Luckily modern Zoo exhibits have been designed as more natural and open spaces thereby eliminating cages. However you will still encounter bars, fences, netting or other obstacles at some exhibits. Don’t let those obstacles get in the way of  a good photo! Click on the series of photos below showing the enclosure and the final shot. How did I melt the bars away and get the shot? Three words; depth-of-field (DoF).

The use and control of DoF is an important basic photographic skill that needs to be mastered for many reasons. DoF is the nearest and farthest part of the scene that appears in focus. The diagram* below shows that one of the three butterflies is in focus, while the foreground and background butterflies are out of focus. Imagine if the closest butterfly was an enclosure it could be “de-focused” to the point it disappears as in  the photos below. DoF is controlled by the aperture or f-stop setting. The lower the f-stop number (large aperture) the smaller the area in focus, also known as shallow depth of field. The higher the f-stop number (small aperture) the larger the area in focus.

To control the aperture your camera needs to be in manual mode or aperture priority mode. For Canon cameras aperture priority mode is “AV” on the mode dial, for Nikon it is “A” on the mode dial. Set the f-stop number to the lowest for lens and focus on the subject between the enclosure obstacles and the “bars” melt away. For this to work the animal has to be a certain distance from the obstacle, like the butterfly in the diagram, or it will not work.

In later posts we will further explore the use of DoF to as an artistic means to improve your Zoo photos. Please feel free to ask any questions about using DoF to remove unwanted objects in your photos.

M. Pachis 

*Diagram created by Jared C. Benedict provided under Wikimedia Commons.

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