My trip to Florida had been such a great time. Traveling down the Gulf Coast I had managed to find most of the birds on my target list, so I felt like it was “mission accomplished” and I was ready to fly home. Unfortunately, United Airlines was NOT ready and after rescheduling my flight 4 times they canceled it and told me they would re-book me as soon as possible. Suddenly I had a whole day with nothing to do, and the prospect of sitting around in a hotel room all day was not going to work for me.

I remembered reading an article about ZooTampa and how it was one of America’s top rated zoos. I should say right up front that I have long been conflicted about zoos. Many of them have breeding programs for endangered animals and as such they are providing a valuable service in keeping some population of these animals alive rather than letting them slip into extinction as their natural habitats disappear. But the habitats are disappearing because of humans, so our human response to the problem we created is to build cages to imprison the victims. It’s hard to feel good about the situation.

But the fact remains that for many of us, we will never have an opportunity to see these animals in the wild, so for better or worse, visiting a zoo is the only option to do so.

I did a little research and learned that ZooTampa was only 15 minutes away from my hotel, so off I went.

I only photographed animals where I could isolate the subject (much easier to do with a 400mm f2.8 lens) and not have bars, wires, or glass intrude on the image. I have earned a living as a portrait photographer for a lot of years, many of the subjects being celebrities, athletes, CEO’s, or other famous characters, and I have always approached each one the same way: I try to tell a story about that subject and capture something of their unique identity in a single frame. I have always considered that an elusive but worthy goal, and photography’s marriage of magic and science is such a powerful tool to do it. I photograph animals exactly the same way.

I hope you enjoy these portraits.

I roamed the zoo for 2 hours before the heat did me in and I had to seek shelter. I hope you enjoy these portraits.

4 Replies to “Zoology – ZooTampa 2-18-22”

  1. Beautiful portraits. I feel similarly about zoos. I love their ability to allow people to see animals they’d never otherwise be able to see. But I’m also sad anytime I see a caged animal. I do appreciate when zoos attempt to make their environments more open, getting rid of wire cages when possible, creating more open spaces. The animals are still in captivity, but at least there’s an effort to create a more pleasing environment. Or course, it’s also possible it simply makes me feel better about it, and not the animals. Regardless, though, I love your photographs from that day.

    1. Yes, it’s certainly not an ideal situation. The downsides are all too obvious, but saving some of these amazing animals from what would otherwise be extinction is at least something of a silver lining.

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