March 2020 Highlights

Our photographers have been extremely busy recently and have sent us some great new material on European wildlife, especially on birds in action through the seasons. We also have some great new landscapes, urban leopards from India, lots of dramatic marine life and an update on the Australian bush fires showing regrowth. Hopefully this will provide you with some inspiration and distraction – something we all need just now!

Ross Hoddinott – Cornish Magic

“Rainbows rarely appear just where you want them, but sometimes you just get lucky. On this particular morning, I was photographing the stunning rocky foreshore at Marazion, looking toward St Michael’s Mount – one of Cornwall’s most recognisable landmarks. The sky was heavy, with soft, golden light illuminating the beach. As the rainbow appeared, I didn’t have to adjust my composition much to accommodate it. I selected my viewpoint carefully and used a wide-angle lens in order to capture the rainbow’s reflection in the foreground rockpool. I had to work quickly – the rain was beginning to fall faster. I managed a couple of shots, before I had to cover up my camera to protect it. The magical conditions were well worth getting a soaking for, though!”

Shane Gross – A Love of the Sea

Shane Gross grew up in the Canadian prairies far from any salt water, but was still obsessed with the ocean, especially sharks. He learned how to scuba dive at age 15 and took up underwater photography soon after. He is now a dive instructor and freelance photojournalist based in The Bahamas with over 4000 dives and countless hours free-diving. Shane works closely with science communicators and NGOs to help with images that are to be used as tools for conservation.

1. I was diving along this amazing wall in Palau when I saw a completely vertical anemone with anemonefish. This was a first for me and the sun happened to be in the perfect position. I had foreground, middle-ground and background. I spent some time there!

2. Did you notice this image is upside-down? This beautiful lionfish was hanging out upside-down under a ledge, and the sand in the background (not sky!) makes for an interesting effect I thought.

3. These two triggerfish were fighting over the plastic barrel on the surface and you could hear it from a long distance away, it was very loud when they would smash their teeth into each other.

4. Like most photographers these days I have a drone, but I’m so glad I couldn’t bring it on this trip to Palau because it forced me into a small plane. The rock islands are one of the most stunning sights I can imagine.

5. Most of the cool critters we come across while blackwater diving are tiny, just a couple of centimetres, but this larval stage lobster was relatively huge at almost 16cm

 

Chadden Hunter – Follow the Leader?

“I took this photo from a helicopter window while filming wolves hunting bison for the BBC series Frozen Planet in March 2009. During winter, the timber wolves of Wood Buffalo NP form large packs, a reflection of the plentiful supply of food in the form of bison. In the depth of winter, a lack of fresh grass means the bison have less energy and the deep snow hinders their ability to run, helping the wolves. When the wolf pack travel through areas of deep snow they often travel in single file to save energy. Breaking trail at the front is exhausting work. While alpha animals may have more say in the direction the pack move, there is no discernible pattern to the order the wolves walk in. As we watched this pack over 5 weeks, the line of wolves often stopped to rest, groom and play and the order changed constantly. This is important because this image has often been incorrectly cited to infer something about wolf social systems or hierarchy in general, when it is simply a ‘energetic’ single-file that many species demonstrate in deep snow.”

Oscar Dewhurst – Early Starts Paying Off

“Last year, I spent several months following a family of mute swans nesting near my home in London. I was particularly keen to photograph the cygnets when they hatched, so was making regular trips down to the nest during early April until one day, when I saw the two parents with five or six small fluffy cygnets in tow. At the time, I had just submitted my master’s thesis, so had a lot of free time. If the weather was good, most mornings I could be found waiting for the sun to come up near the birds and over the following few weeks I was able to get a range of photos of them. Given the time of year, getting there for before sunrise meant waking up punishingly early, but it was the only way I could hope to get the sorts of images I was after, with calm water and, particularly, mist over the surface of the lake. In fact, over all my visits, there was only one occasion where misty conditions coincided with the birds venturing away from the safety of the area near the banks and into more open water. Unfortunately, the number of cygnets slowly declined from 6 initially to just two within a short time, but as far as I know these two survived the remainder of the summer.”

