More elephanty goodness

I wanted to post a few more photos from Elephant Nature Park as a follow up to my previous post, My elephant week. But first, a little photography navel-gazing.

I picked up a new 50-200mm telephoto zoom lens (for an upcoming leg of our travels) which arrived in Chiang Mai just before I started volunteering (thanks to the parents). So I had a chance to “kick the tires” a little at the park—specifically the photos I took of the elephants bathing in the river (or on their way there). All the other photos (and all the photos I’ve taken on the trip thus far) have been with Pentax’s 21mm F3.2 “pancake” lens.

One thing I learned in the process is just how hard wildlife photography is, especially knowing that these elephants are not that wild. Just because I have a telephoto zoom does not mean I instantly take awesome photos of animals. If anything, it’s harder, because my position in the immediate vicinity affects the final picture less, so I’m more dependent on the unpredictable behavior of the animal (“Umm, excuse me Mr. Elephant, could you please go back and hold that pose a little longer?”)

The experience did teach me a lot about the type of photos I enjoy taking: ones that capture the whole scene and ones where you feel immersed in the scene, both of which favor wider angles. With the elephants, I was surprised how often I had to “step back” with my 21mm (32mm-e) lens to capture the whole elephant, or otherwise get the composition I wanted. The wide angle, prime lens makes photography feel like an active, engaging sport. The telephoto zoom lens made me feel like a static, passive observer. At least on my first outing.

And now for something a little more elephantine:

Two elephants taking a break from eating at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Taking a break between bites

Close up of an elephant eating bananas at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Munchin’ on bananas (one of my favorite shots)

The following 8 photos were taken with the telephoto zoom lens.

Elephant walking with mahout to the river at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Elephant walking the mahout to the river

Elephant portrait at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
“Portraits” are hard with such long noses

Naturalistic shot of two elephants in the river at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Naturalistic shot of two elephants in the river

Elephant butt in the river at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
The obligatory butt and trunk shot

Two elephant kids heading to the river at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
The kids heading to the river

Young elephant scratches his belly at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Scratch the belly

Young elephant scratches his butt at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Scratch the butt

Young elephant trying to get treat from mahout at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hey, gimme some!

Looking up at an elephant from ground level at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
How an elephant looks to a mouse

Sangduen 'Lek' Chailert singing elephants to sleep at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Another great shot of Lek singing Que Sera, Sera to the elephants

Elephant walking by the river at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hope walking along the river back to the park

Elephant with two mahouts at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Jungle Boy with his two mahouts