We’re rounding off the year by bringing you the highlights that have been added to the site over the last two months.
November brought us great underwater coverage by Alex Mustard from Cuba, new material from Wild Wonders of China, and a variety of savanna, rainforest and polar wildlife. In addition you will find original abstract plant imagery, insect macro and behaviour, and lots of evocative landscapes.
Ben Hall – A Solitary Shape
I captured this image after working for several weeks on the mountain hares of the Peak District. I would concentrate my efforts when the weather was at its worst in an attempt to show the animals in their bleak, winter environment. After a week of steady snowfall I spent several days combing the moors for hares. I was keen to capture a hare in soft, winter light, using the warmth of the sky to contrast with the snow. Eventually, I came across this individual who was sitting out in the open, an unusual sight when it comes to Peak hares! I wanted to keep my distance as my aim was to show the hare in its winter environment rather than capture a frame filling portrait. After a careful and slow approach, I was within range. I steadily shuffled forwards, lying flat on my stomach to get as low as possible. I may have been cold and wet, but this enabled me to both blur the foreground and include as much of the sky as possible. As the sun sank beneath the horizon, the sky suddenly lit up with a beautiful, warm glow. It was this contrast between the pastel, warm tones of the sky and the cold, snow covered ground that I was keen to highlight. Eventually, the hare was spooked by a low flying helicopter and disappeared to the opposite moor within seconds! (below left)
Emanuele Biggi – A Pop of Red
I was about to get back to my room after a full day working into the Gran Paradiso National Park, when a movement amongst the snow caught my attention. In this area there are a good population of red foxes, and they’re used to people passing in the park, but are generally very curious. This one kept its ground, hidden behind a snow bank, while the snow fell all around and on its snout. But it couldn’t resist peeking out to get a glimpse of me, and I took that portrait. I liked the way its red fur popped out against the white background, and the moment was calm and beautiful. (above right)
Guy Edwardes – Comet Neowise
Comet Neowise was a bit of a godsend for me last summer. Following lockdown I was only able to run local 1-2-1 photo workshops. I had already decided to concentrate on night-time astro-photography in Dorset and the timely arrival of the comet made these workshop even more popular. I was out during every clear night in late June and early July trying to capture it over various landmarks in the region. I’ve been photographing Colmer’s Hill near Bridport for over 25 years and it forms the basis for my company logo, so it seemed the ideal location to start with! This shot was taken whilst the moon was still illuminating the foreground landscape.
1.) I photograph the Dalmatian Pelicans every winter at Lake Kerkini and I’m always looking to achieve a variety of different shots of the birds. I love to include them within their landscape setting, and on this particular afternoon the conditions were ideal for that. Last in the day the clouds began to break, creating sunbeams against the distant mountain backdrop. This shot was taken from a small boat and I was lucky to have very calm conditions for the reflection.
2.) When you come across a huge field of poppies it’s tempting to try to capture the whole scene. However sometimes it’s nice to isolate single blooms amongst the surrounding haze of red. Here I utilised the shallow depth of field afforded by a telephoto lens to throw all the surrounding poppies well out of focus. Overcast light helped me retain detail in the red petals. As I was concentrating on this shot I noticed a roe deer running away from me through the poppies. Had I glanced in the opposite direction moments earlier I would have captured a very special image…I even had the right lens attached…..perhaps next year!
3.) Whenever a big storm is forecast I try to plan a route around the coast that allows me to shoot at high tide in various locations, when there’s the best chance of capturing the largest waves crashing against the coastline. During storm Ciara my day began at Porthcawl in south Wales. This shot was taken using an 840mm lens to really compress the perspective and make the other photographers on the sea wall appear much closer to the waves than they actually were (they were in a perfectly safe location). The waves were huge and many of them shooting three of four times higher than shown in this image! Soon after this shot was taken I made my way down to Land’s End in Cornwall in time for high tide there!
