October 2020 Highlights

Our October highlights demonstrate the worldwide reach of our photographers. You will find the wide open spaces of the Mongolian wilderness, strange Australian endemic species, and material from remote destinations including Chile, Arctic Russia and the Himalayas. We are also showcasing birds of the world in action, on land, sea and air, as well as lots of equine photography and bold portraits of European and rainforest wildlife. And last but not least a range of environmental, conservation and African people pictures.

Carol Walker – Dulmen Roundup

I was teaching a horse photography workshop in Germany, which coincided with the annual Dulmen pony roundup. Every year on the last weekend in May, the wild mares and youngsters are rounded up so that the yearlings can be caught and auctioned off, so as to keep the wild population in check. About 500 mares and youngsters live on a Duke’s estate, the last wild native population of horses in Germany. They are able to live their lives free, the stallions are allowed in with the mares for a short period, but most of the time live together in a different area. My students and I were able to spend time with and photograph the mares and youngsters in the pastures for two days before the roundup.

Then on the day of the roundup, where over 100,000 people come to watch, we were in the VIP press area in the stands and had a tremendous view of the spectacle. First Dulmen ponies that had been adopted at previous events are ridden and driven by their owners in a display to show how wonderful these horses are. Then the 500 are driven into a huge arena and they swirl around, creating an amazing sight! People on foot, families who have been doing this for years and consider their roles to be a privilege, capture the yearling and two-year-old colts using their bare hands, restrain them, put a halter on them and take them to another area. One after another until there were 29 colts captured. They leave the fillies to become part of the mares group. Then, the mares and fillies are released and they auction off each yearling or two-year-old colt to members of the public. These horses are highly prized, the most expensive went for 1500 euros! (below left)

Carol Walker – Andalusian Beauty

While leading a workshop on horse photography in southern Germany we had the opportunity to photograph a stunning grey Andalusian stallion, whose coat had lightened to white as he had gotten older. He was a favourite of our group because he took off when released in the field at a gallop but then circled back around to us, prancing, mane steaming, and with the darkness of the forest behind him I took this shot. (below right)

Shanthi & Ashish Chandola – Beautiful Birds

April 3, 2019 – The day began with sighting of a lone male Grandala feeding on Sea Buckthorn berries. The snow-capped mountains are really up close around Lachung in North Sikkim and it is a scenery one never tires of. Primulas carpet the floor and occupy any space they can. The Rhododendrons are just starting to bloom and splashes of brilliant red appear in valleys and hillsides amidst vegetation still coming to life after the winter months. The Magnolia stands in stark contrast and is equally breath taking. Sikkim’s birdlife is diverse and exciting – many of the birds are small and hard to see – many ‘new’ species for us and the eternal hope of capturing some on camera!”

Having seen photographs of the Grandala on Facebook, I was captivated and determined to make a trip to Sikkim just to see this bird! And that’s how the trip came about. Sikkim did not disappoint! There were fewer Grandala around as the fruit of the sea buckthorn was almost over and the birds had started migrating to higher altitudes. The male Grandala is stunning – a streak of indigo blue in an otherwise bleak landscape, the female a drab grey brown. The sight of them flying in a flock and then perching on a tree is one that is permanently etched in one’s mind. And then we found a rather cooperative single male quite close to the road. It was about 7am and the temperature was about -4°C. Even though we were appropriately dressed for the weather, the wind-chill factor was high and we were freezing. We had to take our gloves off to photograph and took turns using the camera. I still remember the searing pain in my fingers as we took pictures of this gorgeous specimen, who looked absolutely nonchalant, cosy and comfortable!

Another winged beauty that we saw plenty of was the Fire-tailed sunbird. Like all sunbirds, they keep flitting from flower to flower, and it was a challenge to get close to make good images. It was difficult to get a colourful male bird on its own, as with the short nesting season fast approaching, the mixed feeding parts of the winter months were now loosely knit. Much jostling and chasing each other goes on amongst the males, but patience provided a tiny window of opportunity in which we managed this photo against the wide expanse of the grey valley beyond.

