Kansas City Zoo Photo Club Meeting Minutes

October 18, 2004


Bill Pasek called the meeting to order around 7 p.m. He said we would have two guest speakers tonight. The first speaker he introduced was Randy Wisthoff, Director of the Kansas City Zoo, who was here to discuss the zoo’s master plan.

Randy noted that the last time he talked to us, the bond issue election had not happened yet. We did win. He said the master plan is complete, but any good one is a work in progress, so it will evolve. It will change every four or five years as the city changes. He reviewed slides of the master plan for the club.

One of the first images he shared was a picture of giraffes being fed by visitors. This was taken at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. They have 20 giraffes in a pen that can be fed every day.

One picture showed the zoo from overhead. This shows that we have basically two areas of the zoo – the "new" area, which includes Africa, the development of which has led to a lot of issues he is trying to address, and the older area.

He showed a slide that divides the zoo into projects, visitor areas, and so on. You have to look at the zoo from a holistic approach. If we are privatized, we are responsible for the majority of the zoo’s funding.

What do zoos do to be successful? Randy said they take almost a theme-park approach. You have to open something new about every year to get local visitors to keep coming back.

A diagram showed where the bond money will go. The older zoo was losing market share over the last ten years – bears were gone, the ape house was empty, and the Tropical Asia (TA) building was empty. You have to skirt a ghost town to get to Africa, and parking at the zoo is horrendous.

We need a new pathway to Africa, so that you can be there within ten minutes. We want to give it an early American city park feel, with small animals along the way and popcorn and pretzels for sale. There will be spokes off the main pathway, for a kid zone and so on. He thinks this promenade will be a big hit. He wants people to see other people here.

We think this will address traffic flow in a major way. We may have a small tram to the elephant water hole and back. Randy would like for this to be free.

We will tackle the kid zone first. The plan is to start designing it in about a week and a half. It will cost $2 million, and we plan to start building it next spring. The TA building will cost $4 million to bring back.

As for the front entrance, he said the Journey is having technical difficulties. The sound and slide system is about shot. It would be costly to replace the exhibit, and after ten years, he doesn’t like it much. He proposes to turn that area into new facilities for the education department, with classrooms and so on. There would be a new entrance with a glass tunnel connecting areas. He envisions a drop-off point between the two big lots, so that parents with strollers can have an easier time getting into the zoo. Currently it is not very user-friendly. He wants to redo the entry plaza and make it more accessible to the handicapped. The plan is to put in some animal exhibits, like river otters or other native Missouri species, or black bears, which could be seen in the trees from the entry, since they are good climbers.

He wants a softer, more user-friendly entrance, but the bond money won’t help with this – they would need $5-8 million in donor money.

He explained that if we are lucky, we will lose only $150,000 on the IMAX theater this year. He doesn’t know about keeping the IMAX past next year.

They have talked about putting in a gondola to take people to Africa, but that would require $2-3 million in donor money.

Regarding Africa, he said that currently you get to the Rafiki marketplace and don’t see any animals. If you come to the zoo early, you might see some hoof stock nearby, but most people come later and the zebra and other hoof stock are back toward the back of the exhibit. If you are a photographer, you need a 400-500mm lens and still you won’t get a full shot. He can’t fix all the problems immediately, but he would like to segregate the plains area and have a giraffe feeding station upfront. They are talking about $5-7 million in improvements. He would like a summer holding barn without heat. Currently it takes two keepers 30-60 minutes to get hoof stock from the barn to the display area down a 750-foot corridor in the morning, and back again at night. It is a terrible division of labor. A summer barn would eliminate this at least for part of the year. Long-term, he would like a train through the veldt.

The kid zone is a concept right now, but he wants a lot of energy and activities in it. A carousel is in the plan. We would redo the barn inside and out, add a petting zoo, bring in a food stand, have the train run through there, and move the theater shows into a shaded and more user-friendly area. He thinks we need a major playground area that looks more natural than what we have now, similar to a tree-house concept he shared.

As for the TA building, they want to save it. This is covered by deferred maintenance in the bond issue. He proposes themed greenhouse pods off of each side. We only have $4 million to do it, which is not enough. He wants to recreate the image of the original 1909 building on the outside. We would probably house South American reptiles and birds in it.

We have $11 million to bring polar bears to the zoo, though he would like a lot more. You would have to go into the valley to see them underwater.

