Luke the Lion

Luke the Lion at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. is an icon and revered member of the zoo.

In the past six years, Luke has raised two families with sisters Shera and Nababiep. I’ve enjoyed these babies and now they’ve grown and moved on to other zoos to continue the Luke’s DNA lineage. Lionesses can conceive every two years, so perhaps 2017 may be the next year when a new family can arrive for Luke.

In the meantime, Luke has been separated from his leading ladies and is turned out into the exhibit to rest and warm up in the sun in blissful solitude. I’m sure his peace and quiet will change should a new family arrive in the future.

It was a warm morning when I arrived and Luke was luxuriating in the sunny early spring day. He stretched out on the ground and looked with one eye right at me. A perfect connection captured.

And here is when Art in Nature appears. This perfect moment between the King of the Savannah and I and it deserved to be expressed in a way that showed the emotion felt.

With the original image show below, I brought it into Lightroom for exposure and contrast editing before moving it to Photoshop to add a texture layer using the Screen option. I then transferred it to Topaz Impressions to give it a softened painterly look at a reduced opacity.


This image and more are available by clicking here

May lion and tiger babies appear soon at the zoo!

20 replies »

  1. Very nicely done Emily. Really love this Hope all continues to go well Allie

    Allie Murphy. Sent from my iPhone


  2. Stunning!! Such a character, Emily.
    Happy Valentineโ€™s Day to you โค
    However you spend this day of love, we hope you are healthy and happy.
    The Fab Four of Cley

  3. I love Luke the Lion. My heart skipped a beat when I read your post. Our son had a picture of Luke the Lion in the snow on his desk when he was a grad student/intern at the University of South Dakota. Our son was killed six years ago in a single vehicle car accident and the picture of Luke came home with his belongings. The love and magic of the big cats remain a connection between us and Justin. I was very touched by your post and gorgeous pictures of this magnificent creature. He holds a special place in our hearts. Wishing you a beautiful day.

    • A tug in my heart to read your touching comment and life story about your son. It’s as if he wanted to visit you and remind you that he is with you.

      Thank you so much for sharing this with me and may Luke always warm your heart.

  4. You have outdone yourself, Emily! I love both pictures, but your photoshopped one is a real masterpiece: it really looks like Luke the Lion is blissfully lying on some featherly blanket and thoroughly enjoying the luxury! Pure magic! ๐Ÿ‘

  5. Until I read the post I was wondering how on earth you had managed to get a Lion to lie down on a large fluffy blanket……which is what the first image looks like to me…..;0)

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