Erlend Haarberg – Adventures in the Wilderness

“Close to where we live, we have Norway’s most alpine mountain range with more than 250 peaks over 2000 meters. In April 2019, my wife and I went up to one of them with skis and sledges. Up at the top we got a fantastic view over large parts of Jotunheimen National Park. Here we spent 4 nights photographing both late at night and early in the morning, in all directions. Even in the middle of April it is full winter up there, at night the temperature dropped to minus 15, but during the day the spring sun warmed us and also inside the tent. Although it is a pleasant season to be out, the weather can quickly turn, with wind, fog and snow, so it is important to take precautions. The biggest challenge we encountered was on our way down. The last part of the mountain we had to descend was a steep slope which was covered with hard snow. To get safely down we had to carve stairs with the shovel for several hundred meters before we could go down with the heavy sledges. After a few hours of work, we were able to safely continue our journey down to the car.”

Sunset at Altitude

“Last summer I packed my backpack for a week’s hike in Jotunheimen National Park. On the third day, I put up my tent down in a valley and took my sleeping bag and sleeping mat and went up to the nearest 2000m peak to get the sunset and sunrise. Before setting off, I had checked where the sun would set and rise to find the perfect place for photography. An hour before sunset I got to the top (hot and sweaty). I found shelter behind a large rock to avoid the cold breeze from the north. With camera clear on the tripod, I could sit and enjoy the magnificent view while the sun slowly disappeared behind the horizon, accompanied only by the wind’s rush and the sound of a rock ptarmigan further down the mountain slope.” (below left)

The Littlest Reindeer

“After working a lot with wild reindeer in mainland Norway, it was nice to come to Svalbard to see the Svalbard reindeer for the first time. It was funny to see the big difference from the elegant mainland reindeer I am used to, as Svalbard reindeer have short legs, a thick body and small rounded head. The subspecies is endemic to the islands of Svalbard, where it has lived for at least 5,000 years, and has become well adapted to the harsh climate. In the middle of the town in Longyearbyen, several big males were walking around peacefully grazing without fear of the humans. In Adventsdalen just outside the town several small herds were walking. In the first half of September, the males shed and rub the velvet from the antlers. At this time of year, the sparse vegetation has its autumn colours and fresh snow has settled on the mountain tops. A clear sign that winter is approaching and the mating season are just around the corner.” (above right)

Fogbows

“Last autumn I was up in the drift ice at 80 degrees north by boat. September offers great light with long sunrises and sunsets. One day the fog came in, which made it difficult to look for wildlife. But the mist instead gave a special atmosphere to this barren landscape of sea and ice. During the day the fog lightened a bit and the sun shone through and made a powerful fog bow. Fogbows are similar to a rainbow, but produced by very small droplets in fog or cloud, which diffract light, instead of large raindrops which do not.” (below left)

Giant of the Forest

“I have worked with hares up in the mountain birch forest for the last 25 years. To try to get some new perspectives, I decided to try to put out a wide-angle camera. With a 14 mm lens, the hare becomes a giant in the forest. With remote control and two studio flashes I got several new pictures that I lacked in my archive. This picture was taken in mid-May, the snow is still lying on the ground but the hares have started to change to their summer coat. The female in the picture was very bold and did not seem to care about the camera clicks, on the contrary she became curious and went to investigate the strange thing that made such unusual sounds. Normally, they run away as soon the camera clicks, but after a long spring with photography, this female became accustomed to the camera clicks and apparently did not associate any danger with the sound.” (above right)

 

Edwin Giesbers – Red Deer Rut

“From mid-September to mid-October is the rutting season for the red deer. One of the best places to spot the deer is Richmond park in London. The enormous Richmond Park (1,000 hectares) was built in 1433 and is a National Nature Reserve. The landscape is stunning with open grassland, lakes and very old oaks.The deer were introduced here in the sixteenth century by King Henry VIII, for hunting purposes. That time is long gone, the city of London today cherishes the deer. Just after sunrise during the cold morning the vapour came from the large stag’s body.” (below left)

Edwin Giesbers – Fairy Tale Forest of Madeira

“One of the most beautiful places on earth I have ever walked around is in the fairy tale forest of Fanal. Here in the middle of the laurel forest on Madeira you will find on a hill this place where beautiful old laurel trees are that are more than 600 years old. The trees are overgrown with rare mosses and epiphytes. The place has something magical about it and this is reinforced by the fog patches that constantly cross the area from the sea. I visited this place several times during my trip and on every day I regularly walked among the clouds, sometimes trying to get sunlight. This results in very photogenic situations because the landscape constantly changed due to the ever-shifting light. Magnificent! One moment you stand in dense fog with a view of ten meters, the next moment it is illuminated by the sun. But fog in particular is characteristic of this area and as a photographer gives you the opportunity to create beautiful atmospheric images.” (above right)