The San Diego Zoo has enough money to do public testing, and they have found that polar bears are more popular than the pandas. They are in the top one to three animals you expect to see in a zoo.

He would like to have penguins near the sea lion pool. He explained that there are water issues with the pool, due to the chloramines used in city water. It doesn’t dissolve out and has an ammonia derivative that is harmful to the eyes and nasal membranes of the animals. You can treat the water with carbon to remove the ammonia. We may do a carbon water treatment station here at the zoo and could make salt water for all three species.

There are no designs for Australasia yet.

The Missouri Trail would be a bunch of North American species down a back road that is empty right now.

Predator Canyon would bring big cats back in a big way, where the ape house currently stands.

He would like to have a $50-60 million aquarium near the front gate. The area could be used for parties, meetings, and so on.

Elephants require a lot of space. He wants to try to entice them to be near the waterhole more often for easier viewing.

He would like to build a big lodge to allow rentals. It would be accessible from the parking lot and could exclude the zoo and hold 500-600 people.

He admitted that they haven’t put much energy into looking at Africa yet; they have to focus on the old zoo first.

We haven’t made a decision on where gorillas are going to be yet. There is major bank erosion issue near that area, and no one wants to spend the money it would take to fix it. We may have to move the gorillas.

In summary, he said there is a lot going on. The bond money provides $30 million, and he is looking for $30 million extra. He said there is lots of money in town. Attendance is up and the budget is balanced, which hasn’t been done in the recent past. So hopefully when potential donors see what can be done, they will be willing to donate.

Next year he wants to rehab the cat walk area to work toward the Asia theme. Omaha has agreed to send a white tiger for the summer exhibit. We will have new hornbills and will move the red pandas, who despise the heat. We are looking at getting perhaps a Sumatran or Indochinese tiger. We need some kind of big cat in that area.

Jim Rendina asked why concession stands generally were not open in the spring. Randy said it is an economic issue; it costs more than we make to have them open then. He talked about moving the Beastro out in the IMAX area and serving soup and sandwiches. Africa will be closed again this winter. The Peacock Pavilion is only open on the weekends during the cold months.

Wayne Hickox asked about the possibility of having more exhibits inside a building so you could enjoy the zoo in bad weather. Randy said it will take millions to make a comfortable indoor exhibit. We just aren’t there yet. He started at the Omaha zoo in 1977, and it’s way far ahead of the Kansas City Zoo. The new desert dome there cost $30 million several years ago.

After answering questions, Randy ended his very interesting presentation. He said he was happy to have us here in the building.

Marie introduced our next speaker, Jim Braswell. She met him while he was taking pictures of bald eagle nests at Squaw Creek with the Great Plains Nature Photographers. He recently went to Alaska to shoot bears and will show us some of those pictures tonight.

Jim said he and his wife went to Alaska the second week in September. He has always wanted to shoot wild bears. They were based in Homer at the beginning of the trip. They took an airplane to a camp at the edge of Katmai National Park, to the west of Kodiak Island, in Hallo Bay Wilderness. It is a total wilderness and a beautiful place.

Jim said he just got started in digital photography early this year.

He shared some images shot from the plane, of glaciers coming out of the mountains and the camp as they approached. One area was called the bootleg, and there was a little island in the middle of the ocean near the camp. At very low tide, you can walk to it. The camp is just off the ocean, near an inlet to the Big River.

They landed on the beach. The camp takes eight or nine people at a time. There are three or four guides and a cook. This small setup is less intrusive to the environment and the animals. Every day, the plane would arrive to drop off or pick up guests.

The camp had individual cabins that looked like tin coffee cans and a galley.

He shared images of bald eagles on an active nest on the island.

For equipment, he has a Canon 10D with a 300mm 2.8 lens, a 100-400 4.5/5.6 lens, a small 24-105mm landscape lens, and 1.4 and 2.0 converters.

It is difficult to photograph there – there is a lot of light that reflects. He experimented to come up with something that would work. He finally tried polarizers and had better results.

They saw fresh bear tracks and lots of bears. It was really nice there at this time of year. The pink salmon were ending their run, and the silver salmon were starting, which are a favorite of the brown bear. They have a high fat content and help the bears build up their fat reserves. The bears had nice full coats.

