Delighting in Otters

Otterly awesome, Otterly irresistable, Otterly Otters!

I completely adore otters, and it is a delight to me that one of my local wildlife parks got a group a few years ago. They run an adoption program, where you can donate money to a specific animal and it goes towards their upkeep etc. I have just signed up for my second year of Adoption for the otters πŸ™‚

The wildlife park I usually go to is called Orana Park, and has been around for a very long time. It has a great collection of animals and is doing great things in breeding rare and endangered animals, which is really exciting. However we have another park that I have never visited but decided to go to, because they have otters as well.

Orana Park is all about the safety and the space for the animals so it is difficult to get good close intimate shots. Willowbank is an older design and doesnt have as much in the way of safety spaces or barriers in the same way Orana does. So this means you are able to get quite a lot closer to the animals and get much more intimate shots. It is also a great favourite with families, and I (along with many animals) were less than impressed with the number of children allowed to run round, yelling and chasing the animals 😦

Cute otter ears!

Still on my first day out there I got some great shots, including some lovely portrait otter shots. For some strange reason the pond they have is infested with green pondweed, so it looks like they are swimming in pea soup.

Swimming in Pea Soup

I got some good group shots at Orana, where they have 5 male otters who all play and wriggle and chase each other. They have a set feeding time, and they know when it is, and started to get quite interested as the crowd gathered. They helpfully posed on a wall, staying still for what is a remarkably long time for an otter πŸ™‚ Feeding time involved them getting up on special stumps to each the baby salmon they were given. I love how they use their front paws like hands, its very endearing.

Nom Nom Nom


Technically I found the otters hard to shoot. My initial idea was to shoot at the fastest shutter speed, but the day I had gone out was cloudy (which was the idea as it softened the light and the shadows) but towards the end of the day it was getting thicker and darker, and my camera compensated by going to a wider open aperture. I think it it was around 1/250th sec by this time of day was the fastest I could get.

This meant I began to have some problems with DOF at F4 which I have noticed in my camera before, where F4 doesn’t seem like it is as deep as it should be. I have shot with a different lens at F1.8 and had more DOF than I seem to be getting with F4. And I was using a single focus point as close to the eyes as possible. This was shooting with my 70-200 F4 IS L lens.

It clearly shows the DOF in this image where the face is in focus but the feet are not, and its only a small animal and it must only be 10-20 cm range at the most.

Depth of Field

I am not sure if my expectations are wrong, but it bothers me as I have seen the same thing taking photos of flowers that are less than an inch in depth and not had them all in focus at F4 as well. I am quite confused. You can see it in the image below as well which clearly has a much bigger DOF as its a bigger group. What am I doing wrong here?

A group of otters is called a "romp"

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About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
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4 Responses to Delighting in Otters

  1. forkboy says:

    Keep in mind the in-focus depth of field issue isn’t just based upon your aperture. It is also dependent upon the zoom setting of your lens and the distance between you and the subject.

    I think it’s these additional factors which are having an impact on what you are expecting.

    And often the lenses with very wide open apertures (like f/1.8) they tend to be prime/fixed lenses under 120mm focal lengths.

  2. dave says:

    Wow! Well done!

  3. Craig says:

    Fork speakith the truth.

    The compression of a zoom lens changes things dramatically. The distance away impact is more sensitve than a wide angle

    When it works theses are a good writeup explaining the range..

    http://neilvn.com/tangents/2010/10/27/using-narrow-depth-of-field-and-great-bokeh/#more-5028
    http://neilvn.com/tangents/2011/01/11/depth-of-field-aperture/

    And theres a calculator to help show you how wide the gap can end up (sometimes down to mm’s)

    http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

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