Knox Faculty Member Photographs Pandas' Arrival in Scotland

Michael Godsil chosen for high-profile assignment at worldwide event

December 19, 2011

Mike Godsil in Scotland for panda arrival

Knox College faculty member Michael Godsil played a key role in a worldwide news event in Scotland, where he photographed the December 4 arrival of two giant pandas from China.

A photography instructor in Knox's Department of Art and Art History and photojournalism instructor in the Knox Journalism Program, Godsil took photos of the pandas for FedEx, which transported the pair in a chartered Boeing 777F dubbed the "FedEx Panda Express." The company also provided special enclosures for the pandas during their journey. (Photo at top: Godsil on the tarmac at Edinburgh Airport. Photo by Mikael Buck. Below: Michael Godsil's photo of Yang Guang eating bamboo in the Edinburgh Zoo, and his photo of the same panda getting lowered from the airplane to the tarmac.)Mike Godsil's photo of male panda in zoo

Only a few photographers -- Godsil, another still photographer, and a small documentary video crew -- were permitted on the tarmac to chronicle the pandas' arrival at Edinburgh Airport. Other photographers and journalists had to stay in a designated area about 100 feet away.

Once the pandas reached their ultimate destination, the Edinburgh Zoo, only Godsil and a zoo photographer were allowed to take photos of them as they began adjusting to their new living quarters.

According to BBC News, the pandas will be on loan to the Edinburgh Zoo for at least 10 years. The female panda is named Tian Tian, or "Sweetie," and the male panda is named Yang Guang, or "Sunshine." Any cubs born to them would remain in the Edinburgh Zoo for a while and then eventually go to China.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang are the first pandas to live in the United Kingdom in nearly two decades.

Mike Godsil's photo of male panda's arrival"This truly was a global media event," said Godsil, a 1976 Knox College graduate who has served on the faculty since 2005. "It was the lead story everywhere in the U.K. and through most of the (European Union)."

Godsil, who earlier had completed a couple of other successful photo shoots for FedEx, reached Scotland several days before the pandas did. After arriving, he helped with the highly detailed preparations.

"The whole thing came off flawlessly," he said. "I got to see, behind the scenes, what it takes to organize and pull off a worldwide media event."

"I felt from the very first day they were including me on the team," Godsil added.

The experience, he said, enables him to "talk authoritatively" to Knox students about the planning process for a high-profile event and the importance of anticipating -- and avoiding -- potential obstacles.

"It's all creative problem-solving," he said.

Godsil's photos are meant mainly for FedEx's internal, corporate use, and some of his images were part of a recent presentation to the company's board of directors. (Photos below, both by Michael Godsil: The pandas' FedEx flight touches down at Edinburgh Airport, and bagpipe players perform at the airport as members of the media wait to see the pandas.)

Mike Godsil's photo of pandas' plane landing Mike Godsil's photo of bagpipe players and press