Lakeland Wildlife Oasis
With all the pandemic restrictions coming and going over the last 12 months or so, options for days out have been very limited. One place worth mentioning in my opinion is Lakeland Wildlife Oasis right on the Lancashire/Cumbria border near Milnthorpe. It’s a small zoo but with a surprisingly broad range of animals, from ants to leopards! The centre has recently reopened from lockdown with access to the outdoor area (until 16th May), where to be honest most of the highlights are. From a photography point of view, snapping some great shots is fairly easy.
Photography in a zoo is ‘cheating‘ to many. At a time when international travel is so restricted however, it may be the next best thing. If you have a good zoom lens, sharp eyes and and a quick finger on the shutter anything is possible and the results satisfying. Your depth of focus should be small. This is usually the portrait setting on compact cameras or large aperture setting/small f stop number on dslr cameras. You should then be able to blur the background quite well on a long zoom. Your subject needs to stand out, unless perhaps the setting is particularly ‘relevant’ to your shot (eg a camouflaged snake).
The biggest obvious challenge is the foreground. Reflections on glass or wires/bars of a cage will pretty much ruin your shot, unless animals behind bars is your message. Look for reflection free areas if possible and press the camera lens right to the glass. This will help minimise reflections. If shooting through a fence, as you may realise, trying to position the camera lens in a gap is best. Alternatively, you may need to edit (crop) the photo later.
If you can manage to capture an animal ‘doing something’ it is likely to be a far better and more natural looking shot. Eating, scratching, bathing, flying, squabbling are all examples of what gives a photo extra purpose. It may even make a shot comical. My top tips are; keep it close-up and simple, avoid messy backgrounds (unless you can blur it out), look for colour, activity or something quirky.
Very sadly though, some animals in zoos just tend to look bored,
particularly the larger ones without generous space. That can be upsetting to see and a reason not to visit for some. In the case of Lakeland Wildlife Oasis, I was heartened to see a number of new and improved enclosures being constructed. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to say that it had been starting to look rather ‘tired’ and now it has a new exciting lease of life.
A challenge for a photo is the fosa, a strange cat-like animal which is becoming an endangered species. I say it’s challenge because it rarely sits still and moves very fast. In it’s case, the skill largely lies in trying to predict what it is about to do and where it’s about to go next.
And then there’s simply the cute photo, to end on! I hope you have enjoyed my brief snapshot of a local zoo.
Lakeland Wildlife Oasis reopens fully on 17th May, but if you’re quick and go this weekend, then admission is half price and it’s well worth a visit. More Photographer’s Ramblings soon…