Yashpal Rathore – Prayer on Wings
Humans and bats have a long history of co-existence, since the time humans entered into caves during their process of evolution. Schneider’s Leaf-nosed bats (Hipposideros sperosis) are inhabitants of a centuries old underground Shiv temple. I captured this shot using laser beam to trigger the camera, and 7 remotely connected low powered flashes to freeze the bats in flight and illuminate the ancient temple architecture. It was challenging to work in the dark in knee deep water, while being watchful about my gear and my own safety, but I’m very pleased with how it turned out. A deep mistrust regarding bats has resurfaced after some theories traced the origin of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to the bats. Bats don’t spread coronavirus! Our collective stupidity and disrespect for nature does. Their conservation is vital for the ecosystem. (below left)
Tony Heald – Drama of the Rut
During October I would usually be somewhere hot, but not in 2020. Instead, I took the opportunity to visit Bushy Park during the rutting season of the Red Deer. Before dawn, the best way of spotting the stags is to follow the sounds of bellowing and clashing antlers. A little later, in the early morning sunlight, I found a battle between two mature stags, each one weighing around 200 kg and determined to win. It was thrilling to see the power and speed of the stags using their antlers as weapons. The challenge for the photographer is to capture the moment that sums up the action; the whites of the eyes also add to the drama in this shot. (above right)
Sergey Gorshkov – The Winning Shot
When I started in photography, I didn’t even know that there were contests among photographers, and for the first years I was just shooting for my own pleasure. Now I know that there are numerous competitions for wildlife photographers, and one of the biggest is the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Winning this competition is the ultimate dream for any photographer, and I had to work for many years and climbed up this ladder step by step. There have been falls that hit me painfully, there has been tremendous pressure, but I’ve managed to convert it all into the energy that helped me win. Winning WPY was a big surprise for me. I didn’t believe it when the Duchess of Cambridge said my name, it wasn’t until a couple of seconds later I realized that it was me! It was a long and difficult, but very interesting path to victory, and I was doubly pleased to be the first Russian to win WPY in 56 years of the competition.
I really appreciate everything that happened in my life and photography career, and winning this competition is a great honour for me. But don’t feel that success has turned my head. I have had a great career; won the highest prize a photographer could win and it seems that this could be a great excuse to end my career. But I’m not going to hang my camera up just yet! I enjoyed my victory for just a few hours and am now ready to move forwards new achievements. I’ve never felt this inspired before, now I believe in myself as I have never done. And now I am shooting for my own pleasure, but also for my dear viewers!
Photography is a very important tool for conservation, and people should be aware of what is happening to our planet. I invite photographers all over the world to photograph not only with the purpose to show the beauty of our planet, but also to raise awareness of the problems we have, and to protect wildlife.
Emanuele Biggi – Snaking Salamander
I wanted to shoot this species right inside its home, in late afternoon, when summer temperatures drop and air moisture rise. Coloured grasses and rocks were all around, the typical and the only habitat where it lives. So I used a wide-angle lens (a 15mm macro lens) to get the scene. I like the dynamics of the salamander “snaking” on the rock very much, dark as liquorice and colours all around. I also felt grateful to live into a land like Italy, so rich in biodiversity. This particular species is precious from a conservation point of view: Vulnerable by IUCN and endemic of a very restricted part of the Western Alps. Its uniqueness is also its own fragility. (below left)
Emanuele Biggi – Stag on the Hunt
This impressive male stag beetle was active during the end of the day, on a warm afternoon in late June. Various individuals were flying all around, from high in the canopy of the oak trees to the lower layers of forest. Some of them were licking the sap of the tree, other ones like this individual, were standing on a good spot to find a female to mate with. The mating season is very short and activity levels are very high during these days of early summer. It was amazing to be right inside that big-small world and knowing it can be seen so close to my home, a few kilometres from the city where I live. I wanted to show it inside its habitat, so I used a wide angle macro lens to increase the ecological atmosphere of the image. (above right)
Klein & Hubert – New Year’s Surprise
This picture was taken on first of January 2020 at sunrise, when most people are off to bed after a big New Year’s feast. But, when you’re a nature photographer enjoying the African savanna, you won’t waste any of the morning, and are always ready for a surprise. We were on the way to the Masai Mara National Reserve as we met these gentle giraffes walking smoothly to a new grazing ground. The sky was bright orange, and we quickly managed to get them as silhouettes against the rising sun. They looked like vessels sailing in an orange sea. We went on to see lions later that morning, this first of January was definitively one of the most spectacular we had ever experienced.
