Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chicago Done Naturally (Post 4 of 10) - Lincoln Park Zoo

One of the great things about LPZ is that it’s free. It’s open 365 days a year and if you pack a lunch, you can get in and out without spending a penny. Going to the zoo in the winter in Chicago sounds kind of nuts, but a fair number of the exhibits are indoors, and in the winter there are very few people at the zoo. School groups get thick starting in about April, but the good news is, most of them leave before 1:00 or so. So if you really want to cover the whole zoo when it’s less crowded, think of spending two half-days instead of a whole day. Easy to do when you don’t have to pay admission. Once the schools are out for summer it does not get any better. In fact it may be worse, because that’s when the camp groups start showing up. Again, the later you can go in the day, the less crowded it’ll be.

The grounds are tripod-friendly for the most part, but look out for small children, who don’t see you/your tripod. The vast majority of the indoor exhibits are marked ‘no-flash’, and since most of the exhibits are either glass or plastic-enclosed, you probably wouldn’t want to use it anyway. Outside, flashes are fine.

To hit:There’s a duck pond with several interesting breeds of ducks and geese that you can shoot from the picnic porch without glass, bars or fencing interfering with your shots. The ground is concrete and flat, which makes setting your tripod easy. You’ll see it as you walk through the grounds, near where the flamingos are in warmer weather, but the best shooting is from the opposite side where the picnic tables are under the shelter, so it’s worth taking the walk around.

Regenstein African Journey: The pigmy hippo often likes to sit right in front of the glass, with his mouth open, showing off his teeth. And his tonsils, if he had any. Further down, the meerkats are in an open-air enclosure. The plastic partition is about four feet high – so as long as you’re taller than me , you’ll be able to lean over it, again, shooting without obstruction.

(Yeah, this shot is pretty crap; I think all the good ones got lost in the great I-dropped-a-half-Terabite-harddrive crash earlier this year.)   

The monkey house is fun, but it’s very dark, so you’ll need a tripod. Of course, an interesting monkey is a moving monkey, so it’s a tough shot. On the good news side, there’s almost always at least one baby in the exhibit.

To miss:
There is a penguin house, but they have a serious humidity issue and the glass is constantly fogged up and impossible to shoot through.

In the spring and fall they have to soap outside windows (like the ones on the polar bear exhibit and the lion glass observation area) to avoid bird wrecks, which makes them messy and tough to see through, let alone shoot through.

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