Cat Portraiture


Subject's Name:  "Cookie" a.k.a. "Number One." Genre:  Kitten Portraiture. Specific Difficulties with Genre:  You Place - They Move.  No Reasoning with a Kitten! Age:  About 4 Weeks Old.

Subject’s Name: “Cookie” a.k.a. “Number One.”
Genre: Kitten Portraiture.
Specific Difficulties with Genre: You Place – They Move. No Reasoning with a Kitten!
Age: About 4 Weeks Old.

You MUST HAVE Patience to create good Cat & Kitten Portraiture – Ahhhhh Patience:  They were here a minute ago.

“Cookie stay here…
Cookie stay here…
Cookie stay, no not there, come back here…
Cookie look here…NO, don’t move…
OK, let’s try that one more time…
Cookie, where are you going?  Can’t you see I’m trying to take your picture?
I think this is it Cookie, this is it…NO, don’t chew on the camera strap!
SOCRATES!  Don’t bother Cookie!
Don’t you lunatics know this is a serious situation?!?
Who spilled the water?
It’s not lunch time!
Do you mind turning back to actually face the camera – if it’s not too much to ask?”

And that’s just the first 5-minutes of the session.  Things seem to get more chaotic after that.





My Cat, Elessar, has died:  Around 2:00am, 26 June 2013.  We believe he was born sometime in October 2007 – thus, he was almost six years old.


[Photo Above:  One of the last few photos I took of Elessar, on 18 June 2013 – I wanted to make sure I got some pictures of him, even during his latest illness.]

Elessar came into our lives a little over five years ago (April 2008).  We found him wandering in the Island Plaza shopping complex area.

He was quite the mess when we rescued him:  He had been through a lot already in his young life.  He had a back femur bone that was dislocated from its socket, but somehow he figured out how to walk.  A human would have been paralyzed by such an injury, but not Elessar – he had a will of  iron.

He also had a very ‘sick tail’ – not sure how to describe it, but it was continuously bloody and scabby – it was a mess.  We eventually had to have his tail surgically removed because no matter what medicines he took, it never healed.  The Vet removed the tail except the last couple of vertebra because of the nerves involved in the tail area so he could have proper bathroom functions.

Eventually, the tail healed perfectly after most of it was removed.  Now, however, we think back on the tail-health issue, and how it never would heal, and we think that that health issue should have triggered  a thought in our Veterinary’s mind that maybe he had another underlying health issue:  In Elessar’s case, diabetes.  Wounds that do not heal should cause a medical expert to start thinking of diabetes:  Hindsight is kind of worthless sometimes when you are dealing with a life.  Nevertheless, the possibility of Elessar having diabetes never came up until these last 20 days.


[Elessar riding in the car, with hood on, coming home after a visit to the Vet, about his tail amputation.  He enjoyed car rides, but not visiting the Vet.]

As far as his bum-leg went, somehow, his leg bone just found a way to work so he could run and jump and play like a normal active kitten: The Vet, when he first saw Elessar said he was an “Orthopedic Mess!”  We considered Elessar an “Orthopedic Miracle.”

His Name

We named him after J.R.R. Tolkien‘s character in The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn – Aragorn was crowned as King Elessar – so we named our cat, King Elessar Kitty!  Considering the king-sized health issues he lived with, the name seemed a good fit.

The “Forever Kitten!”

Image[Elessar having fun, but of course, when he is supposed to be posing for a portrait – that was Elessar – always the kitten at heart.  Photo taken on 21 Sept 2010.]

Cooperating on the Photo-Set…ONLY Sometimes, and on his terms

Even though Elessar liked to mess around, play, and have fun, he could surprise me and actually sit peacefully for a good head shot or portraits.  However, with all cats, everything is on their terms, and their time.  Us cat photographers are always waiting for the cat-divas to get ready – such is life!

[Elessar sitting well for a good portrait, August 2010.]


