Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sometimes you just need a little magic.....

One of the perks of volunteering at RASTA (Rescue And Sanctuary for Threatened Animals) is the opportunity to engage in one of my favourite hobbies - photographing animals.  Whenever the weather is appropriate, the camera is in my pocket as I scoop poop or fluff straw or clean the barn or fill the waters,  ready to appear when something - or someone - catches my eye.

Whose snout is that?

While I usually take the photos for my own pleasure, sometimes Lucie assigns me a task - preparing some images for a presentation, or capturing some pleading faces that we can use to promote our fundraisers, or - as was the case the past few weeks - taking a photo of a particular animal to give as a thank you to a local business who has taken on sponsorship of said critter.

Sanctuaries aim to find sponsors for their animals as a way to ensure the basic needs for care are met - the donation of a set amount monthly,  based on the species, to help cover  routine expenses related to food and shelter.  Most animals become sponsored by individuals, but some - like Harvie who is sponsored by Impulse Pizza in Chemainus, and Pirate, sponsored by Cafe la Vie in Duncan - are sponsored by local businesses. For those, we try to provide a framed and signed photo that they can display so their customers see how they give back to the community.  Good business for them, good exposure for us.

And most animals at the sanctuary are pretty easy to  capture on camera.  Harvie was:

The equines are:

Hai!  Wanna take my picture?

Theo isn't camera shy in the least.

Here, let me clean the lens for you!

Ducks and geese and turkeys and chickens and roosters have all cooperated when I wanted to take their photos.

Is this my best side?

 And most of the pigs are quite happy to play along.

Even Jacob, one of our most senior pigs, comes strolling out to say hello.

Except Pirate - our orthotic-wearing, quickly growing, full of mischief, Berkshire-Tamsworth farm pig who may one day weigh 700 pounds or more. You briefly met him, and his brother Prince, in this post back in September.  Pirate came to us as a babe, one rear leg far shorter than the other, with the joint fused at a 90 degree angle.  His spine was twisting as he attempted to move about on three and a half legs - and unlike dogs, pigs are not well-structured for life as a tripod.  Back then, when he first arrived, he was very timid.  He backed away from me, ever watchful, and this allowed me to get a few good shots.

Stranger danger! Stranger danger!

But now - now, he knows that people are his friends and often have food or at least an ear scritch or a bale of hay. And he was my assignment for the past several weeks.  Pointing the camera at him, especially if the photographer is squatting down to get a nicely framed shot, merely invites him to barrel toward the camera in the hopes that it is edible. Taking photos from further away, or while hidden behind the side of a building, means getting a shot with his snout doing what hungry piggy snouts do - rooting in the mud, rooting in the straw, munching the hay,  - but never looking at the camera.

Num num num num num...
I can't hear you!
Trying to capture a frame-worthy image of Pirate was difficult enough, but Lucie had specifically asked not only that Pirate's cute little face be looking at the camera, but that the orthotic on his hind leg be visible too - a good discussion starter in a photo, as fundraising for the $2000 orthotic will be an ongoing extraordinary expense for the next several years as he outgrows one and needs another, possibly six or more times.

And now you can't see me!

Any attempt to redirect his attention, by gently calling his name, either results in being ignored, or in being run over, or a combination - Pirate ignoring me while others, at the sound of my voice, rush over to see if they can help.  Or if I might be offering treats.  Most likely the latter.

Excuse me, Maggie May - since when has your name been 'Pirate'?

I tried.  I really tried.  For weeks I tried.  But every photo either showed the face head on but not the leg, or the leg and not the face, or the whole piggy but with snout buried in mud or straw or hay.

What?  Don't you think customers would like to see
this photo of me drinking from a mud puddle
while they sip their coffee?

Finally, the other night, I'd had enough.  And that's when I resorted to magic - digital magic.  I used that earlier photo of Pirate looking at the camera, back in the days when he didn't think it was something to eat, and with a bit of cloning, some overlays, some erasing, some frosting, and some colour touch ups, I added his orthotic from a more recent photo.  It's not perfect, but it's good enough.

I matted and framed it today and delivered it to Cafe la Vie, a wonderful vegan restaurant in downtown Duncan.  And now that's finally off my 'to-do' list.

Photographer: 1  Piglet:  0

But I'm quite sure Pirate will outsmart me and even the score sometime in the near future.  And let's face it, any sponsored piggy is a winner.

If you or your business are interested in sponsoring an animal at RASTA, please check out their website at  You'll find the information on sponsorships here .

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