Jack Dykinga – A Welcome Gift

Returning to my old haunts along El Camino del Diablo, that runs parallels with the Arizona, US/Sonora, Mexico border, I encountered a deep flooded arroyo from recent heavy rains.  I skidded and slid across in four-wheel drive to camp near my favourite stand of Sahuaro cactus.  I was there to photograph the Milky Way hanging low on the horizon, but stayed for sunrise and received this visual gift. I needed it too. For the force on the rushing stream crossing, left my truck’s grill detached and barely hanging on….

Danny Green – Otterly Fabulous

Over the past few years, I have been trying to photograph various species of otters. One of my favourite species of otters is the Sea otter. This beautiful mammal was nearly hunted to extinction for its valuable fur but thankfully it survived this onslaught, and its numbers are slowly increasing. This image was taken in Kachemak Bay in southern Alaska which is one the best places to find them especially during the winter.

oOne of the best places to see the American River otter in the states is Yellowstone National Park. Although I have been visiting Yellowstone for the past ten years, I have never seen one. This image was taken on my last visit in January this year. I had spotted two otters fishing along the Yellowstone River so decided to head upriver and wait for them to pass by. After a long wait I thought they had headed back the other way and I was about to give up when they just emerged and came out of the water and walked along the ice edge.

I took this picture of a European otter in Lincolnshire. Up until a few years ago you could only find otters in a good population on the West Coast of Scotland or the Shetland Isles. The otters that lived along our river systems had disappeared in the UK and the ones that were left were so secretive you never saw them, only the signs that they left. It’s a real success story that the otter has bounced back and can now be found along our rivers again. I have a great passion for Otters they are a cracking species to work with.

Doug Gimesy – Caring on the Front Line

Wildlife carers give their time and their homes to sick, injured or orphaned wildlife. These remarkable people see first-hand the devastating impact that excessive tree-clearing is having on the animals of southeast Queensland. With time running out for wildlife along the Koala Coast, and localised extinctions already taking place, their work is more important than ever. I was asked by WWF Australia to meet and document some of the heroes working on the front line to save Australian species, and that’s how these images came about.

I shot this image for a series I was working on called ‘Wildlife Heroes’. Here you can see wildlife rescuer and carer Julie Jennings feeding a young rescued male wallaroo (Macropus robustus) joey ‘Charlie’ some formula in her kitchen. This joey’s mum was hit by a car on the Pacific Highway, and he was thrown clear of the pouch and survived. The mother sadly died, so he was taken in by Julie. Now between 4-5 months old, he will soon be moving to a larger pen at a property with surrounding bushland where he can used to the big outdoors. He’ll be locked in initially, until he gets used to the new environment, then the door will be opened and supplementary food provided so he can come and go as he wishes. Eventually he will return to the bush.

Enrique López-Tapia – Remote Reality

Zanskar is one of the most inhospitable and remote territories in Kashmir. Mountains, gorges, and sharp peaks surround the Zanskar River. The only way to reach many Buddhist monasteries and small towns is as it has been done for centuries – on foot or on horseback after several days of long trails crossing high mountain passes. In the image, a horse caravan reaches the Singge La pass (at an altitude of 5010 meters), one of the highest routes still passable, shortly before the heavy snowfalls of late September and October, which leave the territory isolated for several months.

Enrique López-Tapia – Putting on a Show

With the end of the rainy season, different families and clans of the Wodaabe nomads come together in the southern Sahel, Chad, to celebrate one of their most anticipated traditions of the year, the Gerewol festival. The men compete with each other by dancing, singing, and displaying themselves in their best ornaments and clothes for several days, waiting for the marriageable girls to choose them for marriage. The Wodaabe make up their faces, gesturing, open their eyes widely and grind their teeth, as they sing into an almost trance-like state to impress women.