One thing we noticed about Elessar was that he had EXTREMELY BIG, AND SHARP TEETH and CLAWS!  I think because he had some disabilities, his body adapted and he developed extreme fighting tools (teeth and claws).  IF, he got into a fight with another of our male cats (Avicenna was usually the culprit / instigator of these fights), then I would typically be the one to break up said fight; and sometimes, by accident, I got the bite that was intended for the other cat.  Let me tell you one thing:  Cat fang puncture wounds hurt – they hurt like hell, especially when the fang goes all the way deep into the knuckle.  It has happened a few times, but not intentionally – he was just protecting himself.


[Elessar messing around on the photo set, August 2010, and showing off his fangs!]


[This is Avicenna, taken in 2011.] 

Avicenna was Elessar’s best buddy; however, they had a very strange friendship.  Avicenna and Elessar, could in one moment be sleeping nose to nose peacefully.  In the next moment, Avicenna would be exerting his Alpha-Male’ness on Elessar, and Elessar really didn’t want to have any issues with Avicenna – Elessar was a peaceful and loving cat and really liked Avicenna.  However, after so many attempts by Avicenna to provoke a fight, Elessar would give Avicenna his wish, and then, major fights would erupt.  Usually, Elessar would kick Avicenna’s ass – remember those sharp teeth and claws?  Yeah, Avicenna would get a taste of his own medicine when messing with Elessar.  However, Elessar would simply ‘allow’ Avicenna to always believe that he was Alpha.  That was the kind of cat Elessar was:  He was a joyful and loving cat.  However, Elessar’s general philosophy when dealing with Avicenna was this:

“Avicenna – I love you like a brother; however, if you get in my face too many times, and if I can’t take it anymore, I’ll have to kick your ass!  But, I don’t give a shit about being Alpha – I just want to have fun, so you have the stress of being Alpha – fine with me!”

These Last-20-Difficult Days

About 20-days ago, we discovered that Elessar had a hematoma on his ear – it was basically a balloon full of blood.  We took him to the Vet and he was put on all sorts of medicines.  The hematoma got better, but he seemed to be getting sicker for some reason.

Because his health was not getting better, we took Elessar on another ‘fun’ trip to the Vet – I’m kidding of course – Elessar did NOT like Vet-visits.  The Vet decided to do a complete blood test to check kidney function; and also, Elessar had an abdomen X-Ray performed.  We discovered that he had second, and more major health problems to deal with:  He had fluid in his abdomen:  this was not good at all.  The Vet said it was probably from a failing kidney (or other internal organ problem).  With the blood test, we discovered that Elessar had a very high sugar level, and other blood measurements showed that his kidneys were failing:  He had a double-whammy – failing kidney and diabetic!  I never knew that cats could be diabetic until this incident with Elessar.


From that point, the instant we received the bad news of his ill-fated diagnosis, we were devastated, but cautiously optimistic that King Elessar Kitty could pull out of this one too:  He has overcome other health issue and we believed he could overcome these new ones too.

The last 20 days, nevertheless, proved extremely difficult:  it was an uphill battle to get Elessar well.  A diabetic cat is a very difficult illness to treat:  and, he was on more meds than he could choke down.  The Vet also wanted us to feed him Science Diet AD food, and this needed to be finger fed to him because he had basically lost all taste for food:  He would no longer eat on his own will.  As I mentioned, and as the Vet told us – It was a very difficult and uphill battle to get him through this.  We, however, wanted to give him the best chance possible, so we did everything for him that we could.  We wanted him to stay positive; but in our hearts, we could see that he was slowly giving up hope.  Each day was a new, and more difficult struggle with the pills and the food.

  • He didn’t want to eat, and he didn’t want to drink water (this is very dangerous for a diabetic cat!); and much of the time, he no longer kept the medications down.  Without keeping the medication in, his kidney would not have a chance of getting better.


