A Penguin Post

Saturday was literally…literally…one of the best days of my life.

We cover events at the aquarium fairly often. Pretty much all of the staff photographers have, at some point, photographed the penguins, not just from the outside of their tank, but from the inside. The INSIDE of the penguin habitat. With penguins swarming around them. Biting at their camera straps. Nibbling on their pants.

Which, obviously, if you know me at all, appeals to me.

I had been [not-so-secretly] hoping that during my time here in Chatty, I would have the opportunity to photograph the penguins. So when Angela came to me Thursday afternoon and mentioned the “Breakfast With Penguins” event being held at the aquarium Saturday morning that was to be photographed by ME, I literally melted with excitement.

So. Saturday morning arrives. I have to come into work an hour early, but I could care less because I didn’t even need the alarm clock. I bolted out of bed, threw on some clothes, and rushed to the aquarium. I tried not to look excited when I walked up to an employee and told him it would mean a lot to me if I could go in the tank with the birds and shoot out towards the crowd. It took some persuading, but this very nice, helpful, wonderful man finally agreed.

He led me into a secret room filled with scuba gear, dead fish, and rain boots. He made me take off my press pass and all other loose items because he said the penguins get a little over zealous. I changed into some knee-high rubber boots and in the tank we went.

Dan, J.R., and Angela had warned me that the penguins like to bite at your belongings and that they stink. But to be honest, I didn’t notice. The first thing I did was throw down my gear, grab a penguin, and start rolling around on the fake rocks talking in a high pitch baby voice. It sounds ridiculous, but they were like dogs…they loved  the attention and wanted to be scratched on the back of their tiny, precious heads. The hundreds of visitors outside stopped looking at the swimming penguins and started pointing at the crazy lady in the cage with tears streaming down her face.

I’m exaggerating a little bit, but not much.

So anyway, I’m there to do a job, so I take a deep breath, try to compose myself, and start shooting. Here they are:

Staff Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Chattanooga Times Free Press – February 11, 2012. Sydney Downs, 3, watches as the penguins swim Saturday morning at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Staff Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Chattanooga Times Free Press – February 11, 2012. Cassie Bonner, 10, watches as the penguins swim Saturday morning at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Staff Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Chattanooga Times Free Press – February 11, 2012. Ashlyn Huffman, 4, watches the penguins as they swim Saturday morning at the Tennessee Aquarium’s “Breakfast With Penguins.”

Staff Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Chattanooga Times Free Press – February 11, 2012.

Staff Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Chattanooga Times Free Press – February 11, 2012.

Staff Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Chattanooga Times Free Press – February 11, 2012.

Staff Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Chattanooga Times Free Press – February 11, 2012. Children line the wall of the tank holding the penguins Saturday morning at the Tennessee Aquarium’s “Breakfast With Penguins.” The event included a continental breakfast and informational shows at 9:00 and 9:3o where children could ask the penguin keeper questions.

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