It was common to see them out in the water, catching and eating salmon. As much salmon as there was, the bears were very selective in eating them. They will eat the head, the skin, and the eggs, and drop the rest. Younger bears might scavenge some, however.

He had several shots of a pair of spring cubs. The white specks on the bears are flies. If you saw a bear with white foam around its mouth, the bear was in distress. You have to watch out for those bears. There was one bear they called Lonely Bear that was under some kind of stress. It kept following around the sows with cubs.

Jim said how the bears fished was interesting. They used different techniques, sometimes running after fish, sometimes snorkeling to find fish, and other times using one paw to feel in the water for fish. It is common to see bears snorkeling, but they rarely put their ears in the water.

Jim was asked how close he was shooting. He said the closest was probably ten feet, but often he was 40 to 50 feet away. The guides don’t carry guns, but they have magnesium flares, which are a scare tactic. They make a loud popping sound. They said in ten years, they had only had to use them once.

A sow with two four-year-old cubs came by every day.

Some bears would eat the salmon in the water, others would eat it on the bank, and still others would take it off into the woods.

He showed a picture of a day bed near the water made by a bear. Here they eat fish, get drowsy, scoop out a place in the sand, and go to sleep.

Sunrises there were spectacular. It rained one day.

The camp is open from May to September. The bears are pretty used to people, so they will look at you and then look away.

Jim was asked at what age the cubs could catch fish for themselves. He said some of the first-year cubs can, but they are not very efficient at that age.

What time of day did you take most of your shots? Jim said they were usually up by 6 a.m. and out by 8:15. They would take a lunch, and come back to camp around 5 p.m. They would head back out after 6 until dark.

Once he saw 17 bears at one time! He had some pictures of birds as well – a common merganser possibly and what he thought was a kestrel or some type of falcon. He shared a picture of 17 bears and a bald eagle.

The four-year-old cubs did a lot of play-fighting. The two spring cubs with their mom played a lot but were very cautious. Jim said they saw the beginning of a bear fight once, between the mom with the two spring cubs and the two four-year-old cubs. She wanted their fishing hole and tried to scare them off. She was limping by the end of it, but he did not think she was too badly hurt.

It was not uncommon for the bears to walk through camp.

As you can tell, Jim likes action photography and also behavioral shots.

The camp had electricity from morning until 10 p.m. It used solar and wind power, plus they had a generator that they used in emergencies only. Garbage was hauled out on the plane. It was a very clean operation.

The group thanked Jim for his interesting presentation.

Bill asked if we had any guests this evening. We had two guests who have joined as members. Delbert Boatwright said he had contacted the Kansas City, Kansas, public library about camera clubs, and Marie got in touch with him. Walter Hodge said he has been in a couple of other camera clubs; he is a Canon shooter. Welcome, Delbert and Walter!

Terry Fretz gave the treasurer’s report. He said he had deposited $290, bringing the total up to $2,018.74. No checks were written last month.

The group took a quick break at 8:25 p.m.

When we reconvened, Bill asked Peggy Lowrey about the photo wall. Peggy reiterated that members need to make sure she has a way to hang any prints they submit. It was suggested that Peggy check the pictures there against a list of current members. Terry is working on updating one based on dues payments. He will e-mail Peggy a roster, and he also will send one to Jim and Carla Farris to compare with photographers on our Web site. He will have copies for all members soon.

Bill will make club name tags for Walter and Delbert, and Jim will prepare the official zoo name tags for them.

Bill asked if there was anything to report on the kiosk. Do we have any volunteers to help take this over? Bill offered to help the first time or two. Carla and Peggy volunteered to help. It was decided that they would get together with Jim after the meeting and decide when to meet to discuss.

Jim mentioned the Web site and the need for software. He wanted to give an update and get approval on how we should proceed. Jim said the committee of five members met on the Monday after the last meeting. They held a two- to three-hour meeting and discussed lots of issues.

The committee determined that Carla will learn to upload the images to the Web site. She will start putting images on the Website once they are in order. She needs to install Front Page 2003 on her PC. Jim said they hoped they could get a copy of it immediately, but Steve and Carla’s schedules did not coincide. Jim thought he could buy the software on the Web for $100 and it would get to her in three or four days, but it turns out this was an OEM copy with no manuals. The cheapest he could get it with manuals on the Web is $179 plus shipping. So he went to Micro Center here in town and got it for $199 plus tax. Micro Center also will train Carla on the use of the software. They also think we can use it on more than one PC, but are not sure, so we will start with one person for now.

