When one season ends for Tyler Green, another begins. Green, a junior guard on the men’s basketball team, has a unique hobby for a Division III basketball player and business administration major: zoo photography.
When not in season for the Panthers, Green, who averaged 10.6 points per game this year, spends a couple afternoons a week wandering the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park with his Canon 7D camera. Green, whose photography primarily focuses on the zoo’s “big cats,” told The Panther how he balances his passions for art and basketball.
Check out more of his photos from the zoo on his Instagram.
Q: How did you first get into nature photography?
A: Growing up, I used to go to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park all the time, since I’m from San Diego. I’ve always been interested in animals, but the photography aspect didn’t kick in until I was a junior in high school. I took a photography class because I had heard it was super fun. The teacher was a really laid-back cool guy, and I really enjoyed it. Senior year, I bought a camera and started taking (Advanced Placement) Photography. In that class, we had to pick one subject and focus on that the whole year. So I was like, ‘I’m gonna go to the zoo and take pictures.’ That’s how it started – it was kind of a random, weird thing where I decided I was just going to try it and see what I liked. My homework for that was basically, ‘Hey, I get to go to the zoo today.’ It just kind of built out of dumb luck and curiosity.
Q: Do you have an arrangement with the San Diego Zoo?
A: Actually, I didn’t even contact the zoo or anything at first. You’re not allowed to sell any pictures you take there or anything due to their licensing of the animals, so I just (take photos) because I like the work that (the San Diego Zoo) does. I’m really big on animal conservation, so I think (ethical zoos) can be necessary. They treat their animals really well. So I kind of did it to support (the San Diego Zoo) and show people that yes, they’re in captivity, but they’re really well taken care of. People have a bad idea of zoos because some treat (their animals) poorly, but I think the people in San Diego do a great job with the animals and I wanted to show everyone else that.
Q: How do you get in such good positions for the photos that you take?
A: I just walk in normally like every other person. Whenever I go to the zoo and Safari Park, I usually go around the same times, but it depends on who I’m with. If I’m by myself, I’ll change it up and go somewhere in the park I don’t normally go. But if I’m with a friend or someone who’s never gone, I typically take them on a route to go see the big cats. That’s what people really want to see. You really can’t see them anywhere else unless you go to Africa, which I hope to do. I just have regular access like everyone else. If you have the camera and the lenses, I guess anyone else could do it.
Q: Basketball and nature photography is an interesting combination. How did that happen?
A: It’s funny, everyone is kind of surprised when they find out that I do photography because it’s like, ‘But you play basketball.’ My dad’s a big sports guy, and my mom is an artist and owns her own art shop at a winery near my house, so I have a little bit of both of them in me. My oldest brother is a phenomenal artist, and he also loves basketball. My other brother isn’t on the artistic side at all, but he’s really into sports. That’s just who he is. Overall, we’re all pretty similar, but art is definitely where me and my oldest brother really get along.
Q: Did your parents let you gravitate to what you were naturally into?
A: Yes, they didn’t care. I give them so much credit for how they raised us, just by being supportive in everything we wanted to do. My dad is a professional golf instructor, so obviously he loves golf. But he never forced us to play golf. Growing up, I played just about every sport that was big at the time – basketball, soccer, golf, baseball – I played everything, and my parents just let me find for myself what I liked the most. When I told them that I wanted to do photography, they knew it was expensive – which is a downer – but when I told them, they got me my first camera and told me that I could figure out what I wanted to do with it.
Q: What do your teammates think of your photography?
A: They all know that I do it – anyone that knows me knows that photography is a big part of me. They won’t be surprised that I do this or anything when they see this. They’ll probably just be like, ‘Yep, there’s Green doing his thing.’”
Q: How often do you go now?
A: During the summers, I try to go twice a week. I go through spurts when I’ll go like two or three times in a week, and then I won’t go for a couple weeks. But then I’ll find out through other photographer friends about a big event at the zoo or something, and I’ll head back for those even while I’m in school. They just had the 100th anniversary at the zoo, so they had a bunch of special events and stuff at certain enclosures, so I was always around for that because things like that you can only see once in a lifetime. During (basketball) season, I can almost never go, so that’s kind of my temporary hiatus from photography. But I try to go as often as I can.