We’re starting off the year by bringing you the highlights that have been added to the site over the first two months of 2021.
We started the year with a big influx of environmental and travel images. Notable new additions included people and landscapes from inaccessible regions of China, coverage on fires and flooding, and graphic photography of chemical residues and the threat to sharks from over-fishing. Look out for desert plants and Californian condors from North America, unique wild honeybee coverage, endangered turtles and Konik ponies from one of Europe’s most prominent rewilding projects. Not to mention a rich mix of wildlife, plants and scenics from around the world. Check out the full January Highlights gallery here.
Doug Gimesy – After The Burn
I spent nearly a month in the field covering the bushfires. A lot of my images involve building relationships and trust (sometimes over time, sometimes quickly) to be allowed to gain access and photograph emergency and/or intimate/stressful moments.
Rena Gaborov feeds some of her eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus gigantea) orphans in her mother-in-law’s shed in Sarsfield. Rena and her partner had to evacuate their wildlife (wombats, kangaroos and possums) from their home and wildlife shelter in Goongerah (Victoria) when bushfires threatened and then finally destroyed it in December 2019. Thankfully they are now back there rebuilding the shelter. (below left)
Forest and Wildlife officers Lachlan Clarke (right) and Emily Cordy watch as a mother koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) and her joey are released. These koalas were previously brought to a mobile wildlife triage centre at Bairnsdale (which was set up to treat animals as a result of the bushfires that had been ravaging the area late 2019/early 2020) for treatment for burns to her feet. Originally found in Gelantipy (a rural locality 49 km north of Buchan, East Gippsland, Victoria), as her home was destroyed by the bushfires and there was no suitable habitat available there, this location was deemed a better option at the time. (below right)
Tui De Roy – The Secret Worlds
With their lovely spotted pattern — most intense in young animals — spotted eagle rays are perhaps the most elegant of all rays. They feed on shells, crabs and other benthic organisms, using hard crushing plates in their mouths, caught mostly at night. During the day, juveniles may gather in large, elegant schools to rest in sheltered mangrove inlets as they wait for darkness to fall. In some places, the water is so still that it forms layers, with tannin-stained sedimentation from the mangroves settling near the bottom while the upper layers remain gin-clear. To not disturb these layers I needed to float at the surface almost completely motionless, only barely wiggling my fins to inch forward. Seeing them gliding slowly in elegant formations through this secret world was a magical experience that had me holding my breath, even though I didn’t need to.
Fabrice Cahez – Champagne Breakfast
This photo was taken in Champagne, a region in eastern France, which each year attracts thousands of common cranes to its large lakes, sometimes more than 80,000 to Lac du Der. The birds spend the night on the small islands in the middle of the lake and at dawn they go to feed in the surrounding fields or meadows. Cranes are very fond of the young shoots of cereals, earthworms and, as here, the corn kernels that remain after harvest. I took this photo from a lookout at the edge of a field that was frequented by cranes every day. Luckily, the snow started to fall that morning, which gives the image a very special atmosphere, as it is rare that snow is present in this region. It was February 13th and, a few days later, as soon as the wind shifted to the south, the cranes would leave Champagne to find their nesting sites in Scandinavia. (below left)
Jeff Foott – Curious Creatures
The Californian condor was reintroduced to the San Pedro Mártir National Park, part of its historic range, in the mountains of Northern Baja California, Mexico. Most have wing tags, and are followed carefully by biologists. They have certain areas where they rest. This image was shot as one comes in to the ‘loafing’ area, where they are in a group. Some of the birds are fairly tame and curious – if you lie down and look ‘edible’, they will approach fairly close. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to get this image. (above right)
Sirachai Arunrugstitchai – The Disappearance…
This first image was taken when I was doing my Master’s on Age and Growth of Spottail sharks, where I needed to go around fish markets along the Andaman Coast of Thailand to conduct sampling. After I collected the vertebrae samples, people in the fish market cut the sharks into pieces, and this photo just popped up in my head, so I arranged the sharks in this shape, like when we photograph specimens for scientific purposes. Just with a missing body. Usually I don’t arrange anything, but I could not resist the urge to create this image for the symbolic meaning of disappearance of the sharks, which I have seen throughout my time in the field.
