Monday, February 11, 2008

Love at the Zoo

For the 2nd year in a row the Woodland Park Zoo brought out Heart Shaped or Valentines Related Treats for the animals to celebrate Valentine's day. Myself, Dale Unruh and the incredibly talented husband and wife team of Dennis and Sue Dow were given a schedule of events and asked to cover it. I had grandiose plans of bringing a lot of equipment to get a wide range of shots but when I woke up I was unpleasantly greeted by torrential downpours of Seattle Sunshine...aka lots of Rain. Scratch the extra gear, minimal is best. I hopped in the car, hit I5 and was thrilled to see the rain let up. By the time I got to the Zoo it had pretty much stopped and with just intermittent sprinkles here and there it ended up being a perfect day to photograph at the Zoo.

Yesterday was a very unique day at the Zoo for me. There were quite a few people around to watch the treats get distributed so it was challenging at best to get good position for photographs. On my way to photograph the Otters I ran past the Lion habitat and noticed the female lion was pacing right up to the glass next to a little girl. I could not pass that opportunity up so I grabbed a few shots. The photo's I got really give a good idea of the massive size of this beautiful animal. It was cool because the girl gives a good idea of scale. I don't think I had seen her so close before and even I was surprised by how enormous she is.

I made it to the Otter habitat just in time. The keeper was nice enough to take me on the roof of the habitat with her so I didn't have to shoot through the nasty glass. The otters were really posing for me as I don't think they are used to a long lens pointing at them from above. I think they may have been expecting more treats to fall from the camera in their direction. It was a great session.

Then I had to run the entire length of the zoo in 10 minutes to get the Pigs and their treats. It isn't the prettiest of habitats so I did my best but no award winning shots in there.

Next...the Arctic Fox located just next to the Otter habitat of course....allllll the way back across the zoo. I just made it to watch them get hand fed Chicken Hearts. Not a very Valentine's Day themed photo op, but the Foxes were frisky and they are awful darned cute so I did get some OK shots there even though you have to shoot through a chain link fence.

At this point there was a break in the action for an hour and a half or so. I met Dennis, Sue and Dale in the Cafeteria and Sue was generous enough to treat us all to lunch...thank goodness because I was famished and had left my wallet at home! How embarrassing! Honest Dennis, I really did leave it by accident :)

We had a little time to spare and headed to the Gorilla habitat nearby to check and see if the baby was out...She was! But so were the crowds! Tons of people including small children packed against the glass which combined with neon jackets reflecting on the glass does not make for a good photo op. In addition, Amanda (Baby Mom) was holding the baby at an angle that made it very difficult to see her. No good shots there, but it was awesome to see her out and about considering she had a pretty significant surgery last month.

I lost track of time and realized a bit too late that the Jaguar was getting her treat in a very short period of time....I literally ran down the path to her and was shocked to see a crowd of at least 150 to 200 people packed around the glass. The keepers had placed a popsicle heart on a branch in front of the glass so I backed up and got as high as I could in hopes of getting a shot. I did, she gave a nice pose then I realized on the ground below they had placed a Valentines Heart shaped bright red box filled with Raw Meat for her. I wedged my way in and had a clean shot. She opened the box and found the meat then to my utter joy she grabbed the red lid of the box with the red side facing out and began to carry it. She was at profile but turning in my finger was poised above the shutter release in anticipation..this would be the crown jewel of my Zoo photography..head is turning...just about there...NOW! I fire the camera off in a burst of 10 frames per second and at the exact moment a kid about 8 years old jumps right in front of the camera and starts pounding on the glass! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I yelled at the top of my a move not unlike Will Ferrel at the Birthday party in Old School I shove the kid aside into the crowd. I yell obsencities at the top of my lungs and the crowd gasped in horror. An old woman fainted and the cat ran away...Well, that's not exactly how it happened, but it would have made for a better story. The kid blocked a once in a lifetime opportunity shot but the zoo is for kids so I couldn't fault him too much. I think I muttered something under my breath disgusted with myself for missing the opportunity and then I moved on to the Lemur's.

The Zoo published a Calendar for 2008 and the February shot is a photo I grabbed of the Lemurs eating from their heart shaped treat. It was my favorite shot of the year last year and I was thrilled they used it for the calendar. The keeper was super cool and was asking us where we wanted the treats hung. The Lemurs ran out excited and I got some pretty good shots. Who knows, could be the 09' February Calendar pic :)

After that was the Tiger. Some of you may remember me posting pictures of the cute, cuddly Hadiah as an 8 week old Tiger Cub. Now she is a gigantic cat full of energy and intensity. It is amazing how much she has grown in such a short period of time. She didn't get a Valentine's Themed treat, instead a large box containing meat balls that she devoured in no time flat. The keeper was wise enough to smear meat on the outside of the box as well so Hadiah put on quite a show of throwing the box around. A couple of birds landed in her habitat also and got away from her quick pounce with just a fraction of a second to spare. Once she was done thrashing the box she moved to the front of the habitat and plopped down on a rock giving me a beautiful pose for a portrait session. I snapped enough shots to fill my 8GB card and was ready to call it a day. I had originally planned to bring more cards but the rain scared me so I left them at home assuming 8Gb would be more than enough. Those of you that have seen me shoot at a wedding must be chuckling at me because obviously I was only fooling myself. I am trigger happy with my camera and everyone knows it.

I wasn't planning to wait the extra hour for the Red Panda treats so I said my goodbyes to the gang and started heading back. I walked the Gorilla trail to get out and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a much thinner crowd and the baby in her mothers lap playing! She was alert, active and in the perfect position! I aimed my camera...focused...fired and got the most horrible message ever...Memory Card Full! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I yelled at the top of my lungs...the Gorillas fled. The end.

Ha Ha, just kidding of course...I quickly started chimping my pics and deleting those I knew I wouldn't need. I freed up around 20 or 30 shots and fired them off. She is so dang cute. If you live in the area you really need to stop by and check her out.

So that was the day. If you made it this far through reading my blog then you are truly special :) I know this is a photography blog and you want pictures not novels but those of you that know me know I can't help myself :)

See you in the funny pages!


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