ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Whipsnade Zoo is many kinds of awesome.  Even down to little details like being able to get a bacon sandwich right inside the gates* (it was cloudy, windy, and downright nippy for the Octavian month).  The passion of the keepers is clear to see – even before you find out that some of them have been working there for a lifetime.  It’s big, even huge, but if you’re quick you can just about get to see it all (or at least visit every animal enclosure) on foot in a day.

One thing that struck me was how close you could get to the animals – especially the apex predators, even:

Snoozing Killing Machine

Amur Tiger Sleeping at Whipsnade

Amur tiger, Panthera tigris altaica

Granted, I took this, and all the others, with a 55-200mm on a crop sensor, but even so the working distance was about 10 feet.  The faint black stripes running down the picture are bars that aren’t quite blurred out of existence.

Of course, not all animals are as obviously deadly as the pretty kitty above.  Hippos are, after Homo sapiens sapiens, the most lethal land animals in Africa – and they’re vegetarian.

Hidin’ HippoHippo, Mostly submerged, Whipsnade

Common Hippo, Hippopotamus amphibius

This wasn’t even the most concealed they got – all I saw of one of the hippos was a nostril.

Not all of the animals on display were among the world’s largest, some were much more reasonably sized like the mara.  If you want to have a look at an adult mara, which are free to roam over the entire zoo, have a look at one of the trailer images for this post on Twitter

If you want to see a juvenile mara, go to a rhino enclosure!

Baby Mara

A juvenile Mara at the entrance to a burrow

Mara, Dolichotis patagonum 

The youngster above got the AD oohing and ahhing, but they weren’t the only creatures doing so.  Some of the animals even reminded her of a particular cat. We speak, of course, of the:

Red Panda

A red panda, bushy tail hanging down in a tree at whipsnade

Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens

It’s not as endangered as it’s better known cousin the Giant Panda, but it is listed as Vulnerable.

One species that is Endangered is the Black-footed Penguin.  It must be said though that I have a fondness for penguins (the tables at my wedding were named for different species of penguins – it took the youngest in the room to work out the theme).  I suspect their chances aren’t harmed by being so damn cool, and occasionally funny looking.

Head Scratcher

Penguin standing on one leg, wings spread, scratching head with foot

Black-Footed Penguin, aka African Penguin, Spheniscus demersus

Being prey animals when out of the water**, they do tend to keep a watch, and I was spotted.

Spotted I

A penguin looking at the camera, head and shoulders portrait

Black-Footed Penguin, aka African Penguin, Spheniscus demersus

This wasn’t the only time I was spotted, either.  A ring-tailed lemur looked me up and down with what appeared to be curiosity (I apologise if I’m anthropomorphising here).

Spotted II

A headshot of a ring-tailed lemur

Ring-Tailed Lemur, Lemur catta

I was spotted a third time, and quite frankly – kitten or not – I was glad of the ditch and the fence between us, because I was looking at the kids and momma was there … somewhere.

Spotted III

Two european lynx kittens

The European Lynx, aka Common/Eurasian/Northern/Russian/Siberian Lynx, Lynx lynx

As an idea of scale, those kittens are larger than a housecat already.

Anyway, enough of me for now.  If you can, go to Whipsnade – and take your camera!

* A minor downside being that the Wild Boar are one of the first animals you see.

** And (I did not know this until I read it at the zoo) short-sighted when out of the water.

Building on What Went Before

This week’s picture is, for me, something of a slow burner.  It was taken on the same wander as The Thames from Southwark Bridge from a fortnight ago, but after reviewing the negative I mentally categorised it under ‘meh’.  However, I found myself thinking about it later in the week.  I made a quick and dirty scan-n-workprint, then stuck it on the wall.  Over the next few days I grew to really like it.  As a bonus the Art Director likes it – but she did have the cheek to ask if it was one one mine!

Building on What Went Before

I’m shooting from the south bank of the Thames in London, and you’re looking at both the Blackfriars Railway Bridges as they currently exist.

The free-standing pillars are what remains of the older, original, Blackfriars Railway Bridge.  Designed by Joseph Cubitt, it was opened in 1864.  In 1985 all bar the columns were removed as the bridge was considered too weak for modern trains.  The columns are now a Grade II listed structure.