He didn’t want to eat.  He didn’t want to take his medications.  What he did want to do was to go outside – He would sit at the back door and meow to go outside.  So, I said we should let him do anything (within reason) that may make him happier, and going outside seemed to make him a little more chipper.  I took a few photographs of one of his last trips outside.

"Elessar - taking a walk outside."  Circa Oct 2007 to 26 June 2013.  Penang, Malaysia. By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

“Elessar – taking a walk outside.” 18 June 2013. Penang, Malaysia.
By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

"Elessar - enjoying the warm concrete outside."  Circa Oct 2007 to 26 June 2013.  Penang, Malaysia. By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

“Elessar – enjoying the warm concrete outside.” 18 June 2013. Penang, Malaysia.
By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

"Elessar - Closeup Portrait Head Shot, outside."  Circa Oct 2007 to 26 June 2013.  Penang, Malaysia. By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

“Elessar – Closeup Portrait Head Shot, outside.” 18 June 2013. Penang, Malaysia.
By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

"Elessar - Closeup Portrait Head Shot, outside."  Circa Oct 2007 to 26 June 2013.  Penang, Malaysia. By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

“Elessar – Closeup Portrait Head Shot, outside.” 18 June 2013. Penang, Malaysia.
By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

"Elessar - Closeup Portrait Head Shot, outside, against Sun Glow."  Circa Oct 2007 to 26 June 2013.  Penang, Malaysia. By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

“Elessar – Closeup Portrait Head Shot, outside, against Sun Glow.” 18 June 2013. Penang, Malaysia.
By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

"Elessar - Closeup Portrait Head Shot, outside and my hand."  Circa Oct 2007 to 26 June 2013.  Penang, Malaysia. By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

“Elessar – Closeup Portrait Head Shot, outside and my hand.” 18 June 2013. Penang, Malaysia.
By, Nawfal Johnson Nur.

I am not sure what more to say, except, Elessar, you will be greatly missed!  We won’t tell any of the other cats, but you were “Best-Cat!”

Archimedes would benefit from a GOOD Home to Adopt Him

This is Archimedes. He has adopted us: He is an outdoors cat (adult, male, about 2-years old), and he comes and goes as he pleases. We would make him an indoors cat, but our adult male cats DO NOT appreciate Archimedes, like we appreciate Archimedes.

He is a very smart and friendly cat, and he really enjoys people-company.

A home where he would be the only cat, would be ideal for Archimedes.

We figure that he was once an indoors cat because he is so people-friendly, and pretty healthy…but he was abandoned.

You see, some people do not take responsibility for their pets. Maybe they think that having pets is easy all the time, or, that pets will not make mistakes/messes. Many people do not take all considerations in mind before getting a pet. Then, when people find out they cannot handle the pet, they do not like to care or clean up after the pet, or they are not allowed to keep the animal in their home, then many people simply find it easier to drop off the animal on the roadside, the park, the wet market, or wherever is convenient.

This irresponsible behavior results in a lot of suffering for animals. Cat, dogs and other animals who had a home, are suddenly on the streets, which are very unfriendly for small animals. All sorts of dangers await abandoned animals: they are subject to additional abuse, malnutrition and starvation, dangers of traffic, adverse weather, and diseases. Many of the abandoned animals are rounded up by Animal Control, and then killed.

Some people, I suspect, do not fully consider the responsibility of having an animal in their home, and that is a mistake. If you have doubts, then perhaps you are not ready to have a pet. If you take a pet, then abandon it, then the pet suffers – it is cruel and irresponsible.

It would be nice if Archimedes could find a good home. Until then, he has adopted us and we will take care of him. It is unfortunate that male cats of adult age are so very territorial – but they are. Our male cats sit indoors looking out the front (or back) screen door, having hissy fits that Archimedes is hanging around outside. Archimedes basically ignores our cats and sits peacefully – he is quite easy-going. However, if the two sides would ever meet nose-to-nose, I’m sure that sparks and claws would fly, and I don’t want to see that happen.

