A Day at the Zoo

Yesterday a local Facebook group, Sacramento Photographers, was hosting a photo shoot at our local zoo.  I had been wanting to practice with fill flash a bit more and one of my attendees for my upcoming “Eagles, Home, Alaska” tour wanted to practice as well.  So, I contacted Jerry and we decided to meet the group and try our flash equipment out at the zoo.

I was disappointed to learn our zoo did not have any eagles that I could photograph with the flash, I wanted to see what type of eye shine an eagle produces, but I had fun trying it with other animals. I was particularly interested in seeing how much flash got projected with my flash extender.

I was using my Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL (which is the Adorama Branded Godox V860II speedlight); and MagMod MagBeam Wildlife Kit (flash extender). I was able to light up animals that were lurking in enclosures that were 60-90 feet away with no problem. In fact, most of the time I needed to turn the flash down to an exposure of -2 stops, so as not to overpower my subject.  My goal was just to add a little fill and to add a catch light in the animal’s eyes. It worked well and I feel more confident heading in to next month’s eagle trip.

When photographing mammals, I have found it is important to raise the flash above the lens and camera so that you don't relections off the animals retina and get the equivilant of "red eye" that is found in humans when photographed with a flash. This is not case with most birds.

Here is a picture of my set up.

flash setup.jpg

In the setup above I am on a tripod just to make the image, when I was at the zoo I was using a monopod.

Here are some before and after images showing without and with flash, and the settings I used.  I recommend if you are interested in trying fill flash, that you spend some time at a local zoo and practice.  It really was helpful!


Snow leopard 1/500 sec; f/8; ISO 1600; 600mm


Notice how dark it is around the eyes


Snow leopard 1/500 sec; f/8; ISO 1600; 600mm; fill flash -1.3 stops


See how much more detail you can see in the eye


African lioness 1/500 sec; f/11; ISO 800; 600mm


African lioness 1/500 sec; f/11; ISO 800; 600mm; fill flash +.7


I found when the animal is in direct sun you need more flash power to see any difference


Here are several images using the flash (I don’t have before and after of these)

4000-190223-_TEL4913-Edit.jpgSnow Leopards 1/500 sec; f/8; ISO 800: 350mm; fill flash -3



Snow Leopards 1/500 sec; f/8; ISO 800; 600mm; fill flash -3



African Lion 1/640 sec; f/11; ISO 800; 600mm; fill flash +.7


Wolf’s Guenon 1/250 sec; f/11; ISO 1250; 600mm; fill flash -2.3