Espen Bergersen – Global Warming in Action
On the 25th July 2020, the 41 year old temperature record in Longyearbyen, Svalbard was beaten. The new record was 21,7 degrees Celsius. In Svalbard, global warming is happening faster than in the rest of the world. In Longyearbyen, a faster temperature increase has been registered than in any other city. In August 2020 I spent some time photographing glaciers, documenting wildlife and calving glaciers. It was so impressive to watch and listen to the sound of the glaciers calving and the ice melting. One day I was lucky to have optimal light conditions when a big part of the Lilliehöök glacier fell into the sea. It was an impressive sight and it sounded like a nearby thunderstorm.
Alex Mustard – Challenges of Underwater Worlds
The main challenge of shooting in this marine lake was getting there. The lake is in a very remote part of the world, in a tiny chain of islands, off the very sparsely populated island of Misool, itself an island off the coast of West Papua, a very remote region of Indonesia. Although the biggest challenge was getting into the lake with camera and snorkelling gear as it involved a climb up and over a rocky ridge to access the lake. This wouldn’t have been to bad with the right gear, but wearing diving boots and carrying snorkelling gear and almost 10kg on ungainly underwater camera gear it was much harder. I just took my time and the water was lovely to slip into afterward. Otherworldly too – swarming with beautiful jellies.
Normally wildlife has to be approached slowly and carefully for wildlife photography so you don’t scare it away. The opposite was true of this anemone fish guarding its eggs. An ungainly approach would see it race out of its anemone and start biting – and they always go for the hands – regularly drawing blood with their sharp teeth. But if you approach super slowly they get used to you and you can get right up to the anemone without them becoming to agitated. That is what I had to do to produce this wide angle view. It was quite exciting to shoot this as I knew if I got my approach wrong I’d get bitten!
Giant hogfish are surprisingly big (60cm) and quite rare fish because in many areas they are targeting by fishing, particularly spearfishing. I was drawn to this scene because it shows one species of hogfish cleaning another – with two colourful Spanish hogfish attending to the larger fish. This is also the only time I have had the chance to photograph this relatively rare species at a cleaning station. This dive in Cuba was packed with sharks, but this didn’t seem to have any impact on the cleaner or client fish who just carried on their lives as normal.
John Waters – The ‘Busyness’ of Bees
The shot was taken during lockdown in a small ‘wildlife friendly’ garden in Bristol where my partner keeps bees. I spent a lot of time watching the bees, trying to work out how I could show their comings and goings around the hive, and at the same time preserving the sense of movement – their ‘busyness’ so to speak. The first attempts showed some promise, I started to feel it was do-able, and then became totally obsessed with it!
I used a slow shutter (0.3 secs) and a second curtain flash to ‘freeze’ the bee after it had formed a light trail. Behind the bees I created a dark cove of deep shadow by draping black cloth over a bamboo frame. I also placed a mirror on a light stand to reflect sunlight and give a strong backlight against the dark background. I took literally hundreds of shots to end up with a few where the composition, activity and focus came together. I like it because it captures the movement of the bees as they queue up in front of the hive entrance. There is no greater feeling in photography than setting out to get a shot you have in your mind and achieving it – a very rare feeling … in my experience anyway!
Sandra Bartocha – Lightness of Summer
For years I’ve been trying to capture the essence of a meadow with wild carrots. What looks easy to the eye isn’t always to convey within one image. I was lucky to find huge meadows full of umbels. I photographed over several evenings, trying to find order in chaos and transport the lightness of summer.
Sandra Bartocha – Summer mornings
The heathland in the ‘Reicherskreuzer Heide’ in the nature reserve ‘Schlaubetal’ is a result of a former Russian military training area, that was actively used until 1992 – one of the many in Eastern Germany. Since 1994 it is protected, parts of the heathland are kept open with sheep, while others are covered with pioneer birches that have had the chance now to grow for around 26 years. The combination of the white birches is most beautiful in August when the amazing display of Calluna coincides with the first cold mornings and fog.
Markus Varesvuo – An Unusual View
Great Grey Owls come out of the forests in early spring if there is a shortage of food, in order to hunt in the open fields. This owl appeared in late February close to where a nature photographer friend of mine lives, and came to hunt in the field almost daily for a good two months. A healthy population of voles roamed the field, providing good hunting grounds for the owl. Sometimes the owl would also come to catch offered food, such as mice killed in traps set by the locals around houses and barns. Owls don’t really fear humans, so they fly relatively close. I used a 24mm wide-angle lens and managed to capture this as it flew right over the top me.
