If you haven’t visited the new Tiger Trails exhibit at San Diego’s Safari Park you’re missing out. Big time. Kongo spent three hours big game hunting there yesterday and came back with some trophy images.
The exhibit houses the rare and endangered Sumatran Tiger and part of the fees go to conservation efforts to help preserve these beautiful animals in their natural habitat. There are less than 700 of these tigers left in the world and half of these are in zoos.
When visiting the tigers you must be patient and have a sharp eye. When the tigers are laying still in the foliage they are hard to spot. Luckily for the monkey, several tigers were up and about when Kongo visited shortly after the park opened. Kongo parked himself at a good spot for shooting and just waited, trying not to be distracted by all the “oohs and ash” coming from other parts of the exhibit. Eventually he was well rewarded.
The tigers live in a five acre grotto and forest area that copies their native habitat. Visitors to the enclosure can view the tiger through fencing designed to blend with the landscaping and glass enclosure. Sometimes the tigers will come right up next to the glass giving the viewer an “oh my god!” moment. In fact, that was the one phrase Kongo heard more than anything else during his few hours waiting for the right picture-taking opportunities. The tiger above spent about five minutes in front of the glass looking at one little child after another. Don’t be fooled by that sweet smile on the tiger’s face, you just know this four-legged feline was calculating how many calories were sitting in that baby stroller just a few feet away!
Now is a great time to visit the Safari Park. The weather is cooler, the crowds are less, and you can park close to the entrance.
If you’re taking pictures be sure to bring a long lens and a monopod. The shady areas will force you to use a slower shutter speed and higher ISO (Kongo used 800) setting so you will want to hold the camera as steady as possible to avoid blur and noise. Kongo used a 70-200 f4 lens with a 2X extender (making the effective minimum f-stop an 8. Most shutter speeds were less than 50. When shooting through the fence you can make it disappear by manually focusing and using a wide open stop. It helps if the tiger is not too close to the fence when you take the shot. When shooting through glass be sure to position yourself as close to a clean section of the glass as possible and watch out for reflections and smears from grubby little hands made by young snackers. The photo below was shot through a fence. If you’re not careful, your images will turn out like the one below it.
The monkey had some fun afterward by exploring his inner tiger self.
Travel safe. Have fun.