Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chicago Done Naturally (Post 7 of 10) - The Shedd Aquarium

This is probably my favorite place in the entire world, but it’s a tough shoot.

The whole Shedd is a no-flash zone, which makes shooting moving targets – and most marine animals are constantly moving targets - really hard.

Technically, they’re also a no-tripod zone, but I’ve discovered that if you aren’t obnoxious and don’t try to set up in front of a really popular display or during a really busy time, the staff won’t bother you too much. The exception to that seems to be down at “Fanta-sea” – the dolphin/whale/penguin/etc… show. One time I went and set my tripod up so that I could use it while seated (so it wasn’t sticking up in front of people, and I wasn’t standing in the way) and they were fine with it, another time I was asked to take it down. So *shrug*. No one’s ever been nasty or threatened to bounce me out or anything, so I’d say, give it a try, the worst that’ll happen is they’ll ask you to take it down.

The Shedd has some wonderful opportunities to get in while there’s not a lot of other people. Check for events like “Jazzin’ at the Shedd” where you can be one of only a hundred or so people in the entire aquarium for a few hours. Events like this are not ridiculously expensive and can give you much better shooting opportunities.

Are you an educator? Show your ID and get in to everything for free!

To hit:
The penguin exhibit is lit fabulously. You’re shooting through glass, but it’s pretty clean and clear. You can usually get your tripod set up on one of the two observation levels.

Some animals are amazingly still for aquatic life and you can run a long shutter without getting noticeable blur. Look for the map turtle, the lobsters, sea stars and blue iguanas. (Though I think they’re still working on breeding the iguanas, so they’re on and off exhibit somewhat randomly.)

There’s a tank of eels in the Wild Reef that’s tons of fun. If the eels are being still, they’re easy shooting – decent amount of light - but sometimes they’re just too active.

This is a tough shoot, but look to see if they still have the live shark eggs up on the wall. These things are AMAZING. They have three shark cases with living embryonic sharks in them being backlit on one wall. You can see the sharks moving in their cases. It’s awesome. They’re pretty well hidden, though. You’ll almost be out of the Wild Reef exhibit and they’re basically on a wall behind you. Ask a docent if you can’t find them. They’re worth looking for.

To miss:
No matter how much I know the lighting conditions are awful, I always try to shoot in the Ocenarium. This whole area is backlit with Lake Michigan behind the large tanks, so there’s light bouncing everywhere. There’s a ton of light coming in, even on a cloudy day, and it’s really hard to shoot anything like that. Give it a shot, but don’t be surprised if it’s tough. Because, seriously, wouldn't this have been a great shot if it were properly lit?

The shark tank in the Wild Reef is great to watch, but we’re talking sharks – animals that never stop moving – EVER – and are in a huge dark tank. Go watch the animals, they’re fabulous, but shooting is nearly impossible.

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