What a day!!!
I bought my ‘little’ cousin (13yrs old, not so little any more) a ‘Meet the Giraffes’ experience at ZSL for Christmas and we booked to go this half term (whilst I cringed at the thought of thousands of off-school kids screaming around the place). I haven’t been to London Zoo in AGES, which is criminal really because I became a member so that I would go more often… that will change!
I was surprisingly impressed with the upkeep of the place and the helpful and knowledgeable staff, contrary to some reviews i’d seen on Facebook etc. Zoos in general are funny old places – the morality of zoos is another discussion for another time, but I didn’t see any animals which looked bored or distressed – they all seemed quite content.
In another life, another career path, I should have studied Zoology (and i’m planning to do an online course as soon as I get some time) and I still would really love to do something physically working with/helping animals. In the meantime, I shall continue to draw/sculpt them and learn as much as I can…
It was the first time using my new lens (Canon EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM) which i’d bought specifically for photographing animals. It’s a pretty ‘entry level’ telephoto from what I understand, but after reading numerous reviews and seeing photos taken with it, I was sold. The price on Amazon kept fluctuating so I had to wait until it went back down to a good price again! It’s a pleasantly light lens in comparison to my others, which made it great to have around my neck all day without (too much) aching.
Looking through the photos from the trip (both on my phone and camera), it was really interesting to observe the differences – there were some technically ‘good’ photos which were sharp in all the right places, decent composition etc… and then others which were ‘terrible’ photos in a technical sense, but might have shown a great expression or movement of the animal – they may have been blurry and not a good photo for photo’s sake, but an excellent art reference to keep. I think it’s about finding the value in what you’ve captured rather than dismissing blurry shots as rubbish photos – i’ll be keeping them this time and referring to them next time I come to draw big cats or birds of prey!
We arrived when the zoo opened around 10.30am and the first thing we saw was a beautiful hawk… eating his breakfast. Which was unfortunately a mouse. He must have only just been fed because it was a whole mouse to begin with… It was one of the most horrific things i’ve seen but it was also quite amazing to witness the bird of prey in action. I know everything has to feed (circle of life and all that) but I think sometimes you can’t help but feel sad when you see it happening.
WARNING: Somewhat graphic content below! Scroll down quickly if you’d rather not see a mouse carcass being torn apart 🙁 These were the tamest of the lot, i’m afraid, before he’d properly ripped it open… I chose not to upload the super graphic ones, no one needs to see closeups of a mouse’s insides. On the outside. Bleurgh.
After breakfast, he cleaned the blood off his beak by wiping it on the bushes (which I though was clever, albeit a bit grim) and then perched with his mate, observing the crowds which had now gathered.
Penguin Beach – gotta love penguins. So awkward with their waddling on land, then as graceful as dancers in the water.
Butterfly zone – I switched to my 100mm macro lens for the butterfly tent, and got some nice-ish shots. I’m always fascinated zooming into macro photos, seeing all the details you just can’t appreciate with the human eye.
I’d heard about it, but not actually been to Tiger Territory since it’s been built – it seemed nice enough, with room to roam and hide in the bushes if they needed. There were two tiger cubs and their parents – the cubs were very big but still had that kitten-esque playfulness, which was lovely to watch. The photos came out pretty clear, considering I was shooting through thick glass!
Komodo dragons – again, this was shot through thick glass from quite a way away. The close up shot is pretty good I think for an ‘average’ lens!
Reptile house – I do love reptiles. Their shapes and textures are fascinating.
Axolotls – i’m OBSESSED. What incredible creatures! I’d seen photos of them and was aware of them (more the leucistic pink ones) but never actually seen them in real life. The way they move!!! I spent a long time admiring these guys until my cousin managed to make me move on…
When we arrived for the Meet the Giraffes experience, we were a little early and sat in with the crowd in admiration – giraffes are, as I have always thought, incredibly beautiful creatures. Majestic and massive and, turns out, extremely gentle. Some little phone snaps below…
I was very excited to discover the walk-through Lemur enclosure, where the lemurs are just roaming around freely along the walkways – they were very relaxed around people (guess that what happens when they’re around them all day) – it felt like a real privilege to be able to be so close observing them.
The Nocturnal zone – I love love LOVE slow loris and it was incredible to see one in person (using the word ‘see’ very loosely, as it was verrrry dark) – the bushbaby was probably also one of the cutest things i’ve ever seen in my life. Like a small kitten-monkey with huge eyes, which happens to be similar to a creature i’ve been designing for a personal project (watch this space). No good photos unfortunately, but it was lovely to just watch them.
We then went through the rainforest zone, in which it took us a little while to spot the monkeys…
We managed to get to Land of the Lions about five minutes before closing time, so there was NO ONE around! 🙂 The lions were very peaceful and as gorgeous as ever. I could watch big cats all day.
Overall we had a marvellous trip and I won’t forget the experience of feeding the gentle giraffe giants. I can’t wait to go back to the zoo, probably next week, and this time sit and draw.
Camera equipment used:
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