Yes, yes, I know–that title image is in color, when I just recently wrote that I was going to shoot in black and white exclusively for more than a month. The purpose of placing such a creative limitation on yourself is to force you out of a comfort zone, force you to look at things differently, force you to think outside the box a bit. And that’s all well and good. But just look at that display! My point in including this image instead of holding on to it to share in July, is to point out that if the purpose of a self-imposed rule is to foster creativity and get you out there shooting, then a product of that effort is worth sharing, even if it breaks the rules a little bit. And, the rest of the photos in this post ARE black and white, so I’m mostly following my own advice.
I encountered the peacock, the zebra above, and a whole host of other exotic animals at the Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville, North Carolina (it’s pretty close to Charlotte, and yes, we did make a side trip to IKEA!) About a year ago, I made a recon trip to this place on my way to visit some friends in the mountain. I wanted to see if it was as cool as it sounded, and see if it was something that Isaac might enjoy.
For those of you who don’t follow the link, what the Lazy 5 Ranch is, as you can see from these photos, is an open range of woods, grassland, and hills, where all manner of exotic animals from around the world are free to roam. And when I say free to roam, I mean free–as in, you will often find your path blocked by one or several animals you never expected to have blocking your path.
The ranch is great for photography, as you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with animals you might otherwise never come into contact with. Unlike a zoo, there are no mesh fences, smudged glass, or legions of people in between you and the wildlife. You don’t need exotic telephotos, and in fact, the biggest problem you often have is having a lens that is wide enough, and finding angles to photograph the animals where your car isn’t in the shot (of course, you can use those shots too, to better illustrate your experience).
The real appeal of the ranch is, of course, the wildly different perspective and interaction. While I am very grateful for our progressive and well-designed zoo in Asheboro, this is an experience that is more viscerally exciting and entertaining. Isaac loved it, except when some of the critters got a little close for comfort.
Whenever I experience things like this, there is always the tension of enjoying the experience of seeing exotic animals and wondering if it is right, or humane, or whatever, to be seeing these animals out of their natural environment. Like the zoo, or the circus, or the kind of dodgy “zoo” down near the coast, you always wonder if the animals are well-cared for, fed properly, happy. It is kind of voyeuristic.
All of the animals at Lazy 5 seem to be very well treated, and they have considerably more space to roam than the average animal in the zoo. One could argue, I suppose, that animals in the zoo retain more of their “wildness” because they have less direct exposure with humans, but I doubt it.
What I do believe is that these interactions with animals, familiar and exotic, remind of us of wonder of this world we live in, and the importance of the vast diversity of species. I want Isaac to have fun on trips like these, but I also want to foster in him an appreciation for all the wild things in the world–the beauty, the strangeness, the strength of nature. On a basic level, it is of course just an amazing thrill to be so close to the animals.
If you choose to go visit this remarkable place, keep in mind that it is cash-only. Also, if the weather looks like it’s going to be nice, I highly recommend that you reserve spots on a horse-drawn wagon. Open air and driven by Lazy 5 Ranch workers, you have the benefit of a guided tour that can veer off the beaten path for a closer look and a lesson about the animals. Because the wagon is open, you have a great vantage point for photographs, and there is ample opportunity to get your fill. Both times I have been we elected to stay in the car, but next time we’ll opt for the wagon.
I hope you enjoy the photographs and our experience that I have tried to bring to you through them. And I’m sorry for cheating and throwing a color photograph in here, but I’m sure you understand why.