a peek inside the fishbowl

02 Aug, 2010

A trip to the zoo

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Photography|travel talk

While I recognize that stacks of vacation photos can be a real yawn sometimes, I think a couple of you might find a few photos from our trip to the Toronto Zoo somewhat amusing. My goal: Unusual Portraits of Animals. (Not, Portraits of Unusual Animals.)

While we were there I spent a lot of time watching other people take photos.

If you find yourself taking photos at a zoo may I politely suggest:

1) Avoid shooting through glass. And if you do, turn off your flash. On preview, if your photo looks too dark, keep your hand as steady as possible (leaning against a wall helps, take a deep breath and snap) and adjust your shutter speed for a longer exposure. Depending on what kind of camera you have, you may also be able to bump up the ISO (move it from 200 to 800 or more). This will increase the noise in your photo (a.k.a. there will be more grainy parts) but if the photo really matters you might as well give it a shot.

2) Look for alternate angles and compelling composition. Zoom in! Fill the frame! But also look outside the frame to see if there is something you could include to make it more interesting.

3) Ask yourself: does this photo tell a story?

4) Don’t forget to take photos of your people. If you’re taking pictures of kids you will really benefit by getting down to their level. It makes a huge difference. Try to capture those special moments of your family; your son seeing an elephant for the first time, your daughter intently licking her ice cream cone etc. An album full of zoo animals can be a bit boring (and odds are you probably won’t really look at them again) but you WILL cherish the special memories of your family.

5) Don’t forget to shut off the camera every once in awhile and STOP and LOOK with your own eyes. Mark overheard a guy saying he doesn’t need to look at the animals, that he’ll just look at the photos later. (?)

Click here for a slideshow of our visit. :)

To make our zoo visit a little easier we stayed at the Delta East – which I totally recommend. It is very kid-friendly. This is the big draw here:

The pool and slide at the Delta East

The girls had that slide all to themselves on Sunday morning. They were thrilled.

I was thrilled that a two-night stay at the Delta includes admission for four to the Toronto Zoo. Love. it. Our room was very good and it was centrally located, which was perfect.

We also went to the Ontario Science Centre. I was given a pair of tickets to the Harry Potter exhibit (thanks Erica!) but I’m just too pooped to write about that right now. :) I also need to fill you in on the latest KMDM activity. That’s coming up too. Phew.

I hope you’re all having a great weekend!

6 Responses to "A trip to the zoo"

1 | Melissa

August 2nd, 2010 at 9:29 am


When you get up to couch to 10k, there is an awesome 10k in October at the Toronto Zoo. I did it 2 years ago. It’s one loop so it’s never boring and as you are running you find yourself saying – “hey! A tiger!” “ooooh – there’s the giraffe!” It’s very cool. And they have a cub run too after the 10k is done. I ran the 10k and the kids did the cub run. We made them little medals and prize bags etc.


2 | Sean

August 2nd, 2010 at 10:28 pm


Some really nice pictures there. What camera and lens are you using? I’m planning on finally getting a dslr in the near future after doing without for years (originally had a Canon EOS 5)

Hopefully I can remember the hotel when I plan a trip to the zoo with my kids – will be moving to Ottawa next summer.

3 | Chantal

August 3rd, 2010 at 6:09 am


oh we love the Delta Toronto East! We went there for 4 years straight and took the zoo and science centre packages! We had planned on going this year and then decided to go to Niagara instead. Next year we will have to go. It has been a few years and I don’t think M remembers it.

4 | andrea

August 3rd, 2010 at 6:10 am


Melissa: LOVE that idea. Maybe someday I’ll get to that point!

Sean: Thank you! I use an aging Nikon D70. It’s been a real workhorse – a great camera. The closeup photos are taken with a Nikkor 55-200 mm. It needs a lot of light to work well. Someday I hope to be able to upgrade to a better lens for nature photography!

5 | andrea

August 3rd, 2010 at 6:12 am


Chantal: it is a great hotel, although I feel a little sad about going to Toronto and not actually making it to Toronto. YKWIM? This trip was all about the kids! :)

6 | Melissa

August 3rd, 2010 at 8:17 am


We should set a goal for next year Andrea! I’ve been starting to run again after an over year long break and am very slowly going. Trying to avoid shin splints. We could do the zoo run in 2011!


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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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