Featured Photo

Featured Photo

Scale is always a hard thing to show in a photograph, and it can be an easy thing to manipulate. With the right perspective, you can make models look like mountains and mountains look like simple piles of dirt. And showing the size of something, particularly something very small, can be as challenging as getting a good photography. Let’s take the above photo as an example.

Mohamad has this excellent photo of a Golden Frog. As a wildlife/animal shot, it is straight up excellent: tight focus on the eyes, the frog is in a noble pose, and there is even a beautiful, shallow depth-of-field with a gorgeous bokeh. The only criticism I can find is that it misses capturing the scale of frog. Sure, if you know what you’re looking for you can deduce the animal’s size; but it’s more dramatic to show it. As the photo is composed here, the viewer could get the idea that the frog is several inches tall, rather than just a few millimeters.

Of course, scale is probably not what Mohamad was aiming for with this shot. My guess would be he wanted to capture the frog in it’s natural environment. And he certainly succeeded at that; it is a phenomenal shot!

Featured Photo

Featured Photo

Cute, cute, cute! John submitted this excellent, and unorthodox, animal shot of a clouded leopard at the National Zoo. Typically when shooting animals or wildlife I advise that the photographer should aim for the eyes. However, John made the smart choice of focusing on the leopard’s paw and pelt, completely avoiding the face, and forcing the viewer to look at this feline in a different way. Notice the large size of the paw, relative to the rest of the body. Also, look at the ear; even though the cat is sleeping or lounging, it still has one ear up for alerting it to danger. Of course, there is the fine detail of the cat’s fur and markings, as well as the very fine detail of the pads on the bottom of its feet. It’s a great shot all around!

Featured Photo

Featured Photo

I am a sucker for a good bird photo, and A. Drauglis has this sweet one of a Pink Flamingo at the National Zoo. The fine detail is amazing, with the thin, wispy white feathers contrasting beautifully with the solid pink feathers on the bird’s head. And then there is the focusing on the eye; a key ingredient in a great bird or wildlife photo. You can wander your eye all over this shot, but you will constantly bring it back to that eye; it’s almost mesmerizing.

Featured Photo

Featured Photo

It’s like Stewie from Family Guy, only if he were a cat! Oh, are you going to try to kill us with a death ray? That’s so cute! Dan got a great shot of Thor, the new Sand Cat at the National Zoo. And Dan is far from a stranger with the creatures there; check out his other outings and get even more photos of fuzzy animals.

No photo lesson today, just cuteness. But I did want to ask: did you know the National Zoo itself has an awesome Flickr page? It makes sense, given what they work with is so photogenic. A quick scan of their photostream comes away with such things as photos of Clouded Leopard, Andean Bear, AND Cheetah cubs, along with two different types of pandas in the snow. And that’s only looking for five minutes! Did I mention they have videos too? There goes your productivity today; you can thank me tomorrow.

Featured Photo

Featured Photo

Photo courtesy of
Enlightened by pablo.raw

With FotoWeek quickly approaching, photography lovers should be bracing themselves for an inundation of gallery shows, slideshows, artist talks, and all-around geekery (not to mention plenty of spam in your inbox).  When you look at hundreds of photos in a short period of time it’s easy to overload your brain.  Before you know it, all photos will begin to either look “good” or you just won’t know what you’re looking at anymore.  When you reach that point, try to keep in mind some of the basic rules that make up a “good” photograph: composition, content, and lighting.

This photo has them all, but the lighting is what makes the shot.  The sunlight streaming in from the top corner naturally leads the viewer’s eye to the subject at the center of the frame.  The contrast between the lion’s glowing face and his bleak surroundings lead you to believe that he has found a ray of hope from above.  Is he simply looking for some warmth from the sun or has he found respite from his existence as a caged zoo animal?

Essential DC, Featured Photo, Life in the Capital, The Features

Fright Night at the National Zoo

Krusty the Clown (and all other photos) by Max Cook

Usually the scariest things at the National Zoo are the lions, tigers, and screaming little kids, but as the animals slept in their cages Friday night, a different type of terror infiltrated the wooded hillside.  Clowns, zombies, skeletons, and other nightmarish creatures mingled together at the annual “Night of the Living Zoo”, a spectacle I felt compelled to document.  With live bands, freak shows, and loads of beer, it was a great way for hundreds of lunatics to let loose and kick off DC’s epic Halloween weekend.  As with most costume events that I’ve attended, people were more than willing to pose for my camera, the results which I share with you in hopes that you have a good laugh or better yet, a good nightmare.

Continue reading

Entertainment, Essential DC, Fun & Games, News, Special Events, The Daily Feed

Panda on Preggers Watch

Photo courtesy of
‘Panda sign’
courtesy of ‘brianmka’

Starting at 4pm, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s female giant panda, Mei Xiang (may-SHONG), will be a 24-hour pregnancy watch.  FONZ volunteers and animal care staff will closely monitor the panda for maternal behaviors (nest building and cradling of small objects) through keeper interactions and a series of 38 cameras set up throughout the giant panda habitat.

