Rio – Baby Lion Cub sound asleep on her back
When working in New Zealand it is not often you get an opportunity to photograph a lion cub! So when Rachael heard that a Wildlife Sanctuary in Rotorua had a litter of cubs she contacted them to see if it would be possible to photograph them. Rachael was told she would be able to have access to photograph the cubs, but she wouldn’t be able to stop the paying tourists coming through the pens and having the lion cub pat they were promised. Rachael and her assistant Nathalie packed the car, and drove the 3 hours from the studio to Paradise Valley Springs to spend the day wrestling with and tickling two one-month-old lion cubs tummy’s while battling with busloads of tourists, not a job anyone would complain about! The lion cubs were adorable, just like giant kittens, thankfully they weren’t too aggressive in their play and Rachael and Nathalie managed to come away unscathed. Rachael arrived at the shoot with the idea of photographing one of the cubs on a beautiful vintage chair she had brought with her, but the cubs weren’t having a bar of it, they hissed and stalked the chair and there was no way of encouraging them to settle long enough for Rachael to capture an image. There was also no possibility of adding props like ribbons or flowers, these were wild animals, not domesticated pets. They had already bitten and clawed at the canvas backgrounds they had set up, but seemed to have accepted these. So Rachael set to trying to exhaust the cubs with play so she could attempt to get some images of them asleep.
After a number of hours, Rio, the little girl finally started to settle down next to Rachael on the pink background and allowed her to tickle her tummy. She was finally dropping off to sleep when yet another load of tourists arrived inside the pen, she was startled a little but Rachael managed to settle her down again after a quick ‘shhhhh’ gesture to the tourists. Rio finally dropped off into a deep sleep and Rachael was able to roll her onto her back and position her legs and head into the perfect position to capture her in blissful slumber, watched on still by all the tourists whom Rachael is sure will have lots of images amongst their holiday snaps of a local New Zealand photographer working her magic.
This image was published in Rachael’s book It’s a Zoo Out There.
Rio was photographed on Rachael’s 4x5 inch Toyo View Camera with Portra 160 film using Natural Light.
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