After I had spent some time working in fish markets talking to people, I finally got permission to access a shark fin factory. Here I saw thousands of small sharks and rays being butchered, filleted into unrecognized pieces of fish for export, while the fins of shark-like rays were also dried and marketed as shark fins. In fact, Thailand has grown to become one of the largest exporters (including re-export) of shark fins in the world, where the majority of the exports are small fins, and a large portion are from these rays.
I started market sampling in 2012, when I saw several hundred large sharks lying around for auction, but three years later I barely saw large-bodied sharks anymore, and not for a good reason. Overfishing had hugely impacted populations of the large sharks, and landings were mostly dominated by either juveniles and smaller, more fecund species, while also showing that the nursery area was also being exploited. A very shocking change in a very short span of time. This trend is shared in the waters around Southeast Asia, where sharks are being overfished. Actually, this was a part of my Master’s thesis on the shark fisheries in the Andaman Sea.
Tim Laman – My Highest Blind Ever Yields a Classic Photo
During the first year of my birds-of-paradise project I was working on an assignment for National Geographic, and the objective was not to photograph all the birds-of-paradise (that came later), but to capture some of the most iconic, most extraordinary, most beautiful species. In my estimation, the Red Bird-of-Paradise made that short list. That’s easy to say, but the Red Bird-of-Paradise was definitely not one of the easiest birds-of-paradise to photograph. It only inhabits a handful of islands off the western tip of New Guinea, in the Indonesian region called the Raja Ampat Islands, and once we got there, all we had to do was find the birds!
It proved a challenge, but we managed to locate their display tree, in what appeared to be the tallest tree in the whole area, at over 70m high. When attempting to photograph birds displaying in the canopy, what I usually do is to climb a tree adjacent to the one the birds are using, not the same one. But this tree was so much bigger than surrounding trees that this wasn’t an option. Instead, what I was going to try was to see if I could get up high enough in the opposite side of the tree crown from where the birds displayed.
It worked out and I finally found a place where I could make a seat by tying several poles across between two branches, and hang my camouflage material to make a simple blind. The distance to the branches where the birds were displaying, however, was borderline. In other words, I was worried about the blind spooking the birds from being a bit too close. So, I decided that for the first morning, instead of climbing up there, I would get some insurance shots by mounting a camera, focusing it on the main display perch, and triggering it from the ground with a remote control. This would also give the birds a day to get used to the blind without my being in it.
The next morning, I did get a few shots on my remote camera, but I wasn’t happy with them. The good thing was, the birds accepted the blind and came to their regular perches that first morning. For the next few days, I got into an early routine. Rising well before dawn, I hiked to the site and climbed my rope in the dark, hauling my camera and lenses in a pack dangling below me. I distinctly remember one morning, breaking out into the more open upper canopy and seeing an incredible starry sky as I inched up the rope in the blackness with my headlamp off. It was a surreal feeling, like I was climbing a rope into outer space.
The real excitement came though, once I got set up in the blind and it started to get light. One male Red Bird-of-Paradise in particular came repeatedly. The moment came when one male became excited by a nearby female and went to the broken off branch that appeared to be his prime display spot. He flipped upside down and hopped downwards along the branch while twisting back and forth. For just a moment, his tail wires fell into that perfect position framing his wings in the perfect heart shape – and I got the shot. I knew I had seen something special from a viewpoint perhaps never recorded before. There is always a feeling of luck when the elements come together to make a good wildlife photograph. But you don’t get a chance to experience that serendipity unless you make the effort to be there, in the right position, and ready!
Etienne Littlefair – Croc Watch!