Wayne moved that Jim be given the money from the budget to pay for the software for Carla’s use. Dan Paulsen and Marie Bohndorf seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously. Carla can have the software tonight.

Jim said he has 50 to 55 new images that can go on the Web site. Perhaps 10 or 12 of those are scanned from the kiosk. He asked if there was a problem with using those, and the club members said there was not.

Jim said he definitely thinks we are on the right track with the Web site. Once Carla has the software on her machine, she can master it and get the password from Steve.

It turns out we cannot have the site be hosted through the Zoo, so we need to revisit hosting. Jim said that hosting is not an urgent issue, though. Steve Brewer has been paying for it. It was pointed out that we have the money to reimburse Steve, so we should do that.

Carla said she thought she could get parameters for the Web site nailed down in the next month or so. She said she would like more zoo pages, with as many animals as possible. If you submit images that are 640 long or tall, they will be full-frame. She doesn’t think we need to have thumbnails that are all the same size; the size can vary somewhat. Bill asked Carla to go ahead and create the list of parameters.

We need to have a demo on Photo Shop to show members how to get their images in the right format for submission. Linda Hanley has a negative scanner, and Carla has two flat-bed scanners to help out.

Carla said she could set up an address on AOL where we can send images.

Bill said it sounded like the committee had made great progress!

Marie informed the group that November 20 is the next Great Plains Nature Photographers meeting, here in Kansas City at the Discovery Center at 4750 Troost. The speaker is Michael Forsberg, a sand hill crane photographer. The entry form is at www.gpnp.org. Fill it out and mail it in if you want to attend. The club is planning to go to Squaw Creek the next day. Jim Griggs is also planning to lead a trip to Nebraska to photograph sand hill cranes sometime.

Sarah O’Bryan pointed out that the next meeting is the due date for the scavenger hunt. The photos must be recent.

Boo at the Zoo is the last weekend in October – October 28 through the 31st.

Does anyone have anything for Buy-Sell-Trade? Wayne has an old Canon AE1 and two manual lenses, a 200mm and a 55mm, if anyone is interested.

Bill said he had two 24x36 picture frames of anodized aluminum with a brass buff finish, including the glass.

Bill recapped the survey he passed out recently to club members. We have 42 members, and 16 to 17 responded, which is a return rate of about 40 percent. On the question of what we would like the club to do, many said they wanted to be closely tied to the zoo and do things to support the zoo, such as giving photos to the zoo for prizes. There is concern that we may be becoming more of a digital club than a film club. Basically, members are interested in learning more about technical aspects of photography. The Web site should be a subject for a presentation at the meeting, so members will know how it works, what’s on it, and so on. Members also want more activities outside of meetings – less talk and more doing. Some members asked for more break time to visit and look at photos. They want more pictures of animals and flowers, and like presentations kept to about 30 minutes. Members want to analyze and dissect slides, not just view them.

We need a committee to analyze the results and make suggestions for changes. Bill asked for a couple of people to volunteer and come up with recommendations. For example, do we need a travel committee to plan trips? Sarah said that since there was a strong message to tie the club more closely to the zoo, she would be happy to help make that connection. Tom Goodner and Wayne also volunteered. Copies of the surveys will be provided so the volunteers can study them, and the committee will get together soon to make recommendations.

Marie said the next meeting has been left open so we can discuss the surveys, etc.

Bill said there would be no Tech Talk tonight, although he recounted a problem with a battery tester recently. It turns out he had a no-load tester, and it wasn’t picking up a problem with dead batteries in his camera.

Dilbert asked how members keep in touch with each other. Bill said we will have an updated membership list soon that will have everyone’s e-mail address on it. Terry will create the list once all dues are paid – he will plan to bring this to the next meeting.

Carla said if you have pictures you’d like to include on the Web site, go with the requirements we have laid out before – the image should be 640 long or tall at 72 dpi resolution. Don’t worry about the second dimension. You can bring the images to the next meeting.

Bill said Tom will be coordinating Tech Talks in the future. Tom said he will have a list of topics and will start at A and go down the list. He explained that the photographic principles are basically the same, whether you are using film or digital.

The meeting adjourned at 9:15 p.m. The next meeting is November 15 at 7 p.m.

-- Tracy Goodrich