Andres M. Dominguez – Spanish Secrets

1. Little owl (Athene noctua) perched on sunflower, Cadiz, Andalusia, Spain, July. It was a summer afternoon and my goal was to take pictures of owls on sunflowers. I had studied their behaviour and observed that the owls used the sunflowers as a perch while hunting large green grasshoppers. The problem was that their activity generally started quite late and the best light was before nightfall. On the fourth day I was lucky that the owls’ activity started early and I achieved this image, which I find attractive because of the colour of the sunflowers and the atmosphere created by the Andalusian sunset.

2. Dead Lang’s short-tailed blue butterfly (Leptotes pirithous) in a river with bacterial film, Los Alcornocales Natural Park, Southern Spain, September. This blue butterfly lived and died in one of the most beautiful places in Andalusia. This river usually has stagnant waters in summer, so its surface is covered with these bacteria. The reason is because it receives water from natural streams with a high iron content. At dawn or dusk among rhododendrons, Portuguese oaks and cork oaks the atmosphere is incredible. I used a macro lens to show those warm and cold lights deep in the forest in the reflection in the water.

3. Crested tit (Lophophanes cristatus) Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. Southern Spain. September. I love taking pictures of birds in the autumn. In the “Sierra de Grazalema” natural park there are a lot of bushes with fruit, especially hawthorns, blackberries and wild roses. In the south of Spain it is normal to have dry autumns. Sometimes it does not rain continuously until November. For this reason many birds frequent small ponds where there is usually fruit, as in this case of wild roses. In addition the backgrounds are usually attractive and so the images have a special appeal.

4. Cork trees (Quercus suber) stripped of bark, in forest. Los Alcornocales Natural Park, Cortes de la Frontera, southern Spain, November. I opted for a wide angle (fisheye) to obtain this composition, as it shows cork oaks with a variety of different shapes. The cork oaks are ‘uncorked’ approximately every 9 or 10 years in this area. When it rains the naked part of the trunk becomes redder, and the effect of the fog on this day adds to the atmosphere of this image.

 

Luis Quinta – Endemic Arachnid

With twilight and nocturnal habits, the Porto Santo tarantula, or Porto Santo Wolf Spider (Hogna schmitzi) is a spider endemic to the island of Porto Santo and the islet of Ferro. It is a predator of small insects. This female can reach four years of age if life is generous. (below left)

Richard Du Toit – Elusive, but Curious

“I spotted a group of black rhinos early one morning, they were about 100m away so I stopped and and turned off my engine. They seemed curious about us, and gradually got closer and closer until they were only 10m away, possibly interested in my clicking camera. For a moment they stood and stared at me, and then snorted, whirled around and trotted off. In the past one would encounter rhinos with beautiful horns, but these days most just have stumps, with their horns having been removed for their safety. Their ears are notched so the rangers can recognise individuals at distance. One seldom sees the black rhinos, who are a little more nervous and shy, so this is one of the best sightings I have had.” (above right)

Andy Sands – Parasitic Beetles

“During February 2019 I spent some time on the Gower in South Wales, risky for February, but the weather was set fair sunny and in the mid 20’s.  This meant there were a lot of early mining bees around and lots of Black Oil Beetles, these beetles feed on Lesser Cellandine flowers, but have a bizarre life cycle.  After laying their eggs underground the tiny larvae (triungulins) climb up into flowers where they swarm onto mining Bees, once carried back to the nest they parasitise the eggs and larvae of the host bees.” (below left)

Sylvain Cordier – A Pair of Loons

“I was fortunate to be able to photograph this pair of loons with a baby on a lake in Michigan frequented by many fishermen. The birds, used to boats and humans, were easy to approach. So, in a shallow lake cove, I was able to follow, while standing in the boat, their hunt for small crayfish and dragonfly larvae. This is what they were feeding to the little one, which I think was only a few days old.” (above right)

Alex Mustard – A Family Affair

This stingray photo was especially memorable for me because I took it with my daughter. We went to visit the stingrays in Grand Cayman as a family, my 3 year old, Isa was wearing armbands and was holding on to me around my neck when I took this. The rays are friendly and gentle, but Isa was still a little scared. It is very bright on the shallow sandbar, so when shooting these above and below images I wear a hat and sunglasses! I used an extra large custom dome port to enable me to create clean split field pictures of the rays as they swam past, framing them against the tropical clouds.

