) but try to  pay attention to the other animals there.  You never know what you will see if you're looking outside of the "main attraction."  Like this beautiful black swan situated out of the way.

Four) Don't forget the People.

More than likely you're not going to the zoo by yourself.  Keep in mind that photos of people watching the animals can be just as intriguing as pictures of the animals themselves.

Five) Watch for Reflections

Glass can be a nightmare for photographers.  But if there was no glass, certain dangerous zoo animals would be on the loose, so it really is a necessity.  Still, watch out for reflections.  Try positioning yourself at an angle, waiting for most of the crowd to pass and move on their way, or investing in a polarizing filter.

I'd love to hear if anyone has any thoughts! Favorite animal? More photography insight?! :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rested but Weary

"If my energy is spent or I'm just not into the work, the first thing I'm doing is to hold it up to the Lord.  Am I doing the wrong thing? Am I managing my time poorly?  It's okay to feel tired sometimes, but I shouldn't be weary if I'm doing what He's called me to do.  If He's called me, He's equipped me."   - Tapestry Magazine, issue 1

If my energy is spent, the first thing I'm doing is trying to get some extra sleep, or reaching for some (probably unhealthy) food to keep me going.  I lose patience and cry far more easily. Sometimes I complain, or constantly zone out.  Sometimes I'll talk to God and ask Him to get me through it.  These are my responses with being tired or weary.  My first response should be to go straight to God when I'm tired.  But when I'm weary, day in and day out, there might be a deeper problem to address...

First, what am I doing?  How and when am I doing it? Am I in God's will?  Life is so full, with so many responsibilities, requirements, and rushing.  Do I stop and consider God's plan in the midst of my own scheduling? I get tired of hearing people say how the enemy is attacking them, how they are too tired to participate, that they are too busy to come.  People have so much going on, they add to it constantly, then complain when they grow weary.  And here I am doing the same.  Then we push on and often grow more weary.  And more frustrated at exhaustion or failure.  The catch is, if we are doing things - even good things - without working with God and through His purpose, what is actually going to succeed on the level we anticipate?  Why do we try to do things on our own, then become surprised when it doesn't work out?  When weary in daily activities, the first thing to be done is lay them before God.  Ask Him what He would have us do with each task, project, or commitment.  Does my lifestyle need to change, are my priorities straight, or do I need to drop something completely?  God has equipped me to do what He has called.

As I read through Tapestry's article, something in the back of my mind bothered me: don't Christians, in God's will, ever become truly weary? But if He has equipped us, how is this possible? Then I realized, this was written with the author's assumption that your relationship with God is already correct.

This brings me to my second point, the second thing we should do when we feel certain we are in God's will, and yet still find ourselves in a constant state of weariness: check our relationship with God.  It may be deeper than making sure your actions and plans line up with God's.  It may be your heart.  We need to make sure our heart is lined up with God.  Perhaps this should be done before checking our actions, but I fear few people would think to check their hearts first.

 Anymore, it is hard enough to get people to go to church even once a week, let alone read their Bible every day, forget getting something out of it.  It is no wonder we have a nation of weary Christians.  Even if you are acting inside His will and are in His place for you, if you are not abiding in Him and cultivating that relationship, you will grow weary.  We need both: to have a growing and faithful relationship with God, as well as the knowledge and conviction that we are living and acting inside His will.

This means take it to God.  Give it all to God.  Your plans, your worries, your obligations, your frustrations. Your family time, church time, personal time, work time, sleep time.  Are you sure you are managing this the way God would have you? Am I certain that I have talked to God about what I am doing? Beyond that, do I know that my relationship with God is where it should be? Have I spent any time with Him lately?  If the answer to any of these questions is no, I think that is our problem. Going to God, and fixing what is wrong, will be our way out of the constant state of weariness.