The image was captured at night in an area where both saltwater and freshwater crocodiles occur, so the first and most important challenge in capturing this image was to do so safely. My wife Cara and I had scoped out various sections of the Pentecost, and smaller side creeks during daylight hours to find long, shallow (generally 30cm-1m depth) stretches without any deep holes or overhanging banks to hide substantial crocs. We also searched for areas broken into manageable search sections by cascades or shallow rocky riffles. We then scanned these areas at night using a powerful head torch. When a turtle was located at an appropriate spot, I would enter the water and carefully approach it, being careful not to slip on the algae-coated rocks. I always stayed as close to a good exit point as necessary, and Cara would stay ashore to keep constant watch in the unlikely event of a croc approach. I wore a 5mm wetsuit, and water boots for protection against the cold and abrasions, and a snorkel and mask. I used a red light once in the water so as to minimise disturbance to the turtle, which allowed me to approach very closely. Capturing this image required huge depth of field and particular hardware. I used a 15mm fisheye lens at f25, with the turtle’s face virtually touching my dome port, a 100mm ‘mini-dome’ allowing for extremely close focal distances. Lighting was another technical challenge for this image. To get light onto the front of the turtle’s face I had to position my strobes to shoot through the glass of the dome port. (below left)
Robert Thompson – Bright and Beautiful
Moths are never viewed with the same affection as their daytime butterfly cousins. Yet, many are beautifully patterned, with vibrant coloration as in the case of this species.
The False Tiger Moth (Dysphania militaris), is a species belonging to the Geometridae; a family of moths with many diverse and colourful species. The bright colours indicate that they are toxic by nature. Many species in the genus are nocturnal, but some are day-flying, as in this case. Most of the moths in this family are nervous and have a skittish nature, and fly easily if disturbed. Adults fly in bright sunshine and rest on branches and foliage when the weather is overcast. It has a widespread distribution across south-eastern Asia to the Philippines. (above right)
Shane Gross – Flexible Working
I searched high and low for a spot like this in the mangroves, where a tree branch reached out above the water. When I found it, I set my camera on the silty seabed, facing straight up. I didn’t have a remote trigger at the time so I struck a quasi-yoga pose to have my body as far away from my camera as possible to not scare away the sharks, while my toe hovered above the shutter release button. I then held the pose, still as possible in the strong tidal current, for several hours waiting for the baby lemon sharks to acclimatize to my presence. I was hoping for a single shark to swim above my camera, but to have a group of three was a dream come true! (below left)
Doug Perrine – Planning Pays Off
Because the Hawaiian Islands had no large terrestrial predators prior to the arrival of humans, these islands are among very few places in the world where green sea turtles, of both sexes, will haul themselves out of the water just to rest. Elsewhere only female sea turtles come ashore, and only to lay eggs and quickly return to the sea. In Hawaii, with tiger sharks swimming in nearshore waters, the turtles are actually safer on land than in their undersea habitat. This behaviour disappeared in Hawaii during the 20th century when many turtles were harvested, but began to reappear after these marine reptiles were protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Just a few years ago, only small numbers of turtles would haul out to rest on the small beach in front of this shoreline cavern. Recently that number has increased to over 50 turtles on some days, filling the cavern entirely.
This location is a closely-guarded secret, so my first task was to find the spot in an archipelago of 137 islands stretching over 1500 miles across the Pacific Ocean. The small beach and cavern can only be accessed by sea or by a treacherous climb around seaside rock faces, and is only possible during calm seas (while Hawaii is the capital of big wave surfing), and only at the right stage of the tidal cycle. To also get the sun shining into the cave, I had to go not only at the right time of day, but on the few days during the year when the sun was on the right azimuth relative to the cavern opening. Finally, I had to get lucky with the number of turtles. Too few and I would have dull pictures. With too many, they completely blocked my access into the cavern. Needless to say, it took a number of attempts over a period of years to get this shot. It also required extensive post-processing to create a seamless HDR (high dynamic range) image out of the several pictures required to obtain proper exposures for the deep recesses of the cave, the beach entrance, and the ocean, sky, clouds, and sun beyond. (above right)
Ingo Arndt – Honey Bees
(1) I used a thermal camera to visualize the different temperatures inside the bee nest. The lighter the colour in the picture, the higher the temperature. It is visible in this picture that the areas on the comb where the brood is stored are warmer than other areas. The brood needs a temperature of 35 degrees Celsius. The bees generate heat with the help of their flight muscles.
(2) A forager bee on a flower that is full of pollen. When visiting the flowers, bees ingest the fine pollen by mixing it with saliva and transporting it to the beehive in so-called “pollen pants” on their hind legs. The bees mainly collect the pollen as food for their brood. Pollen is the most important and first forage in spring. Unlike honey, pollen cannot be stored for months.