You can check on Mei Xiang through the National Zoo’s pandacam and view a birth should it occur. FYI: Because of increased traffic levels, pandacam visits will be limited to five minutes per session. You can refresh the page to continue viewing, unless there’s just way too much site traffic.

Zoo scientists instated the 24 hour watch as tests of Mei Xiang’s hormone levels approached baseline and indicated that the end of either her pseudo or real pregnancy is near.  If the pregnancy was legit, we should see a new cub within 24 hours.

The Daily Feed

Name That Octopus!

Courtesy of Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

What has eight arms, no spine, and a webcam?  The National Zoo‘s brand-spanking-new giant Pacific octopus, that’s what.  There’s just one thing it’s missing… a name!  But have no fear, that’s where you come in.

The National Zoo has narrowed it down to four choices for names, which are the following:  Olympus, Ceph, Octavius, and Vancouver.  Each name has its own description and meaning relevant to our eight-armed friend, and you have the opportunity to vote for your favorite online.  You can vote until April 7th at noon, and the winner will be announced on the octopus cam at 2pm.

Something else to take under consideration is gender.  Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure whether it is male or female, and it will have to mature more before that can be confirmed.  Personally, I’m a little partial to Vancouver just because I think it could go either way, but we’ll have to tune in April 7th for the fate of the anonymous octopus.  Get those votes in!

The Daily Feed

Easter Monday Returns to the National Zoo

Photo courtesy of
‘National Zoo, Washington DC’
courtesy of ‘Roger Photos’

If you live in DC, I’m pretty sure you know that the Monday after Easter isn’t just any old Monday, and this year is no different.  The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Friends of the National Zoo are hosting their annual celebration entitled “Easter Monday:  An African American Family Tradition,” on April 5th from 10am to 4pm.

From the easter egg hunt to the a cappella gospel quintet to the Easter Bunny himself, this year families have a lot of fun to look forward to.  The great thing about Easter Monday is it’s totally free, and will still carry on even if it rains, so there’s no excuse not to bring the kiddies out for a good time.  It’s also going to be educational, with presentations from representatives of the Zoo and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Sponsored by the 2010 U.S. Census Road Tour, United Airlines and WHUR Radio 96.3 FM, the event has been a staple in the District for more than 100 years.

News, The Daily Feed, The District

Panda Updates: Nothing New at Home, but Butterstick is Happy

Photo courtesy of
‘panda national’
courtesy of ‘christaki’

It’s too easy to be overly-clever while writing stories related to panda pregnancies (what, you couldn’t have gone opened with “one bamboo stick or two?” Come on!). Regardless of pregnancy test ledes, NBC Washington is reporting that this edition of “Mei Xiang Pregnancy Watch” is…still going on. According to the report, scientists at the National Zoo are not confirming if it’s a “no” or a “yes,” for the aging bear, so it looks the watch will continue for now.

We’ve already had to say farewell to our beloved Tai Shan in the early part of this year, and with the 10-year-loan on Mei Xiang and Tian-Tian soon to run out and the pandas sent back to China, this may be the last chance for a new cub here in the District. At least it sounds like Butterstick is enjoying his first time free from quarantine after returning to the home land.

The suspense is brutal back here at home, though so keep your fingers crossed that a new cub could be on the way.

Featured Photo

Featured Photo

Kid & Gorilla by architeuthis dux

A great photo can evoke many emotions from the viewer, much like the one above.  My first reaction was, “Awww, look at the cute kid at the zoo.”  Do you remember those days, when your parents or siblings took you to the zoo and you couldn’t believe your eyes?  How amazing was it that there was a magical place full of animals that you’d only seen in your books and on TV?  Oh and the only things to eat at this place are snow cones and cotton candy?!  Nice knowing you Mom and Dad.  I’m coming to live here with the elephants and tigers.  I appreciate all that you’ve done for me but the zoo is a bazillion times cooler than our house and I can poop wherever I want to!

My next thought after I’d looked at this photo for a while was, “Damn I feel so sorry for zoo animals, particularly the intelligent ones like the gorillas.”  There aren’t too many things that separate humans from primates, yet somehow it’s OK to keep them locked up in a cage for their entire life.  I know that zoos help protect endangered species and educate the public about animals, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting to let them loose into their natural habitat.

And my my final though, or rather my question, is which of these two creatures is more intelligent?  A 10+ year old gorilla or a wee little toddler?  I bet they’d both rather be on the opposite side of the glass.

The Daily Feed, WTF?!

