COLUMNS,  iSights,  News

iSights – ‘A Day At The Zoo’ – By Janine Graf

We are delighted to publish Janine Graf’s latest article to her iSights Column with us. This time Janine explains the background to the animals that we have all grown so fond of and make up her wonderful mobile photographic images. This is a seriously good read, don’t miss this. Over to you Janine (forward by Joanne Carter).


"Hi everybody! This month I thought I would share some information about the animals I use in my images; specifically the rhinoceros and the giraffe. I’ve received emails and comments from people over the past several months who are curious about these animals. The most common question being, “Are these animals stock images from a photo house, or stock images / stamps from an iPhone application?” So I figure why not share some information about them here with you? Plus, truth be told, I’ve come up empty with an idea for the column right now and I’ve procrastinated too long and have run out of time so the animals will help me out this month. I’ll never learn. It’s like high school homework all over again . . . difference being I love writing for you all so it’s not anything like homework . . . which I abhorred . . . and always waited until the last minute to do.

So the answer to the above question is, “No, these are not stock photos. These animals were shot live and in person by yours truly.” Now of course that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, right? I mean, sure anyone can go to a zoo and take photos of animals, but how often can one say they got to feed apple slices to a white rhinoceros or get drooled on while feeding a giraffe acacia leaves? That’s exactly what I had the pleasure of doing. Giraffes btw, are really, really, slobbery. We are talking slingers as long as I am tall.

It was during a trip last summer to visit family in southern California (I was born and raised in San Diego and try to make it down every other summer – I will forever be a California girl). My dad and step-mom currently live in Fall brook, which is considered wine country and is located just north of San Diego. Did you catch that they live in wine country? Wine – country; how cool is that? One day we decided to go to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (I’ve provided some fun links to the park at the end of this article). This park is a 1,800 acre zoo, of which over 300 acres are comprised of free-range enclosures that host several different species of animals all living together out in the open. These free-range areas are broken up into two different habitats: the plains of Africa and Asia. If you would like to see the animals from inside these free-range enclosures, there are different tour options available for a small fortune. We decided to see the animals in the African Plains and the tour package we decided on involved a 3.5 hour ride in the back of a big open truck (I can’t think of a better way to describe it). The best part about this package; it includes hand feeding the giraffes and rhinoceroses. I didn’t even think one could hand feed a rhino; just like the notion of hand feeding a great white shark seems like a bad decision, you know what I mean?

First up were the giraffes of Uganda. When I said that giraffes were slobbery, I wasn’t kidding. Their tongues are 18 inches (46 centimeters) long and produce very thick, sticky saliva that helps protect them from the thorns of the acacia tree. They can eat up to 75 pounds of acacia leaves per day. Did you know that a giraffe’s tongue is black? Yep, it’s true and the reason is to help protect it from getting sunburned while reaching for leaves. Now, I’ve had interesting body parts sunburned before (ahem . . . during the time I lived in Hawaii . . . I was young . . . and uninhibited . . . thank goodness digital wasn’t around back then), however I could not imagine having a sunburned tongue. Ouch.


‘WillCarmen’ – ©Janine Graf


Now you may recognize the giraffe on the left (and that’s my son William feeding them). That would be the girl I used in my silly image called, “Tired of being overshadowed by the other giraffes, she decided it was time to debut ‘The Carmen Miranda’”.


‘CarmenMirandaDebut’ – ©Janine Graf


Btw, the grapes on her head were from the vineyard of my dad’s neighbor. I have a clay pot on my back deck with pitiful growing strawberries in it, that is, if the damn squirrels leave any for me. My dad’s neighbor has an actual vineyard . . . and a wine cave. A – WINE – CAVE!

After the giraffes had their fill, and after we were all covered in sticky giraffe saliva, it was on to the southern white rhinoceros. There are five different species of rhinoceros and the white rhino is the largest. They can grow to 13 feet (4 meters) long and up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall at the shoulders. A white rhino can weigh up to 5,000 pounds (2,300 kilograms) with their head alone weighing anywhere from 800 to 1,000 pounds (362 to 454 kilograms). Mercy. They have a hump of muscle on their neck and shoulders to accommodate the weight of their head. Another fun rhino fact; a group of rhinos is not called a herd, but a “crash”. Bet you all didn’t expect to receive a zoology lesson with your side of art today, did you?


‘Rhino’ – ©Janine Graf


This girl pictured above was really sweet. It took her a while to be coaxed over to our truck for her apple slices. Feeding her by hand was an experience I will never forget. As I put apple slices into her mouth I would very quickly feel her gums while removing my hand; needed to be quick about it before my hand could be ground to a fine pulp. Rhinos are very gummy and their teeth are almost flush with their gums, which makes them the perfect tool for grinding up grass, shrubs and apples. I wish I had some good images of us feeding her that I could share with you. Every pic I took was completely blurry; I think the adrenalin rush made my hands too shaky. This is the girl I use in all of my flying rhino images. Oh, here’s a fun factoid about this girl; she’s pregnant in this image. The gestation period for a white rhino is approximately 16 months. 16 months!! Shoot me.