(3) The task of collecting water is fraught with danger for bees. If they fall into the water, it is very likely that they will drown. The water collectors fill their honey stomach with water and then fly back to the hive. If it is hot out, the insects use the water to cool down their hive and protect the brood. To do so, the nurse bees distribute drops of the water brought in by the collectors across the hive. Evaporation causes the air humidity to increase, thus decreasing the temperature in the hive. I offered the bees different places with water before I had an ideal location. Many bees passed by on hot summer days.
Nick Garbutt – Walrus Shuffle
While on what turned out to be a very unproductive trip to Svalbard, focusing on polar bears, we came across a small walrus colony on a remote beach. Approaching slowly from downwind, and crouching so as not to present an imposing outline, I gradually moved into a position about 15m away from the colony. They remained relaxed, so I lay down in the hope of getting some eye-level shots with a short telephoto lens. After about ten minutes one young walrus moved out of the cluster and started shuffling slowly towards me. There was no sign of aggression so I stayed still and quickly switched to a wide-angle lens (17-35mm). Within a short time, the walrus was right by me, sniffing me (maybe it thought I was a super-skinny walrus variant?) and towering above me. To get the low angle I was able to lie with my head in the sand looking upwards. In case you are wondering, walrus breath is really bad – think rotting cabbage missed with rotting fish!
Nick Garbutt – Playing With Your Food
This shot was taken at a well-known lodge that attracts toucans and other birds to feed stations cleverly designed to maximise photographic opportunities. Hundreds of photographers have similar pictures of Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucans and they are instantly identifiable as being from the lodge in question. Initially I was simply happy to get nice portrait photos – nothing special or different – but as I hadn’t photographed the species before I was happy with any worthwhile images. After a couple of days of this, things got a bit ‘samey’ so I concentrated on at least trying to get something a bit different or showing some behaviour. The lodge periodically put out fresh fruit and this was when the opportunities with the toucans were at their best. I focused on one particular individual that was feeding on fruit seeds, trying to time my taking shots with the toucan tossing seeds into the air and re-catching them. Using a 600mm lens at f4 allowed me to create the extreme out of focus background.
Enrique Lopez-Tapia – Spotlight on China
(1) A yak eats grass by the wall of one of the most beautiful and remote monasteries in the Tibetan region of Kham, the Buddhist Litang Monastery. Surrounded by round hills and a little out of the city, the soft, and warm evening light makes the golden rooftops sparkle in the sun, as if an enchanted city emerged from the prairies. Prayer flags flutter in the wind, monks recite mantras and yaks graze peacefully at magic hour.
(2,3) Fishing with trained cormorants dates back several centuries, but in modern times very few fishermen continue this type of traditional fishing. Today, the few elderly people who maintain and exhibit cormorant fishing live off tourism, in such spectacular places as the Li River in southern China, where fishermen on their wooden rafts are surrounded by fantasy peaks and mountains, covered with tropical forest. A magnificent setting for a tradition that is gradually being lost.
(4) Touring the Tibetan region of Kham, I found Buddhist monasteries far from the tourist routes. The life inside it remains as it did centuries ago. Austerity and tranquility are the norm inside. In a large room, I found a lama reciting mantras, surrounded by golden light filtering through the curtains. He smiled at me, and with a gesture he indicated that I was welcome. That’s when I took out my camera and began to photograph him in that moment of meditation so important to him.
In the last month we’ve been really busy adding great new marine material to our site, from Shane Gross, Jurgen Freund, Alex Mustard and Doug Perrine amongst others. There is also strong coverage on the polar regions, climate change and dramatic weather. And look out for some great photos of various owls and fascinating new images from Wild Wonders of China, featuring Taiwan endemics, rare species from the Tibetan plateau and honey buzzards feeding on honeycomb. Explore the full February Highlights gallery here.
Fred Olivier – Life on the Ice
The first image was captured near the French Antarctic station of Dumont D’Urville. Every year, to celebrate midwinter (the shortest day of the year), the expeditioners overwintering at the station use their imagination to do something special for this important day (which marks the days lengthening again and the very slow return of the sun, still 3 weeks away at that time). For the 2012 year, our wintering group had the idea of recreating an outdoor cinema (in -30 degrees C), projecting the old 16 mm films held at the station onto a nearby iceberg.
The second image was captured when I was dropped to overwinter, to film the Emperor Penguins for Planet Earth. It was our view before the Australian resupply vessel “Aurora Australis” left the harbour of Mawson station, leaving us in isolation for the best part of 9 months, because during winter the fast ice reforms and no ship can access this part of the Antarctic coast. As always, a somewhat emotional moment, when the 14 Mawson winterers were left to their own devices.
Terry Whittaker – Springtime Swans
I took this image towards the end of the first COVID lockdown last year. I usually take a camera along on my daily permitted exercise. Although I live in a fairly urbanised area of Greater Manchester, the River Tame is a short walk from my house and I can follow this once polluted, now restored river to Reddish Vale Country Park. Here, as well as the river itself, there are a series of old mill ponds where large numbers of waterfowl gather and are fed by visitors. I wanted to include the fresh spring foliage so I found a spot where I could photograph through a gap in the trees, using the leaves to frame the swan family. To keep within the spirit of the restrictions I don’t take a tripod or stay in any spot for long, just grabbing images as and when they present themselves. (below left)
Mateusz Piesiak – When The Elements Align
I photographed this group of wolves in the heart of the Polish forest in Bialowieża National Park. In wildlife photography there are days when you come back home without a single photo in your card, but sometimes you get lucky. While exploring the forest I saw this group of wolves. I quickly lay down and slowly took out my camera. My heart was beating like crazy. Fortunately for me, the wolves found something on the forest road and stopped for a while to smell it. That was the moment when they all came together. Because of the low perspective I was able to also show the beautiful surroundings around the wolves. The avenue of beeches with the last leaves on them, the light leaking in from the background and the first snow on the ground created a beautiful composition. That was a day I will definitely never forget! (above right)
Staffan Widstrand & Fabian Muhlberger (Wild Wonders of China) – Honey Buzzards
The story of the honey buzzards is an ecotourism success. The bees are not wild. After the beekeepers have taken out most of the honey from the hives, the wax cakes are set up as a bait to attract the honey buzzards for photography. They used to be thrown away as a waste product, but now they provide an ecotourism income, and less persecution of honey buzzards. Previously the honey buzzards were seen as competitors and a pest, now they’re seen as a source of income. Win-win!
Staffan Widstrand – Creatures of the High Plateau
The Kiang (or the Tibetan Wild ass) is a once very numerous and characteristic wild horse, that used to roam all across the grassy plains of the Tibetan high plateau at around 4000 m elevation. Then they were poached and shot by the hundreds of thousands, but now they seem to be coming back again in numbers, like most of China’s endangered animals, thanks to the nationwide hunting ban and the serious enforcement of it.
The Blue sheep is the staple food for the snow leopard over much of its range, and this flock of about 200 Blue sheep was preyed upon by snow leopards very regularly. To boost snow leopard numbers the strategy has been two-fold. Firstly, to boost the numbers of Blue sheep, so that the big cats don’t have to prey on livestock, and secondly, to pay compensation for livestock losses in some areas, like here in Angsai, at 4200 metres altitude. An additional bonus being that the presence of snow leopards can provide tourism income opportunities for the livestock owners.
Ashley Cooper – Torres Del Paine
I spent a week photographing landscapes, wildlife and climate change impacts in Torres Del Paine. The highlight was coming across a female Puma with three cubs, which I watched and photographed for around an hour. I wanted to document the aftermath of some of the wildfires that have impacted the national park, and the replanting provided an opportunity. Though I was only 10 metres from the road, I was stopped by a park guard and threatened with being thrown out of the national park. Turns out you are only allowed to leave the road on trail routes, only the entrance staff hadn’t told me this. At least it made a change to being harassed by security guards and police which have been something of an occupational hazard for me, after spending 16 years documenting the causes and impacts of climate change on every continent!
