Animals Watching Humans Watching Animals

6:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning and someone is knocking on my door. Surprisingly I was up, awake and dressed. How did this happen? I opened the door to see my friend standing there looking only slightly more awake than me.

Who’s idea was this?” I mumble.

Yours!” my friend replied.

He was right. This had been my idea. The Houston Zoo was hosting “Photo Day”. The only catch was that we had to arrive there at 7:00 a.m. Yikes, that was early. I used to get up at that godforsaken hour when I was employed, but not since I retired. Would my love of animals make this expedition worth while? We were about to find out.

In an email from the Zoo, we were told to bring whatever camera equipment we could carry. There would be a light breakfast and then we would have time to photograph the lions, tigers, and bears. I assumed that most of the attendants would take photos with their phones. Hardly anyone used actual cameras anymore.

Wow! Was I ever wrong. I haven’t seen that many cameras, lenses and tripods in one place since.….ever! A total geeky photo nerd convention. And, yes, I was right there in the middle of them. Here is what the crowd looked like when the picture taking commenced:

However, before the photo sessions began, we did enjoy a nice breakfast compliments of the Houston Zoo. Coffee and doughnuts and fruit…Oh My! While consuming sugar and caffeine, we gradually woke up and the sun came out. As photographers mingled around, I listened to several conversations:

This baby will zoom from 20 to 600.”

Yeah, but the 70D will shoot 7 fps continuous.”

I can’t believe I didn’t bring my polarizer.”

It cost a lot more than the f4.0, but I get better DOF control.”

Would you know what they were talking about? Me neither. I was way out of my league as far as how much I knew about operating my Canon camera. That’s why I brought my friend along. He’s an Engineer and knows pretty much how everything operates. He even brought his own monopod.

Soon we were off to see the lions. A male lion came outside, but did not walk very far. The keepers put out a lot of food to encourage the animals to move about, but this guy wasn’t that hungry. However, he was beautiful!

After visiting with the lion we moved over to the habitat for tigers. This wonderful creature was much more cooperative and walked around a lot while the “paparazzi” clicked away.

Then it was off to the bears! The two bears in their habitat were sisters. Their names were Bella and Willow. They walked around a good bit, but also spent a lot of time eating coconut. I watching these gals as they finished off the coconut and then gathered grapes and frozen fish. Is it my imagination or is Willow smiling at me?

Last, the male lion went back inside and three lionesses came out for their snacks and pictures. They were much more animated than their male counterpart.

All the while we were moving about to get the best possible pictures, Zoo keepers were talking to us about the animals. By the time Photo Day was over, my friend and I had taken approximately 350 pictures. I hoped I picked out some of the best to share with you.

Was it worth getting up before sunrise to do this? Yes! It was much more pleasant to wake up for Photo Day than to wake up to go to work!

Until next week.….