Roaring lions, leaping dolphins and dancing blue-footed boobies can all be viewed in the photos at The Wildlife Gallery in Lutz.
The gallery is a collection of photos by five local artists that opens Friday. Jeanette Marcus, Stuart Marcus, Sherrie St. James, Mike Lowell and Jeff McCartney are dedicated to photographing wildlife in its natural habitats and encouraging the preservation of nature for future generations.
None of the animals photographed are tamed, and the photographs are meant to capture the animals’ behavior in the wild.
“I’m trying to show you nature,” Stuart Marcus said. “If I take a photo of a bear, I want you to see the bear. I want you to see the color of its claws. I want you to see the plaque off its teeth if I can get it.”
The photographs span all seven continents, the primary locations being Hawaii, Antarctica, Africa, Australia and the Galapagos Islands. Photos of bald eagles, baby penguins and dolphins with shark-bite wounds are among the many displayed.
Marcus and the other photographers try not to interfere with the animals in the wild, and they make themselves know to their subjects as little as possible.
“I want to show the bear’s natural behavior. If you walk up to them and they turn and look at you, that’s not their natural behavior,” Marcus said. “So I would rather sit 100 to 200 feet away and photograph that animal feeding, nursing or collecting twigs for a nest. I have vicious bear shots; then I have some of the sweetest shots of cubs, laying on their backs, playing with their mothers and playing with their siblings. I have this (photo of a) gorgeous 16-year-old female that looks like she is smelling wild flowers. Those are what I look for.”
The artists plan to extend their gallery into an educational environment for children and students, teaching about animals through their photography and stories.
“(The goal of the gallery is) to promote wildlife, teaching children and others about nature,” McCartney said. “If someone comes in, they can actually have an educational experience as well as a visual experience.”
Each of the photographers has a unique story to tell about their experiences with the animals they photograph.
After showing some of his Galapagos work, which featured a blue and yellow puffer fish and a tree frog, USF alumnus Lowell said, “The wildlife is so friendly (at the Galapagos Islands). When I was diving, I had a turtle lay in my arms. I had a sea lion dive down into the water and (playfully) push me off a ledge. You’ll never get that anywhere else in the world.”
A photo of a teenage cheetah portrays an experience bordering on life threatening for Marcus. When viewing this photograph, he described a time when three teenage cheetahs climbed on his Jeep during a safari in Africa. Both he and his wife got out to take photographs with them. As Marcus was getting his picture taken with the cheetahs, one of them playfully removed his hat from his head.
“I still have the hat, and it has bite marks in it,” Marcus said, “We’d been in Africa for almost six weeks. That hat had been sprayed with plenty of bug spray. I actually heard the cheetah make a sound (of disgust) and turn loose the hat.”
His wife, Jeanette, found herself in slightly more danger.
“When (the cheetah) sniffed and nuzzled her face, she flinched,” continued Marcus. “The instant she flinched, just that little bit, he smacked her (with his paw) and scratched her. She had made a sudden movement.”