Matt Maran – Urban Foxes

A kind neighbour gave me access to shoot this image from their loft. The high vantage point enabled me to show the animal in the urban environment. An urban fox’s average lifespan is only 18 months and the image sadly illustrates why so many cubs are killed on the road by cars at this time of year.

Matt Maran – An Award Winner

In the three years I’ve been photographing on an allotment in north London I’d never seen anything like it before. The foxes, exhibiting cat-like behaviour, played with the dead rat, taking turns tossing it in the air, catching it and running off with their prey with their excitable siblings in tow. On this occasion the fox’s determined stare, directed at her brother, said to me that there was no way she was giving up her prize.


Insights from Jeff Vanuga

Stars over Yosemite: I was in the park during the large lunar rainbow over Yosemite Falls which occurs twice a year. After photographing the falls with a rainbow, I moved into the centre of the valley to shoot star trails over the falls. The full moon illuminated the falls and the valley walls. Exposure was approximately 30 seconds and a total of 60 images were shot to get the star rotation.

Lava Mountain Fire: This fire was lightning caused and is an all too common site here in the west. I obtained permits from the US Forest Service to photograph the firefighting activities and took many images of bombers dropping fire retardant on the fast-moving fire. Eventually the fire encroached a mountain subdivision with homes but a combination of firefighting and weather put the fire out before doing much damage.

Northern Lights, Iceland: One of the primary objectives of this winter trip to Iceland was the Northern Lights.  But, in order to see them you have to have clear skies and solar activity lot produce the Northern Lights.  This was the only night out of 2 weeks in which all the elements came together to capture the aurora borealis.  Shortly after sunset the skies started dancing with light and the phenomena lasted only for about 1.5 hours.

Patagonia gray fox: A common predator in the Patagonian region is the Patagonia gray fox. Here I captured a moment in time when the fox was hunting for rodents. Although common, they are not that easy to photograph and are somewhat illusive in the thicker vegetation in the park.

Magnificant frigate birds: A few years ago, I led a photography trip to the Galapagos. We visited 10 Islands and had about 10 snorkelling dives during our trip. After getting out of the water snorkelling and photographing I hung out on the top deck to dry off and warm up. While the ship was moving, it is common to see these frigate birds catch the draft of the boat and ride the wind for a while. Never missing an opportunity, I grabbed the camera and took some images from the top deck of these great birds catching a breeze and free ride.

David Pattyn – Fiercely Fought

I work together with a nature conservation organisation called Brabants Landschap. They protect about 18000 hectares of nature and cultural heritage sites in the province of Noord Brabant in the Netherlands. They also have a few strictly protected areas where access is not possible because of the sensitive nature of some species breeding there. One of these areas is Valkenhorst nature reserve in Valkenswaard which consists mainly of fishponds and where rare species breed, like bittern and little bittern. I have permission to use floating hides there to photograph the birds there.

Coots breed in most of the ponds and sometimes quite numerous. They are very aggressive birds, especially in the breeding season when very violent fights can erupt. I have seen them fighting many times, but to photograph this behaviour is quite challenging. Fights suddenly erupt and most of the time end very quickly which does not provide much of an opportunity. Sometimes they simply chase each other running over the water surface. This particular fight happened very suddenly, very close to my floating hide, and fortunately for me neither bird wanted to back down. They fought for several minutes and one tried to drown the other! It is behaviour I had seen before and although it looks like they will kill each other, I’ve never actually seen it come to that!

David Pattyn – The Serenity of Swans

This image too was photographed in Valkenhorst nature reserve (the same location as the coots above). Mute swans breed on about half of the fish ponds there, and always provide a beautiful subject for photography in the first morning light, especially on glorious summer mornings with mist over the water.

