AutoMatters+: Going on Safari (and protecting your smartphone)


AutoMatters+: Going on Safari (and protecting your smartphone)

Assignment: Capture a Tiger on the Trail

Our latest adventure in AutoMatters+ takes us on a safari. My mission included taking a photo of a tiger. Oh, and I wanted to be home in time for dinner — in San Diego!

Here’s how I accomplished that. The safari was not in the wilds of Africa. Rather, it was in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park — a sprawling, lush, 1,800-acre wildlife sanctuary in the San Pasqual Valley of North San Diego County, near Escondido. You might have known it by its previous name, which was the Wild Animal Park.

According to the website (, the park “is home to more than 2,600 animals representing more than 300 species. Its renowned botanical collection represents 3,500 species and 1.5 million specimens. Over half of the Park’s 1,800 acres have been set aside as protected native species habitat.”

I spent the entire day walking on the trails through as much of the park as I could. Other areas are only accessible by safari carts and trucks, but even if you are on foot, you can still photograph the animals there if you use a really, really long telephoto lens like I did for a shot of a giraffe. During my day there I saw many animals, botanical gardens (including the impressive Bonsai Pavilion) and an awesome gift shop, but the highlight of my day was shooting a tiger (with a camera, of course) on the Tiger Trail.

It is rare to see a Sumatran tiger up close. The beauty of the Safari Park is that visitors can observe these majestic creatures, and other wild animals, in natural settings instead of in cages.

I’ll let you in on a photographer’s method for taking photos of animals so that the photos will not reveal the protective fencing that is between you and them. If you use a camera that allows you to adjust the aperture setting (the lens opening), select a small number. Contrary to what you might assume, this will provide you with a large lens opening, which is what you need to minimize the depth of field of your shot. By doing that and focusing on your subject, what is in the foreground and the background will be out of focus. In my photo of a tiger you will not see the fence — just the eyes of the tiger as it watches you. Be patient and wait for your subject to move into just the right position for your photograph.

On Condor Ridge you can observe bald eagles, owls and California condors. You absolutely should not miss seeing the fascinating gorillas, the largest of all primates, as they roam in their large habitat. There is also a ropes course, a balloon ride which will give you a bird’s-eye view of the park and a thrilling, 2/3-mile-long zipline ride over animal exhibits.

My safari was the latest in a series of Pacific Photographic Society of San Diego photo expeditions. PPS is an active group of photographers from many walks of life. It was founded and organized by Walter Otto Koenig. With them, and in less than half a year, I’ve already shot photos of the Blue Angels training, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, the San Diego Botanic Garden, whale watching and the San Diego Bay Holiday Parade of Lights. If you’re a photographer (and really, who isn’t?), I highly recommend that you go online to and become a member. There’s no cost to join and it’s a great group of helpful, friendly, knowledgeable people.

Speck — A Safari-Tough Phone Case

A safari is no place for an unprotected smartphone. At the 2015 CES (Consumer Electronics Show), Speck gave me a review copy of their “CandyShell GRIP” case for my new iPhone 6 Plus. I needed a case that would provide good protection without adding bulk. This case, backed by a one-year warranty, meets that need in style.

Cradling the phone in soft rubber and then surrounding it with a tough plastic shell, it is certified to meet or exceed military drop-test standards. Rubber grips on the shell, and its raised, protective bezel, help keep the phone from slipping out of a hand or off a table. Priced at $34.95, it is available in several designer colors. Visit

As always, please write to with your comments and suggestions.

Copyright © 2015 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters+ #373