Having Patience While Photographing Animals

Most of my photography takes place in several different zoos in the Bay Area of California and during my zoo visits I am there normally from opening to about an hour before closing time. I have been doing this for over 3 years on a weekly basis which has taught me you have to have a lot of patience to get the photographs you want. I also visualize a picture that I want to take but normally I do not succeed with getting my envisioned picture until several trips later to the zoo because your envisioned picture will only happen on the animals terms not yours. Over 3 years ago I envisioned a picture of a Tiger sleeping with its head on her paws and then opening her eyes and looking straight into the camera with her head still on her paws. Almost 2 years later I was able to achieve the picture that I had envisioned which you can see HERE. That shot took a lot of patience for me especially since there was many times I was almost able to achieve it but some thing got in the way like a rock or several blades of grass but when I finally got the shot I was extremely excited and loved how it turned out.

At the San Francisco Zoo I normally know before most people when we have a new big cat or when one is pregnant because I know the staff at the zoo. When I was told that the zoo had a female Sumatran Tiger was in quarantine and that we would be getting a male Sumatran Tiger after she was out of quarantine to be apart of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) I got really excited because I knew that eventually I would be able to have cub pictures. What made me even more excited about this future SSP couple was I had already gotten to know the male tiger through one of my friends pictures several years prior to him coming to the San Francisco Zoo. After the female was out of quarantine and had gotten use to the keepers I had advance notice that they would be letting her come outside to be viewed by the public so my day of finally waiting to see her came. I was sitting out in front of her enclosure all day watching her and waiting for the right moments to get pictures of her and it paid off because I got several that I really liked. The picture to the right was from the first day she was out in the enclosure and she was sitting in the grass watching hummingbirds that kept on flying through the trees above her. I waited the same way I did with her when her new mate was revealed to the public but to me it was very important to see him since I have enjoyed viewing pictures of him for the past several years before his arrival.

In February of this year I found out that the female Sumatran Tiger was pregnant and was do within the next couple of weeks. I was told in secrecy which was just killing me cause I wanted to tell people that knew the two tigers prior to coming to the zoo but I was not allowed to. When the time came we had 3 male cubs at the zoo born. After the cubs birth I was told it would be several months before the public would be viewing them but after a month the mother started bringing the cubs out one at time in the public view. As soon as I heard that she started doing this I went to the zoo and waited for a little over 4 hours at their enclosure just to get a glimpse of one of the cubs. I never left the enclosure because I knew if I had most likely I would have missed the chance to see them. When she finally did bring one of the cubs out I had about a 30 minute window to view the cub before she took him back inside. It was a magical moment and waiting to take the pictures was worth it because I got to see the cub exploring the enclosure for one of the first times and so far the mother has been proving to be a great Mom.

I will sit at many different animal enclosures and just wait because I feel like patience is the true key to Animal Photography since you work on there terms not yours.

Photo credits: Susan Pettitt.

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