Ashley Cooper – Antarctic Travel
The other three images were all taken while I was employed by Antarctica 21, a specialist Antarctic travel company. I spent 6 weeks as expedition photographer onboard their ice strengthened vessel as well as lecturing about climate change to the clients onboard. Working for A21 is a fantastic opportunity for me to continue to document the impacts of climate change in the Antarctic, which is one of the fastest warming places on the planet, along with the Arctic. Antarctica is an extremely expensive place to visit, so to be able to get paid work down there is a real bonus for me.
Edwin Giesbers – Peregrines and Pelicans
Normally, the peregrine falcon can only be seen from a great distance as the birds have their nests on high buildings, church towers and power stations. But in Houten, at the Van der Valk Hotel, this beautiful bird of prey floats past the windows of hotel rooms, to the amazement of the guests. The nestbox is located on top of the balcony – on the 15th floor. Apparently, their stay at the hotel is good, because last year there was breeding success for the second time in a row, and after some time the 3 young falcons were doing flying exercises on the balustrade!
In the Netherlands as well as in large parts of Europe, the peregrine falcon was almost extinct around 1960 due to the effects of the insecticide DDT. Around 1990 only one pair sporadically bred in the Netherlands. Thanks to a ban on these insecticides, legal protection in many countries, but also due to the deployment of peregrine falcon work groups, the bird is on the rise and now as many as 150 pairs are breeding in the Netherlands.
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 Lake Kerkini and 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 the large bird is very photogenic with his bad hair day hairstyle. But the pelican species is seriously threatened. In Lake Kerkini however the breeding colony with 200 pairs pelicans is well-protected and every year they raise many youngsters.
Fisherman Thomas was one of the first fishermen to offer tourists the opportunity to observe the photogenic pelicans from close quarters from a fishing boat. Often, pelicans float near the bank where his boat is located. But once you are sailing in his boat with Thomas, it never takes long before they arrive. They know that Thomas has some fish to offer them. With a wide-angle lens I photographed the birds very close to the boat as they were squabbling over fish. The people in the villages around Lake Kerkini 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 in Lake Kerkini also faces a bright future.
Bence Mate – Dust Bath
African wild dog puppies play in the dust. After leaving their den and starting to follow their parents they learn the secrets of hunting in team within a few months. Wild dogs are the most efficient hunters – 80% of their attacks are successful; however, they are one of the most endangered species on earth. Due to the loss of their habitat and poaching there are now only about 3,000 left. I tracked them for 5 weeks, and photographed them in some fascinating situations.
Shane Gross – Too Close For Comfort
I spent nine days in the Florida Keys sea-grass beds waiting for elusive bonnethead sharks to swim by. While I waited, all sorts of creatures became interested in my camera which was sitting on the seabed, myself 15 feet away watching with a remote shutter release in hand. Lemon sharks, nurse sharks, southern stingrays, tarpon, barracuda, horseshoe crabs, and others all came by to say hello. This blue crab decided to crawl all over my camera, even pinching some of the wires which made me a little nervous. (below left)
Shane Gross – Pure Joy
Google maps is such an amazing resource! I was in Virginia, USA to document the amazing seagrass restoration project going on in that area, and scouting Google maps for other potential images. I knew this area of marshland in the Mockhorn Island State Wildlife Management Area would look stunning from a drone. So, each morning and evening, while not shooting underwater, I would put up my drone and look for the extra special patterns formed by the tidal flow of water through the marsh. I was like a kid in a candy store. Everywhere I pointed the camera was beauty. I particularly like this composition because it has a certain energy to it, like two figures dancing, pure joy. (above right)
Oscar Dewhurst – Camera Riding Shotgun
This image was taken one spring, when I spent several weeks on the Suffolk coast photographing the wildlife there. Early on in my stay, I had a few opportunities missed as my camera was in the boot of the car while I was driving along the quiet country lanes. From then on, I made sure to always have my camera on the passenger seat next to me in case I came across anything interesting. I regularly passed this meadow, and would always check to see if it had any wildlife that could look nice in the seasonal flowers and long grass. Almost every time I passed, it was devoid of activity, but on this occasion a male pheasant was wandering through it. For the most part, it was obscured by the grass, but when it came to this small clearing, I was able to get some photos of it in the open. (below left)