I have visited Switzerland many times to photograph animals in the mountains in their winter environment. That particular week the weather was very sunny and conditions were not very good for photography in the mountains. I had heard about Lake Geneva and that it was possible to photograph ducks and swans there. I positioned myself at the edge of the lake with my tripod in the water to get an eye level perspective. There were more Mute swans than I expected and courtship was in full swing with a lot of territorial behaviour easily visible. As the birds were all worked up with each other and totally accustomed to people at the edge of the lake the swans were oblivious to my presence. Here a dominant male is quickly approaching another male to chase it away in the first morning light.

David Pattyn – Costa Rica – Wildlife Haven

I visited Corcovado national park mainly hoping to see Scarlet macaws. Costa Rica is one of the rare exceptions when it comes to conservation, as they have been protecting their parrots and macaws very effectively over the last decades. That is why these days Scarlet macaws are very visible in lots of places in Costa Rica, but they are especially numerous in Corcovado. We were staying in a lodge close to the beach and every day we would easily see more than a hundred and sometimes several hundred macaws. It was a joy to watch and photograph their behaviour. They form couples for life and just like us humans they sometimes are very kind and tender to each other and every now and then they started squabbling and fighting with loud screaming. In the picture you see how a couple is fighting in a tree with one hanging upside down holding on with one claw while using the other leg and wings to fight…quite a spectacular sight. As they are well protected, it was not very difficult to approach them under the trees they were in and photograph them.

During our family trip to Costa Rica we also visited Carara National Park. One evening after our visit to the park we went to a restaurant at the edge of the park with a magnificent view across forest and over the Pacific Ocean. As we were photographing the sunset over the ocean, mist came rolling in over the canopy and while enjoying the wonderful view I noticed the Guans sitting on a branch of one of the trees on the hillside. It truly was the icing on the cake of a beautiful evening.

During our family trip to Costa Rica we also spent a few days at the edge of Manuel Antonio National Park. That park is wonderful but extremely crowded, so one day we opted not to visit it and instead go to one of the beaches outside of the park. Wildlife is everywhere in Costa Rica and while walking down a road to the beach along a steep hillside we encountered a large group of squirrel monkeys. Most of the time these monkeys are out of reach for good photography as they tend to stay in the canopy. Here too they were in the treetops but because the road was along a steep hillside, the monkeys were at eye level. I decided to run back to the hotel because I had no photo equipment with me. My family were laughing because they did not expect the monkeys to stay around long enough, but I was in luck! When I returned, they were still there grooming each other and playing. I managed to photograph them interacting with each other in a really relaxed way. Ten minutes later they moved on and we never saw them again over the following days…sometimes it pays to be spontaneous!

Doug Perrine – Midway Atoll

Midway Atoll is the nesting site for over 70% of the world’s population of Laysan albatross and is also the largest nesting site in the world for black-footed albatross, with over 57,000 adults counted in a single season. Couples mate for life. After spending most of the year soaring over the breadth of the North Pacific the couples reunite at the nesting site and perform an elaborate courtship ritual to renew their pair bond. The courtship dance is also practiced by older juveniles and performed by young adults seeking to mate for the first time. Here one member of the couple performs a low bow while the other stretches up on “tiptoes” and sky points. The dance is accompanied by a variety of calls created a cacophony of sounds that fill the air as thousands of couples and groups of younger birds dance and call from the pre-dawn throughout the day and into the evening.

The small plane that delivered us to Midway Atoll had to land and take off after dark due to the thousands of seabirds that fill the air above all the islands throughout the day. The islands of Midway are home to the world’s largest population of black-footed albatross during the nesting season, from December-June each year. Monogamous pairs incubate a single egg, then raise the chick until near fledging before parting ways and heading out across the vast North Pacific to feed solitarily for the rest of the year. During incubation and chick-rearing the couples take turns gathering food and guarding the baby, but in the early part of the season partners spend a lot of time together, re-affirming their vows and expressing their affection and devotion to one another. Here a couple settles down for the night after an evening of dancing and calling as part of the courtship ritual.

