Big Cats, Up Close and Personal

Joined
Apr 21, 2005
Messages
3,625
Location
Houston, TX
Got a chance to to shoot some privately owned big cats in McKinney, TX last weekend. These are cats that had been previously used as show cats (circus, etc) or had been owned by individuals who didn't have the means of taking care of them once they got bigger. These shoots are put on once or twice a month, and the fees go to help feeding the animals (which can't be cheap). They currently have a female lion, two female Siberian tigers, and one male Siberian tiger (he's a biggun, 600+ lbs).

The access we get is truly amazing, there's nothing between us and them but a wire fence with gaps big enough to stick a lens through. Of course if the cats approach the fence you need to back off, those gaps are also big enough for them to get a paw through. Needless to say chimping next to the fence is not a good idea. :) This was my second time to attend one of these shoots. First time was back in February and the cats were pretty frisky. You can tell these cats are much happier and more active than any cats you'll see at the zoo. This time around the cats were a bit more laid back because of the heat and there weren't as many action shots to be had, so I put the TC-17 on my 70-200VR and concentrated more on portrait-type shots. On the plus side, this time around things were much greener, and they've been letting the foliage grow up in places which helps a lot with getting shots that don't have a fence as the background.

Click on the image to link to the pbase page with EXIF info. As always, comments/critiques/feedback welcome.











Rest of the gallery is here: http://www.pbase.com/jkohn/tiger_shoot_jun_05
Gallery from my first shoot is here: http://www.pbase.com/jkohn/tiger_shoot_feb_05
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2005
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994
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Alabama
Wonderful series Jeff. Excellent shots of beautiful animals. A little closer that I would have gotten maybe. 8)
 
Joined
Mar 31, 2005
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Toronto Canada
Wow, great opportunity! You've captured them well, and nice to see them laying in the grasses, naturally. Nice to know someone actually takes care of the kitties later in life - live out their days in proper surroundings, good food and relaxed atmosphere. Beautiful shots!
 
Joined
Apr 21, 2005
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Houston, TX
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  • #6
Frank, Gale, and Frank, thanks for looking, appreciate the feedback.

TOLady said:
Wow, great opportunity! You've captured them well, and nice to see them laying in the grasses, naturally. Nice to know someone actually takes care of the kitties later in life - live out their days in proper surroundings, good food and relaxed atmosphere. Beautiful shots!
Thanks Sandi. It's sad the abuse these animals sometimes have to suffer due to people who are ignorant or just downright cruel. One of the tigers there had been used along with its sibling as a photo-prop when they were cubs. They basically kept the cubs tranquilized all day so that they were more "manageable" and people could get their pictures taken with them (the sibling didn't survive, too much damage from the tranquilizers).
 
Joined
Jan 31, 2005
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Location
Brooklyn, NY USA
wonderful shots of my favorite animals...if I ever get back to texas I'll have to check this out. What's the name of the organization, do they have a web page?
 
Joined
May 24, 2005
Messages
300
Location
Salem, NH
Beautiful shots!

Reminds me of the days my friend Ann had a cougar named Rocky. Spent a lot of time with them...he was only a year old when I first "met" him...but boy was he strong! He was actually a lot of fun to wrestle around with - unless he hadn't been fed first! At the location she kept him at, there was a lion and a tiger as well...very young though. Too bad I didn't own a camera back then...would love to have some shots of him.

Will check out the other shots on PBase.

C
 
Joined
Apr 21, 2005
Messages
3,625
Location
Houston, TX
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James and Hans, thanks for the kind words.

Janet: the place is called Pug Mark Park but it's not generally open to the public. That said these photo events happen on a fairly regular basis although they're slowing down a bit over the summer because the cats just aren't as active in the heat. If you'd like to attend a future event, check out this thread: http://www.texasphotoforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=694

Cory: that must have been a real treat to play with a young cub, I envy you. I don't think I'd want to get inside the fence with an adult Siberian tiger though. :)
 
Joined
May 24, 2005
Messages
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Location
Salem, NH
I know what you mean! The cougar, although young, was still larger than a full grown German Shepherd. I'd say he was a good 3.5-4' long (without the tail) and at least 100 lbs. Was amazing that he knew we were playing...he would lightly bite down on your arm or leg, not enough to hurt you, but enough to hold on to you. As he got older and bigger, I grew a little more weary of him. Was an awesome experience.

You should have seen the looks people gave when she was driving around with him in the car!!!

C
 
Joined
May 24, 2005
Messages
300
Location
Salem, NH
Yes, he was smaller at first, but when he got to be about 2.5-3 years old he was pretty big. I think (hard to remember it was years ago) he got up to about 195 lbs and a little over 5'8" in length. He was on the biggish side...wasn't fuly grown the last time I saw him.

I do know he ate a lot of meat that she bought from the zoo. Special food with nutriuents in it. Was wicked expensive too. He got a lot of exercise, but not as much as a free cougar would, so he was a little bigger. Proabably had something to do with the diet as well. He was extremey clean and healthy though.

C
 
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