Assignment: Mothers Day

Just recently, I've started doing some shooting for the Florida Times-Union.  At this point, it's only a few assignments a week, but I've been really enjoying it.  It's given me the chance to do some different kinds of stuff once again.  And it gives me a totally different and much larger audience for my images.

This past Sunday, I was given an assignment to cover what was supposed to be a high tea at Sweet Pete's for Mothers Day. I had this vision of these moms and their kids all dressed up and having a high class time to celebrate the day. There was only one problem.  I got to the venue and as I was about to get out of the Jeep, I got a call from Dede, the TU photo editor. There had been some miscommunication on this one and there was nothing going on.  But the reporter was on his way to the zoo to do something on moms at the zoo, both the human and non-human kind.

Oh, and they had a baby gorilla born last night.  Wait.....what....a baby gorilla born on Mothers Day Eve?  Would I be interested in heading to the zoo?  Oh heck yeah!

I arrived at the zoo before the reporter. Since he was going to be about forty-five minutes, Lucas the PR guy for the zoo and I headed off to see if I could get some shots of the newborn.  On our way there, we ran into a buddy of mine who does some volunteer photo work for the zoo.  He showed us some of the shots of the mom and her baby that he'd gotten earlier.  But he said that was awhile ago when they were more out in the open.  As we got to the gorilla enclosure, we found the new momma and baby were way back in the corner, far from the observation window.  There was no way to get a decent picture.  My heart sank. 

Then I asked Lucas if there was somewhere else we could go to get a better view.  So he contacted the keepers for the primates to see what we could do.  They said there was another window toward the back near where Madini had moved with her little one. So we checked it out, but mom had her back up to it.  She glanced back at us once and then moved a bit up the wall so that we couldn't see her real well.  That wasn't going to work.

Then the keeper said, "well, we could go up on the roof."  Really?  OK, let's try that.  Lucas was totally surprised. In the time that he'd been with the zoo, he'd never been on the roof and didn't think it was an option.  Oh, the access you get when you're "media"!  The roof she was talking about was on the building where the animals go when they're "inside" and not out in their enclosure.  It's right at the back of the gorilla's outside area.  So, up on the roof we went.  I went right over to the side, and there they were.....along with the other momma gorilla and her three month old son.  Success!

Bulera with baby George in the rear and Madini with her newborn in front

Bulera with baby George in the rear and Madini with her newborn in front

The two moms weren't too happy that I was up there pointing that big eye at them, but I think they figured if I was with the keeper that they knew, it was OK.  Besides I couldn't really get close to them from up there.  They moved around a bit, but I knew that I would get something I would be proud to share. I pulled out my longest lens and added an attachment to increase it's magnification.....and just followed them with my camera. 

Madini and her newborn

Madini and her newborn

Bulera and George

Bulera and George

George looking for his mom.

George looking for his mom.

Madini and her baby

Madini and her baby

I texted the photo editor "you're gonna love me." I was very happy and excited with what I got.  After all, I wanted some great images of the new baby, but I also wanted to impress Dede with what I could do for her.  I sent her the images as soon as I got home and out they went.

In the end, this is the image that I really liked.

Madini relaxing and embracing her little one

Madini relaxing and embracing her little one

This is the one that the Times-Union went with.  And the Jacksonville Daily Record.  And the Jacksonville Zoo in their birth announcement.  And I'm not sure who else.  Actually, it's probably one of my most shared images that I've ever posted on Facebook. 

This was another one of those times that made me very happy to be able to do what I do and the access I get.