Monday, January 9, 2012

Shedd Aquarium - The Not!Fish post. Or, how I started to get annoyed with my favorite place in the world - 12.28.11

It's not really the Shedd's fault, but the pickier I get about what makes a Good Photograph, the harder it is to actually take a good picture at the Shedd.

Glass Scratch
 There are the obvious problem with what I call "Canned Wildlife" is that it's behind some kind of enclosure.  The upside to glass is that under the right circumstances you can get a good, unobstructed shot, unlike when there are bars or a fence and the bars can get in the way.  The downside to glass is that it's often anything but completely transparent.  This is a shot of a random glass enclosure at the Shedd.  You can see how scratched up it is.  You can also see what appears to be saltwater droplets dried on the inside.  Which means that no matter how apparent your subject is, it's going to be nigh on impossible to get a really brilliant shot.

Redefining 'Like a Lump on a Log Leaf'
 I really wanted to get a good shot of this frog, but that shot above is a piece of his enclosure.  Not very clear.  The other problem I have is that the frog was roughly six feet off the ground up on a leaf.  I am 4 foot 10.  This means I was holding the camera up over my head and hoping a lot.  Not great for composition and lighting adjustments. :(  Anyway, if you're saying 'what frog?', you 're not alone.  Most of the people around me at the aquarium were saying the same thing.  He's that slightly irregular lump in the lower right-ish corner of the photo.  Both his shape and his coloring are an awesome example of camouflage.

Flat Froggy.
 So here's a slightly better shot.  This was an 'overhead and hope' shot, and it's not *too* awful.  Nothing I'd enter into a contest or anything, but you can clearly see the frog now.  I would have loved for his eye/face to have been the focal point instead of that back leg/side.
Close to Coral of the Unidentified Kind

This is an incredibly cool coral down in the Wild Reef section.  Unfortunately the little touch pad info-thingy was broken and I couldn't find the name of the particular type of coral and half an hour of Googling didn't show me anything even remotely like it.  I don't think it's leather coral, and it's clearly not anything easy to identify like a brain coral or a staghorn or something.  I wish this had been under brighter lights.  The tricky thing about shooting this thing was that even though it doesn't move, the fish it lives with do and they would end up swimming into the frame as I was doing some (reasonably) long shutter work.  1/8 of a second doesn't seem like a lot, but when you're talking about fish that just amble in and back out of your frame, it can put a big blue/yellow/orange blur in your shot.  Anyway, I really love the opalescent look inside this coral.  The layers weren't waving like an anemone or anything, so I'm not sure if they were the rigid coral that we expect or if they were some kind of softer tissue.  They certainly looked like they should be soft tissue, but it's coral, so... I'm not really sure.

A Picket Post for Two Seahorses
 Seahorses?  Also incredibly difficult to shoot.  While they often anchor themselves to a branch or piece of coral, or another seahorse, they still sway in the currents.  And again, not overly-well lit exhibits, so getting a good shot is tough because you need a long shutter and long shutters at the Shedd... they just don't work very well, very often.  And apparently the Shedd knows people want awesome shots of these things, because there are huge NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY signs posted all around the seahorse and seadragon exhibits.  Bummer.

Seahorse Stroll

So given how hard seahorses are to shoot, I'm pretty proud of this shot.  He was floating through the most well-lit (and also uncluttered) area of his exhibit and I managed to get off a shot at 1/25th of a second (at f4.5) which meant I got him pretty clearly.  It was extremely convenient of him to be floating by in perfect profile. :)
Rockhopper Hopping Mad?

 Even the penguin glass was bad this time.  I'm used to the glass at Lincoln Park being horrendous.  I don't even try to shoot in there.  Usually at the Shedd the glass is in good shape and I can get some good shots.  I know there's always going to be an issue with condensation on the glass when you need to keep penguins chilly and guests comfortable, but there's a difference between clean glass with water droplets on it and just plain dirty glass.  It makes finding a good spot to shoot through a challenge.  I did get this awesome shot of a rockhopper penguin giving me a look.  Those yellow feathers on their 'eyebrows' always make it look like they're giving people the stink eye.

Monkey Frog - Not Made of Plastic

This is a real frog.  No, really, it is.  Most of us watching him were pretty sure he was a very cheap, badly manufactured plastic frog.  But then he'd twitch or take a deep breath.  But look at those eyes!  They look like a seven-year-old painted them on!  Very freaky!
I really do love the iguana enclosure.  They keep the heated rocks right in the front of their space, it's very well lit and the glass is clean.  About as good a set up as you could ask for when you're a photographer.  I was able to get this shot where you can really see the texture in his skin (check that back leg out) and some nice details of his spikes on his back.

Okay, tomorrow will be the fish and then I'll be done with this trip.  Weirdly the glass issues are less pronounced on the fish... mostly because there's water throughout so the glass can't get dirty.  But that's for tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment