February 2020 Highlights
Notable additions to our site over the last month include coverage on the Australian bush-fires and aftermath, the dramatic landscapes and wildlife of Iceland, African wildlife in action and a strong set of European bird images. We asked our photographers to give us an insight into the stories behind their images and the trials associated with capturing them…
Urban Foxes and Signs of Spring by Peter Lewis
I found out that one of my neighbours regularly had a fox visiting her garden, and that it seemed quite used to people, so I planned to try taking some pictures of the fox showing it in its urban environment. One evening, everything came together: the light was perfect, the fox sat exactly where I had hoped it would, and I managed to capture several shots that I was happy with.
As cuckoos are associated with spring, I planned to capture a shot of a cuckoo perched in blossom, ideally cherry or hawthorn. I wanted people to look at the pictures and immediately think of spring, so hopefully I have succeeded!
Graphic Effects by Bence Mate
This leopard bares its fangs to the hyenas threatening to steal his prey. Eventually the leopard was outnumbered by a group of three hyenas which forced him up into the branches of a tree, and then stole his food. Apart from the subject matter itself, a combination of a strong backlight and a dark background is required for minimalist images. The highlights on small sections of an animal’s hair may be many times higher than in adjacent areas of shadow. The pupils of our eyes are able to constantly adjust to light and contrast, but cameras have less tolerance, and we have to make a decision – if we choose to photograph the brightest areas, using the correct camera settings, the darker areas are rendered totally black. This results in a naturally-created graphic effect, invisible to the naked eye, in which the subject is starkly outlined against a dark, under-exposed background.
Exploring Iceland by Espen Bergersen
These images were captured at one of the most famous beaches in Iceland, the “Diamond beach”. This is the place where blocks of icebergs from the Vatnajökull glacier are washed up from the sea onto a beautiful black beach. The ice blocks are constantly being shaped by the sea and slowly melting into different sculptures. It’s a popular place for a beach walk.
I was driving along a remote road in Southern Iceland when I came across this little farmhouse. The untouched landscape was amazing and the light was continuously changing as clouds passed the sun. The farmhouse looked so nice in contrast to the landscape. A whole day was spent in this amazing area without meeting a single person. I felt very lucky to experience this.
This image shows a male harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus), resting on a rock in a river stream close to Myvatn, Iceland. When taking this picture, I used a long exposure time to show the movement of the strong river stream. Luckily the duck stood still for a short while making the exposure possible. The breeding habitat of the harlequin duck is normally cold, fast-moving streams in north-western and north-eastern North America, Greenland, Iceland and eastern Russia. The harlequin duck feed by swimming under water or diving and they eat molluscs, crustaceans and insects.
Curious Creatures by Anup Shah
Photographing chimpanzees and baboons for an extended period of time in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, we wondered about connections between primates and humans. We noticed that these primates shared the characteristic of curiosity with us. They seemed particularly curious about our cameras and I think it is etched in their expressions in the photographs we took.
One of the Last Great Migrations by Eric Baccega
Each year, between June and September, one of the most fascinating spectacles of nature takes place in Kenya: the migration of 2 million wildebeest in search of green pastures. Predators like lions, hyenas, cheetahs or crocodiles follow them, lured by the sudden abundance of fresh meat, the wildebeest will have to face many dangers. The crossing of the Mara River is the highlight of this incredible show. Its flow, swollen by the rains, endangers the lives of the weakest or the most impulsive individuals. The herd swims across the river in an indescribable rush, invariably at the same place, dangerously steeped by erosion. Usually following a first wildebeest and pressed by the mass, the herd rushes in through the raging water, with a harrowing ‘mooing’. No matter how, they have to cross the river and some do not hesitate to make spectacular jumps into the water. In some places, the currents are so strong that many wildebeest are simply carried away. Some will die from drowning or exhaustion, while others will be captured by predators. This dramatic spectacle is repeated every year, where up to 200,000 wildebeest will perish. One of the last great migrations of our planet!
