Eyes are wonderfully rich with expression, and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo’s rich diversity of exhibits coupled with its creative viewing alternatives provide fine opportunities for photographing expressive eyes in animals. Whether walking through the Desert Dome, exploring the expansive Simmons Aviary, or shooting through the glass of Hubbard Gorilla Valley, photographers, nature lovers, and families with children learning about animals, all have the intimate chance to grasp and expand William Shakespeare’s insight that “Eyes are the windows to your soul.” But, especially for the explorer with a camera, the chance to photograph expressive eyes is thrilling at Nebraska’s Henry Doorly Zoo, named as TripAdvisor’s world’s best zoo in its Travelers’ Choice awards.
Unique gorilla viewing
A discovery visit seeking expressive eyes in wildlife does well to start at Hubbard Gorilla Valley. The Henry Doorly Zoo describes this exhibit as a three acre site “where the gorillas roam free and the visitors are on display.” In this exhibit, the gorillas have an expansive living area, and through the extensive use of glass spaces, visitors obtain extraordinary viewing access. Glass enclosed nooks and crannies, wide glass viewing area, and even glass bubble spaces allow for delightful viewing capabilities.
Special orangutan viewing
Hubbard Orangutan Forest is another exhibit where glass allows special viewing opportunities. Henry Doorly Zoo developed this exhibit to offer orangutans active canopy access and the visitor the chance to catch lively canopy views. The exhibit’s environment contains two, man-made banyan trees that rise 65 feet into the air. The curious orangutans, not only can view the visitors but the orangutans also can view the zoo grounds and even downtown Omaha.
Three tips for shooting through glass
Glass-enclosed exhibits shouldn’t be viewed as insurmountable obstructions to the photographer. Glass scratches, lessened light, reflections, and the need to photograph without a flash are challenges, but a few, simple tips serve as helpful, photographic empowerments.
- a. Put your camera lens close to the glass. Scratches in the glass will be out of focus and reflection distractions will be lessened.
- b. Avoid bright lights behind you. If you are in darker light and your subject is in brighter light, reflections will be lessened. Also, don’t use your flash as it creates reflected light and can ruin your photo and alarm your subject.
- c. Photograph with your camera lens perpendicular to the glass. Place your camera’s optic axis, so it is perpendicular to the plane of the glass. Avoid creating angles between your camera lens and the glass wall to reduce both reflection and focus distortions.
Unique geodesic dome
Omaha’s zoo opportunities aren’t limited to unique glass-enclosed exhibits. The Desert Dome exhibit is the world’s largest, glazed geodesic dome and presents global desert displays, many open and some with glass or fenced separations, in the world’s largest indoor desert. Visitors stroll through the desert environments under the immense geodesic dome along paved pathways, and the careful observer can photograph feathered, furred, and scaled desert denizens.
The zoo’s Simmons Aviary is the world’s second largest free-flight aviary. Within the enclosed, four acre aviary, along walkways and bridges, visitors can observe and photograph without net or glass obstruction. Birds that would be difficult to approach in the wild are tolerant of the presence of photographers and zoo visitors.
Check out the slideshow accompanying this article. All the “expressive eyes” images were taken at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. Some images were taken from behind glass and others were captured without obstruction between photographer and subject.
Zoo admission and location information
Whether you live near or far, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo can provide a delightful, productive visit. The zoo is located at 3701 S. 10th Street, Omaha, NE 68107. An informational recording at 402 733 8400 provides hours and visitor information. Dependent on the season, standard hours are 9 AM to 5 PM or 10 AM to 4 PM. The North admission gate only opens during the summer, and then only for the limited hours of 10 AM to 3 PM. There is a fee for admission, but parking is free.
An American Association of Zoos and Aquariums reciprocity discount is available. If you’re a member of your own local AZA-accredited zoo, then you can get 50% off the admission fee at the Henry Doorly Zoo. A PDF list of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums Reciprocity Program members is available, but it’s wise to check at individual institutions to ensure current accuracy.
The eyes of nature’s creatures are rich and expressive. Man’s empathy with the natural world builds insights into captivating connections to animals, birds, reptiles, and our environment. Eyes are a pathway to the wild spirit of this world’s full, natural environment.
Photographing nature’s expressive eyes helps to build intriguing, inquisitive connections to biology and nature for the photographer, the nature lover, and the lifelong learner. And, in discovering expressive eyes within the natural world, the adventurer enjoys a kinship described poignantly by poet John Greenleaf Whittier as “All the windows of my heart I open to the day.”
Find the take in this article to be helpful? National and International Travel as well as National and Global Education materials come from a husband and wife creative team, who travel extensively as photonaturalists and writers. One is an experienced scientist with a doctorate in Material Sciences and background in optics research. The other is former Vice President of GKE (Global Knowledge Exchange), who served as a US Web-based Education Commissioner during the Clinton administration, and was a former US National Tech&Learning Teacher of the Year.
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