After having my first one-on-one critique with Laurie Rubin in The Arcanum last month, my next assignment was to submit 10 new images for Level 5. Her specific challenge to me was to photograph primarily new animals for my submission, so that meant the birds in my yard and the horses at the barn were off limits!
Since moving to this county in Virginia more than a decade ago, I’d noticed a sign for Wilson’s Wild Animal Park on my travels. Finally, I had an excuse for a visit!
I have to admit that my first experience there wasn’t what I expected. I guess I was thinking it would be more like the wildlife sanctuaries and rehabilitation facilities I’d visited in the past. Instead, it was like a small zoo, with lots of animals in small enclosures and a little rough around the edges.
I spent a few hours there that first day in early May and left rather disheartened. After posting my thoughts in Laurie Rubin’s cohort, we had a lively discussion about the philosophical reasons for zoos and how to mentally approach photographing the animals kept in them.
So, in between my crazy deadlines last week I slipped out for a few hours to visit again. This time I was prepared, knew what to expect and had a vision of what I wanted to capture through the lens.
I think it also helped that over the two weeks since my first visit spring has fully enveloped the area, with trees green, lush grass and flowers blooming. Even the animals seemed in better spirits, and I left there with some photographs I was happy to have captured. This lion named Tristan was an especially lovely model, and I enjoyed watching him on his morning rounds.
Although I’m still conflicted about keeping wild animals in wire and concrete, I understand the educational component. Over the two hours I was there, I estimated the child to adult ratio was easily 4 to 1. If even a few of these enthusiastic youngsters grow up with a better appreciation of wild animals and conservation, these individuals will have served a greater purpose.