Sky Hole by Sven Zacek
Positioning his drone directly above the small lake, Sven waited for the sun to emerge from behind the clouds to capture the reflection of the sky in the lake’s mirrored surface. Contending with technical issues and battery-power shortage, his patience was rewarded by this image of ‘an aerial view that looks like an eye’. Karula National Park in Estonia is home to goshawks, lynx, wolves and bears. The ghostly outline of dead trees surrounding this lake is a telltale sign of the thriving population of beavers inhabiting Karula. Their naturally prolific dam-building causes higher-than-usual water levels that flood the forest floor, rotting the roots of any trees growing close to the shoreline.
100 Landscapes Project by Bernard Castelein
The following images are all part of my current project ‘100 Landschappen’ (100 Landscapes), which I have been working on for about a year and a half.
I’ve always believed that you have to learn the craft and skills of nature photography close to home; even if this environment is a densely populated area with scarce nature and few open spaces. Referring to the sports term ‘home advantage’, you should make the most of easy-to-access locations close to home, where every corner, every tree, animal movements, the slightest change in light conditions and the change in the environment at a certain moment become predictable. I have found that this also induces the photographer to take responsibility and fight to conserve such places.
Hence the project ‘100 Landschappen’ is focused exclusively on the open natural space and landscapes within 15 km around my home in Brasschaat: a densely populated region close to the city and vast harbour of Antwerp. Schietvelden and Peerdsbos are my favourite places. Both are only between 3 and 6 kilometres from my home: easy to reach on foot or by bicycle.
Peerdsbos is one of the most important recreational areas to the north of Antwerp, with hundreds of visitors in the weekends: walkers, joggers and mountain bikers. For that reason, it’s often overlooked by nature lovers as being too crowded, but this is unjustified. It’s not only a very atmospheric place, but it also houses a wide variety of animals and plants. Peerdsbos is an old park forest, mainly with oak and beech with breeding black woodpecker. It’s intersected by a beautiful rivulet, with hundreds of the beautiful, rare demoiselle damselflies, not to mention the attractive grasslands close by, with an astonishing diversity of insects. And contrary to what one might expect, the large numbers of visitors provide an advantage when photographing Roe deer: they are becoming accustomed to people (as long as they stay on the trails)…
Rattlesnake Whispering by John Cancalosi
For the last 16 years, I have travelled to a remote woodland site in Pennsylvania where timber rattlesnakes gather to bask in the sun, and give birth to their young, en masse, in a reptilian version of a crèche. I have seen as many as 40 females give birth to dozens of young, which the females collectively oversee for the first few weeks of the newborns lives. It is a scene rarely witnessed by humans and I consider it my obligation to document these events in photos and video. I have loved snakes since childhood and the snake-lover in me hopes that by showing the public these unexpectedly tender scenes, it can help raise awareness of and appreciation for these often misunderstood and maligned creatures.
I guard the exact location of this and other sites zealously, lest some rattlesnake hunter or other thrill-seeker catches wind of the location and disturbs the animals that have become like family to me. When I reach my sacred, lichen-covered sandstone snake slab, a fluid, organic, natural tranquility and focus takes over me. That is unless it’s a bad year and not many snakes are there or I’m too late and they have already departed for their winter denning sites. On a good year, such as this year, I am greeted by a dozen or more adults and dozens of newborn babies, intertwined at times, like a huge plate of serpentine spaghetti.
Turtle-headed Sea Snakes by Pascal Kobeh
A close-up of an egg-eating sea snake or turtle-headed sea snake with eggs coming out of its mouth. It is always difficult to take a picture of a moving sea snake, especially with a macro lens like on this image (60mm macro). This is the only sea snake that doesn’t feed on fish, but rather on eggs of fish such as damselfish, blennies or gobies. The interesting thing here is that it’s facing me with still eggs in its mouth.
Courting sea snakes are constantly moving in all directions – they don’t give a second thought to the poor photographer who is desperately trying to picture them together and if possible, facing the camera! I was lucky enough to dive this day with a wide angle (16mm) that allowed me to capture this picture where all the elements came together.