Best of August 2019

Best of August 2019 – Latest Highlights

Over the last month, we’ve added more than 1500 new stills to our site. You can find our editor’s selection in our  August 2019 Highlights gallery. It’s always interesting to hear the stories behind the images, so read on to find out more about some of our great new image sets!

Fin whales by Mark Carwardine

Mark Carwardine had a unique encounter with the planet’s second largest creature. He tells us more: “I was on a whale watching trip in Baja California, Mexico, where I take people four times a year. We set off from San Diego, California, and travel down the Pacific coast of Baja California, into the Sea of Cortez. This was probably my sixty-fifth visit, and something special happens each time I go. The Sea of Cortez is a hotspot for many whale species, including blue, fin, humpback, Bryde’s and sperm whales. A dead-calm sea – which we were lucky to have on this day in March – offered fantastic whale-watching opportunities. The fin whales were feeding on plankton, which migrates vertically from depths during the day. Only with a drone can you appreciate how enormous their mouths are as they lunge feed at the surface, taking in vast quantities of sea water and plankton, which they then filter out through their baleen plates. Watching from a boat, I could see that something exciting and unusual was going on, but it was not until I launched the drone that I appreciated just how exciting –  it was mind blowing!”

Yashpal Rathore’s tigers

Indian photographer Yashpal Rathore has supplied an amazing set of tiger images from Kanha National Park, using camera traps to reveal the behaviour of the resident tigers both by day and night. You can read more in our new Tigers of Kanha feature story, now available for licensing, but here is a taster in Yashpal’s own words, describing his dramatic image of a tiger at night against a backdrop of monsoon storms:

“In the dense forests of Kanha National Park, India, finding an area where tigers can be photographed against open sky is not easy. I chose to place my camera trap on the mud embankment of a waterhole, and set it up for a long exposures to capture the am­bience of the night, when tigers are patrolling their territory. This image shows the dominant male of the area on a stormy night. The rainy season was approaching and monsoon clouds were build­ing-up in the sky. By pure luck, the tiger tripped the camera at the same moment that lightning cracked the sky.”

A recent survey has revealed that India’s tiger population is now increasing – a conservation success story. Find out more in our Bengal tiger conservation gallery.


SCOTLAND: The Big Picture – Highlands, Islands and Forests (some of them beneath the waves)…

We now have more then 3500 still images and clips from SCOTLAND: The Big Picture. This project consists of a small team of photographers and film-makers working in Scotland to produce high-impact visual communications, which informs and inspires fresh thinking around the wide-reaching benefits of a wilder Scotland. The mission is to help drive transformational change towards a vast network of rewilded land and sea across Scotland, where wildlife and communities can flourish. Nature Picture Library is proud to be exclusive photo agency for the project. Amongst more than 500 images added from this project in the last month, we’ve selected 5 images by Mark Hamblin and 1 by Richard Shucksmith. Mark  is one of the co-ordinators of the project and has travelled widely in the highlands and islands of Scotland to capture playful red squirrels, a rare image of golden eagle at the nest, majestic red deer stags against a setting sun, plus some evocative scenics. Shetland-based Richard Shucksmith has contributed some amazing marine life and underwater material, showing the great biodiversity of the Scottish marine environment.

Richard Shucksmith tells the story behind his kelp forest image

“I took this image around the wild seas of Shetland.  Surrounded by deep water, Shetland has a fantastic array of abundant marine life around its shores.  It also has one of the biggest forests in Scotland.  But this forest is not on land –  it is under the water.  The kelp forest goes all the way around the 1697 miles of coastline that make up Shetland. It grows to over 30m deep in the clear seas and supports an incredible amount of life, literally millions upon millions of individual animals and plants and hundreds of different species.  Kelp is just like a tree, it has a root called a holdfast, a trunk called a stipe and leaves called fronds.  Kelp takes energy from the sun and converts it into food by photosynthesis.  Kelp also forms critical foraging habitat for otters of which Shetland has the highest density in Europe. Furthermore, during the summer month killer whales hunt seals around the shallow kelp habitats, and the seals use the kelp to hide from the orcas. ”

Mark Hamblin talks about his images

Path through Glecharnon Wood

“There are times when it is a privilege just to be outdoors, alone and immersed in nature. This small fragment of woodland is just a few hundred metres from habitation but on this particular afternoon it felt like I was in total isolation surrounded by an endless sea of ancient pines. The woodland was eerily quiet, no people, no birdsong, no wind to rustle the branches. As the sun began to set, a veil of mist rose from the damp forest floor and the millions of tiny water droplets captured the brilliant orange glow of warm light, creating an otherworldly landscape. Such moments are rare and I was fortunate to be out and in the right place at the right time to capture such transient conditions. I would not normally chose to include a man-made structure in my landscape images but the multi-directional footpath sign seemed quite apt amidst this ethereal setting.”

Three squirrels

“For the past fifteen years I have been photographing a population of red squirrels in a local pinewood. At first shy and wary of camera noises, the squirrels have become accustomed to my presence – and a regular supply of hazelnuts! Their existence here though is a perilous one and whilst they are doing well at present, their home is a plantation woodland, with the prospect of felling always in the background. It is also isolated with no natural corridors linking it to other woodland. This makes the squirrels and other wildlife vulnerable not only to habitat loss but also predation and disease. As one of the least forested countries in Europe, the UK is in desperate need of more woodland cover and the wide-ranging benefits that this brings.”

