8BD: I understand there were several families in the area during that shot of Taj with the little girl. Do you think Taj had a special connection with the girl in that photo?
DD: Yes I do. Almos, Taj’s brother (a white bengal tiger), had a similar encounter with an older girl, but not as tender. Almos tapped the partition firmly as the girl had her back turned toward the partition. Needless to say, the girl’s reaction was a little more emotional then the toddler with Taj.
8BD: Have you witnessed that type of interaction before?
DD: I have not witnessed such an event before or since.
8BD: Do you believe animals and children can connect on a pure level?
DD: Yes, I believe that children and animals are drawn to each other. I believe that the children’s lack of fear and pureness of heart is perceived by the animals and hence no fight or flight instinct is triggered.
8BD: You seem to be captivated by animals and in turn try to capture their rare moments in your photos. As a father, have you related anything from the quiet study of animals to your parenting skills? If so, which species in particular do you connect with most?
DD: I have an affinity with the big cats. I seem to understand them the best. As deadly as they are, there is such a beauty in there appearance, movement and behavior. Photographing animals (wild or in the zoo) is matter of patience and understanding. You have to be patient, realizing that the animals and children do things at their own pace, but you also have to be constantly vigil or you might miss a spectacular moment. Understanding the animal’s behavior, needs and focus allow me to better position myself to get the shot that I am looking for, likewise with my children, my understanding of them allows me to be there when they need me and to give them space when they don’t. Like photography, sometimes you get it right and you feel great, other times you are unsuccessful and try to figure out what you can do better next time. There is no magic formula, that is where the patience part comes in.
For more amazing animal photos, check out the rest of Dyrk Daniel’s animal collection.