Dugongs of the Red Sea

“The Red Sea’s dugongs had long eluded me, despite many visits to Egypt. That all changed in late 2019, when I dedicated a few days to shooting with them and had a number of quality encounters. Dugongs spend much of their time eating, with the faces buried in the mud munching on seagrass. For this image I waited for the dugong to take off from feeding so that I could get a clearer view of this rarely seen marine mammal. Juvenile golden trevally accompanied all the dugongs that I saw, making use of the disturbance caused by the feeding sea cow, to grab an invertebrate or two for a meal. I was able to include my dive buddy, Sarah, in this image as she swam nearby (she looks further away than she was because of my ultra wide angle lens).”  (below left)

Out For A Spin

“I photographed these spinner dolphins in a remote offshore reef in Fury Shoal, in southern Egypt in the Red Sea. Spinners are elegant dolphins and on this morning highly social, with lots of mating activity and socialisation between the different groups within the pod. This photo was a lucky one. Holding my breath I dived down to photograph a pair of dolphins and then noticed this larger group change course and swim straight towards me. The challenge was holding my breath until they reached me! Fortunately dolphins move fast and this was the final frame I took before bolting to the surface. In the end I had to stop photographing them because I got a blister from my flippers from all the swimming to keep up with them!” (above right)

Nick Garbutt – The Weird and Wonderful

1. The fosa is Madagascar’s largest carnivore and it is wide distributed in the massively fragmented remaining native forests. However, it only occurs at very low densities and is highly endangered. Seeing fosas in the wild in most places is extremely challenging. In the western forest Kirindy, they can be easier to see. I spent time following this magnificent male over several days, the challenge often being getting a clear view of the animal in dense forest without a distracting background. I was particular keen to show appropriately the fosa’s extraordinary tail that acts as a major counter balance when they climb and hunt lemurs in the forest canopy.

2. One of the most critically endangered species, the Aye-aye is also arguably the world’s most peculiar primate. Endemic to Madagascar, it is strictly nocturnal and very rarely encountered. There are considerable challenges photographing a black, nocturnal, canopy-dwelling animal that never stops moving!  I was able to anticipate which branch this Aye-aye was going to move onto and position myself accordingly. Trying to illuminate it with a hand-held torch in order to focus was an added difficulty. For simplicity, I used a single flash, but in the future I hope to try something more elaborate and find a way to position a flash behind the animal to achieve back-lighting that would show the animal’s amazing shaggy fur to best effect.

3. Bear cuscus are bizarre animals. They are arboreal marsupials endemic to the island of Sulawesi. They normally stay high in the canopy, so seeing them is challenging, let alone photographing them. I encountered this one while in Tangkoko National Park. I had already seen other individuals high up in the tree, but was pleasantly surprised to find this one lower down. It seemed unfazed by my attention and I waited some time for it to move into a position without branches in the way (they move very slowly). A trace of fill-in flash helped throw some light onto the animal’s face.

For more on Nick’s work visit his photographer blog, for links to a wider gallery and more fascinating behind the scenes stories.

 

Philippe Clement

“Apart from nature photography, I also have a keen interest in World War One. Since the front line between Italy and Austria during World War I ran through the Tre Cime peaks, I decided to portray the famous Tre Cime di Lavaredo / Drei Zinnen in the Sexten Dolomites in a historical war setting. At first light, I set up my tripod in one of the man-made WWI shelters, cut away in the opposite rock faces.”