In my home waters in Hawaii, USA, we have small pods of resident spinner dolphins that feed at night on small lanternfish. These finger-length bioluminescent fish live in deep ocean mid-waters by day but rise up into shallow water and even to the surface at night. However, we never see them at depths accessible to scuba divers during the day. I was fascinated to see the footage of large schools of lanternfish herded into tight balls and feasted upon by super-pods of eastern spinner dolphins in the jaw-dropping series Blue Planet II. I travelled to Central America, where the sequence was filmed hoping to observed this behaviour. I really appreciated the good fortune the BPII crew had in capturing their sequence on the last day of their expedition, as we had no such luck and only once saw a very small school of lanternfish driven to the surface. We never saw a super-pod, but even the ‘normal-sized’ dolphin pods in Central America are much larger than anything we see in Hawaii. They also belong to a different sub-species of spinner dolphin and are very distinct in appearance from the more commonly-photographed spinners of Hawaii, the Red Sea, and other locations around the world. We were fortunate to be able to document them cruising the surface waters of the eastern Pacific, in tandem with yellowfin tuna travelling below, hunting for schools of sardines, flying fish, and other small oily pelagics.


Bert Willaert – Wonders of Western Australia

Turtle frog: As a frog enthusiast, this animal was the main target I really wanted to see and photograph during my stay in Western Australia. The species is not very rare, but due to its fossorial lifestyle (which is a common thing for frogs and toads in Australia, as an adaptation to the often-dry environments) they are only seen during or after rain. Otherwise they are impossible to find (they live in burrows up to 1m below the surface).

Just 2 days before arriving in Australia, a friend living in Perth sent me some pictures of this species. When I arrived, the weather forecast showed no rain for the first 10 days (and it didn’t rain). So, after visiting several national parks north of Perth during a 2-week time period, we planned to visit the extreme South Western part of the continent and had to pass through Perth again. As the weather forecast showed a small chance of rains a few days later, I convinced my travel companions to stay for an extra 2 nights and in the late afternoon of that second extra day, it started to rain. I am probably one of the few people that often is very happy when it starts raining (especially on holidays), but this time I was really excited. I remember being on the car park of a supermarket and realizing this would be the only chance to photograph a species that I wanted to see since I was a child.

After arriving on the right spot, once it was dark, we quickly heard the first males calling. But only after finding a first individual calling male, was I fully satisfied and could start enjoying the views of this wonderful animal and take some photographs. Conditions were perfect (good rain in the afternoon and a humid night without too much rain that could complicate photography). For me definitely one of the most wonderful animals in the world!

Blind snake: This animal was found under a log during the late afternoon, not far from Mount Trio. Blind snakes are not very often seen due to their fossorial lifestyle. When found, they move very fast and try to hide beneath the surface. So, one coiled into a ball as a defensive behaviour, makes it one of the rare moments when taking a picture is possible. They are, together with caecilians, some of the most mobile (and hence challenging!) subjects that I photographed so far. Less pleasant to hear, was that just a few months after this picture was taken, bushfires also hit this region hard and the campsite we used that night was evacuated.

Echidna: This animal was observed after first seeing footprints crossing the dirt road we were driving, towards a campsite in the National Park. After waiting patiently for a while, the animal cautiously showed us its characteristic beak. Choosing a low, wide-angle perspective here, I could show the environment where this species lives – endless scrubland on red sand. The remoteness of this national park, together with many other places in (Western) Australia, is something that for me (and I believe many more people living in Western Europe or other densely populated areas in the world) is truly remarkable. And it must have been even much more spectacular before the introduction of non-native species pushed many of the extraordinary mammals to (near) extinction.


Nick Garbutt – Beach Bum Chameleon

Chameleons are one of the animal groups that define Madagascar, but they are masters of concealment, so finding them during the day is tough. It is actually easier when they’re sleeping at night, but they are photographically far less interesting! Whenever I’m on foot and in forest habitats in particular, I try to find impactful ways of showing subjects in the context of their environment: I feel there is little point in travelling to a rainforest in Madagascar and then taking photos that look like they might have been taken in captivity. So, this often means reaching for a wide-angle lens and getting in close. Chameleons are ideal subjects for this.

