Spotty, Age 14 Thursday, Sep 9 2010 

I’m not really sure it would be prudent to elaborate where exactly was I when I took this picture. Let’s just say I was at the CARE facility in Bridgeport, TX; CARE stands for Center for Animal Research and Education, and it’s a large rescue shelter for big cats. The man in charge Derek was kind enough to show me around and introduce me to most of over 50 big cats they have on the property.

Spotty, Age 14

Spotty here is a gorgeous adult leopard male, who was just lounging around on a warm Saturday morning. You have to be a little careful about overusing the adjective “gorgeous” when you talk about CARE cats, but they are extremely well cared for, in stark contrast to their immediate pasts. Most cats were kept as pets and either neglected or abused; some kept in extremely small enclosures or even dog kennels. The more fortunate ones were kept in zoos, until those zoos became victims of a tough economy and the cats had nowhere to go. Now, at CARE, they live the good life, playing and napping and pouncing on their favorite treats – chicken leg quarters.

Raven, Age 13

Spotty’s room mate is Raven, seen in the photo to the right. Raven is a slightly younger female black leopard who took the term “lounging around” to a new level… literally. She was up at an elevated shelf looking lazily over at Ace, their third neighbor. Spending some time at CARE reminded me why I love cats, even though I’m a dog person. These guys, just like house cats, are athletic and aloof, lazy but playful. If you’d like to see them, visit CARE as soon as you can – and remember to donate; those chicken leg quarters don’t buy themselves.

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Sydney, Age 7 Wednesday, Sep 8 2010 

This past Labor Day weekend, I wanted to drive around North Texas and find interesting photographic subjects. By chance, I found a website for CARE – Center for Animal Research and Education, a refuge for big cats just outside a small town of Bridgeport, TX. Having heard of a few similar places in the area, I expected a few tigers, maybe a couple of bobcats, and not much more. Once I got there, I was stunned to find more than 50 big cats, most of them gorgeous tigers, like Sydney here.

Sydney, age 7

It was a slightly cool morning compared to the heat waves we’ve had the past month or so. Most of the cats were out and about, and the host, Derek, played around lovingly with each of them as he was showing us around. Sydney was on a platform in her enclosure, and when I first saw her, she was in the middle of a sleepy stretch which you can see below. Shortly thereafter, she perked up and assumed this regal pose you see in the main photo. Truly a gorgeous cat, and according to the CARE web site, she’s available for adoption. They also accept donations… Hint: tigers love chicken.

Sydney, stretching

Since I now shoot JPG, it was a bit of a challenge to nail down the white balance on the shot. Straight out of the camera, it looked very blue because my Canon 7D probably got confused with the warm shadow of the foreground with the cooler light seeping in from outside. My friend Tyler taught me this interesting Photoshop technique (too elaborate to go into here), so I managed to warm up the beautiful oranges on Sydney.

In the coming days, I’ll post a few more shots of beautiful cats from CARE. Until then, get on over to their web site and donate a few bucks or simply volunteer. The cats will love it.

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