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Photographing animals close-up, how and where.

Ever dream of going on a photo-safari to Africa? Why not this weekend? A trip to the local zoo can bring you within camera range of animals from around the world. Taking handsome close-up photographs of your favorite orangutan or big cat is easy, especially with the new natural-looking zoo habitats. Here are tips on equipment, techniques, and film, as well as a list of zoos to visit (page 52).

Which camera, which lens? The most versatile choice is a 35mm single-lens reflex camera equipped with a telephoto or long zoom lens. An ideal lens for photographing most animals is an 80-200mm zoom. For smaller animals, you'll probably want a 200mm or 300mm telephoto to get a bigger image. Many camera shops rent long lenses for $5 to $15 per day.

An inexpensive way to double the focal length of your telephoto lens is to attach a 2x tele-extender ($30 and up), which fits between the lens and camera body. For example, a 200mm lens with a 2x extender becomes in effect a 400mm lens. Since extenders cut down light transmission by two f-stops, you'll have to shoot at slower shutter speeds; this could produce blurry pictures in low-light areas.

Most telephoto lenses focus no closer than 6 to 25 feet--a problem if you want close-ups. An extension tube ($30 to $60 for a set of three) placed between the camera body and lens allows closer focusing.

With telephoto and zoom lenses, you can help ensure image sharpness by placing the camera on a monopod or tripod ($20 and up). Or rest the camera on a fence or rail, using a sweater or beanbag for stability. Use a shutter speed at least equivalent to the focal length of the lens. For example, with a 200mm lens, set the shutter at 1/250 second or faster. Hold your breath as you gently squeeze the shutter release.

Which film? High-speed negative films for prints (ASA 200 to 1,000) minimize the need for a tripod or other support, but with some loss of image quality. There's also high-speed ASA 400 color slide film, but most serious slide photographers prefer the slower, fine-grained ASA 25 or 64 film. For snapshot-size prints, color negative film generally offers faster turn-around time for processing.

Using a flash is not recommended. The flash might spook the animals, and its artificial light will make bars and walls more prominent. Check zoo policies on flash and tripod use before your visit. If you use flash and are shooting through glass, stand at a 45 [deg.] angle to the glass to eliminate reflected glare.

Ask zoo keepers about feeding times, and what time of year various animal coats or colors are best. Morning and afternoon light tends to be more dramatic, and animals will likely be more active at those times, especially in summer.

Here are new and especially photogenic exhibits at Western zoos. ARIZONA

Phoenix Zoo. Capture the cheetah and otter exhibits with a telephoto lens.

Tucson. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Spectacular birds from the Sonoran desert are seen in the aviary; a lizard enclosure features the endangered chuckwalla lizard.

Tucson Zoo. Colorful South American birds mingle near the water wheel. CALIFORNIA

Sacramento Zoo. Rarely seen, the endangered Siberian tiger and Asian lion repose majestically in natural settings. There's a photo contest on May 19 and 20: anyone with a camera gets half-price admission. Winners are published in an animal calendar. Call (916) 447-7383.

San Francisco Zoo. The Gorilla World exhibit, Wolf Woods, and Pika--the polar bear cub--are fun to photograph.

Redwood City. Marine World-Africa USA. See tiger cubs up close on a "Safari Stroll."

Santa Barbara Zoo. Moluccan cockatoos preen for pictures in the Parrot Garden, and the Eagle Flight and Toucan Flight exhibits will open this spring.

Los Angeles Zoo. Koala exhibit (photography allowed only between 10 and 11 A.M. daily) and an aviary with birds from all over the world are both worthy of the camera's eye. Escondido. San Diego Wild Animal Park. A 610-foot trail winds through the Australian rain forest exhibit, part of a 1-3/4-mile walk. See swamp wallabies, gray kangaroos, and emus. Photo-caravan tours of the 1,800-acre park are also available; call (619) 747-8702, ext. 22, for details.

San Diego Zoo. Try close-ups of primates and birds in the Southeast Asian exhibit. COLORADO

Denver Zoo. Mountain sheep perch precariously in a realistic setting. NEW MEXICO Albuquerque. Rio Grande Zoo. Four cheetahs roam in a habitat that combines vegetation from the African plain with topography like that of New Mexico's Chaco Canyon.

Carlsbad. Living Desert Zoological and Botanical State Park. Normally nocturnal Chihuahuan Desert animals (including kit fox, gray fox, and badgers) are out during the day. There's also an aviary with Sonoran Desert birds. OREGON

Portland. Washington Park Zoo. Playful river otters in the Cascade exhibit can be photographed through an underwater window. On Chimp Island, the islanders love to monkey for the camera. UTAH

Salt Lake City Zoo. The Great Apes exhibit will open this spring; meanwhile, look for poised pink flamingos from Chile in the pond near the entrance. WASHINGTON

Seattle. Woodland Park Zoo. A 5-acre enclosure simulates the Serengeti Plain, with lions, giraffes, zebras, and hippos.

Tacoma. Point Defiance Zoo. Polar bears, Arctic foxes, and other animals from Alaska occupy a tundra habitat.
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Publication:Sunset
Date:Feb 1, 1984
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