Ticking boxes at the zoo

There are certain immutable laws that apply whenever you take your kids to the zoo. Probably the three most important are:

1. Wherever possible, you must call all animals not by their proper name but by the name of the corresponding CBeebies/Disney character. So, for instance, penguin, lion and clownfish become Peso (Octonauts), Simba (Lion King) and Nemo (Finding Nemo).

2. Less than 50% of your visit will be spent actually looking at animals. The majority will be devoted to other activities such as eating, finding toilets, playgrounds, miniature railways and, of course, that dreaded economic black hole: the gift shop.

3. Daddy will spend the entire time clutching his smartphone, just waiting to capture that perfect candid shot of one of the kids so he can post it straight to his Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Flickr / blog / all of the above, accompanied by a suitably unoriginal witticism.

Having said all that, I always enjoy these big days out. It’s an opportunity to stretch the kids’ horizons and for us to spend some proper time together as a family.

And, yes, it appeals to the photographer in me who is always eager to add to his burgeoning collection of cute images for later use in the calendars which have become our traditional family Christmas presents.

Anyhow, yesterday we went to Marwell Zoo to see their collection of painted rhino sculptures – part artistic statement, part conservation awareness – which have been on display around Southampton over the past couple of months.

I always consider a day like this a success if two things occur. Firstly, if there is one thing Isaac and Toby will talk enthusiastically about in the car on the way home. The rhinos were a big hit with both of them, to the extent that as soon as we got home Isaac insisted on printing out some rhino pictures for him to colour in.

Box one: ticked.

Secondly, on a purely personal level, if I return with one photo that I would happily add to the annual Liew family calendar – something that captures one of those intangibly perfect little moments – I’m happy. I think I hit the jackpot with a shot of Kara laughing while running with the sheer simple joy of being set free from her buggy for a few minutes. It’s the central image in the set of three below.

Box two: ticked.

A good day, then. As a father, a photographer and a blogger. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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