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Photo Finish: Unique moments

A new quarterly feature, Photo Finish, highlights pictures taken by Zoo Society members.

Amateur photographer Ron Skinner takes pictures throughout Cleveland weekly, and even organizes meet-ups and photo opportunities at the city’s biggest events and hidden gems through his Facebook page, Cool Photo Ops. But taking pictures at the Zoo is always a top choice for this Old Brooklyn resident and 25-year Zoo member.

"I think this is one of the top zoos in the state, by far," says Skinner. He says Cleveland Metroparks Zoo makes it particularly easy to get around - especially with camera equipment! Free parking, trams, membership that pays for itself in three visits and winding paths allow this long-time photographer easy access to some of his favorite species. "I can be here all day sometimes."

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Some of the more iconic zoo species - elephants, lions, tigers - are among his favorites to photograph, but Skinner's advice is to “take a little bit of everything, looking for expressions on the animals so it’s not just a sleeping animal or a portrait. I like when they are interacting with each other or when they have an expression on their face or posed in a fun looking way. Always look for the picture you don't normally see."

Skinner has “thousands and thousands” of animal photos, most taken while he’s patiently waiting for that unique moment.

His top advice for shooting at the Zoo is to wait for the right light. “Overcast skies actually work a lot better than bright sunny days because of the harsh shadows and contrast the sun creates,” he says. “Or if you can, come early in the morning or late afternoon to catch more unique light.”

Other tips?

  • Use a 200-500 mm lens that lets you crop way in on the animals. This helps especially with photos on social media.
  • Experiment with a fish eye lens. Skinner uses this often for giraffe ... "you can make their heads gigantic with a real close lens!"
  • For shooting through glass, Skinner says to “find a clean spot, get as close as possible, use a wide aperture and wait for the ahnimal to move back from the glass a bit.”
  • Skinner usually avoid shooting through glass, but if he does, he tries to “find a clean spot, get as close as possible, use a wide aperture and wait for the animal to move back from the glass a bit.” For shooting through a fence get as close to the fence as you can, open the aperture as wide as possible, preferably use an F2.8 or F4 lens and take photos of the animals when they are far away from the fence. With this technique you can make the fence disappear, he says.

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