This is a male panther chameleon, one of the most colourful species. They are rarely found in the depths of intact forest, more often preferring forest edge and peripheral broken habitats. This particular individual was photographed in the beach front vegetation, backing onto pristine rainforest on the Masoala Peninsula in north east Madagascar. I’d found him sleeping on the extremity of a branch, during a night walk the previous evening, so got up before sunrise the following morning to catch him waking up and moving off for the day.

The sun was still only just above the horizon when he set off, hence the beautiful warm light. The chameleon moved slowly along low-lying branches, dipping in and out of shaded areas. I selected my widest regular lens, a fixed Nikon 14mm f2.8, and a medium aperture (f11) to give a reasonable depth of field, but all the time making sure the shutter speed did not drop and become too slow when blur and camera shake might become an issue. In the end this turned out to be 1/125th second. Just to make sure of balancing the exposure, I added a TTL-flash to pop in a tickle of extra light to emphasise the chameleon and separate it from a slightly under-exposed background.

Composition is especially critical when using wide angle lenses: you need to be close enough to the subject so it dominates the foreground, while making sure all the background elements are complimentary and not distracting. Fine adjustments in camera position relative to the subject can have a massive impact on the composition and final result. One final compositional consideration with this image was to make sure the horizon was straight, as wonky sea behind the chameleon would look all wrong. I took a large number of images in this sequence and in the majority, one or more elements were wrong: there were only a handful of pictures where all the factors came together properly and pleasingly.

Nick Garbutt – Sifaka Gold Standard

On Madagascar, an island where superlatives abound, the forests around Daraina are particularly special. Here so many of the environmental, social, humanitarian and conservation issues the desperately poor island nation faces collide. By day these forests and particularly those close to the village of Andranotsimaty, are perhaps the best place to see the golden-crowned sifaka, one of the world’s most critically endangered primates. Remarkably, these lemurs are totally tolerant and comfortable living in close proximity to the village as the sifakas are protected by a local taboo or ‘fady’.

And yet in many areas close to the village, the forest is significantly degraded by extensive gold mining operations. Here local people eke out a meagre living by digging and hand panning for tiny fragments of the precious metal. At ground level the environment is stark, bleak and depressing – massively pockmarked with deep pits – and yet in the trees above lives one of the most beautiful lemurs there is. And because of the issues surrounding the gold mining and the reliance of the local people on this, these forests are not formally protected. It is a paradox that encapsulates so many of the difficulties and challenges in Madagascar.

Using an extreme wide-angle fisheye lens, I sat beneath a tree where three sifakas were feeding in the canopy. They initially paid no attention to me. Then two began descending the trunk towards me and came closer and closer. Eventually one of them was so close I’m convinced it was looking at its own reflection in the lens and reached out to touch the camera.

Nick Garbutt – Albatross Antics

I spent a whole afternoon on Saunders Island in The Falklands, trying to get unusual images of black-browed albatross. Massive sea bird colonies can be somewhat overwhelming – there’s so much going on it’s hard to know where to point the camera, especially when visiting for the first time. I noticed one individual displaying and calling repeatedly, so decided to concentrate my efforts there for a while. There was constant activity all around with other albatross encroaching on space and flying around. I wanted to try and somehow isolate my subject. So, I backed away slightly, adopted the lowest angle I could and selected a telephoto lens to concentrate on the bird’s torso and head.

With the upward inclined angle, it became apparent that albatross flying in the back ground came in and out of shot quickly, so having one or more of these out of focus but filling the space to the left of the subject would complete the composition. I took dozens and dozens of shots, trying to time firing the shutter with the main subject calling and birds flying in the background. I never quite got this juxtaposition right with a single shot, so in the end combined two images, amalgamating the best albatross calling shot, with a complimentary out of focus flight shot.


Check out the full gallery of images here, or the October 2020 Highlights prints gallery.