Since I’ve been to many zoos across the United States I can pick out the special ones that have changed the way I take pictures. Each has something special to offer. Some zoos are compact urban affairs that enclose their animals in manmade exhibits. The zookeepers try to make them as natural as possible but I simply notice how much room the animals have to walk/run around and their world becomes cramped and restrictive. A cheetah is meant to run, a giraffe need headroom, elephants need more than a backyard to roam.
The Southwick Zoo in Mendon, Massachusetts is 200 acres of wooded rural forest. There are few manmade exhibits other than generally closing off a large area to contain the animals as well as preventing them from being prey and predators.
Southwick’s fallow deer population has many acres to roam through the forest, bear their young and forage for natural foods. Visitors are offered a handful of corn to hand feed the deer if they choose to. The deer come running when they see visitors enter and even get between the patrons and the corn dispensing machine to grab the corn as it falls into little hands. Not one cornell gets wasted on the ground.
What I love, as a photographer, is the opportunity for closeups of the deer, either standing alone or interacting with humans. There are attendants in the forest area to keep the kids from wandering off the allotted paths into the woods or being too aggressive when trying to pet the deer. Kids running after deer is not permitted. 🙂
So instead of seeing deer in the wild and getting close enough with a long telepho lens to get a decent picture you can simply walk along the paths of this deer forest and the deer pose for you within inches. I handed one 4-5 cornell’s of corn I found on the ground and had it eaten right out of my hand. That was a first! 🙂