Howletts Animal Park Photography Experience

Discussion in 'Photography Forums' started by snerkler, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. snerkler

    snerkler
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    As some will know I went on a photography experience day at Howletts Wildlife Park yesterday and so I thought I'd share my experience. I posted a bit in a previous thread so some of this is duplicate.

    Howletts is a really nice park, great enclosures and well looked after animals with plenty of variety, ranging from big cats to elephants to small monkeys and anteaters.

    The photography experience was hands down one of the best experiences of my life. I have never, and probably will never get so close to wild animals like this again. They organise it so that you get to the enclosures at feeding time so that the animals are up close and personal. At one point I was up against the mesh and the tiger literally brushed past me. You aren't allowed to touch the animals but it's not my fault if a tiger touches me ;) Also, at one point the photography guy was feeding the tiger through the fence next to me and I strictly adhered to the no touching rule and absolutely did not stroke the tiger through the fence. With a couple of pieces of meat he held the meat high up and the tiger stood on it's back legs, they're one big cat :eek: This particular tiger was rescued and hand reared after it's mother tried to kill her, in the process breaking both front paws and legs :( It has a very severe limp and no way would have survived in the wild.

    Again, at the lion enclosure you are right next to the them, and I mean right next to them. All that separates you from them is a mesh fence. You are so close you can feel their breath, and I had a lion roar in my face from literally 6" away if not closer. I also got very wet when it shook itself dry after going for a dip ;) Interestingly the male had no mane, and this was due to him being castrated to prevent inter-breeding. As soon as they're castrated they lose their manes.

    Again the black rhinos were within touching distance, they are some seriously impressive animals, and weirdly cute ;) With the elephants you had to stand about 6-8 feet away when they were close as they can reach with their trunk and give you a good slap, or grab your camera ;) Once though when they'd moved away I was shooting through the fence one snook up from the side and charged at me. The keeper just saw it at the last minute and brought it to my attention. Thrilling experience turning and seeing an elephant feet away from you at full charge. Good job my reflexes are still in good working order ;)

    After lunch you get in the back of a trailer and go into the large 'field' that has a few different plain animals, deer and buck etc. They tried to get the buck to run as apparently they jump quite high but they weren't playing ball. That being said a couple did jump a bit and I was lucky enough to capture it. We weren't allowed into one of the small monkey enclosures as one had had a baby that night/morning and they've lost the last 3 so are being very protective, and rightly so. They didn't even know if this one was alive and/or feeding but fortunately having my 600mm lens proved invaluable and I got a picture of it from outside and it looked like the baby was feeding. The park staff were very relived :) At the gorilla enclosure you have to stay behind the glass as they can reach through the fence and grab you, which made taking photos a bit tricky. But that didn't bother me, it was just such a privilege being able to get so close.

    The lemur enclosure is free for the general public to walk around, however we were allowed to step over the small fence and get right up to the feeding table. I had Lemurs jumping over over me, running through my legs and trying to get in my back pack ;)

    The photographer who took us round was an absolute top bloke, really nice guy, helpful and full of good stories and experiences to share. He's done shoots for various wildlife magazines and books etc, including national geographic. We got on very well and he's asked me to keep in touch which was very nice, and am only too happy to do so. He came to meet me and my wife at the car park afterwards to show me some of his work from around the world. Stunning, there's no other word for it. Not only pin pin sharp, but beautifully composed and with stunning backdrops and great 'moments' captured.

    So all in all as you can probably tell I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Apart from my wedding day I can't think of a better experience I've had off the top of my head. Just to get so close to the animals was an experience in itself, but then to be able to take photos was the icing on the cake. I just hope my photos do it justice. I will obviously be posting them, but I have approx 96GB of photos to sift through :blush: Here's a few for now (next post) ;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2015
  2. snerkler

    snerkler
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    Last edited: Jul 16, 2015
  3. twist

    twist
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    Pretty sure that tiger was a cub when I went last, there were 2 of them, I think 1 passed away though.

    Whats up with the funky OOF in 1 and 2, were you behind the fence / glass. Not seen anything like it before. 1 looks like its perhaps fence, 2 has loads of tight vert lines.
     
  4. snerkler

    snerkler
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    New technique I was trying :laugh:

    Dunno, was shooting through a fence so could be that, but the mesh wasn't that close/tight. One thing I found weird was, when shooting through the mesh fences AF struggled even though I was using single point and the point was well in the centre of any mesh so seeing right through.
     
  5. twist

    twist
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    Why didnt you use the VRII focus limiter?
     
  6. roll1later

    roll1later
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    Sounds like you had a great time, my misses did something very similar and you can't beat getting up close and personal, really pleased you had a great experience :)
     
  7. snerkler

    snerkler
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    Too close a lot of the time.
     
  8. Kei86

    Kei86
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    Try checking to see if added clarity in LR is affecting it. You can stick with 0 clarity for the whole image and use the adjustment brush to put positive clarity on the in focus areas. In some cases, you can cheat a bit too and add a second adjustment for the OOF areas with negative clarity to smooth out busy bits. (though this doesn't always work as it can make it look odd)
     
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  9. snerkler

    snerkler
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    Just thought I'd share these that my wife took of me at Howletts so that you can see how close you get.

    1.
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    [​IMG]
     
  10. topgazza

    topgazza
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    Apart from the guy in the brown jacket which ones you in that last shot , 8 ? :eek:

    Love the last one of the Rhino in the first set. But have to say your wife's a pretty useful TOG .....
     
  11. kBm

    kBm
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    May i ask how much was the experience?
     
  12. GaseousClay

    GaseousClay
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    You need to wear a hat in that bright sunshine... :)


    snerks.jpg


    :thumbsup:
    :D
     
  13. snerkler

    snerkler
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    I don't know tbh as it was a gift. Will be on the website though. Just google Aspinal Wildlife Foundation and go to the experiences.
     
  14. snerkler

    snerkler
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    Would have to be paid good money to wear that ;)

    It was only sunny for that first hour, gradually deteriorated but for the most part gave nice soft light :)
     
  15. GaseousClay

    GaseousClay
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    FTFY :p
     
  16. kBm

    kBm
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    You have a generous wife. ;)
     
  17. snerkler

    snerkler
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    I was actually quite surprised by some of the cameras that people took. I knew it was quite expensive (although wasn't sure of the actual price) and so assumed people would be there with some serious gear, but most had compacts or bridges, one had a small Nikon DSLR with kit lens. Bet they thought I was a right tool with my 70-200 and 150-600 :blush: :laugh:
     
  18. briantopp

    briantopp
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    That actually answered the question I was going to ask as the lady in your wife's 2nd photo looks like she's using a bridge. Like you I assumed it'd be geared up to a decent standard of kit.
     
  19. Sarg0r

    Sarg0r
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    I've done it, and loved it and one lady turned up without a camera (had assumed they'd be provided......) and one lady with a point and click!
    Dave the pro spent the first 15 minutes trying to find some kind of manual mode which was interesting
     
  20. AMc

    AMc
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    May be naive but not entirely incomprehensible - if you turn up for a lap of a racing circuit experience they tend to have the supercar :)
    I can see why you might expect everyone to be packing a massive camera but to lots of people their compact IS an expensive camera and they're more interested in access to the animals and some tips on how to take a better pic.
    Sounds like a fun day :)
     
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