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Wildlife at Werribee Safari Photography

Home > Melbourne > Animals and Wildlife | Art | Escape the City | Photography | Zoos
by Tricia Ziemer (subscribe)
Television Producer & Photojournalist with a passion for sharing adventures in and around Melbourne, Australia. See my www.youtube.com/user/tmztvaustralia for other adventures. Subscribe to me so I can tell you of upcoming fab things not to miss.
Published August 1st 2019
Leave automatic mode behind and learn those camera controls
Great tips to make those photos pop
Great tips to make those photos pop. Catch the action - All Photographs by Tricia Ziemer.


You've got your fancy new digital camera, you've run around happy snapping anything that moves, and you are so looking forward to seeing the results on your computer screen.
National Geographic photographers move over, you have arrived. But unfortunately, when you load them up, the photos are totally uninspiring.

How can a camel do this at Werribee Zoo
I think this camel wins Twister at Werribee Zoo


They look flat, they don't pop, and the composition looks all wrong. It looks nothing like the magazine cover you dream of creating. How can that be? You have the newest greatest camera, with all these fancy new settings, you should be getting brilliant images.

Flexible camel makes me feel very old
Flexible camel makes me feel very old


What I have come to learn is that the secret to true stunning photos is part the modern camera, especially the features of the new digital camera's of today, but more so it is the understanding of the basics of photography itself.

And the secret to getting your head around those basics is the joy of this course. Even with years of taking photos, I learned new brilliant tips and techniques from this Nikon Course. This just goes to show that an old salty dog can learn new tricks.

Professional Photographer and Instructor Cormac Hanrahan
Professional Photographer and Instructor Cormac Hanrahan


This course provides you with two talented instructors and photographers who have a world of experience, not only in photography but in using the modern digital camera and all its bells and whistles. This is the best class to learn how to get out of automatic mode and really make your camera work for you to get the fab shots you dream of. And you could not have a better natural location than the stunning environment of the Werribee Safari Zoo.

Everyone loves the cute Meerkats
Everyone loves the cute Meerkats


ISO, Shutter speed, f-stop apertures, and depth of field can be tricky things to get understand. Then add how they interact with each other to create better photos, and then throw in focal length. Sound Greek to you, well my Greek is rusty, but yes, it can sound like Greek at first. These are the first secrets Instructor Cormac Hanrahan demystified for us very simply and quickly. It was an honour to meet Cormac, who is the man behind some very famous Melbourne Zoo posters and calendars. I recognised the photos as soon as I saw them, as I have admired them for years.

Next, Cormac teaches us about the importance of lighting. You learn about low lighting effects, halo effects, and strong sun effects and how to use them to your advantage. Utilising light the right way really helps to add that "pop" to your photos. And as you are driving around the stunning safari at Werribee, with just these basic tips and one on one time with the instructors, you immediately start to see instantaneous results in your images.

We learned how to use our powerful zoom to make the chain link fence disappear separating us from the lions. Can you see the links between me and the lions?

Besides, our main instructor Cormac, the second assistant was his mate, Antonino Rawbone. Both are not only highly published photographers, but have a wealth of information to share with each and every student. And they do it in a straightforward, easy to understand manner. Antonino has been doing these courses for around 4 to 5 years and has trained hundreds of students over the years. Antonino said, "We see all kinds of students from the beginners to the slightly more advanced but all very enthusiastic budding photographers. It is always enjoyable meeting them and seeing them gain their skill and in such stunning environments. We ask our students to post their best photos to the Nikon Facebook page. But the most important thing is to practice and practice. Even I am still learning things every day, so your eye gets more and more refined."

Cormac added, "I have been a professional photographer for 12 years and been teaching for 1 year at the Nikon schools. I am self-taught. I had a city-based suit and tie job and I became more and more aware, it just wasn't me. I decided to travel. I took a computer and camera and when I came home, I moved to the coast and starting turning my images and tales into stories for a few magazines. I have done editorial, architecture, all sorts of good things in the photography field. If you have ever seen the Melbourne Zoo Gorilla Posters and others, this is more than just good things as far as I am concerned." Awesome. And I'm a wee bit jealous, but I am going to practice and practice. And take another course.

Initmate training group with two instructors for hands on help
Intimate training group with two instructors for hands on help. Instructor Antonino Rawbone (left front)


This is a very intimate course, with hands-on and interactive help every step of the way. There are no stupid questions, no silly ideas, and wonderful tips and hints. The one on one nature of this course, really helps you learn from true experts in an inclusive and supportive manner. You walk away feeling so energised and proud of all the new things you have learned. And that is on top of seeing all the stunning animals so close and personal.

Cormac really highlighted how important it is to view the full frame of the image you are seeing and learn to notice what is distracting from the photo and what helps to really give the image true depth.

Wild Encounters to catch perfect photos
Wild Encounters to catch perfect photos with intimate Nikon Course


The classroom time is short and sweet, and then the fun starts on Safari. The big zooms come out. We are ready. It was time to put our new skills to the test. There was some trepidation, we had to be very careful of a grumpy hippo who had attacked the truck the other day. Truck zero, grumpy rhino one. But we all felt totally reassured and safe with our lovely guide Rachel. This woman is not only a very good four-wheel drive manual driver but an informative guide. She positioned the truck into some impossible angles so we could all get the best shots of the wildlife all around us. You are in an open range truck, so you could get excellent shots from many angles and levels.

