Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium


Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium

4/11/08 Litchfield Park, Arizona.

Review: This spring visit coincided with that of screaming children and school groups. (The zoo has since been renovated to add an adjoining aquarium. The addition of the aquarium helps swallow some of the crowds.) To see a review of the aquarium, click here.  If you appreciate an enormous collection of birds and small primates but aren’t as intent on photographing them, this zoo is a good stop for you.  If you’re keen on photographing them, bring your patience and a good zoom lens, something f2.8 would be ideal. 

Photographability: I shot with a Mark IIn and the 70-200 zoom lens and the Canon G7.  It was a bright sunny day, the ISO was mostly fixed at 200. This zoo is truly a photographers challenge.  Either the exhibits use photo friendly natural barriers (yay!) or something entirely impossible to photograph through, let alone view the animals. Two layers of cyclone fencing AND/or cross hatched giant birdcage like enclosures are sure ways to keep me walking.

Highlights: There were a lot of babies, babies make zoos fun! The giraffes aren’t represented at left, but the giraffe exhibit allows for some fun interactions.

Lowlights: Along with a an extensive bird collection they also have a lot of little primates in impossible to see enclosures.  The paths are all dirt, it gets pretty dusty when the children all scuff their feet, so you’ll need something to occasionally wipe your lens. 

Pleasant surprise: I like ducks, ducklings are even cooler!  

Would I return: Sure, if  Judy (see her photos) wants to see the new aquarium next time we’re in Arizona, I’ll go.

Rating: 5 (out of 10)

Arizona Desert Sonora Museum

sonorandesertArizona Sonora Desert Museum

1/9/2006 Tucson, Arizona

Review: The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum has a wonderful collection of animals from the Sonora Desert.  If you’re not from Arizona, this is a great place to visit to get a sense of the wildlife and foliage in the area.

Photographability: The zoo grounds are gorgeous and beautifully maintained. Natural barriers are used most often, though the animals are native to the area so they are adapt to blending in.  I was starring at a pack of peccary long before actually seeing them.  I used the Canon 20d with the 70-200 zoom and the 24-70mm with a macro.

Highlights: The hummingbird exhibit was really cool.  These birds are really hard to shoot in the wild, so it was a fun experience to be so close to them and their favorite feeding sources.

Lowlights: We walked through a lot of the exhibits without seeing anything.  While that can be a great teaching opportunity for camouflage, I like to SEE the animals.  There’s A LOT of walking involved out into the open sun.  Even in december it was really hot.

Pleasant Surprises: Coming up close _safely_with a black widow was a new sight.  

Would I Return?: Maybe if I was bringing a newbie to Arizona and we had some free time in Tucson. (I do recommend this zoo and grounds for those interested in the desert, go in the spring, the desert in bloom is gorgeous)

Rating: 6 (out of 10)

Out of Africa Wildlife Park

outofafricaOut of Africa Wildlife Park

4/13/2008 Cape Verde, Arizona

Review: Out of Africa Wildlife Park was hoakey and REALLY cool. The park has an incredible collection of big cats as well as a pretty thorough plains grazer group.  My friend and Judy and I were both skeptical, but figured if they could get $36 for admission, they had to come through.  Come through they did, with cool shows like Tiger Splash and the Predator Feed, we left licking our own chops!

Photographability: These  guys encourage and thought about photography so much, they actually built viewing platforms with eye level unobstructed views. Bravo!  During feedings times, the keepers told us what they were going to do before they did it, allowed photographers to get into place and then proceeded.  Such customer service!  Fantastic.  We got up close and personal on the Safari, animals without the predator instinct are quite friendly! Tiger Splash was really cool (Check out Judy’s Tiger Splash Video) but it was hard to anticipate, track, and manually focus through the fencing, I had fun watching!  I used my Canon MarkIIn with the 70-200mm and  1:4 converter, and the Canon G7 for those fun candid moments.

Highlights: The Predator feed was spectacular!  Following the feed truck loaded with hunks of meat down predator alley was fantastic.  Whole turkeys, horse limbs, chickens and other slabs of raw meat were tossed into the animals enclosures, and we had prime viewing spots to see it.  Tiger Splash was also really cool, though a little tense, there’s always the feeling that one of tigers could turn, inadvertently or not, and really injure one of the handlers.

Lowlights: Not the zoos fault, but is was FREEZING, not what we expected for April in Arizona. (it SNOWED on our way home)

Pleasant Surprises: The whole experience was a pleasant surprise!

Would I Return?: I do think Judy and I will make a return the next time we make an escape to Arizona! And, we’ll have LAYERS.

