The Animal Portrait Project

Animal Portrait Project

Back in the days when San Diego’s Safari Park was the Wild Animal Park, I decided to challenge my photography skills by photographing each animal in the Wild Animal Park.  Years later I added San Diego Zoo as another place to photography animals.  The point was to take a portrait of the animals without the appearance of cages.   Sometimes I couldn’t avoid the cages, therefore some shots you can see the fence, cage or enclosure. I had a membership at the time and I could go to either park whenever I wanted too.  I figured I had plenty of time to photograph each animal.  Well, at least the ones who didn’t seem to be in a cage.

I took my time, each year renewing my membership and each year forgetting to visit the two parks.  The times I did visit the parks, I started to notice that I was slowly getting better, less blurry photos and more interesting angles.  Then one day I forgot to renew my membership which included 4 free guest passes.  Today’s membership does not include the 4 free guest passes, therefore I decided not to renew it again.  Sadly I didn’t finish my Animal Portrait Project.


This orangutan was one of my favorite animals to photography.  At the time when I took these photos, there was a young orangutan jumping, swinging and rolling in front of this crowd.  Everyone was taking pictures of this young orangutan.  Since it was crowded on one corner of the habitat I moved to the opposite side of the habitat to wait patiently for this young orangutan to come my way so I could get an undisturbed photo of him playing.  The young orangutan was putting up a show for the crowd so I decided to focus my attention to an older orangutan closer to me who was patiently seeing the young orangutan play.

As I turn my camera to the older orangutan it looked straight at me.  I snapped a picture.  Then I lowered my camera to check the photos, saw it was ok I aimed that camera towards the older orangutan and snapped another photo.  The orangutan figured I was giving him my attention so something surprising happened, the orangutan started to pose for me.  When I say pose I mean the orangutan would look straight into my camera pose, wait for a few seconds then change his position, look at me waited and posed again.  We did this for a while.  I kept on taking photos of this orangutan because he was posing for me only.  I know this because other people started to see that the older orangutan was moving within the habitat and wanted to take pictures of him.  The orangutan would only look into my camera and ignored the rest.  I even overheard someone saying that the orangutan was posing for me. The older orangutan and I shared a connection at that moment.  When I came home and viewed the pictures I was happy and sad for this orangutan.  I was happy because of the connection we had and the many poses he did for me. I was sad because of the intelligence he showed and awareness of the place he was living in. He will always live inside a “habitat.”  I do have to say that without the existence of the Safari Park or San Diego Zoo I would never see these animals in person. Maybe the San Diego Zoo will give me an annual pass to complete my project wishful thinking.  This is so far what I have.


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