Photography

I’ve Been Shooting Big Cats and Wolves For Fun

…with my new 300mm lens. As autumn descends and we try to make the best of the good weather, my other half and I took a trip to Dartmoor Zoo Park last weekend. Visiting Plymouth’s National Marine Aquarium two weeks before, we noticed a special discount on offer. Visit either DZP or NMA, and with the entry receipt you’ll be allowed a 50% reduction when visiting the other. I’d been hoping to visit the zoo since early this year when somebody in one of the photography groups on Facebook posted some stunning images.

I didn’t want to go before I had a zoom lens, to take so many photos and come away disappointed because 55mm just wasn’t close enough. But to get this discount, we had to use the ticket within two weeks. That was the motivator to buy a zoom lens and boy was I not disappointed in the slightest.

As it was, you could get relatively close to the animals, which was the major surprise. The compounds were large enough and designed in such a away to get an excellent view. Dartmoor Zoo is impressive for the amount of space they have although they don’t have a lot of animals, certainly not compared to two other major regional zoos at Newquay and Paignton. What it lacks in animals, it more than makes up for in quality. For instance, it’s the largest collection of big cats I’ve seen in a long time… and wolves! I adore wolves and get really excited whenever I see any. At my last visit to Paignton, they had just one. I saw some at Blackpool Zoo in December and then at Cotswold Wildlife Park about four years ago.

Here is a gorgeous shot of an Iberian Wolf from Dartmoor Zoo.

Copyright MG Mason 2018

In the next compound was a Grey Wolf although it didn’t really seem to be in the mood for entertaining the hoomans. Some kids were making lots of noise but the wolf seemed unfazed by any of that. Even when one of the kids started making howling noises it barely raised the energy to open a single eye. I couldn’t tell whether it was unimpressed with the noise or cocking an eyebrow at the human’s racism.

Copyright MG Mason 2018

But you came here to see the big cats, right? Well, Dartmoor Zoo has lions, tigers, cheetahs, a jaguar and some lynx. That’s a large collection of big cats in the 21st century. They started going out of fashion in the 1980s due to welfare concerns. Big city zoos could not offer more space to species that needed it and couldn’t really expand their territory. Instead, started moving towards the types of animal that don’t need a lot of space – meerkats are fiercely territorial, for example, and don’t need a large compound. Neither do most species of monkey so long as they have lots of upward space to swing around and plenty of things to do. Dartmoor Zoo is a large, open zoo based in the countryside with plenty of room on the inside. That’s why they had enough space for so many of these large cats.

First, a Cheetah. This is probably my favourite image from the day. There are three Cheetahs in a large compound. Shots are clear because you look down into the compound while the ground inside slopes down quite steep. A clear view and no chance of them getting out.

Copyright MG Mason 2018

The Tiger was in the centre of its compound, not really doing much. Without the 300mm zoom lens, I was able to get a couple of nice shots such as this one which I’ve titled “Cat Winslet” because I imagined it saying “would you paint me like one of your French girls?” This was the best shot.

Copyright MG Mason 2018

And finally, the Jaguar and the Lion. The white effect around the edge of the tiger and lion photos is the fence which I sadly couldn’t eliminate entirely with the zoom. I didn’t need to zoom in so far with the Iberian Wolf and so the fence is clear and present. It’s fair to say it’s a case of so far, so good for the 300mm lens.

Copyright MG Mason 2018
Copyright MG Mason 2018

A Note on Copyright

It’s not just a breach of copyright to use images without express permission to do so, it’s also theft. Please don’t steal images from the internet unless you have permission to do so such as public domain images or those offered under Creative Commons licensing (which require attribution and link). A photographer deserves to earn a living just like anybody else. They also deserve credit for their hard work.

If you wish to buy any of these images as prints or wish to seek licensing as digital downloads in your own publication, please use the form on the contact page so we may discuss.

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