IF you live in the Penang area, and are RESPONSIBLE, love animals, and WOULD NEVER abandon an animal when the ‘going-gets-tough’, and if you would like to care for a really great cat, then you can send me a comment. However, I would be very thorough in my questions for you regarding your wish to adopt. Knowing that Archimedes was abandoned once already, I would not want to risk it happening again – I’m sure you understand.

Maysa’, Edit B Cat Portraiture

Maysa’, Edit B, originally uploaded by Nawfal Nur.

This photograph proves that you can use a Canon Speedlite very effectively with a Nikon DSLR! Yes, you can. Neither the camera nor the flash melted, blewup, or got destroyed. A Canon Speedlite 420EX was used with a Nikon D70S. I bounced the flash off the ceiling to fill the room with light.

MAYSA’ ,October 01, 2008,#1a

Cat Portraiture.

"MAYSA" by Nawfal Nur

"MAYSA" by Nawfal Nur

Photographed by Nawfal Nur

Formal Cat Portraiture: It is a skill just as much so as human portraiture. Maybe not as glamorous, of course, but perhaps more difficult. With humans, at least you can reason with the unruly model who had to get up too early for a photo shoot and she “just can’t do a damn thing with her hair!” Right. These types of issues can be smoothed out when reasoning with another human being.

Animals, well…they are a totally different ball of bee’s wax!

There is no reasoning with animals: They either do what you need them to do; OR, in most cases, they do whatever they damned well please!

And of course, this can be fun the first 50 times you request that they stand properly on the “mark” so you can take a good shot. On number 51, a patient Photographer begins to wish he had listened to his mother and become a weapons demolition expert, because that job would have been less stressful.

Meanwhile, back in the human studio, the photographer is going: “Oh yeah, Baby, that’s it! Right, just a little turn to your left, BEAUTIFUL! Awesome! You are looking HOT! Alright, we killed it!”

And, back at the animal photography studio, the Animal Portraitist is going: “Maysa’….Maysa’….MAYSA’ are you listening to me? Sit here…no…NO….NOOOOOOO, HERE….Ah, good! No….MAYSAAAAAA’, Get up here on the mark, no, that’s not the mark, that is some old cat food that you dropped two days ago, leave that alone, you stay here, MAYSA’! Are you going to cooperate?”

30-minutes later…

Maysa’! No…Please, just stay there. Ah, yes!!!!! OK, READY…….NOOOOOOOOO, DON’T JUMP OFF THAT!!!!!

45-minutes later…

After several cat food bribes, a lot of patience, 127 “Maysa’s”, 153 “Don’ts”, and 182 “No’s”, we accomplished a few good cat portraits.

Did I say that Animal Portraiture was a little tough, hahahahahahahaha!

Tip #1: “Use the Force!”
Tip #2: Prepare a mind calming mantra before you begin the photo session, and repeat it throughout the session.
Tip #3: Use Bribes with all subjects!
Tip #4: If you get too impatient, angry, upset, discombobulated, irate, silly-brained, or go stark raving loony-toons. then use the ‘ol standby, a tranquilizer gun…ON YOURSELF! It could be a lot of fun, it will make you feel all good all under, and your kitty subjects might just cooperate better if you are not so uptight!

There you have it! Another fine lesson in Cat Portraiture!

Good Luck! Stay Calm! And everyone will be happy.

Jamilah Bee, Portrait, v1, Edit B

Jamilah Bee, Portrait, v1, Edit B, originally uploaded by fine-grain.

One of my cats, whose name is Jamilah Bee – She’s a Mamak Cat with a “real” Mamak Name! ;^ )

“Mamak”, by the way, “basically” refers to an ethnic-cultural group of South Indian Muslims who settled in Malaysia.

This was shot outdoors with off-camera flash (and in-camera flash), and against a blue-green glass background.

I didn’t record the exposure, but I’d guess (now) that it was 1/60 sec., at f/4.1.