My Denver Zoo safari began with a chilly but very pleasant dark Sunday morning. Our class from Mike’s Camera gathered at the front gate to get our last instructions about types of lighting and shooting issues we might face and then off to the Tropical Discovery building.

We were the first people in the building and were welcomed by the Howler monkeys, which were just waking up. For such small creatures, they sure have a deep voice. My attempts to photograph them didn’t work out so well. They were hanging on the mesh of the cage watching me, way too close to make the mesh disappear in the photo.

Next I visited the Komodo dragon, who was much easier to get good shots of. I was able to practice the tips for shooting through glass and minimizing the reflections.

Then it was outside to see who else was awake. The polar bears were up and stirring, and the missus was in a snit. The mister had one thing on his mind, and she was not going to be a party to that! She chased him across the enclosure, backing him into the corner. She gave him what for and then turned and pounced on a plastic drum. Undeterred, back he came. I don’t speak polar bear, but I’m sure there was some begging going on. Again, across the enclosure she pushed him, this time drawing blood on his neck. He was definitely in the doghouse!

The next stop was to see Sochi, the baby Amur leopard, and his momma. Due to the low light and nonstop movement of Sochi, many of my shots were blurry. Even using the tripod, I only have one shot that might work.

The lions were basking in the sun on what I learned was a heated rock. I could have enjoyed a heated rock myself about that time. The spotted hyena’s were sunbathing and keeping an eye on a few stray birds that were brave enough to visit their enclosure.

At the cheetahs’ yard, I crossed paths with a group of children being their normal loud, boisterous selves. One of the cheetahs was so intent on watching what the kids were up to, he actually tripped on a rock. I’ve always thought they were so graceful. Does graceful only kick in past a certain speed?

There were so many other animals that drew my attention that, for the first time ever, I actually ran the battery in my camera to zero.

One of the other perks of taking the class was that zoo employees brought out a long-eared owl, red-tail hawk, and porcupine that we could get up close to and photograph. Spiny the porcupine was not excited about coming out of his tree to meet us so early in the morning, but once his tummy was full of treats he decided to explore rather than returning to the tree.  So how do you wrangle a porcupine? Even with his long furry winter coat—very carefully!