animal week: the amur tiger

An Amur (or Siberian) Tiger on a rainy summer day in the American Midwest.  This guy spent most of the time we spent in the Rosebrough Tiger Passage (a deluxe and stimulating state of the art tiger habitat) napping in a fenced in bridge directly over our heads.  But he did wake up briefly to check out his visitors with his tongue out, and I was able to get a couple of quick portraits.

These photographs illustrate some of the problems of making your own photo references of animals that are dangerous to your health.  Normally, I prefer to take my own references whenever I can, because I think the sustained “looking” that is (at least for me) part of photography helps me when I am drawing from those pictures.  They aren’t just “pictures”, but reminders of the actual experience of being near the animal.

But fellow creatures like tigers are usually either far away behind deep moats, or close at hand behind fencing.  Close at hand is better for looking and experiencing– this tiger was well out of arms’ reach (probably wisely) but he was close enough that we could smell him and hear him huff.  I think I’d generally prefer a better experience for both of us and put up with an image behind chain link, but I admit that  better tiger pictures probably come from the more traditional exhibit behind a moat.  (At least if you have a reasonably long lens.  I’m very lucky that Pentax offers a very good “zoo tele” at a reasonable price.)

This kind of exhibit does offer some opportunities for fairly close close-ups– the shot below was cropped horizontally but not vertically– I was able to fill the frame with tiger.  You can even see the color of his eyes.  (A greenish hazel– who knew?)

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