The Calgary Zoolights – 2010

It was chilly at the zoo wandering the pathways last night amid a cold breeze off of the Bow river.  It was worthwhile though as Bobbi and I were surrounded by over 1,500,000 Christmas lights!

(click on any of the photographs for larger images)

This annual event runs from November 26 to January 2 this year.  Most of the zoo is wrapped in lights taking the shape of animals, dinosaurs, sleighs, jungle scenes and a lot more.  We went last year and it was -30°C plus the windchill which made it a bit too cold for more than a few photographs as I was attending a party and was not bundled up.  This year I had longjohns, two sets of gloves and some good layers on so I was able to enjoy the walk more.  We were both bundled up but Bobbi’s boots let her down a bit – nothing serious.  We had no trouble having a great time.

I had to hunt this creature down…

… but I finally got clear of the forest of lights for a clean shot.


This year I brought my tripod as well because I wanted to make long exposures and play with some zooming techniques during these slower shutter speeds.


Here is a straight long exposure of the jungle scene.

And here is the same composition with the addition of the twist of the zoom lens.  You can do this handheld as well but using a tripod you get straight zoom lines and I find I have better control over the speed of the zoom and how the effect looks.

Here are a few other images from last night.

Thank you to the Zoo for putting on such a visually delightful event, my wife for humouring me as I doddled along in the cold and my parents for spending the evening with the kids.

Two weeks until the big day but in case I don’t see you between now and then, Merry Christmas!

5 responses

  1. Kendall Martin

    Recently in my photography class we have been talking about photography and the affects of light. We have messed with slowing down out shutter speeds and writing with light as well. The shot you have is very interesting to me because I have no idea how you made the light make those lines going away from you. It seems like you moved the camera away from the light, directly backwards while you had a semi quick shutter speed. but it turned out really well! I love all your other pictures that have to do with messing with light. It is one of my favorite parts of photography. I think it’s amazing what you can do with some darkness, a cell phone, and a camera. I really like this picture, what were your settings at? you couldn’t have had that long of a shutter speed unless you moved the camera very slowly, and in that case you couldn’t have had in it your hand or else you would have had a shaky blur.

    March 21, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    • Hi Kendall,

      Thank you for your comments. I used a zoom lens (a 70-200mm and a 17-40) and long exposures of up to 4 seconds. Then I twisted the barrel to move the lens through its zoom range during each long exposure. Give it a try next time you’re able to stretch into longer exposures. Enjoy the classes and playing with the light.


      March 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm

  2. Val Erde

    Are these LED’s? They’re amazing, though if they’re not low energy lights, I’d worry about the amount of heat they’d put out there and the energy used.

    December 18, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    • Hi Val,

      The Calgary Zoolights are mostly all LED lights. They also use acrylic light strings for some three dimensional animals and I’m not sure whether those are LED or another type. By a very large margin, LED lights are the majority.



      December 18, 2010 at 8:39 pm

  3. theses are sick. cool.

    December 11, 2010 at 7:47 pm

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