How many times have you dreamt about taking an African safari? In 2004, a friend and I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro and followed it up with a quick safari at the Ngorongoro Crater, part of the Serengeti ecosystem. I never really felt like I did the safari justice (photography wise) but then again the main purpose of the trip wasn’t about taking photos – it was about summiting Kilimanjaro. I’ve longed to go back to the Ngorongoro Crater to correct the shortcomings of my previous trip, but it’s a serious commitment of time, money and equipment because when I go back I’m doing it right! So where do I go when I get the itch to photograph lions, giraffes and zebras? The nearby zoo, of course. I’m very fortunate to live near the Lincoln Park Zoo which is a free zoo located in Chicago, but there are many wonderful zoos to pick from in the U.S. I know it’s not the same as being in the bush, and yes, I too used to look down at all the people at the zoo with their big zoom lenses clicking away at the nearby fauna. But my view on this has changed. I think the zoo is a great place to practice your wildlife photography, and if you ever do plan on taking a safari, it’s a wonderful training ground. Here are some suggestions to getting the most out of your zoo safari. 1. Bring a telephoto lens 2. Bring a monopod or tripod if available 3. Go early in the morning when the animals are out and the people are sparse 4. Bring plenty of memory cards 5. Be cognizant of your framing since fences, cages and other people may be in your way. 6. Bring business cards just in case someone strikes up a conversation with you who is interested in your work. 7. Most importantly, don’t stuff a happy meal in your backpack and jump into the lion’s den. I’ve been told it’s a mistake. ?
I have an addictive personality. And part of getting over any addiction is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, I know I'm addicted to coffee – yet I still drink too much. Sweets? Well, let's not even go there. That's why I go to the gym. Then I had a friend once tell me, “I can resist anything, but, temptation!” That's probably true on some fronts, but when it comes to food, chocolate and travel, let's just say I've learned to live with these monkeys. Here's where I'm going with this: I recently read Chase Jarvis's blog and he asked the question “what is the last thing you remember photographing for the first time?” The question made me think and I came to realize that my passion (addiction) for travel is partly driven by my desire to photograph new places and meet new people. Personal and professional growth comes from exploring the unknown and reaching beyond our comfort zones. It's when I'm out of my comfort zone, seeing and photographing things for the very first time, that I feel most alive as a photographer. So, it's an addiction I'll probably continue to feed because I think the alternative is to become tired, complacent and eventually irrelevant. When do you feel most alive? What new roads will you travel down?