Eric Baccega – ‘Giraffe’ Women
For me to travel means to discover, meet, exchange and learn. Encounters with people who preserve ancient traditions is always a most enriching experience. For 25 years, I have photographed many peoples – Inuit, Nenets, Bushmen, Himba, Afar, Mursi, Korowai and many others – and each time their stories are fascinating. The challenge: how to synthesize in a few dozen images a life based on centuries of tradition?
When I travelled to Myanmar, Kayah State, in April 2019, to meet the Kayan Lahwi women, nicknamed ‘long neck’ or ‘giraffe-women’, I knew little about their customs and traditions. What I had been able to read in preparation for this feature was nothing compared to seeing it firsthand. I wanted to immerse myself in the daily life of these women to get to know them, yet I needed two guides in order to communicate with them: a French/Burmese guide and also a local guide to translate from Burmese to the local dialect. There was a fine balance to asking questions without being too curious or inappropriate. I needed to make them want to tell me their story, and about their traditions, and to listen to them while gaining their confidence. For two weeks, I shared in their daily life. Every time I took a picture, I felt like I was receiving a gift from these women.
I wanted to go to where this tradition was born: a place foreigners were forbidden until 2014. There I met these women, most of them elderly, keepers of a thousand-year-old tradition, handed down by their mothers and grandmothers, which they will carry on until their last breath. They are likely to be some of the last, because the younger generations, well-versed in western culture, wish to live differently. In addition, the Burmese authorities have for decades prohibited the wearing of spiral neck rings in certain public places, such as schools and hospitals. So, for most young girls, they represent a barrier to attending school, or leaving the region to find work in nearby towns.
Undoubtedly it is one of the encounters that has moved me the most. How these women carried through decades the burden of this tradition, while remaining dynamic, joyful, warm and optimistic.
Our December highlights start in the north with Pal Hermansen’s imaginative Scandinavian imagery and Tony Wu’s appealing flying squirrels.
Then we head to Antarctica for a bold set of emperor penguin images from Stefan Christmann’s new book. But there is also a summery feel with Lorraine Bennery’s colourful portfolio on European orchids and some unusual insect coverage. And you will also find desert landscapes and burrowing owls from Jack Dykinga and Bryan Alexander’s portraits from his Changing Face of the Arctic project.
Ripan Biswas – Marvellous Miniatures
Buxa tiger reserve in West Bengal, India is one of my favourite jungles. This temperate forest has many invertebrate species, and I think the weaver ant is the most interesting among them. For the last 10 years I have been visiting Buxa regularly to shoot different aspects of their life.
There is a Ghost tree in front of the home stay where I normally stay when I visit Buxa. There is a big nest of these ants high up in the canopy. So, the ants forage around the tree for food. I found this particular ant in a small bush when it was attending some aphids. Aphids are a small insect which normally live on the leaves of such plants. Ants protects them from their predators, in return the aphids feed ants a sugary sap known as honeydew which they produce.
As I approached closer, the ant started to threatening me with wide open jaws. Asian weaver ants are small in size, around 6/7mm. But they can inflict a painful bite! They also spray formic acid in the wound. Workers are fearless, they welcome any intruder with their open jaws. I particularly like the attitude of this ant – in spite of my bigger size, it did not hesitate to threaten me.
I used 18-55mm kit lens to take this picture. I reversely mounted the lens making it a super macro lens. When you reverse mount a lens the lens become fully manual. To get moderate depth of field I narrowed the aperture. This resulted into a very dark view finder. Seeing and focusing through dark viewfinder is very tough. I focused manually to get this shot.
