Wildlife World Zoo – Wait until feeding time!

Andy and I spent our Sunday afternoon at the Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park, Arizona.  It’s a small zoo that just happens to have a new aquarium on the property, and since it’s close by, we thought we would see if we could get some good photos of the animals.

We got there shortly after 1:00 PM, and for the first hour or two, we were pretty disappointed.  Most of the animals we saw were in smaller enclosures with lots of chain link or mesh fencing, and with the sun glaring off the metal it was hard to even see, much less photograph the animals inside.  Most of them were in the shady, hidden parts of their enclosures away from the midday sun.  Even though it’s winter here, the temperatures were in the high 60’s to low 70’s, and it gets pretty warm if you’re not in the shade.

After a couple hours, we finally stopped in a little cafe to get some ice cream, a cold drink and just rest our feet for a little bit.  After we started out again, we found we were in the part of the zoo where the enclosures were more open.  The exhibits in this area were larger for the bigger animals like the zebra, rhinoceros and giraffes, but most of them were still shying away from the open part of the enclosures so they were still hard to photograph.  Up until about 4:00 PM, the best shots I could get were of the swans and ducks that people were feeding in the ponds.  We tried really hard to get some decent shots of the white tigers, for which the zoo is well known, but once again the chain link enclosures ruined the photos.  We finally went to the 4:00 PM show where the zoo personnel bring out some small animals and let them perform for the kids (and us adults).  By the time the show ended about 4:30, the sun was starting to set, and that’s when the animals started to come alive.

We walked back through parts of the zoo we had already seen, and this time the animals were up and active.  It was feeding time in the park, and so it was like someone had flipped the “on” switch.  It also helped that the sun was at a lower angle, so the light wasn’t as harsh.  We were able to get some fairly decent shots of some of the larger animals before the sun got too low.

About 5:00 PM, we decided we had better go through the aquarium since it closes at 6:00.  I had my tripod with me, but I wasn’t really in the mood to use it inside the aquarium, so I didn’t get a lot of good shots in the dim light from the fish tanks.  They had some very nice exhibits in there, though, and we got to pet the starfish and the stingrays, which was fun.

We left the zoo about 6:00 and stopped at The Auld Dubliner in Park West for some good Irish food on the way home.  And now it’s time to wrap up the weekend and get ready for the work week.  I’ve transferred all the photos from my camera to the computer and I’ll start going through them this week, but I already have one favorite.  This is a shot of the baby ocelot that’s in the nursery at the zoo.  It’s about three months old and was just adorable.  This shot was taken without flash, through glass.

Oh, I’m happy to report that my new camera bag worked out splendidly on this excursion.  I still want to get the straps to attach the tripod to the bottom of the bag so that we don’t have to hand-carry it.  All in all, it was a very good weekend, but I’m bushed!!

Saturday in Tempe

It’s almost 10:00 PM, and I’m just winding up a full day of quality time with the hubby and the Nikon.  Since the weather in Sedona was going to be mostly cloudy and quite cool today, we decided to spend the weekend around the Valley instead.  Today our destination was Tempe.

We started our excursion with a trip to Tempe Camera.  I wanted to look for a new camera bag that would hold all my equipment comfortably, and I also wanted to check out their tripods for a future purchase.  Tempe Camera is a photographer’s paradise for those who are really into their equipment.  We spent probably 45 minutes in there trying on different camera bags and backpacks, inspecting the tripod legs and heads, comparing different cleaning kits, and poking around in all the other goodies that the retail establishment offers.  The sales floor is located on the second floor of the building, and the first floor is devoted to repairs and rentals.  It’s probably a good thing that I don’t live so close to Tempe, or I could quickly become very well acquainted with the people that work there.  I came away with a new Tamrac Adventure 7 backpack, a cleaning kit, and the February issue of “Outdoor Photographer” (because it has an article on HDR that I want to read.)

After leaving the store, we drove (yes, drove) across the street to Mucho Gusto, a Mexican bistro, where we had a scrumptious lunch.  I had the Gringo quesadilla, and Andy had carne asada tacos, and we both had Dos Equis Amber to celebrate dining outdoors on such a beautiful day (after all, it was sunny and in the high 60’s here, while all our family members are dealing with ice and snow back east/southeast).

After lunch, we drove to Tempe Town Lake, parking at the Tempe Center for the Arts.  Andy was my official “Tripod Carrier”, and we spent the next couple of hours strolling along the lakeside, stopping to take lots of photos along the way.  The first thing we came across was the area below the dam where the egrets were hanging out.  I pulled out my old 300mm Quantaray zoom lens (which is not auto-focus) and tried to get some shots of the egrets.  I did manage to get a few decent ones, but many of them were just a little blurry.

Next, we stopped in front of the TCA, which has a cool fountain and some very neat architecture.  The light wasn’t optimum for great pictures, but I took some bracketed shots for HDR processing, hoping that I could make them work.  Further along the lakeside, I got plenty of shots of the three different bridges that span the lake, as well as some of the sculpture and the gazebo in the park.  In addition, we got shots of ducks and kayakers–things that like to float on the water.

We finished up the photo shoot with some closeups of some wildflowers growing next to the path.

After leaving the park, we hit Starbucks for an afternoon shot of caffeine, and then headed home, where I’ve been on the computer ever since.  I’ve spent about five hours editing photos through the HDR process and I have them uploaded to my Flickr account (click here). I’ll be posting the non-HDR shots tomorrow…I’m just about wiped out right now!

We’re planning to visit the World Wildlife Zoo tomorrow, and I’m anxious to see how the telephoto lenses work in that environment.  In the meantime, it’s time to get some sleep!