Kickstart 4 – Hiding at the Pittsburgh Zoo
Well it’s Monday and that means another weekly installment of my Kickstart series. Looking at the forecast the night before, last Monday seemed like it was going to have all the makings of a beautiful day. And it did! I started off my week by heading to the West End Overlook, one of my favorite spots in the city, to work on the week’s series. The clouds were nice and moving quickly, but they were overly abundant and the light of sunrise just never developed. Dud! There went that idea.
I returned home and wondered how I would fit in my Monday shoot if the morning session was a bust. Harsh mid-day light does not make for flattering scenics and I had plans in the evening. It didn’t take long before I convinced myself the Pittsburgh Zoo would be an excellent choice for such a nice day. Now I could have settled for my theme (which I like all of my Kickstart posts to have one) to be animals. I took it a step further and decided only African mammals would be included. Still that wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to head to the zoo and simply slap on my longest lens, take some nice closeup portraits of the African wildlife, and call it a day. I needed something unique and challenging, something I’ve not done before.
On the drive to the zoo, I wracked my brain. Even as I was going up the escalator into the zoo, I’d not come up with anything. Then I got to thinking about camouflage and how both predator and prey generally do not like to be seen. Some have natural physical features to aid them in remaining well hidden and others employ techniques for hiding. Now at the zoo, most animals don’t have a reason to hide, and obviously visitors don’t want them to either, not that they have any control.
Enter JP. After thinking about this a little further I realized that if the animals were not going to hide, I was going to make them. The zoo does a great job of keeping the habitats looking pretty natural so there is no shortage of long grass, brush, and tress. This lush greenery would serve as the “hideout” for the animals. Instead of the rhino, for instance, positioning itself behind a tree or bush, I positioned MYSELF so that the tree would be between my lens and the rhino. I did this at all the exhibits I visited and to be frank, I really enjoyed the challenge. And a challenge it was!
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, I am having no problems seeing the animals in the photos. They are not very well hidden.” I agree. I had and still have no delusions that the photos would be a “Where’s Waldo” of the wildlife sort. My challenge to myself was to portray the animals at the zoo in a different perspective and create the illusion that perhaps they were out in the wild as opposed to in captivity. I’m sure I got some strange looks and some “what the hell is this guy photographing?” along the way, but I enjoyed the challenge and it got me thinking out of the box. And for me, that’s what helps me grow.