On the same day I took this picture of an Ant-mimicking crab spider which was roaming around another weaver ant colony. Ant-mimicking crab spiders look incredibly similar to the ants, they even mimic the movement of weaver ants. At first the biggest challenge was to differentiate the spider from the ants. On closer look I found the difference. I found the attitude of this guy was also very similar to the ants. As I went closer it stood its ground and started to threaten me by movement of the legs! (below left)
I took this picture at the same site few days later, it might even have been the same spider. Weaver ants are vicious hunters. They are aggressive, armed with powerful jaws and formic acid. These features make them some of the most powerful hunters of the miniature world. In a group, they can easily kill an enemy many times larger than themselves. But they too have enemies, and one of them is very sly…
Ant-mimicking crab spiders mimic these weaver ants. They lay their eggs inside the ant nest, so their young grow up together with the young ants. They grow up surrounded by the pheromones of the ant colony, which means the ants cannot differentiate between the ants and the spiderlings. They grow up with ants, they look like ants, and they smell like ants. Once they are grown, they roam around ant colony in search of an unsuspecting solitary ant to consume for their next meal!
I enjoy the story of these cunning creatures – ant-mimicking spiders do not stand a chance in a head to head battle, but their cunning nature ensures their survival. (above right)
Lorraine Bennery – Mirror Mirror
Often found in small groups across the Mediterranean, like this one in Greece, the Ophrys speculum is also known as the Mirror Orchid. This is in reference to its labellum (the part of the flower that acts to attract pollinators) which usually lies horizontally and appears to reflect the sky. It is one of the few orchids on the planet to have such a beautiful blue. Like many Ophrys species, it has a special pollinator, in this case a single species of scoliid wasp. (below left)
Marie Read – My Best Photography ‘Prop’
Many years ago I planted a small tree—an eastern redbud, barely five feet tall with a few spindly branches—in my back garden in central New York State. It marked the beginning of landscaping my property for bird photography. Every spring since then I’ve photographed the birds that perch among the redbud’s colourful flowers en-route to the bird feeders I’ve placed nearby, including this cute Chipping Sparrow. A pair of Chipping Sparrows always breeds on my property, the male singing his trilled song on an exposed perch to attract a mate, then the female building a nest in the dense shrubbery. Many times its original size now, the redbud still blooms profusely and it’s still my best photography “prop”! (above right)
John Waters – The Tenacity of Nature
Arnos Vale is a beautiful example of a Victorian garden cemetery – 45 acres of peace nestled within the bustling city of Bristol. It’s a fantastic place, with a little stretch of the imagination you can feel like you’ve walked into a lost civilisation that’s been swallowed up by the forest. For me the ‘strangled’ stone cross exemplifies the tenacity of nature – when we’re all dead and gone, nature is ready and waiting to obliterate our presence! (below left)
Anup Shah – Playtime
Elephant babies being elephant babies. This is a straightforward shot except that I was with the elephant group for a couple of hours, just me in my car and the elephants. The morning was cool and the babies were in an energetic, carefree mood, playing and keeping up with the feeding adults. (below left)
Anup Shah – A Powerful Coalition
This was a chance shot, and shows a coalition exuding latent power. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time for this one. As I was driving in the Maasai Mara, I spotted this coalition of five young males making their way to shade after having fed on the open plains, and I managed to capture a few frames with all five heading towards me. (above right)
Guy Edwardes – An Early Start
This lovely field of poppies appeared close to my home in Dorset last summer. I had been waiting for a suitably bright still morning to photograph them. Unfortunately the mist and interesting clouds I had hoped for never materialised, but once the sun was up and illuminating the red blooms it created a beautiful summer scene. This shot was taken at about 5.30am and there was still a barn owl hunting the meadow around me. (below left)
Tom Kirkendall – Magical Mornings
While teaching a landscape photography workshop in Yellowstone National Park we took the group to the Upper Terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. Arriving before sunrise on a far below freezing morning we had time to scout out locations along the boardwalk as the rising fog was freezing and crystallizing in the trees. One member of the group had a malfunctioning standard zoom lens where one of the optics had slipped out of place and would not focus. She was afraid the good light would pass her by without any photographs. I took off my 24-70mm placing it on her camera, so I attached a fixed 35mm to my camera.
