My Photo Day With Laurie Rubin

Of course, you know I am involved with Trey Ratcliff’s The Arcanum online photographic academy, where I am privileged to be apprenticed to world famous photographer, Laurie Rubin, my master and mentor, under the cohort of Wildlife and Nature Photography.

I was so excited the day I actually found out that Laurie Rubin would be mentoring me through The Arcanum. But I could have never imagined the amazing opportunity to be able to shoot wildlife photography with Laurie in person at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the San Diego Zoo! Finally, the day arrived. I met Laurie in San Diego for a day of incredible photography. And I knew it was going to be a great day when she said, “Let’s go to Starbucks on the way!” And so, with Starbucks and mega camera gear in hand we set out for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, California.

The San Diego Zoo and The San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Zoo Global is a not-for-profit organization that operates the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. It was founded on October 2, 1916, and is the largest zoological membership association in the world. San Diego Zoo Global is committed to saving species worldwide by uniting our expertise in animal care and conservation science with our dedication to inspiring passion for nature. The 100-acre (40-hectare) Zoo is home to over 3,700 rare and endangered animals representing more than 650 species and subspecies, and a prominent botanical collection with more than 700,000 exotic plants. It is located just north of downtown San Diego in Balboa Park. The Safari Park is an expansive wildlife sanctuary that is home to more than 2,600 animals representing more than 300 species. Its renowned botanical collection represents 3,500 species and 1.5 million specimens. Over half of the Park’s 1,800 acres (730 hectares) have been set aside as protected native species habitat. It is located 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of downtown San Diego in the San Pasqual Valley near Escondido, California.

The first thing I learned was to pay attention — Laurie, master – Catherine, apprentice. I immediately learned the importance of using a monopod with my Nikon D800E, along with my 80-400mm lens. Laurie showed me the best way to use a monopod to capture photos of the different animals in a zoo habitat. We first visited one of the most popular areas — the new cheetah cubs. I learned that shooting through plexiglas enclosures is not an easy task, but it is possible. You have to pay attention to reflections and it is best if you wear dark clothing to avoid reflections. Of course, I had worn a white shirt — I’ll know better next time! I could have watched those cheetah cubs all day. They are so cute. But after a short while, Laurie, ever the intent teacher and photographer, took us to the star of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, in my opinion — Izu the male lion. This is a big cat! And this was a big day — his first day with the new lion cubs. I went crazy shooting photos of these amazing lions. I’m sure we were there at least an hour at that enclosure and we could have stayed even longer — every photo revealed new gestures by the animals. I started thinking I was going to run out of space on my memory card.

Then, my second favorite setting. I truly loved photographing the ducks. Their movements are so quick, though. I caught a few shots of half a duck’s head or a duck with its rear facing me. So I asked Laurie for help. She showed me when the best shots would happen, for example, if the duck went under water, get ready, because it will flap it’s wings. Of all the duck shots, my favorite photo of the day was the duck that looks like it’s conducting a symphony orchestra. Be ready!

Then, the big event of the day was the gorilla and its baby walking out and posing for us. They did just that, as if the director had shouted “Action,” and the movie cameras had started rolling in Hollywood. It was amazing! The photo I am showing in this gallery is the standoff that the other gorilla had with the baby gorilla. Notice that the mother is right there, and believe me, she grabbed her baby at one point when the other gorilla got too close. Watch out!

Oh, what a day! We had lunch together and then we traveled down to the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park in the city of San Diego, and we shot some more.

Ultimately, I took over 1100 (yes, that’s eleven hundred) photos and I really learned so much from Laurie, my hero–mentor. What a great experience!

What I Learned About Wildlife Photograpy From Laurie Rubin

  • How to use a monopod for stability and the importance of using it at a zoo or wildlife park.
  • Paying attention to the gestures and behavior of the animals and staying focused on the animals to get the shot.
  • Using a wide-open aperture in aperture priority and experiment with auto-ISO for wildlife.
  • Photographing the ducks picking up the artistic backgrounds that occur because of the reflections in the water.
  • The importance of paying attention to the all backgrounds for wildlife shots.
  • You can shoot through many of the wired enclosures and the wires won’t even appear in the photo. This was amazing to me.
  • Wear dark clothing so you don’t stand out in the reflections when shooting through glass.
  • Added some new layers to my post-processing workflow after watching how Laurie post-processed her images from our day.
  • How important the heart and soul are in your photography. Laurie personified.
  • I gained a whole new appreciation of wildlife and nature photography of God’s great creation from Laurie.

Laurie and I had great fun sharing the comradery and passion for photography. I’m so thankful for her for this opportunity. She is an amazing photographer with a huge heart. Laurie’s love for animals is contagious and I’m hooked now. I look forward to getting out there and shooting with her again sometime soon.

♥ Blessings and Grace to You!

Catherine
Laurie Rubin is an international award-winning photographer specializing in nature and landscape photography and Senior Education Manager at Macphun Software. Most recently Laurie won 1st place in the Windland Smith Rice International Awards for the Zoo and Aquarium category. Her image is in the Fall Awards issue of Nature’s Best and is displayed at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. As she says, “Photography, nature, wildlife and finding happiness along the way … that’s what I’m all about!”
Laurie Rubin
Trey Ratcliff, the world renowned professional photographer of StuckInCustoms.com (the #1 Travel Photography Blog on the Internet) with the first HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo ever to hang in the Smithsonian Institution, founded The Arcanum, dedicated to teaching the artistic disciplines of photography through a Master and Apprentice relationship. Masters include such notables as Laurie Rubin, Dallas Nagata White, Catherine Hall, Jeremy Cowart, Lisa Bettany, Jaime Ibarra, Karen Hutton, Thomas Hawk, Rick Sammon, Dave Cross, Alex Koloskov, Varina Patel, and many more. Each Arcanum level has special assignments, critiques or challenges for the Apprentices with the goal to become a Master.
Trey Ratcliff’s THE ARCANUM

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