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Commons Picture of the Day: Hippo kiss

Two hippos touch snouts

William Warby actually prefers photographing animals to humans because “animals don’t get impatient while you’re adjusting camera settings.” In this Picture of the Day, however, it was Warby’s patience that was running out.

On a trip to the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in Dunstable, England, Warby could not believe his luck when he chanced upon a pair of hippos that appeared to be playing with each other. The hippos have been at Whipsnade for as long as Warby can remember, but it was the first time in his experience that they were in a suitable part of the enclosure to get a great photo. Being at a zoo, Warby had to contend with cages, glass and walls in order to position himself in a vantage point that would give him an unobstructed view of the playful pair.

Things did not get any easier for him when rain began pouring down. Luckily he had an umbrella handy to shield himself from the rain and was positioned underneath a tree that provided some shelter. Unfortunately, the tree had some low-hanging branches that increased the degree of difficulty of the shot, as the branches crept into half of the photos taken that day. He said that on a typical day at the zoo he finds that only 5 to 10 percent of the animals lend themselves to good photography.

“When photographing animals in a zoo you don’t get to pose them in convenient positions, you have to play the hand you’re dealt on the day,” said Warby

His first introduction to photography can be attributed to his mother, who worked as a photographer’s assistant before he was born and, according to Warby, was a “pathological picture taker” throughout his childhood. His parents bought him his first camera in 1984 when he was 5 years old, a Fisher-Price Kodak 110 camera. Though his friends have often asked him to take up photography professionally, he found the experience “dispiriting” when he looked into doing some stock photography some years back.

Warby has published over 3,000 photos to Flickr under the Creative Commons License that have been used in everything from school textbooks to museum exhibits, iPhone apps and CD artwork.

“I find this kind of widespread usage of my photography far more rewarding the small financial gain I might have made by not releasing these photos under the Creative Commons license,” he said.

Warby noted that over the years he has settled into taking some types of photos more than others. He said his favorite images have subjects in nature, particularly those he shoots with a macro lens, such as insects and flowers. But as much as he’d like to photograph animals in their natural habitats, “there aren’t too many hippos roaming the English countryside.”

Instead Warby utilizes his annual membership to the Whipsnade Zoo in order to take pictures of animals he “couldn’t realistically gain access to any other way.”

A cheetah watches over its family

In the very same zoo where he shot the hippos, he managed to capture this stunning portrait of a cheetah standing guard over its family. Warby said that “cheetahs are one of the main attractions of the zoo,” so he had to wait his turn, hoping that they remained stationary long enough for him to get in range for a good shot.

This photograph was taken through a chain-link fence. To blur the diamond-shaped wire pattern sufficiently to make it invisible, Warby had to lean over as close to the fence as possible.

Although Warby hasn’t contributed directly to Wikimedia Commons until his work was added from Flickr, he stands firmly behind the goals of Commons.

“I am of the opinion that sharing cultural works benefits everybody including the creator and no project has done more than Commons to enable a culture of sharing creative works to thrive,” he said. “In my case it has dramatically expanded the audience for my photography and created a positive feedback loop that has given my photography a sense of purpose and value.”

Jordan Hu, Communications Intern

One Response to “Commons Picture of the Day: Hippo kiss”

  1. Elitre says:

    As POTY has arrived (I am assuming you’ll blog about it soon), and you are showcasing works by Wikimedians, I left a message about a specific category here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons_talk:Picture_of_the_Year/2011#Complaining_as_usual_:.29 .

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