Shooting macro at London Zoo

Ok. This one is cooool.

You might already know that I run photography workshops at London Zoo with my pals from the Zoological Society of London. (What's that? You didn't know? Well here's a link. And here are some of the other photography workshops I do.)

For years now, one of my favourite places to shoot has been the reptile house. Built in 1926 and now home to hundreds of different snakes, amphibians, lizards and all kinds of other things you'd be upset to find in your sleeping bag.

It's a surprisingly good place for photography: it looks so dark when you first go in but there's actually reasonably good lighting in a lot of the enclosures so it's possible to rattle off a few decent images.

But it's limited. You're limited to how close you can get, so even those with macro lenses might not be able to capture the finest details. You're obviously limited in terms of angle, and you're definitely limited light-wise. There's enough light for steady images, but, generally, only with the aperture of your lens wide open, which means very tight depth of field.

So you won't be able to do anything like this.

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Or this.

Both of those images were taken under studio lights with the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro. Not through glass, not through wire, just me, a keeper supervising and some of nature's most interesting critters on a studio table. Partly that's a perk of being a photographer; blagging your way into interesting spaces and taking pictures you normally wouldn't be allowed to, but here's the cool bit: you can do this too!

For two dates this year (Saturday 16th September and Saturday 14th October), you'll be able to score exclusive backstage access to the reptile house and shoot some of their incredible occupants, close up. No bars, no cages, no glass, and, importantly, LOTS of light. Using continuous LED lights will allow us to stop down our lenses and get lots of texture and detail from our subjects. Unique access, unique space, unique subjects, unique shots.

No idea what any of that means? No problem. All you need to bring is a camera with a macro lens and I'll help with the rest. Shutter speeds, ISO, aperture – if you have no idea what any of that means this is the perfect time to start figuring it out with some of the most interesting photographic subjects around.

(Quick sell-y bit – these workshops operate in a relatively tight space and as such are SMALL. Six spaces on each one and some of the spaces are sold already. If you want to get in there it might be a plan to make that booking sooner rather than later! That link again: https://www.zsl.org/experiences/macro-photography-workshop)

The North Island, New Zealand

Our Kiwi rental car was a nine year-old Nissan Sunny with a quarter of a tank of petrol, creaking suspension and a knackered drivers’ side door lock that could only be undone from the inside.

At Karekare we had miles of black sand and ocean almost all to ourselves. That’s the thing about New Zealand: we were very nearly as far from London as it’s possible to be without getting closer again. Not many people come here and the crowds are easy to lose.

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After Australia, driving in New Zealand was a real pleasure. Not only is the weather better suited to being encapsulated in a plastic and aluminium and glass capsule for a few hours, but the roads and views are rarely less than breathtaking. Think of the best scenery you’ve ever seen (this doesn’t work if you’ve been to New Zealand already, mind). Now make the hills higher and the valleys deeper. Make the grass greener and, every now and then, pop a tractor or two on a distant hill. Populate the fields with a million sheep and, finally, roll a perfectly smooth road through the middle of it, winding its way through the countryside in sympathy with the hills. Add a few cars every ten miles and prepare to stop every time you crest a hill to take pictures. It’s a strange thing to drive somewhere where the view improves with every mile, but there you go.