At the beginning of this year Blind 7 photography was invited to an event in Racine WI, at the Unplugged artistic event planning and studios by our lovely friend Evie. While we were there we had the pleasure of meeting the Jo-Don Farms family of caretakers along with some of their amazing animals. (Make sure you read to the end of this for the announcement)
Animals have always had a special place in our hearts. We spent the day chatting with a Dromedary Camel and a grumpy Serval more than the people at the event. However, while talking with the owner and the staff an idea was born. Jo-Don decided to have Blind 7 come back out at a later date to their facility to take portraits of the animals. We wanted to do something a little different than everyone is used to when it comes to wildlife shots. We wanted something more intimate, that highlighted the beauty and the unique personalities of each animal. We chose to strip away all distractions and shoot these amazing and beautiful animals on a black background to really make the animals STAND OUT. After a few weeks of planning with Tabatha Cruz we set a date and time to travel back out to Wisconsin for the shoot.
In the morning we loaded the car and headed out. The drive went well and we arrived at our AirBnB later that evening. After a quick dip in the hot tub we turned in for the night. On Saturday we had scheduled a few model shoots at the Unplugged artistic event planning and studios to help finance the trip. We spent Saturday shooting and hanging with friends and finished with some hole in the wall Mexican food.
The morning of the shoot we checked out of the AirBnb, gathered the gear and headed off to meet with the keepers. Since this was our first time at the rescue zoo we arrived a few minutes early to check it all out and get a plan in order. Cody Zibung met us at the entrance and gave us a tour of the grounds. We have been to quite a few zoos and aquariums, and have also worked in and with many rescues in the past. We have to say what a wonderful job the keepers at Jo-Don do, and the over all experience from a guests perspective was amazing and one of a kind. After our tour and introduction to some of the animals we began to set up in a barn not to far from the Camels.
The set up was simple. We set up a black folding table with a backdrop stand holding a king sized black bed sheet (we went with this over a muslin background because we knew that with animals comes a MESS, and no point in wasting money when the goal is to raise money). We lit the scene with our 43 inch Westcott Apollo orb with the DIGIBEE 800 as the key light, then added an Alien Bee 800 with the 7 inch reflector and a 30 degree grid as a back light off to the right of the set. Once this was all in place the Keepers Cody and Anna began to bring in one animal at a time to be photographed. We spent the next few hours meeting a photographing everything from snakes to Macaws, wolves, and baby bunnies.
Some of the animals we were unable to come to the barn, so we chose to highlight those animals in their enclosures. We took a walk around led by Cody Zibung and Shayne Rigden. They were able to allow us close access to the enclosures to ensure we would be able to get unique clear shots of all the animals. No need for a 600mm lens like we need at other zoos! We switched back and forth between a sigma 50mm and a 105 art lens. We got to make plenty of new friends. Once that was done, we only had 2 animals left, but had to wait for closing time to get the shots we wanted.
Gunther the male African Lion and Sabrina the Bengal Tiger. It was feeding time so they were both a bit preoccupied with dinner, but that didn’t take away from the experience. Gunther spent most of our session showing us why he is called the king of the jungle. At 400+ lbs his grunts and roars where life changing, you could feel them in the ground. Being so close to such a magnificent animal, you can feel his breath wash over your face like opening up an oven. He showed me his teeth and growled but over all he just sat there enjoying his cow rib cage. Just being in his presence made the trip worth it.
Sabrina is special in her own right. Bengal Tigers are the largest cats on earth (minus the Liger, but those are a human made cross breed). Sitting with her and playing hide and seek was one of the best experiences ever. She was so playful and a happy well taken care of cat. When the keepers fed her a cow thigh she got a little protective of her dinner, but she calmed down after she had a bite or two and went back to playing.
After shooting Sabrina we finished loading up the gear and made our way back to Ohio 200 gigs heavier, and with some once in a lifetime memories.
Jo-Don Farms is a self funded Zoo located in Franksville, WI with over 100 animals for you to enjoy. There set up is unique and provides a much more intimate encounter with animals from all over the globe. While smaller than your average state run Zoos, it boasts a few benefits. You are able to get closer to the animals, and you don’t feel like you have walked 40 miles by the time you are done. They have a superbly knowledgeable staff and interactive exhibits. You could not ask for a better experience for just $5 per person!
After months of production we are proud to announce the culmination of all of our hard work alongside the caring staff of Jo-Don farms. A 30 page soft cover book with high quality images highlighting some of the amazing animals found at the Zoo/Rescue, along with short bios about the animals featured. We will be holding a pre-sale for 30 days. At the end of the pre-sale we will ship out all of the orders at one time.
The pre-sale will run from 12.03.2019 to 01.03.2020. The books estimated shipping date is 01.15.2020 via UPS ground.
100% of the proceeds raised from this pre-sale will be donated to Jo-Don Farms to help cover the astronomical food costs along with the daily care for these gorgeous animals. In addition Jo-Don farms will also be selling these at their ticket booth so you can follow along and learn a little bit about some of the animals you’re visiting.
Your purchase of the book or donation to this zoo is greatly appreciated!