San Diego Safari Park Cheetah Run


San Diego Safari Park Cheetah Run Zoo Wildlife Escondido San Pasqual Valley

Canon 5D Mark III, 70-200mm f2.8L IS II USM at 200mm, f/2.8 for 1/500s at ISO100

San Diego Safari Park Cheetah Run Zoo Wildlife Escondido San Pasqual Valley

Canon 5D Mark III, 70-200mm f2.8L IS II USM at 200mm, f/2.8 for 1/500s at ISO100

It was nice and cool this past weekend and since our memberships were about to expire, my wife and I decided to go to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The Park is the sister site of the San Diego Zoo and is ooperated by the San Diego Zoological Society and is located east of Escondido in the San Pasqual Valley. It is a sprawling 1800 acre site with a huge open area where white rhinos, giraffes, buffalo, antelope and various bird species share a single enclosure. This open area is unlike any zoo as you can witness the various wildlife species interacting with one another as they would in the wild.

One of the highlight attractions of the park is the Cheetah Run where visitors can watch one of the Park’s Cheetahs perform a 100 yard dash down a grass track. Arriving just 7 minutes before the run, I was lucky enough to secure a location at the far end of the track with a clear view of the turf. I metered the scene prior to the run and the camera gave f2.8 at 1/500s. I had my Canon 5D Mark III with 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM racked out to 200mm. I put the camera in AI Servo and used single point AF with 8 surrounding assist points. I had trouble properly tracking the 60 MPH cheetah and ended up with a lot of photos with only the background in focus. In hindsight I should have used a 9-point AF cluster so I could better track the cheetah, especially since it took up so little of the frame even at 200mm. Due to the speed of the cheetah, even at 6 fps the frame rate seemed slow. The above two images were the only keepers of the afternoon.

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14 thoughts on “San Diego Safari Park Cheetah Run

  1. Great photos and it is good to see that your work is receiving a more attention than when I first saw your blog. You have an interesting and potentially very successful combination of skills as a photographer – a technical aptitude and interest as well as an eye for the artistic.

    Given the restrictive circumstances of this shoot I think you achieved a very good result – the way the rear paws of the cheetah are curved as they hit the ground in the first shot demonstrates the source of their powerful launch forward and the second shows the almost full stretch of their reach forward – all in crisp focus!

    • I felt fortunate to get this shot of the cheetah in mid-action. This is where having a high FPS camera really pays off. Although not as good at the 12 FPS or the 1DX or even the 8 FPS of the 7D, the 5D Mark III at 6 FPS is no slouch.

    • Thanks. I noticed you had photos on your blog of the San Diego area and was trying to figure out if you were a local photographer. I guess you were just visiting. Well, I hope you had a great time and welcome back soon.

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