Jeremiah and I went to Minnesota and Wisconsin last year for my birthday week. I wanted one last big hurrah before my parents moved to California, as I knew I wouldn't go back very often after that.
One of the places to visit on my checklist was the Minnesota Zoo. I hadn't been since I was a child, as my family and I normally would go to Como Park Zoo. I wish we had time to do both, so maybe we'll just have to fly back again one day and have that on our agenda.
It's always amazing to me how similarly house cats and large breeds behave at times. This leopard, for example, was in a very playful mood the day we were at the zoo.
Zoos and Wildlife Sanctuaries have been hard at work at keeping the Amur Leopard from going extinct. To learn more about this beautiful creature and how we can help the Amur Leopard from going extinct, please click on the link below.
A second large breed cat featured at the Minnesota Zoo is the Amur Tiger - that's right, from the same region as the Amur Leopard.While tigers are slightly safer from extinction than the leopard, it is still important for us to do what we can to save the species.
One fact I was surprised about that I read on the Minnesota Zoo's website for the Amur Tiger is that it's the largest of all cats! I seriously would have thought lions were bigger, so thank you, MNZoo for educating this girl!
In case you can't tell by the order of these photographs, they are being posted in the order that I took them at the zoo. First the Amur Leopard, then the Amur Tiger, and now the Takin, which is another animal native to Asia.
This Takin may not look that large, but they can weigh up to 700 pounds! From the MNZoo website, it sounds like they are a matriarchal society, with females and young offspring making up the herds. Older males tend to live in solidarity.
Coloradans are no stranger to this beautiful creature, but that may have not been the case if protective measures were not enforced to save the bison back in the 1800s. There was a point in time where there were less than 600 bison left, but thanks to conservation efforts, the population is up to more than 30,000, meaning this animal is a top conservation success story!
It just goes to show that if we put forth the efforts to save a species (or, hey, the planet itself), we can succeed.
Another animal familiar to Coloradans is the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog. When I first moved to Colorado back in 2015, I was so excited to see these little ones popping up all over the place in the eastern plains. I was warned by locals not to go near them, however, as apparently they carry the Bubonic Plague. Sounds fake, right? It's not, unfortunately.
I do love how these two looked to be in a serious conversation, and then both looked my way after they heard my shutter click.
Who else was taught as a child that the humps of the camel hold water for when they are out in the desert for a long time? Anyone?
Apparently they store fat, not water, to help them survive long periods of time without food. They have special blood cells which help with hydration.
Read more about the Bactrian Camel here: https://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/bactrian-camel/
Another conservation success story involves the Asian Wild Horse.
In the 1960s, the wildlife populations of this horse disappeared completely. Thanks to zoos and conservation efforts, there are now about five hundred horses living in their natural habitat.
Our favorite part of our trip to the Minnesota Zoo was the Llama Trek, which is a seasonal exhibit (summer tiiiiiiime). I love seeing llamas and alpacas, so I was extremely excited for this exhibit.
There was even a younger llama which is in the second photo below, looking very zen. Jeremy and I decided if we ever adopt a llama that we would name it Kuzco, as in Emperor's New Groove, however, his dad brought up the ingenious idea of getting two and naming them Barack Ollama and Michelle Ollama. Ha.
Another favorite section of the Minnesota Zoo that has been there since I was a kid is the Wells Fargo Family Farm.
There's a goat barn with a guarded area where the goats can eat along with a kidding stall. You can join the goats outside where they gently bump you with their heads and demand lots of attention. I could definitely have a couple of small goats in my future - they are so cute!
There were a couple of goats that were a few weeks old while we were there, and they decided to show their little faces for just a moment - but the moment was long enough for me to photograph them.
To read more on these goats, read the MN page https://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/goat/
The Wells Fargo Family Farm also features chickens, cows, pigs, rabbits, and horses. Chickens creep me out, but these two were okay. https://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/wells-fargo-family-farm/
If you don't know this about me already, I freaking love moose. I would love to see a moose in the wild, but I have not been blessed with this experience yet.
I have to get my moose satisfaction from seeing them at zoos. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs has Tahoma, and Jeremy and I go see him maybe once a year. I was excited to see moose at Minnesota Zoo, especially when there was a calf! So cute.