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Reid Park Zoo


reidparkThe Reid Park Zoo

1/7/2007 Tucson, Arizona

Review: The Reid Park Zoo is a nice little zoo with a great collection of big animals!  The layout is easily meander-able, and unless you’re reading the map, there are surprises around every corner. 

Photographability: Most of the exhibits are pretty easy to work with, a lot of the exhibits utilize the moat barriers which provide unobstructed views of the animals, though you’ll need that zoom lens to get up close and personal.  The lion exhibit and tiger exhibit were tough to work with, though once the lion settled down in front of the plexiglas window I found an un-smugged portion to work with.  I used my Canon 20d, the 24-70, and 70-200mm with the 1:4. 

Highlights: I love anteaters, and the zoo has a great collection! The lion was entertaining, and I like that i captured him looking, relaxed!

Lowlights: Shooting through curved plexiglas is challenging and frustrating.  It’s impossible to get a focus point.

Pleasant Surprises: The anteaters were super active, and I’d forgotten how many they have.  Cool animals.

Would I Return?: Sure, next time I’m in Tucson, but if I’m in Arizona for just a short visit, I’ll hit the Phoenix Zoo instead.

Rating: (out of 10)

The Phoenix Zoo



The Phoenix Zoo

12/24/08 Phoenix, Arizona

Review: I’ve been going to the Phoenix Zoo on Christmas Eve day with my family for 22 consecutive years.  A wonderful tradition, it’s also a really good time of year to visit this zoo.  The Phoenix Zoo is a big zoo and it can involve a lot of walking with very little return.  I’m not crazy about the new interactive trail exhibits, and the Spectacled Bear’s Forest of Uco is a perfect example of this failed layout.  I’ve seen the bears once in about 10 years, and it wasn’t on December 24th.  Good for the bears, I guess, bad for the viewers.  I love the open African veldt, it’s a wonderful place to rest the legs and enjoy lunch with a great view. The Phoenix Zoo has made a commitment to keep their elephants, and the new renovation to their exhibit looked impressive even though the elephants were out of sight.  

Photographability: I used the Canon Mark IIn with the 70-200 f/2.8 zoom lens.  I opted not to use the 1/4 extender as it takes away the aperture flexibility, and I knew I wanted to shoot predominantly at f/2.8.  Not much use for the Canon G7, the zoo has few reptiles, amphibians, or other things the focal length of 70-200 couldn’t handle.  The zoo has a nice collection of tamarins, but they’re in cross bar-old school cage enclosures that in combination with sunlight are impossible to shoot beyond.

Highlights: I have a new crush on the Warty Pig (bottom left). The free range squirrel monkeys in Monkey Village (top right) were super active, it was much more fun to watch them than to try to photograph these quick bundles of energy.  

Lowlights: The orangutans were on exhibit for just a few minutes.  Too cold at 60 something degrees, oh well.

Pleasant Surprises: A photograph I took of Kasih, the baby Orangutan, as a feature for the Associated Press is being used on a large sign promoting a new Orangutan enclosure that will be built soon, or as soon as they can raise the $5million they need, i guess?

Would I return?: Absolutely, every time I visit Arizona, I make it a point to visit the Phoenix Zoo. I’m a member!

Rating: 8 (out of 10)

Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium

Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium


Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium

12/28/08 Litchfield Park, Arizona.

Review:  This was my first visit to the brand new aquarium (check out the zoo review here). The late sunday afternoon visit with two adult friends was quite pleasant , it was void of  screaming children and school groups.  The new buildings are clean and spacious, the exhibits well lit, and the glass was free of fingerprints, grime, and those pesky reflections. 

Photographability: I shot primarily with a 15mm  lens on a Canon Mark IIn and with the macro setting on my Canon G7.  ISO range from 640 to 1600, some of the exhibits were pretty dark.  Warped plexiglass looks cool, but just pass up trying to photograph through it. 

Highlights: I’d never seen a lion fish in a tank without a blue backdrop, nor swimming upside down.  And while I didn’t ride the log flume, it passes through some of the exhibits, and that looks really cool.

Lowlights:  Not all the exhibits had residents, the octopus hadn’t yet arrived.

Pleasant surprise: I didn’t expect Arizona to pull off an aquarium, but they spared little in designing a nice space.  At $26 admission, it’s nice that you can visit the adjoining zoo. And, after 5pm, when the zoo closes, entry to the aquarium is just $17!

Would I return: Yes, the next time i’m in Arizona, I’ll check out the aging process.

Rating:  5 (out of 10)