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  • Writer's pictureDave Pidgeon

Zoo penguin wants to join the crowd

Zoos, I've discovered, can be tremendous places to practice photography.

Take a super telephoto lens (200-400mm at least), and just walk around looking for the opportunities to fill frames with the animals.

It may not be an African safari. It might not even have the authenticity of a jaunt around your local park.

But it can be a place where you practice.

At the end of a long, hot summer day in the St. Louis Zoo, we passed the Penguin House. There's an area where a flock of Humboldt penguins gather and swim.

A Humboldt penguin looks at his companions.
This fella just wanted to be part of the crowd. Or run for some kind of office.

It's easy to get caught up in spray-and-pray mode when photographing at a zoo.

That's why patience is important. And anticipation. Eventually, a worthwhile image will emerge.

The penguin you see above stepped away from one group to look upon another. It appeared as if he wanted a new flock of companions and was making a case for joining.

He was isolated as a subject. There was a quick story to tell here. Patience paid off and I snapped the image using my Canon 5D Mark IV and a EF 100-400mm f/4.0-5.6L IS II USM lens.

There's nothing terribly significant about the moment itself. But when the penguin isolated himself, I had a simple subject to capture, and by adding the others into the lower right corner of the frame, I had context and scale.

Dave Pidgeon is a seasoned writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. You can reach him at

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