I truly enjoy working with fixed lenses. Without the option of multiple focal lengths of a zoom lens I have to think a little more critically about my position and composition. By limiting myself it seems I have to work a little harder to get what I see and want to express in a photograph. As the sun broke over the horizon I waited for the light to shine through the shifting fog lighting up the water of Canary Springs while adding textures to the fresh snow. The light would come and go as the light breeze danced the fog in and out. I only managed a few frames when the light was at its magical best. Finally the good light had passed, my fingers and toes were tingling near frozen from the cold and everyone had some wonderful images in their camera. . It was time to pack it up and go find a warm breakfast. (above right)
Yashpal Rathore – Foot Flaggers
Here a male Kottigehar dancing frog (Micrixalus Kottigehera) is trying to push away rival male from a prominent location by waving his hind leg, as if they were two kick boxers. Micrixalidae frogs are very small, only 2-4cm in length, and are endemic to the Western Ghats. They come out to breed during the monsoon period and can be found along small forest streams. Traditionally male frogs rely on their croak, to attract the opposite sex, but they struggle to be heard over the noise of fast moving forest streams. So these tiny frogs, each one no bigger than your thumb, have come up with a different technique to attract a mate. They will stand on a rock and wave a foot, the more testosterone they have, the more waving they do. All this waving helps in attracting a potential mate, and also to push rivals away. This distinctive courtship behaviour had earned them their name ‘foot flaggers’ or “dancing frogs’.
Every monsoon we get pocket of few weeks to witness & capture this fascinating & joyful behaviour. Its require hours of patience to position myself motionless very low inside water stream to be at eye level of such tiny frog and wait for long enough time before frogs ignore our presence and act naturally.
Shane Gross – Life and Times of a Lemon Shark
While photographing baby lemon sharks, I often find blue crabs annoying. They sneak up on me and sometimes, they pinch! However, on this day I decided to try to photograph one. They are a main part of the lemon shark pup’s diet and, thus, an important part of the story. It amazes me how unafraid of the sharks they are, showing confidence in their defences. This crab was happily munching away on detritus when I saw a shark coming from behind. Luckily, I was able to frame the two together in a somewhat pleasing way. This time, the shark paid little attention to the crab. (below left)
I’ve spent weeks camped out on a beach near this mangrove nursery and gotten to know some of the sharks individually. This one was especially curious about everything. I saw him come very close to getting stuck in a narrow passage between mangrove roots and repeatedly nose and even bite mangrove leaves floating by. I didn’t realize until I got home that I had a picture of him sampling living leaves. Another shark had eaten a fish in the area just before this, so I think he was in a heightened state of excitement. I can just imagine the tiny lemon shark’s disappointment at tasting those leaves. (above right)
Jack Dykinga – Desert Dwellers
My daily morning hike includes passing amongst desert landscaped properties with zero to low water usage as a prime consideration. The Tricocereus cacti don’t merely flower… they ‘explode with colour!’ The smallish (15 cm) plant offers up blooms as much as twice their own diameter. Besides loudly calling pollinators, they entice photographers like me!
It seems my life project is documenting these diminutive burrowing owls. After three years on their turf, they grudgingly accept my presence with barely a nod. On one of my forays, I noticed a bit more activity than usual as an immature owl was doing the “shake the ant” dance. The pesky ants were continually biting the hapless owls who are their unfriendly underground neighbours.
Claudio Contreras – The Epitome of Mexican Biodiversity
I think the important thing to say about this image is that a very tropical bird is walking on a pine tree. This image was taken at an altitude where the rainforest starts to give way to pine forest, and is a classic example of the mixture between Neotropical and Nearctic living beings interconnected in the same place – something that so characterizes and enriches Mexican biodiversity.
Edwin Giesbers – Insect Decline
The best researched nature area in the Netherlands is undoubtedly found southwest of the city of Tilburg: ‘De Kaaistoep’. For more then 25 years, flora and fauna have been permanently explored and observed in this 400-hectare area by a group of enthusiastic volunteers. The result is an unprecedented amount of data. In order to map the situation of insects in the Netherlands, nature organization Natuurmonumenten asked scientists from EIS (the Knowledge Center for Insects) and Radboud University to study insect trends here. And so it can be seen that in this Dutch nature area (as in the wider world) the insect decline is clearly visible: the number of moths had decreased by more than half.
For a photo assignment I stayed for three nights with the researchers of the Kaaistoep. In the middle of the night the white sheet using to observe insects, is cleaned and all the moths that are on the sheet fly up and continue to fly around the lamps – the Red underwing moth (Catocala nupta), seen here, definitely steals the show – before the light is turned off and they fly away off into the dark night.
Edwin Giesbers – Bad Hair Day!