Sandesh Kadur – No Way To Go
Sandwiched between tourists’ vehicles on both sides, this tigress, from Ranthambhore, pauses to look back not at the tourists, but for her third cub, not in frame. Over the years tigers have learned to adapt to the tourists and make their way past the vehicles seemingly undeterred. I was personally very surprised to see how bold these tigers were. It seems they know that these gigantic creatures with wheels can only move around on the jeep track and when it gets too much, the tigress just moves her cubs off the track and away from the chaos. Tourism, double-edged as it may be, has certainly done more good than harm. Now it’s up to us how we regulate tourism. Perhaps the way forward is to create a hundred more such protected paradises like Ranthambhore. Better yet, is to connect these places together through corridors. (above right)
Roy Magnersnes – Aerial Perspective
I captured this image while hosting a photography expedition to Svalbard. As we had been sailing in dense fog all day, I decided that we should take our chances and head for the Austfonna glacier. Very often we experience the fog lifting over the cold glaciers and so it proved this time. As we arrived, just around midnight, the glacier wall started showing through the fog, and as we got close, we could see how it lifted over the plateau glacier as well. I spent some time photographing the glacier wall and as my clients starting calling it a night, I lifted my drone for a different perspective. Getting up high really shows the magnificent Austfonna glacier and the water runoffs that end up being the famous waterfalls that come off it. I was lucky that the fog stayed away from the glacier while I was shooting, but as I started descending it rolled back in and I had to bring down the drone. Luckily, I managed to navigate my wet drone back to our expedition ship. (below left)
Tui De Roy – Nesting Site
Everyone thinks of penguins as living in Antarctica, but while gentoo penguins are indeed common around the Antarctic Peninsula, there is a lovely little colony nesting on a tiny island in the middle of the Beagle Channel, not far from Argentina’s southernmost city of Ushuaia. As is the way with gentoos everywhere, their favourite nest-building material consists of round pebbles with which they construct cratered mounds, important in order for rain or meltwater to drain away, keeping their eggs and chicks dry. But unlike the Antarctic landscape, here they are surrounded by lush greenery, and the snowy mountains in the distance are those of the Darwin Range in Tierra del Fuego. After a boat ride out of Ushuaia’s main port, I wanted to catch this unusual setting by focusing a long lens on the penguins, compressing the green of the vegetation and the blue of the mountains all in one shot. (above right)
Jurgen Freund – Natural Spectacles
(1) At the height of the Australian summer in 2018 when there was so much electricity in the atmosphere, we were at the end of the Coolangatta Beach in the Gold Coast ready to watch the skyline of Surfers Paradise light up with the nightly lightning storm. For around twenty minutes we time-lapsed the entire duration of the storm passing through and photographed dozens of images which were merged into this single photograph. It was quite insane to be watching so much lightning from our safe distance of around 25 kilometres!
(2) On assignment to photograph coral regeneration in the Great Barrier Reef, we had photographed coral spawning in November, diving on the night of the predicted spawning waiting and waiting (and waiting) for the underwater “snowstorm” to happen – getting very cold by the end of each dive. And this being a split year, spawning was happening again in December. For this image, we went to the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s Sea Simulator where coral scientists had earlier gathered gravid Acropora corals from the wild to bring back to the SeaSim lab. At around 8pm, we waited for the scientists to tell us exactly when the spawning was going to happen – when the egg bundles were appearing at the tip of each coral polyp. We had an aquarium set up for us in a separate room which we could light. The entire lab outside was left in darkness with scientists using red head torches to see. Once the coral was about to spawn, having bright lights on did not matter anymore. So we felt extremely spoiled being handed this coral by a scientist, which spawned on cue and we happily watched and photographed the miracle of coral spawning in the comfort of a sophisticated lab, dry, breathing and not needing a dive tank.
