Cheetahs, Gorillas, and Elephants, Oh My…


This past week I spent four days in a row at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

My photography quest each day was to try to capture the cheetah running. Not an easy feat. See, the cheetah is only guaranteed to run once a day (she may run a second time if she doesn’t get overheated, and if the cheetah ‘wants’ to run again). Luckily for me, all four days the cheetah ran twice.

Many people come to see the cheetah run (to the point that I felt like I was in a mosh pit most days), so I had to get there early to secure my viewing location. Each day I chose a new location and a different method of capturing the cheetah on camera. I tried both panning and freezing the motion. All the while changing my camera settings to hopefully do better the next day.

All those days at the cheetah run taught me a thing or two. Did you know that cheetahs can run up to 70 mph? Cheetahs are faster than a typical sports car, you know 0-to-60 in under 6 seconds?… well, the cheetah can run 0-to-60 in 3 seconds. Or said another way, the cheetah can get to 40 mph in just three strides. Yep. In three steps the cheetah has already reached 40 mph. The fastest human can only run up to 28 mph. Freaky, huh?

The cheetah run track is 100 meters, which is just long enough for the cheetah to get to full speed and still have enough room to come to a complete stop. The days that I was there, the cheetah reached the end of the track in just over 5 seconds. Now that’s fast!

So you can imagine how challenging it was to try to capture the cheetah on camera.

Day 3 was the day I had the most success, I captured the cheetah running toward me, freezing the motion. I am very proud to have been able to get this shot, it was hard earned.

Day 1 was the biggest learning day. My photo was pretty unsuccessful, but I learned a lot and had many ideas for future attempts. I was feeling good and took a detour from my quest to get some photos of the elephants.

By day 4 my reaction time had slowed down considerably and I felt quite frustrated with my photos of the cheetah that day. So to boost my confidence I walked over to the gorilla area and took photos of the gorilla and the new baby.

It was a tiring week, but I learned a lot. I have plans to continue to check out the cheetah run and hope to get better with more practice.

Until next time…
~nic

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4 thoughts on “Cheetahs, Gorillas, and Elephants, Oh My…

  1. Your pictures turned out great!!!! My favorite is the gorilla and baby……sooo cute. These pictures make my day. Thanks : )

    • Pam – Thanks! I really like the gorilla and baby too, I was watching the baby climb all over the adult. Then the baby was helped down toward the adult’s face. The adult started to kiss the baby and I knew I had to try to capture the moment. 😀

  2. I think you’re even better than me!!!! I’m so glad you got interested in photography! It is an interesting media… especially since no two shots are ever alike (unless mass-produced). I like all of the photos! You do such a great job!

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