Cormac told us about how to really see through the lens, to look for fences in the way, distracting things growing out of the subjects head, and background colours that pull the eye away from the subject.

Catch Lights in the eyes with the sun angle
Catch Lights in the eyes with the sun angle


My biggest win was learning about continuous focusing, which I had never taken advantage of before with action shots. And also about the newer models of cameras. This was wonderful for me because after almost 10 years with my Nikon D7000, it is time for an upgrade.

Through a chain link fence lions nuzzle
Through a chain link fence lions nuzzle


My first DSLR camera was a Pentax K1000, so it was a giggle for me to see the instructor Cormac also had the same Pentax to help show and tell how the shutters and aperture of camera work together. Then I moved over to a Nikon FE and have never looked back. The quality of the body and the glass in the lens is to die for. So I have stayed with the high engineering of Nikon ever since and I still will into the future.

Giraffes surrounded us in truck
Giraffes surrounded us in truck


Giraffes very friendly and come quite close
Giraffes very friendly and come quite close


I was almost sucked away to Canon once when they released a camera where you could "See your shutter speed and aperture changes as you make them" in the viewfinder and back screen. This is called 'What you see is what you get'. And it improves your ability to get the perfect shot by leaps and bounds.

Don't forget about textures.
Don't forget about textures.


Those are very long legs
Those are very long legs


Showing my age back in ancient time, we used the "bracket" up or down technique. That is, you take a shot on one lower setting, one middle setting, or one higher setting to get the best exposure. I use to also take a shot in automatic as a safety shot, to see if I was getting better than the camera on choosing my settings.

And of course the settings of each photo are saved with it, so reading the results your photo using the histogram screen is a fab way to ensure you have no blowout. My back screen has seen better days, so using the histogram allows me to see instantly if I have an overexposed a photo. On my screen, they all appeared flat. The histogram showed they were a solid exposure. An underexposed photo can be "pushed" to improve it, but an overexposed photo has no saturation of colour to work with. So it is vital to get the exposure just right. Yes, just like porridge.

Be very very careful of he rhinos
Be very very careful of the rhinos


Nikon were just perfecting WYSIWYG technology before they released their new models which are now taking the world by storm. WYSIWYG is finally here, in Nikon's newest models. And they have cleverly planned for the lens change over between the older and new models with a lens to body adapter. In this way, I am able to retain all the investment in my Nikon lens. And that's a wee bit of change.

Everyone gets a great shot
Everyone gets a great shot


I cannot recommend this course and the instructors highly enough. It is worth every penny of time and money to join this course.

I was amazed to find one student, Danni , was on her third course. When I asked "Why?", she said, "I came to the first course at the Melbourne Zoo, and then I heard about the Werribee Safari trip, then I came with a friend to another course. I came again today because I want to enter the Zoo Photographic Competition. Each time I come I learn something new because I am building on what I learned last time. The first time you come, it takes time to get your ahead around ISO and all that. So the next time you come you don't have to worry about that and you can learn another little bit. So every time I come it gets easier and easier to get great shots. And you can get discounts on courses depending on what Facebook page you are on such as Nikon Lovers Australia." I had a peek at one of her photos, oh la la!. It was a fab shot of a cub yawning. It looked like a competition winner to me.

The halo effect on mum and chicks
The halo effect on mum and chicks


Another student Helen said, "I came to learn more about the manual settings for my camera. I have always used automatic and I am starting to travel and using other modes, like sports mode. I want to learn how to recognise a good photo. I have learned so much. I am so looking forward to seeing them on my laptop."

So eleqant these beasts
So eleqant these beasts


Another student Jamie looked like a very advanced photographer based on his large-format Nikon camera gear and lens. When I asked why he was there, he said, "There is always something new to pick up. It is the little tidbits that you pick up that make you better and better."

Group siesta at Weeribee Zoo
Group siesta at Werribee Zoo. Cropping in software can get rid of fences in the background to save a picture


You are coached for about 6 hours, and it will fly by and you will wish the Zoo was not closing so soon, so you could keep practising taking photos. Not to despair, there are morning classes as well at Melbourne Zoo, so you can spend the rest of the day practising. Now be very aware, you are going to take a lot of photos. I did not realise until I got home that I had over 400 photos to go through and try to find the best of the best. You must explore the Nikon School website for courses all over Australia at some stunning venues. You are spoiled for choice.

And for this course, which included FREE entry to the Zoo, was only $129. That is incredible value. Some are as low as $99.

I think I got a few good photos, but maybe only one great one. I hope the instructors get back to me with photo critiques.

Werribee Zoo is a world class facility
Werribee Zoo is a world class facility


You are surrounded by varied graceful safari animals, some who are now extinct in the wild. But for me, being a horse lover, I found the zebras gorgeously cute. And they are curious about the funniest things. "How did that poo go mate, .... yeah all good mate... You sure, let me check... no, it's fine really".

Zebras examine their poos as you do
Zebras examine their poos as you do


What do you want
What do you want


This is an opportunity of a lifetime all wrapped and ready for you to shot and it is just a short drive out of Melbourne on the freeway. Courses are coming up soon and will be filling fast, so I recommend you book now.
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*Tricia Ziemer was invited as a guest
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Why? Even with some experience, you want to get better with your photography
When: 12:30 - 5 PM See website for next dates
Phone: 1300 851 435
Where: Werribee Safari Zoo
Cost: $129
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