The last time I experienced wild animals was in South Africa in 2005. I was there as part of a good will mission for The College of Magic. My guest took me and a few others to Sun City for some rest and relaxation and then treated us to a Safari at Pilanesberg Game Reserve. The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is situated northwest of Johannesburg. This was a very long drive from Cape Town on the longest open road and dry landscape I had ever experienced. I remember thinking, this would be the wrong place to breakdown. I had a camera at this time, however, I was a casual shooter, not fully invested in the subject of image creation. So I came away with some adequate shots of the wildlife featuring Elephants, Rhinos, Hippos and Monkeys - No Cats, I did not see anyone of the BIG FIVE.
I mention all this because last Saturday, I participated in a Photographic MEET-UP organised by a lovely lady called Jude. She has been running these events in the UK for quite a while and she took as to The Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. There was seven of us in total - all passionate Photographers: Kay, Phil, Priya, Clement, Diana, Myself and Jude.
What made this experience so visceral and exciting was the layout of the park. It allowed us close proximity to the animals whilst keeping us all safe from harm. My first big shot featured this Cheetah. I was astounded by the stealth movement, long body and purposeful energy of this cat. One of the fastest running cats on planet earth, which can clock 30 miles an hour at top speed. This was a very impressive Animal to behold.
Let me state right now, the Lions were spectacular. As soon as saw them, I was transfixed. I started shooting right away. The proximity plus my 70-200mm allowed a very intimate experience of these gorgeous creatures.
This image features the extraordinary “BAIKAL” the White Bengal Tiger, a cross breed, born and raised at the Reserve.
A Bengal Tiger was making the rounds and just lazing around, flashing his intimidating Teeth - what a sight.
The smaller Animals; Lemurs, Meerkats, Monkeys all contributed to my experience.
This adventure was very impressive for me, it felt intimate, my camera and lens functioned perfectly to create these intimate portraits. I learnt a lot about the Lions just watching them from a Hide which allowed unobstructive views. I am in awe of nature and these creatures.
Awe is an interesting word.
The word awesome is used and thrown around with such a of lack of emotional content. To fully appreciate the word awesome, just take a moment presence yourself to the first three letters.
Have you ever had an experience which ” filled” you with emotional AWE?
The definition of Awe is; a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear and or wonder.
There is something divinely spiritual in this feeling.
I was truly in the emotional state of AWE when I captured these images.
I hope my images in some way communicate this feeling I had and also, raises awareness about how endangered these animals are. More must be done to protect them, keep them safe from poachers and support them to keep the eco system alive. We need them as much as they need us.
Our relationship with these Animals is one of synergy and a symbiotic love affair.
“To be more childlike, you don’t have to give up being an adult. The fully integrated person is capable of being both an adult and a child simultaneously. Recapture the childlike feelings of wide-eyed excitement, spontaneous appreciation, cutting loose, and being full of awe and wonder at this magnificent universe”.