Kerkini National Park in Northern Greece is renowned for the more than 300 bird species that can be observed here. In this area you will also find the Kerkini Lake and this is the habitat of its most famous inhabitant: the Dalmatian pelican. It’s one of the largest flying birds with a wingspan of 3.5 meters and a weight of 12 kilos on average, and they are very photogenic with a permanent bad hair day. On a serious note, the pelican species is seriously threatened. In Kerkini Lake however the breeding colony with 200 pairs pelicans is well-protected and they raise many youngsters there every year.
Fisherman Thomas was one of the first fishermen to offer tourists the opportunity to observe the photogenic pelicans from very close by from a fishing boat. Often, pelicans float by the bank where his boat is located. But once sailing in his boat with Thomas, it never takes long before they arrive. They know that Thomas has some fish to offer them. The people in the villages around Kerkini Lake have a good source of income thanks to the tourists. And thanks to the protection, and to the fishermen like Thomas who also provide the birds with fish in the severe wintertime, the Dalmatian pelican of the Kerkini Lake hopefully face a bright future.
Pål Hermansen – A Different Perspective
This was taken at a big logging area in old natural forest (100 years+ old) in a lowland, highly productive forest, south-eastern Norway. The area is close to populated areas near Oslo, and represents both a rich natural habitat and an important value for recreation and hiking. There are legal restrictions on interventions here, but nevertheless nearly 100% of all logging is approved by the local and regional authorities. The result is a forest area that is very fragmented and where no mature trees are left (150 + years). In addition, dead wood is nearly non-existent. This means that species that are dependent on old forest and dead wood (numerous species of lichens, mosses, fungi, insects and birds) disappear. The modern ‘clear-cut’ logging method was introduced 50-60 years ago. Earlier the forest was kept more intact after logging, by just cutting the biggest trees and leaving the rest to develop further. The clear-cutting results in enormous CO2 emissions and changes in local climate, in addition to destroying the conditions for re-establishing a complex forest.
Shadows: This is an avenue leading over a field to a relatively big farm. I have followed this place over the year, since I realized that this location could produce interesting images, especially in low winter light. The low light was hidden by trees and clouds most of the day, but suddenly the light came for a few minutes.
Silhouette: The bears of eastern Finland have been depicted intensely by numerous photographers over the years. But most of the images are quite stereotypic. Instead of going for the ordinary, I decided to trying to convey the sense of mystery when the mythological animal was moving around in the blue, Nordic summer landscape. I hid a couple of sensor-triggered cameras with wide-angle lens in the area where the bears were appearing, and after some nights, I got a few shots that gave me the wanted sensation.
Michael Hutchinson – A Striking Combination
If you are interested in invertebrates, it’s hard to be bored outdoors, especially in spring and summer. I couldn’t believe my luck when this stunning female flower crab spider took up residence on my honesty plant. The colour combination was fantastic. I saw more of these spiders in my garden than ever this year, including a couple of the less often seen males. The picture was taken during lockdown, a period when, for me, time pressures were lifted and I was able to spend several days just watching, filming and photographing her. I was particularly hoping to see her catch prey, but regardless it was a rare opportunity to sit and observe what a day in the life of a crab spider is like.
Over several days, I wore a bare patch in the grass near this plant as I shuffled about watching and waiting. Some days she didn’t catch anything, other days she caught 3 items (hoverflies and solitary bees). Often, particularly in the first couple of days, she sat very prominently out in the open. Her conspicuousness did not seem to negatively impact her hunting success. The photograph shows her typical alert ambush pose with forelegs spread wide. What excited me most was the unexpected discovery that she often tried to snatch insects from the air rather than waiting for them to land on a flower, something I was able to film.
Tony Wu – The Eyes Have It
A close-up view (3x life-size) of the eyes of a peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) reveals details of one of the most complex visual systems known. Each eye sits atop a mobile stalk, with each stalk capable of moving independently. Each eye comprises two flattened hemispheres separated by parallel rows of specialised clusters of photoreceptor cells. This 3-part division facilitates trinocular vision in each eye, which means each eye is capable of depth perception. Depending upon the species, mantis shrimps have between 12 and 16 types of photoreceptors (compared to three for humans), giving these crustaceans the ability to perceive a wide spectrum covering from far red to ultraviolet, as well as polarised light. When it comes to mantis shrimps, the eyes truly have it.
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