Tian Tian and Mei Xiang Try Again

Photo courtesy of
‘*Caution* Do Not Attempt To Enter The Tian Tian Man Cave *Teddy Bear Sleeping*’
courtesy of ‘Daniel.Techie{TaiShan~4Ever} @’

This was the big weekend for Tian Tian and Mei Xiang to try for another Butterstick (okay, nothing could replace our Tai Shan, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want another baby panda to coo and gush over) and that meant there was a lot of panda sex this weekend. According to the Zoo, though, all that hot and heavy action wasn’t for much (“competent mating did not occur” – which is kinda the story of Youth in Revolt), and they had to tranq both animals and help them out a little bit.

Mei Xiang and Tian Tian will spend the next 3-6 months in separate enclosures to protect the nascent pregnancy (assuming there is one…) and the mother. Hopefully by summertime, we’ll have a new panda to cuddle. And may I just say, as cute as these animals are, evolution sure is against these guys…just one opportunity to mate per year? It’s worse than having a girlfriend in another state.

Special Events, The Daily Feed

“Peace out, District. What up, China?” Bye-Bye, Tai Shan.

Giant Panda

The end draws near on Tai Shan’s time in our fair District.

Zoo goers and panda enthusiasts will forever remember his tenure as one that brought joy to the eyes of children and adults alike. What better way to say “Peace out, District. What up, China?” than a giant party being thrown in your honor?

The Friends of the National Zoo is hosting the official “Farewell to Tai Shan” party at the National Zoo. The event is scheduled for January 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Activities include: talks with panda experts, goodbye card writing, and sweet-sweet panda lovin’ (aka oooo-ing and ahhh-ing at how gosh darn cute that lil’ panda is).

The Daily Feed

Tai Shan Does Cute Things

Photo courtesy of
‘Tai Shan Turns 4 ~ Look @ That Face’
courtesy of ‘Daniel.Techie {TCP/IP} @’

I know, this is news to no one, that Tai Shan is the cutest little Butterstick the world has ever seen. However, thanks to his American training, he can even do cute things while asleep: A British tourist caught him doing a somersault in his sleep. That’s right, our panda is so awesome he does gymnastics in his sleep. The sad thing is, the Chinese are taking him back from us soon, so you’d better head out to the Zoo ASAP. Well, that is, unless we’re smart and we take the Panda hostage…

Special Events, The Daily Feed

ZooLights Are Back!

Photo courtesy of
‘ZooLights Preview’
courtesy of ‘macmoov’

ZooLights are back and on display as of Friday night at the National Zoo.

This animal & holiday themed light festival will be open on weekend nights through Dec. 13 and each night between Dec. 18 – Jan. 2. But remember! The zoo will be closed on Chirstmas Eve, Chirstmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

“Special Theme” nights are also planned in conjunction with the festival and include: performances from local choirs, puppet shows, “Military” night and “Date” night.

Tickets are $8 for the public and $5 for zoo members.

The Features

Why I Love DC: Rachel

Photo courtesy of
‘Spinning Out of Control’
courtesy of ‘kimberlyfaye’

I love DC because I get to see my dad everyday. This might sound simple but I assure you it’s not. Dad passed away in January, just days before the historic inauguration of President Obama.

Streets were flooded with tourists while I was attempting to flee the city I’ve grown to love for dear life. But  if it weren’t for my dad, I would’ve never made it to DC in the first place. Continue reading

Adams Morgan, The Daily Feed

Deer Takes On Lions at the National Zoo

Photo courtesy of
‘Wild DC – O Hai! – 6-12-09’
courtesy of ‘mosley.brian’

You can’t make this stuff up. A deer, a resident of Rock Creek Park, made a very unwise decision on Sunday. This poor deer decided to take one small step for deer…and one giant leap for deerkind – right into the lion exhibit at the National Zoo. Merry Christmas to the two female lions that quickly became interested in their new dinner menu. But WAIT – not so fast. This little deer is a survivor. NBC 4 has the full story here.

According to the article, the whole ordeal took about 45 minutes and ended up with the staff at the Zoo rescuing the deer after its valiant fight to get away. Pics or it didn’t happen, right? How about video. Even better. You must watch this video of the deer escaping the female lions as a large crowd cheers on Bambi! This is seriously like watching the Discovery Channel’s footage of a lion attack in Africa. Must watch.

(Watch the video after the jump)

Continue reading

The Daily Feed

National Zoo: It’s Got Sex Appeal

Photo courtesy of Michael Oar

Think the National Zoo is boring? Hah! You’ve obviously never seen turtles having sex. Michael Oar of Alexandria took a trip there yesterday and snapped this great shot of reptile love making at its finest. Look for baby turtles all over Woodley Park in the near future, these guys really went at it.

As a side note, I thought about including some interesting scientific facts about turtles and their reproductive process, but when I Googled “turtle sex” I was immediately turned off of that pursuit. Yes, I Googled “turtle sex”.

Have you been to the Zoo lately? You are sooo missing out.