‘OverTheRainbow’ – ©Janine Graf


And here she is flying over the Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland. So far she’s been to Boston, outer space / the moon, New York City, San Francisco, Washington state and Iceland. I really hope she puts Paris on her travel itinerary. She needs to see the Eiffel Tower someday.

Thank you all for reading and I hope you walk away from this article feeling just a wee bit smarter . . . and possibly being a more interesting dinner guest. A group of rhinos is called a crash; who knew?!"

San Diego Zoo Safari Park:
Caravan Safari Tour:
Adopt an animal:

Janine’s mobile photography has been exhibited in art galleries across the United States and in Europe, has been featured on various websites and in publication. She is currently a proud member of the traveling iPad photography exhibit called “Light Impressions” along with 40 very talented mobile photographers. In publishing news, Janine was honored and delighted to have participated in an upcoming book about creating surreal digital photography. This book is set to be released in the spring of 2013 by Ilex Press. Janine is a mobile photographer who enjoys belly dancing, bacon cheeseburgers, cappuccinos, the smell of old books, slapstick comedy, the color orange and movies about gladiators. Since discovering mobile photography in the early fall of 2010, Janine has set aside her professional DSLR and desktop editing programs in favor of the iPhone and its myriad of wonderful editing apps. In regards to subject matter, she tends to gravitate towards subjects that allow for a whimsy feeling or vibe; she likes to have fun!


  • Catherine

    Oh, this was absolutely WONDERFUL!! Not only because, as you know, I’m a huge animal lover, but your sense of humor and down-to-earth honesty is so refreshing. I loved the article, and I love you to bits!! xoxo 🙂

    • Janine Graf

      Oh Catherine! I’m soooooooooo sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to your sweet comment!! You know how things have been crazy with me lately, so that’s my excuse. 🙂 I can’t wait to go visit the animal farm and/or zoo with you sometime SOON! Love you to bits! xoxoxo 😀

  • Cecily

    I love this Janine!!!
    I just love that Giraffe’s face!!!
    We should really get together when ever I get up to Seattle again!!!
    Woodland Park Zoo would be a blast to explore!!!!!!!
    p.s. when I was in 11th grade I did a volunteer stint at the Oakland (California!!) Zoo for High School kids and I got to bathe and feed the baby Elephant!!! I will never forget that… one of the highlights of my entire school career!!! I also volunteered at the Central Park Zoo in the 1990’s!!!! Just thought I throw that out at ya!!! 🙂

    • Janine Graf

      Cecily, I would LOVE to get together next time you are in Seattle!!!!

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to your comment; life is crazy lately . . . like a giraffe imitating Carmen Miranda . . . crazy. 😉

      OMG . . . you got to bathe and feed a baby elephant?!?! I think that would be one of the most awesome, most fun things to do EVER! I’m beyond jealous! 🙂

    • Janine Graf

      Thank you so much Gerry! I waited until almost past the last minute to write my upcoming article, so hopefully you’ll like that one too! 😉

    • Janine Graf

      You are so kind Robert, thank you so much for your continued support! 🙂

  • Phil Bishop

    Very cool article, love all of your work…nice to know the story behind your images…

    • Janine Graf

      Thank you so much Phil! I really appreciate your comment! I figured it was time to share some background about the animals I’ve been using over these past several months. I liked sharing the original images before I put fruit on their heads or strapped balloons to them. 😉

  • Colleen (cogphoto)

    You are DELIGHTFUL! This was hilarious as always and yes, I picked up some factoids that I can wow my 12 yr old son with … because he always puts me to shame. I now have the San Diego zoo on my bucket list … ever longer, ever longer. Great article and I was so happy to see that, yes, you somehow managed to photograph my favorite weekly smiles yourself. Not only a wonderful artist, but consider yourself a great writer!

    • Janine Graf

      Colleen, you are too sweet! Thank you so much for your kind words! And yes, definitely get to both the San Diego Zoo AND the Wild Safari Park; you won’t be sorry!

  • Maryjane Sarvis

    Oh Janine this is wonderful! Who knew? Sounds like a fabulous day. Now I’ll be brave and go to the one in Fla. next trip. Not sure I’m brave enough to put my hand out. So glad you are. Great article, can’t wait to see what’s next!

    • Janine Graf

      Will you be brave enough to stick your hand out to the long horn / long furred cows when I come visit? 😉 I told you about the bull sneezing snot all over my hand before, didn’t I? I think I told you that story. Bull snot is very slimy. Anyhoo, so glad you liked the article MJ! xoxo