OCTOBER 16, 2012
Eight months after I moved from Southern California back to the East Coast, I was able to visit the Jackonville Zoo in Northern Florida. Having found a business investor, I purchased the Canon 5D Mark II. Here was my first real test of using a professional DSLR.

I knew the basics, the technical side of photography. Most digital cameras are similar in this regard. However, I also learned that each camera has a different feel to it. The Mark II was definitely heavier in weight than the Rebel XTi I previously owned. Yet, as expected, the quality of the photographs improved significantly. And with a full-frame sensor, I didn’t have to compensate for the camera cropping out parts of the scene.

I photographed as many of the animals as I could. No real threat of rain. I began in the Aviary. Many of the birds here seemed to be comfortable in this environment. Capable of flying, but never really drifting too far away from the area. From ducks to larger birds, they were used to being photographed. Some seemed to pose, making sure I captured their ‘good’ side. I had to ask myself, ‘Do animals know what a camera is, what it does?’ Perhaps, they caught on after a while.

I moved on to groups of animals from Africa. The warthogs were alert and did not like cameras pointed at them. They seemed almost annoyed, wondering why people bothered in the first place. I could almost make it out from their facial expressions and how the hid in the shade when a camera was raised. 😦 I moved on more quickly out of respect for their wishes.

Next, were…hmm…they reminded me of deer, but far from it. Then, a zebra who obviously wanted privacy. Finally, the Lionness; she sat still, moving gracefully when she did. Yes, she was a perfect model. Her counterpart, the male, was the complete opposite. His mane made him seem all the more powerful. No, Kings stay in the shade, no pictures that day. I had the audacity to try…and failed, seemingly to his delight.

Onward. All sorts of bushels and floral, the colors jumped out at me. A bird kneeling down for a drink of water, dark red over its brow…the perfect accent color to its shade of blue feathers. Yes, I suppose animals know how to match their attire. Everyone has to look their best for pictures.

A heavy door opened to the reptiles. Turtles, ridiculously large frogs, and snakes. The best and the worst to behold. Graceful. Elegant. Deadly. The last one held a sinister gaze that could haunt me. Needed some air.

A few birds here and there, especially if you looked hard enough. Then, it was off to “Japan” or the section rather. Koi fish swam wildly in a large, dark pond as children fed them small pellets of food. It was hard to keep up with where they were going. I decided to anticipate where they would head to compose better shots. They calmed as the kids dashed off, their parents on the move. I sat at the edge of the pond, snapping away at what seemed to be decent scenes. I never really know until I get home and look at my results on the big screen. Faith.

Next, I went to a garden. My legs were tiring. The sun had gone passed the top of its arch and headed down. Strange bushels, whispy, all around. I captured what I found. Another swallow of Gatorade, wondering if I missed some place. One more section. Stingrays. What interesting variety of creatures there are.

Too much light had passed. Exposures were very dark. And I was ready to head home. I captured what I could, hoping to bring out any ambient light in editing. I did. Accidentally over-exposing one image turned into a brief stylistic trend. They look nothing like the rest of the collection, though I don’t have the mind to change a thing.

Fourty-eight images in the end. I could add more. Always. But it has to end somewhere, sometime. I may continue to feature the ones that really catch my attention in the days ahead. For now, this is the Series in its entirety. Do you have a favorite? Or one you don’t like at all? I have a few favorites; it’s hard to choose. Another story come and gone. Another experience to remember as long as I can.

Eric Christopher Jackson


  1. My favourites are the tortoise first and all of the colourful fish second 🙂

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