Rinat Halon

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I always loved elephants. My ongoing joke was that I wanted an elephant in my backyard. Considering I did not have a backyard, I gave up that notion. But in all honesty, this joke had some truth to it. A lot of truth, to be exact.

I love elephants. They are wicked smart enormous joyful creatures. And I just cannot believe they may be extinct in a few years. Can you imagine a world without elephants? I cannot. It would be a sad world indeed.

Lucky for me, I live driving distance from Two Tails Ranch, – which is, in my opinion, an elephant haven.

I first made it out to Two Tails Ranch a few years back for my birthday. Needless to say this was an incredible experience. To see these huge creatures up close is humbling. Their sheer size alone helps anyone accept the reality of dinosaurs roaming the earth millions of years ago. Then Patricia, the ranch’s owner and elephant – Alpha -mother (as Patricia explains:” You have to be the alpha leader – or the elephant will be”) answered the visitor’s questions about elephants. To top it off, Luke, the poster child elephant  – painted a painting using a paintbrush he held in his trunk to the delight of the audience (you can purchase Luke’s original paintings in the ranch’s store). Then if you wanted you could get a ride on one of the elephants, and if you wanted more elephant quality time  – you could stay and alongside the ranch’s team give one of the elephants a bath.

It was a magical day. At the end of the day I offered Patricia that I come back and photograph the elephants so we can create a calendar,   but neither of us ever pursued it. We both are small business owners with our hands full, and between caring for 7 elephants (Patricia) and building my business (me) – it fell by the wayside.

When Luke met Rinat – My mom took this photo a couple of years ago when I first visited the ranch. Unfortunately this photo opp is not available any longer because people were taking advantage of it and would not stop photographing, never giving a chance for another guest to have their photo taken with Luke.

 

Lucky for me a couple of years later I got married. Well, the fact that I am lucky for marrying my husband who rocks Mike is not necessarily to do with the elephants – it’s something I am grateful for every day. But it did also re-connect me with Patricia and the elephants of Two Tails Ranch. That’s because my loving husband decided to surprise me with a visit to Two Tails Ranch. This time Patricia and I decided we are turning the calendar vision into reality.

This time I got to take an elephant ride!

For the calendarI wanted to capture the images visitors don’t see when they come to Two Tails Ranch. The “behind the scenes” of operating the Ranch. I wanted to capture the everyday life  images that tell the story of what it means to be an elephant caretaker. I wanted to show the deep bond and connection between Patricia’s family and the elephants. And mostly, I wanted to show that elephants, like human beings, are all very different from one another and each have their own personality. And so Patricia and I scheduled the calendar photoshoot.

I came back to the ranch on a very early October morning  – got up at 4am to be there at 7am. “It just had to be cold today” Patricia said when I arrived,explaining the elephants do not like the cold weather and may not want to come out. But in true Florida style the weather heated up quickly and I got to spend an unforgettable morning with seven elephants, Patricia, her son, daughter in law and three year old grandson Bjorn. I got to see the Two Tails Ranch daily routine. And let me tell you – it is not easy work. From haystacks to poop stacks – no matter the age, every family member and ranch team member picks up a shovel and helps scoop it up. It is quite a task to keep these elephants fed and bathed.

I’m photographing Patricia’s grandson 3 year old Bjorn as he is helping his parents give Patty a bath

I also got to witness Bunny the elephant playing around. “She always gets in trouble” Patricia said with a loving smile. It was amazing to witness these huge creatures respect Patricia who was looking so small next to the towering seven elephants standing beside her. I mean, if they wanted to, they could crush her. But you could just feel the love connection and respect between the elephants and Patricia.

And when I stood too close to Shell the elephant and she sent a curious trunk my way and gently squeezed my shoe with it, it took one “Back off Shell!” order from Patricia for Shell and she immediately folded back her curious trunk.

I got to witness gorgeous Luke enjoying his morning nature stroll, tusks still covered in paint from creating his last painting.

Luke and I – during the calendar photoshoot

It was a nearly “mission impossible” to narrow the calendar photoshoot captures to only 13 calendar photos – Patricia and I agonized over the decision – but we did it (side note: some of the other photos that did not make it to the calendar will be available for wall prints). We chose 13 photos, and next created text to go with each photo. I wanted the text to convey what I experienced during the calender photoshoot, and after a few revisions we came up with text that  complements the photo it was written about. Then my talented graphic and web site designer Jim Miller created the calendar cover page, and the text was proofread by my husband who rocks Mike (who told me he was tearing up the first time he saw the 13 calendar photos and text together – it was so touching) – and the calendar went to print.

the calendars should be printed and available for purchase by the second week of December.

I gifted this calendar to be 100% donation, all proceeds go to the upkeep of the elephants. I am only one person, and I know realistically I cannot prevent a whole elephant species from being extinct. But I can do SOMETHING and this something is using my photographic talent to capture the story of Two Tails Ranch for everyone to see. And you can do something too – by purchasing the calendar know you’re supporting Patricia and her elephants and helping keep Two Tails Ranch open. Patricia once told me that she opened up her ranch to the public because she wanted to give people the rare opportunity to learn up close and personal about elephants. “If you build it, they will come” Patricia quoted from the movie  “Field of Dreams”. “We are all the way out here in the middle of nowhere” she said ” but I was inspired by this movie and decided to build it. And sure enough – they came”. And they are still coming. You can visit Two Tails Ranch too – go on their website AllAboutElephants.com   to schedule your visit. I promise you, it will be a life changing experience.

For now, here is a sneak peek of the calendar’s cover page:

Two Tails Ranch 2019 Calendar cover page

We are now waiting on copies to come back from print so if you are interested in a calendar let me know in the comments and I will get your info to Two Tails Ranch.

Have I mentioned I love elephants?