Jeremy and I attended the bird show, and I'm pretty sure we were the only adults there without kids. Oh, well.
It was fun watching all of the birds performing their tricks and flying over the crowd. Here are the links to the birds we saw in the show in the order of the pictures below.
Couldn't find a link for the fourth and fifth birds :(
If you or your kids have ever watched the movie Madagascar, then I'm sure seeing this animal makes you want to break out into the song "I Like to Move It".
The ring-tailed lemur spends more time on the ground than other lemurs, spending their time foraging and playing, so they truly do like to move it ;).
One of Jeremy's favorite creatures to spot at the zoo is the Komodo Dragon. While these creatures are large, I was still surprised to find out that they are large enough to feast on water buffalo!
These two were not having play time when we stopped by their exhibit. It was nap time. They never even opened their eyes for a peak at me when my shutter went off.
We were both excited to see a red panda at the MN Zoo, and when he started sticking his tongue out at his viewers, I knew I had to capture his personality in a picture.
I find it amusing that they are named red pandas. Apparently, when they were named, it was believed that they were closely related to the giant panda. DNA evidence shows they are more closely related to the raccoon, which I think makes complete.sense when you compare their physical characteristics.
I was surprised to see a coyote at the Minnesota Zoo. They are a common animal across Minnesota, and the midwest in general, and are not experiencing a decrease in population. I'm sure there's a good reason this coyote is at the zoo - perhaps health related reasons. While a lot of people dislike coyotes, I think they are beautiful.
The gray wolf is a symbol of Minnesota (Timberwolves, anyone?)
They used to be found all across the state, but now, due to growing populations, have found refuge in the forests of Northern Minnesota. Wolf populations have been introduced elsewhere throughout the United States, the most popular release being in Yellowstone National Park. Studies have shown that introducing wolf populations can help ecosystems thrive - interesting, right?
Pumas go by many names: mountain lions, cougars, and panthers, being common names.
Their populations are also doing well. I know they are relatively common in Colorado, which is cool!
The Canada lynx is a beautiful cat known for its short tail and big feet.
While populations have dwindled in Minnesota, their wildlife populations are still doing well elsewhere. Their numbers dropped to nearly zero in Minnesota in the 1980s, but have slowly been recovering, so we shall have to see what their future in the North Star state will bring.
Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to look at these photographs and read about these beautiful creatures!
I was in Texas last November (2019) to shoot my cousin David's wedding to his beautiful bride, Lacy. Jeremy and I decided to stay a few days after the wedding to enjoy exploring Texas, and my mom happened to have the same idea! Jeremy, Mom and I all flew out the same day (different airlines, different airports), and since we each had evening flights, we decided to go explore the Dallas World Aquarium. We also explored that area of Dallas a little bit. It was a bit drizzly and foggy that day, so I captured the photo below before we went into the Aquarium.
Isn't he cute? Also, that's my amazing mama in the background with the purpley-gray top.
In case you don't know this about Jeremy already, he loves monkeys. I just told him about Monkey Island in Peru while writing this, and his response was, "That sounds cool!". So, I guess I'll add that to the list of future potential vacation spots.
The monkey below is a Pied Tamaran, and you can read up on this little primate here: https://dwazoo.com/animal/pied-tamarin/
I loved these birds. They were very vocal, and I thought they looked like baby "Toucey Toucey Birds"! George of the Jungle, anyone?
However, these little fellas are not toucans, they are aracaris. The ones pictured here are Humboldt's Lettered Aracaris, and they are pretty young!
The sloth was sleeping.... I don't think this will take anyone by surprise! Ha.
I absolutely love this blue/purple, pink and red bromeliad above, left. The image below is of a different type of bromeliad as well. I tend to be drawn to them, photographically speaking.
The orinoco crocodile didn't really move at all while we were there, and I was somewhat convinced it was fake... until it twitched. Eek!
I love sea life exhibits that are lit up with black lights. The little guy above is a Banggai Cardinalfish.
There was this part of the aquarium where you could look through and see people on the other side. It was fun seeing my fiance (then boyfriend) and mom enjoying the fish.
