The Santa Barbara Zoo is a 30 acre facility located near the ocean and the famous Santa Barbara Pier - housing 500 animals representing 180 species. Being that (like most zoos in the United States) the Santa Barbara Zoo is publicly funded and does not receive any federal funding; it must continually depend on the support of the community for its survival. This means that community donors contribute a large amount of financial support (in addition to funds raised through memberships, admission, and concessions) and therefore the Zoo regularly engages in events designed to keep interest focused on the amazing educational and conservation programs that it spearheads.
The "Roar & Pour" is an annual after-hours wine tasting event where dozens of California vineyards participate to provide samples of their various wines.
The funds raised during the event go to support the Zoo's operational and educational expenses. Thousands of people from all around Southern California participate and the afternoon/evening event is one of the most anticipated parties of the year.
I was invited by Zoo Board of Directors Chair Rhonda Henderson to enjoy the evening with her and her husband, so of course I brought my camera and a couple of non-traditional lenses I wanted to test in this environment.
During the event several of the more "docile" animal inhabitants of the Zoo are allowed to mingle with the crowd (supervised of course). Above - some of the Flamingos from the Zoo's bird sanctuary walk through the crowd.
ABOVE - My Nikon D4s with Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 AF-S II lens - with my custom-made Arca-Swiss rail/handle support. NORMALLY - When shooting an event such as the Roar & Pour - you'd choose a wide to telephoto zoom such as the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens or the 28-70mm f/2.8 AF-S lens - these lenses give you the best of both worlds in terms of size/weight and flexibility. If you wanted to shoot closeups and have a better chance to get in closer to the animals in their habitats you could go with a telephoto zoom such as the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8VR or the 80-200 f/2.8 AF-S. It's typically NOT something I'd recommend - lugging a 15 in long lens that weighs 6lbs (the total rig is more like 12lbs when you add the camera body and rail system). The beauty of the 300mm f/2.8 AF-S II is that it needs 7ft to the subject to focus - which is AMAZINGLY close for such a long lens - and it allows you to sit further back from the crowd and pick shots without your subjects being aware you are shooting them - this is a photo-journalist's dream - to capture REAL moments without posing or the self-conscious discomfort that many people associate with having a large camera stuck in their face.
"I don't care what anyone says - pull out a camera in any situation and the camera WILL become an active variable in how people chose to behave... YOU CHANGE the event or the outcome of the event when you and your camera are injected into the situation. "
I wanted to shoot with this amazingly clear - fast - powerful lens by sitting outside the edge of the event and then selectively choose my subjects (if possible) without them being aware they were being observed.
ABOVE - Animal themed headwear is the cutting edge of fashion for this event.
ABOVE - Animals in cages - animals inked on your leg...
I'm really happy with the end result - I want to capture real - sincere - moments where you can observe the event with an unbiased viewpoint.
Of course the whole purpose of this event was to raise awareness and funds for the Zoo - so I couldn't resist getting some photos of the Zoo's more adorable residents like "Cito" the Penguin - born just a few months ago.
Chad - the 5th Masai Giraffe to be born at the Santa Barbara Zoo - is a very playful and rambunctious young man! He's such a joy to watch as he runs and plays with his mom and the other giraffes in the Zoo's giraffe habitat.
Gingerbread - the Zoo's senior (16 year old) female lion - spends her afternoons with "Chadwick" - a senior male lion (you can see his tail on the log behind her to the top right) - I love cats (obviously) and these majestic and beautiful animals are a joy to photograph.
The Santa Barbara Zoo is a beautiful facility - conveniently located near the famous Santa Barbara Pier and beachfront - if you are in the area make sure to stop in and visit. It's truly a wonderful experience! And take your camera!!! And experiment! Always! Try new things and see what works best for you!