Golden eagle at nest

“Britain’s raptors have undergone a roller-coaster of fortunes over the past 100 years or more, many coming under fire for their predatory instincts and some being extirpated for many decades before either finding their own way back (osprey) or as a result of on-going reintroduction projects (white-tailed eagle). Golden eagles along with hen harriers continue to be illegally persecuted where they impact on shooting interests and both species remain largely absent from some areas where driven grouse shooting is the primary land use. Fortunately, the Western Isles remains a strong hold for this, the king of birds, and here numbers of golden eagles as well as the now well-established white-tailed eagle continue to rise. With a preference for remote areas and their wariness of humans, golden eagles are a challenge to photograph and after several years and countless hours spent in cramped hides my collection of successful images remains woefully low.”

Red deer at sunset

“Red deer are one of Scotland’s most iconic wildlife species but they are not without controversy. Largely without predators – their natural predator the wolf was shot to extinction in the 18th century – and actively encouraged on many traditional sporting estates, their numbers in Scotland have outgrown the capacity of the land to sustain them. With such high densities of deer, the ground vegetation is munched to oblivion, with very few saplings able to survive long enough to out-grow the reach of hungry mouths. Not only is this bad news for woodland regeneration, it is bad for the health and vigour of the deer themselves. These stags taken at sunset are part of large herd that congregate in this highland glen in their hundreds. It is a spectacular sight but another stark reminder of a broken ecosystem due to human interference.”

Sunset over Skye

“This stretch of coast on the Isle of Skye is a magnet for landscape photographers and for good reason. The views across to the Cuillins are spectacular. Earlier in the afternoon we had walked several kilometres along the coast looking for alternative viewpoints but after clouds rolled in we started to head back towards the car park. We were still high on the headland as I noticed a slither of clear sky near the horizon into which there was strong chance the sun would drop. As a result the walk soon became a trot and then a full-on sprint to reach the rocky shoreline in time. With seconds to spare I found a composition, erected the tripod, fitted filters and secured a handful of frames before the last embers of sunlight faded away. It was a brief but exhilarating moment.”

Neil Aldridge rhino introduction to Botswana

Neil explains the background to his unique coverage on the reintroduction of white rhinos to Botswana, where they had been wiped out by poachers but are now thriving in the comparative safety of the islands within the vast seasonal wetland of the Okavango Delta:

“I began actively using my work to help raise awareness of the plight of rhinos back home in Africa in 2013 when I photographed a poaching survivor on a reserve in South Africa. I was always drawn to focusing on the solutions, the survivor stories and the heroes. People need to know that there is hope and there are enough photographers trying to hunt out the bloodied corpses of endangered species to shock people into caring. So naturally I jumped at the chance to team up with the charity Rhino Conservation Botswana because the work being done there to bring rhinos back to a country that had lost them all to hunting and poaching represented the boldest step towards saving these incredible animals. This was at a time when people were starting to give up and even considering re-opening trade in rhino horn. For me, that was never an option for anybody serious about saving rhinos. Only for people who wanted to get rich. I wanted the world to know that if you have the political will and the passionate people on the ground, it is absolutely possible to not only save rhinos, but to allow them to thrive.”

Neil tells us more about how he took these images and the message he wanted to convey

“First and foremost, I put the rhinos and the people working with them first. That respect is fundamental and it comes from spending ten years working in the conservation NGO sector. It helps me to build empathy and rapport, which in turn creates moments and opportunities that can’t be forced or bought. Also, because I’m working to the schedules of animals or busy people, I try to be as efficient as possible by visualising and planning my shots in my head. This means I shoot very few frames, but my hit rate is much higher. And it means I don’t come home to tens of thousands of raw files to wade through and edit.”

“I’ve always wanted to capture and convey the bravery and defiance shared by the survivors of poaching and the people who work tirelessly to keep them safe. In doing so, I want to help people believe that rhinos can be saved. I want people to know that there are passionate, dedicated people out there who deserve and need our support. Poaching syndicates are incredibly well funded, so to beat them we need to get behind these great projects.”

We hope you’ll be inspired…

Other highlights this month

Amongst the wealth of other material we have uploaded to the site this month, we’d like to tell you about some of the most significant additions. Terry Whittaker has been busy capturing some intriguing coverage of the grey herons which scavenge for scraps around the restaurants and fish stalls of Amsterdam. Marie Read has given us a range of wonderful bookplates from her new book Mastering Bird Photography, which explains how she has developed her skills and techniques over the years to capture some amazing images of birds in action and in habitat. Ross Hoddinott has travelled the length of the British Isles in pursuit of evocative landscapes and beautifully lit insect close-ups, Bernard Castelein has brought back great animal portraits from India and South America, and Steven David Miller has covered Australia’s wildlife from kangaroos and emus to goannas and forest butterflies.  You can browse over 150 of our best new images in our August 2019 Highlights gallery. Enjoy!