(3) We were told to leave Koror mainland early in the morning for the Jellyfish Lake. We reached the lake as the sun was just rising above the thick forest at the far end of the lake’s entrance, about a kilometre away, as this was where the sun was to hit the water first. The jellyfish only come up to the surface when there is sun and during the night and darkness, they swim back to the lower depths of the lake. We had to snorkel to the other end of the lake and saw just a few mastigias here and there on our way, with our guide leading the way. Once we reached the far side, we were at first really disappointed as we didn’t see all that many jellyfish and the sun was already up and hitting the water. And suddenly, like unbelievable synchronicity, they surfaced altogether from the deep and we were totally surrounded by thousands of these stingless jellyfish. Magic.
Konrad Wothe – Putting On A Show
In autumn 2019 I travelled to Papua New Guinea to photograph some of the most wonderful birds in the world, the Birds of Paradise. There are 42 species in this family worldwide, 38 living in New Guinea. Most Birds of Paradise inhabit dense rainforests and show a complex courtship behaviour. It was an adventurous trip up to a little village on the steep slopes of the Eastern Highlands where no roads exist except one narrow muddy track. At times at least ten strong helpers were needed to push and pull with a rope the 4×4 Jeep up the mountain. From the little village called Kiowe it took a further hour’s hike up a steep slippery track to reach the area of Lawes’s parotia (Parotia lawesii), a very shy black bird the size of a Jackdaw with deep blue eyes. Hidden in the undergrowth the male birds clear some two square meters of forest floor that they use as display grounds for their sophisticated courtship dance.
At one of these display grounds two local guides and I set up a little hide made of branches and big tree fern fronds. Early every morning, I climbed up to sit in the blind to be ready before sunrise. Some days in the first crepuscular light, up to 4 males at a time showed up at the arena and started hopping around, from left to right and from right to left several times. Eventually one or two females also came to watch the scene from a low branch nearby. It was a funny looking behaviour that I could not interpret. There should be only one male and his job would be to dance. I sat for 11 days from sunrise till late afternoon in different blinds at different display sites, but no dances took place. So, I moved to another camp even higher up in the mountains and finally on the fifth day a pretty male bird showed me his marvellous dance in front of my camera. First, he cleaned the dance floor from fallen leaves, then when a female had taken her place in the audience the male made a deep bow, then he spread his dancing skirt and tripped from left to right and back while constantly swinging his head to-and-fro and the six, long flag-like feathers over his head performed their own dance. His golden metallic shining throat was blinking in the dark. Luckily, I got one nice video sequence of this dance and one rewarding photograph. In all the five weeks of my trip to Papua New Guinea I had this only one chance with a dancing Lawes’s parotia.
Fabio Pupin – Hide and Seek
I took this picture of a red fox in the southern part of the Negev desert, after a couple of weeks roaming the vast arid central plateaus, enjoying its rich wildlife. I was scanning the surroundings with my binoculars, not actually looking for foxes, since the species native to the Negev – Rüppell’s fox and Blanford’s fox – are mostly nocturnal and hard to spot during the day. A furry tail among the rocks caught my attention though, and after a while I saw it again – a red fox! I slowly moved closer until, despite all my efforts, the fox spotted me too and disappeared behind the rocks. However, I did not see it running away, so I got a few metres closer and I waited. After just a few seconds, she peeked out, looking at me again, just curious. I sat for a while taking pictures of the fox peeking and hiding back in her den until she disappeared for good.
Red foxes have entered the Negev only in recent years, most probably along the Jordan Rift Valley, and are now spreading relatively freely. While the human settlements are growing, they find new food resources and thrive, thanks to their adaptability. They are perceived as pests by the public, as happens in almost any other country where they live, and they are monitored to prevent rabies outbreaks, but they are also among the wildlife species protected by law in Israel. Even if red foxes are usually more abundant closer to human settlements, they may compete with the native foxes, which are more sensitive to human presence. (below left)
Claudio Contreras – Splendid Stripes
The Splendid Toadfish is an endangered fish that was once believed to be endemic to Cozumel Island, but that has now been spotted in at least two other sites in the Mesoamerican Reef. It’s very difficult to spot since it lives underneath coral but I was fortunate to dive with one of Cozumel Reef’s park rangers and he knew exactly where to find one. There is not much information on this species, but apparently males make dens underneath the coral where they guard fertilized eggs. (above right)
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The full galleries of images can be found here,