Aren't the colors of the world just gorgeous? The colors of the coral with the brightly colored fish, the octopus puckers, the greenery with the bright pink flamingos, and even the slight pink on the penguin's feet all bring me such joy. This is why I love photography.
Thank you all for your time in reading this blog about my trip to Dallas World Aquarium, and I hope you enjoy the links I have provided to their website which give you educational information on each creature pictured in this blog! For the final images, check out the links below.
Jeremy and I were convinced that the puffer above was broken. All it did was swim into the glass of the tank. Poor thing. She wants out!
By the time we made it over to the penguins, I think they were all tuckered out. Most of them were napping, or just standing there and staring off into space. Do penguins have third eyelids that allow them to sleep with their eyes open? I'm going to Google this....
Yes, yes they do. So they were probably just sleeping standing up.
There were two penguins doing... um... naughty activities, but I decided to not share the penguins' intimate moment. Ha! My sister, Jeremy, and I had a good laugh about it though.
I loved the Sandy Shore & Aviary exhibit, because I love looking at all of the different birds. The bird pictured below is a phalarope.
One of the other birds featured was the western snowy plover, which reminded me of the adorable birds in the Disney Short, "piper".PS, the bird in the Disney Short is a sandpiper.
I love the patterns in the sand left behind by the waves, too. They resemble trees , or veins, so well, and it was a reminder of how connected we all are to nature.
After our time in Capitola, we drove out to Santa Cruz for dinner and ate at a restaurant on the pier. We ate at a place called Stagnaro Bros.
By the time we made it to Santa Cruz, it was dark outside, so we didn't get to see much of it. Again - something for next time!
We really enjoyed our time going to the various towns on the West Coast, and we really can't wait to explore more next time we are in California.
Maybe Jeremy will win us another free flight voucher at the next Furry Scurry which takes place on May 2nd! And yes, we are already registered!
After dinner, we did drive out to an ice cream place, so I was pretty happy with how the night ended! Thank you, family, for showing us the West Coast, and we can't wait to be back! Love you all.
Once upon a time, back in my days living in Winona, Minnesota, I shot a senior portrait session for a young man named Josh. Josh was a straightforward young man. He only wanted to incorporate two outfits in his session, and he wanted it to be as brief as possible, so we opted for the Half Semester session: 30 minutes.
We started off on the bridge down in Lake Park. Getting these bridge shots can be tricky, as there is usually a lot of foot traffic. Thankfully, when people see that you're trying to get a photograph, most of them will stop and let you get the shots you're looking for. Otherwise, it's just all about timing, and sometimes a little bit of PhotoShop ;)
I was able to walk along the bank of the lake to get the shot with him leaning on the railing of the bridge. Don't worry, I wasn't swimming to get the photo!
1. Highly recommend NOT swimming in the lakes in Winona.
2. Water is not friends with cameras.
After getting a few shots in the park, we got into my vehicle and drove over to Winona State University, my Alma Mater. The ivy in the two photos next to each other above runs along the walls of the oldest building on campus - Phelps. Phelps is also where I spent a majority of my time on campus as that is where the Mass Communications department is, along with the dark room!
The steps Josh is sitting on in the photo directly above lead into another one of the oldest buildings on campus - Somsen Hall. The steps are made out of Limestone taken from Sugar Loaf, Winona's landmark and tourism draw as you enter the town.
The story of Sugar Loaf is really interesting in how it helped rebuild the town of Winona after the great fire of 1862. Here are a few great articles on Sugar Loaf and the Fire of 1862 if you are interested:
Anyway, I'm going off on a tangent here. Josh was a wonderful client and was super easy to work with. Thank you, Josh, for being my first male senior portrait client! It really helped open up the doors to a wider audience and clientele, and I will always be grateful for the experience.
After we finished our ice cream, we headed over to this gift shop called Wish Gifts, which was right across the street. It's a super cute store and I highly recommend it for gift shopping. We ended up buying a birthday present for Jeremy's youngest brother, Joshua, and we bought ourselves a new coin bank that looks like a globe.
We walked down the rest of the block, crossed back over to the other side of the street, and went to this coffee shop called Ink!.
Photographer, visual artist, mother to four fur-babies, and travel enthusiast.