Shooting at the Zoo

Update 1

I thought that it would be fun to share some photographs that I have taken over the past few years at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and the Philadelphia Zoo during the summer of 2010. I have something like 3000 photographs of gorillas that I’ve taken at the LPZ alone. Part of this was in an effort to write a scientific/souvenir book about them, but otherwise it is a side hobby. I would love to hear comments, thoughts, questions, or pointers about any of these following photographs!


Courtesy Christena Nippert-Eng for taking this photo: At LPZ and this photo portrays part of the difficulty of taking pictures in zoos: shooting through glass, maneuvering between other visitors, and having to be constantly prepared

It looks like I may be in a good place for a photo of Kwan, but these photos that I later reviewed turned out badly. I realized this at the time but I was in the absolute best spot with all the other visitors around.


This next photo is Rollie. She was in one of the best possible spots to have her picture taken. Sitting upon the log, a straight shot through the glass, and lit from both the front and back, she looks directly into my lens. She had been making averting with my eye contact with me for some time before giving me a longer stare back. It is polite to look away fleetingly and offer them your profile. It’s a presentation of self. Smiling is also seen to be rude. Have you ever seen a gorilla smile?

Shot of Rollie and very clear; shot through glass and natural lighting.

A very strong willed individual, Bahati is an asset to any troop she joins.


Whole Foods donates food for the animals at the LPZ which helps to supplement the gorilla biscuits, which they also like.

It is their territory, and many visitors don’t know how to properly respect this boundary; often hitting the glass to gain their attention is quite repulsive. It’s the wrong kind of attention; now they collectively know who to ignore.

Notice key similarities between the two: they both have a pointed saggital crest, they both have bald patches on their arms, and they are both known for hoarding behavior.

If they see a rather strange or mysterious individual, it is common for the silverback, or silverback-to-be to, show their agitation.

Azizi as he was patrolling the area when he spotted a strange-looking visitor. He was wearing a dark hoodie and was initially peering through the bushes along the far fence of the outside habitat. He keept making direct eye contact with Azizi who soon became agitated. Jojo even became alerted for a brief moment but calmed down while Azizi maintained full sentry-mode.

This photo further highlights some of the difficulties of shooting photos at the zoo. Notice the glare on the glass near Jojo. This picture also shows the active and omnipresent status hierarchy enacted; Jojo has rights to any space he pleases. Bahati (far left) and Suzie (near center) are higher status individuals and Tabibu (seen in the back) is the lowest status female. Verticality is often used as a way to stretch spatial distancing in the apes and when the highest status occupies the lowest spaces, lower status individuals typically spread out horizontally first then vertically second.

The gorillas greatly enjoy regular visitors, though, and they will often spend time sitting near and looking over your shoulder.

This photo shows Pat, a long-time visitor, who the gorillas recognized. Pat was a professor of art in Chicago and kept amazing photographs of the individuals. She was known for her long one-on-one sessions with Makari, shown here, where Makari would watch while Pat entertained her by interacting with unique objects. Makari is known for learning to wipe her nose after a keeper showed her how and also for tying a simple knot in straw wrapped around her leg. Her legacy is known as well, where another son of her's, Jelani, is known for his artwork which the Louisville zoo sells.

These next few photos were taken at the Philadelphia Zoo. Living there for 6 months I had only visited it once. To be fair, it did cost around $20. The LPZ is absolutely free, save for parking (unless one knows where to look: Canon Dr.). I found these interesting creatures and have since forgotten their name. If anyone has any information on these creatures, I will certainly update this.

That look...



The black one came over and got cozy on the lighter brown one and my anthropomorphic imagination hints that one is enjoying the company more than the other.


I forgot the name of these monkeys, but one distinct behavior seen by these particular two is mouth-to-face cleaning.

Back at the LPZ, I hardly leave the RCAA where the apes live. This is a favorite pohtograph that catches my eye as I blast past 1000’s of photos in my Lightroom (an excellent program and would like to hear what others use).

Not a primate and so outside the scope of my typical animal photos, but I always try to make it through other animal houses at the LPZ and this beautiful composition caught my eye.

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