A Different Perspective

“It’s not easy to find original camera angles. It’s not always possible to use elevated hides or drones. But sometimes, just a walk in the park – where animals are used to people – might offer you unexpected photo-opportunities. I’ve taken many shots of breeding white storks in the past, but always from a low angle. In this park, the white storks decided to build their nest right next to a boardwalk offering me to shoot at eye-level and even into the nest.” (below left)

Puffin Search

“In 2018 I decided to visit the Shetland Isles once more because I love the rugged coastline and rich wildlife, 15 years since my last visit. I had fond memories of the puffins and photographing them silhouetted against a stunning sunset was high on my wish list. To my great surprise, on day one at Hermaness, I found not a single puffin. Same on day two. Only on the third day, I found a couple and managed to get a few shots before also those disappeared. After a little research I learned that in 2000, there were more than 33,000 puffins on the island in early spring. That figure had dropped to 570 due to global warming resulting in a massive decline of sand eels, the puffins’ main food source.” (above right)

Nayan Khanolkar – Big Cat in the City

“Few people associate the bustling metropolis of Mumbai with forests and diverse wildlife, let alone the presence of a big cat in the by-lanes of the city.  Yet this unexpected situation exists in the middle of Mumbai, with more than 42 wild leopards living in Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The highly adaptable leopard has learnt to navigate through settlements with human density more 20,000 per sq km.  This is perhaps the only city in the world with big cats co-existing with humans in the middle of urban landscape and both having maximum density!”

Eric Baccega – Lion Life

“Wildebeest migration in the northern Masaï-Mara was in full swing at the end of last August 2019, so the big cat’s larder was full. The lions were completely full and enjoyed moments of relaxation before returning to hunt. Among the different prides, there were two that I particularly followed: the Marsh pride (one of the most famous) and the Topi pride. Over the course of three weeks, I shared their daily life and waited to catch either the best moments of their life, a direct glance or beautiful light to illuminate them.”

Nick Upton – Wildlife Close to Home

“The shot was taken in a small patch of chalk grassland meadow a mile from my Wiltshire home, where over 25 kinds of butterfly, some of them now nationally scarce, still find a home in a rare remaining piece of insect heaven.  It was a late June morning when the first of many clumps of Greater knapweed were opening and Marbled whites – which need good stands of wild grasses for its grubs to feed on – were emerging in good numbers and feeding hard to fuel their flight and courtship.  I positioned my camera close to the flower clump on a tripod, with a close-focusing wide angle lens and a wireless remote aerial attached, and retreated a few yards to watch. When I saw a good number of insect visitors, I pressed the “shoot” button on the transmitter to take a shot. I spent a productive morning switching between stills and video mode, and from a wide angle lens to a close up lens, to capture the scene in different ways. I also captured many visits by Burnet moths and Dark Green fritillaries, who also had their best year for some time.”

Guy Edwardes – Astro-photography

“During the summer months Dorset’s Jurassic Coast can, understandably, become very busy with tourists during the day. I headed to one of the more remote sections of the coast, Pondfield Cove near Tyneham, just after sunset in order to capture the milky way above this little known coastal feature. For wide-field astro-photography I use a sky tracker. This device allows me to use long exposure times by tracking the movement of the stars (the earth in reality) for noise-free night sky images. This shot was taken just before midnight in August.” (below left)

Serendipitous Skies

“Last September I was running a photo workshop in Iceland and our departure flight was cancelled by the British Airways strikes that were happening at that time. This meant that we had to spend one more night in Iceland. As luck would have it this would turn out to be the only night on the whole eleven-night trip where a good display of the Northern Lights was forecast. We spend most of the night on Iceland’s south west Reykjanes Peninsula photographing one of the best displays of Aurora I have witnessed to date….and all thanks to a British Airways strike!” (above right)

Winter Beauty

“One of my favourite places for landscape photography in the UK is the Outer Hebrides. During the winter months you can find some of the most beautiful sandy beaches completely deserted and free from footprints. The weather at that time of the year also tends to be quite changeable, adding variety to the images it’s possible to capture. Even in overcast and rainy weather the colours in the landscape here can be beautiful.” (below left)

Misty Morning

“Corfe Castle is one of Dorset’s most photographed landmarks. Being only thirty minutes from my home I get the chance to explore the surrounding landscape for different vantage points whenever the conditions are perfect. I only ever photograph these ruins on misty mornings, as the mist adds a lot of atmosphere to the scene and helps to conceal modern elements such as roads and telegraph poles. Autumn tends to provide the best opportunities, and there’s the added bonus of colourful trees in the valley below.”

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into our latest highlights. You can view the full gallery of March 2020 Highlights or check out the new gallery on our print site.

Take care of yourselves and each other, and do get in touch if we can help with anything.