The other bridge (the one that still looks like a bridge) was designed by John Wolfe-Barry and Henry Marc Brunel and opened in 1886 as St Paul’s Railway Bridge.  It’s name was changed concordantly in 1937 when St Paul’s Railway Station was renamed to Blackfriars.  The recent  Thameslink programme included work to the bridge which extended the platforms across the Thames, widening the bridge.  This widening subsumed the most easterly of the pillars from the original bridge.

As an aside, the slats on top of the newer bridge are solar panels.  I wonder if that bit of engineering will outlast the columns to the west, or indeed last 150+ years?

Space to Breathe – a retrospective

There’s been a mile or two of newspaper columns and other rantings written about ‘Overcrowded Britain’; it being the end of the world, and so on and so forth.  Maybe there is a point in there somewhere, given this shot of Liverpool Street Station:

Liverpool St at Rush Hour

(Gratuitous reuse of a picture I originally made for the aday.org project.)

Yep, it’s crazily busy and you’d have to be insane to travel through it day after day after day after da… Of course, the picture’s full title is Liverpool Street at Rush Hour (emphasis mine), and that’s about as busy as I’ve seen the station get.  I went and had a look at some stats: it turns out the UK is less densely populated than Trinidad and Tobago.  Who knew?

Given the number of people above and the stats, there must be a vast tract of empty space somewhere in there with an absence of other folk.  In all fairness, looking inside the Circle Line is probably not going to yield results. Or is it?  This was taken in Hyde Park, London*:

A Modern Wordsworth

It was originally titled A Modern Wordsworth. Of course if he really was Wordsworth, he’d be much more likely to be found in the Lake District – but those pictures would prove my point too easily.

Like Aristotle said, one swallow does not a summer make; so, let’s expand the search.  What can we find within 2 minute’s walk of a Zone 2 Tube station?  Perhaps, this:

Under the Tree

Under the tree

This was taken in Finsbury Park and originally posted on Flickr, but given the car and other folk in the background doesn’t really prove my point.  Onwards and upwards – or at least out to Zone 3.

Alexandra Palace Park

Alexandra Palace Park

This photograph and the previous aren’t that physically** far removed from each other, and there might even (if I had turned) be a sight line from the shooting position to the tree in the previous photograph. I should check that in my copious free time.  Although people aren’t exactly on top of one another, the folk to unit land ratio is still relatively high.  Let’s try a different green bit in London.

Kite Flying, Hampstead Heath

Kite Flying, Hampstead Heath

This one’s previously unpublished, but you can clearly see the distinct lack of other people nearby.  It looks like a top tip to get a lot of space to yourself is to visibly carry a very long garrotte  – or go where other people can’t be bothered to go (this is quite some distance from the nearest Tube Station).

For the sake of brevity, let’s ignore places like Richmond Park, and consider London tapped out. Orkney is too easy, so where else shall we go?

Less than 3 hours on public transport and the horse of the ten toes (if you take your time) will get you from the first picture to the South Downs, where you could share a Moment of Intimacy, Laughter or Kinship.

MILK on the South Downs

MILK on the South Downs

This was another photo originally posted on Flickr***.  Now we’re getting somewhere – there’s so much space on the Downs that a herd of ponies have room.

While everyone else is piling into the South Downs, the canny of you are still reading.  With a good sense of timing, a complete disregard for recommended airport arrival times, a short queue at Hertz, good luck and a following wind, in those same 3 hours you could be on a different island.  It has lots of space too.

Castlewellan Forest Park: Time at the Lake

Time at the lake

So, without a doubt, there’s lots and lots of room in the UK even in very close to the most densely populated areas.  To be honest, the roomy bits aren’t even hard to find.  This article hasn’t even scratched the surface of spacious spots in the UK.

If you want even more space to yourself: cheat.  Use the sea, in any way you can.

Sea Horse

Sea Horse

* Not to be confused with Hide Park, Ankh Morpork.

** Nor are they temporally that distant, either.  The latter precedes the former by about 6 weeks or so.

***So were the other pictures below this one.



The Thames from Southwark Bridge

I had a wander around London recently.  This does not happen as often as it used to, but I did have my ‘fun’ camera* with me.  I’ve quite a few keepers from the roll-and-a-half I shot (more TK, I fear), but this one stood out for me, even as the negs were drying.

The Thames from Southwark Bridge

Thames from Southwark Bridge

* That would be the excellent Yashica electro 35 gsn loaded with Ilford’s awesome HP5+.  It goes over one shoulder and spare rolls go in my pocket.  You can have it when you pry it from my cold, dead, hands.