Our June Highlights features a fascinating mixture of new images added to the site this month.
Flamingos feature prominently, from Mexico, Bolivia and Kenya, including an in-depth study of the Caribbean flamingo by Claudio Contreras. Other highlights include unusual Kirlian images from Pal Hermansen, mountain hares and red foxes at night by Erlend Haarberg and Milan Radisics, and pin-sharp bizarre slime moulds from Andy Sands. You will also find some breathtaking UK landscapes from Guy Edwardes, pygmy squid from Japan and a range of Asian, African and Australian flora and fauna.
Our photographers share insights and stories from behind the scenes…
Doug Gimesy – Stop Thief
This is one of those action photos that you don’t know you have, until you look back at the screen later. We were on Macquarie Island watching this a colony of Royal penguins, and occasionally a Skua would dive into it to try and steal an egg. So, every time I saw one take off, I would just point the camera in the general direction, try and follow it, keeping it in the middle of the screen, and shoot as many shots as I could …with the camera on autofocus!
The noise was incredible as the colony squawked and snapped at the Skuas making their escape. I had no idea whether I had caught anything until I looked back a few minutes later. (below left)
Doug Gimesy – At Home in the Forest
This photo was a labour of love. It took me 1 year of planning, 8 days of travelling all up, 3 days in a forest, and 272 sandfly bites to get this photo! There are less than 2,500 breeding pairs of the Fiordland penguin in the world and they are currently classified on the IUCN red list as vulnerable to extinction. As well as climate change related impacts, they are under threat from introduced predators such as dogs, cats, stoats and rats.
What makes them super interesting to me, is that they are unique in that they breed and nest north of the subtropical convergence, in the temperate rainforests of New Zealand’s rugged Fiordland southwest coast and its outlying islands. Breeding under high rainforest canopy in caves, under overhangs, or in dense vegetation, they will sometimes travel hundreds of meters inland, climbing up hills or swimming up streams to gain access to their burrows. Here I photographed a few returning home along their forest path, after a day of foraging in the ocean. (above right)
Claudio Contreras – Pretty In Pink
As dawn breaks over Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, a breeding colony of Caribbean Flamingos sits atop nests that each bird has constructed from mud. Ría Lagartos, located in the state of Yucatán, is home to Mexico’s largest and most important flock of Caribbean flamingos. In 2018, a record of 21,960 nests were counted! The reserve is perfect for the flamingos. For their proper development, they require shallow water with varying salt concentrations. The salt lagoons at Ría Lagartos fit the bill, and are teeming with algae and small invertebrate like brine shrimp—one of the flamingos’ all-time favourite foods. With such plentiful food supplies, there is nowhere better for the flamingos to raise their chicks. For the full photo story click here, or check out the accompanying gallery.
Ann & Steve Toon – Taking Time To Look Back
This is a picture that for us sums the feeling of freedom and space you can have on a walk through the endless empty landscapes and rugged scenery of Northumberland – our home county – on a summer’s day. The weather’s fine, but the clouds keep you guessing, and they’re about the only company you’ll have, save for a few other hikers ticking off the mile-posts on the famous Hadrian’s Wall path.
We’d been trying to find an image like this all day with no luck and were actually on our way back to the car, and about to give up, when we stopped for a breather and looked about us for a minute. The stile we’d just climbed suddenly struck us as exactly what we’d been looking for. A focal point to our image that acted to invite the viewer to hop over and go explore that brooding, historic landscape for themselves. We learned a good lesson that day – always check back over your shoulder when you’re on the hunt for pictures; the thing you’re looking for could be right behind you…
Pal Hermansen – Flower Power
As a photographer, I have always felt an intense desire to explore and convey the basic power and energy of life through images. After several, not very successful, approaches, I went to Kirlian Photography. And now, I have never felt closer to the goal. The Kirlian images simply is a physical depiction of the energy of life! Even if we still cannot explain every detail of it, we can at least depict it in an image!
Kirlian photography is a form of electro-photography that originated in Eastern Europe in the late 19th century, developed by Czech and Belarusian researchers. But it was not until 1939 that the technique gained attention, when the Russian electro-engineer Semyon Kirlian and his wife Valentina observed that biological objects could exhibit a glowing “aura” around them when exposed to a high-voltage current. This glow could also be photographed. Although the images have later sometimes been connected with obscure “aura photography”, it is actually a rational explanation for the halo that arises. The results were first published in 1958, but did not become known in the West until in the 1970’s.
Traditionally, the Kirlian images have been created by placing a photographic sheet film and a grounded object together on a copper plate, which in turn is connected to a high-voltage power source. Only after developing the film, is it possible to observe the effect. Recently, however, a transparent, conducting plate has been produced that makes it possible to observe and control the Kirlian effect in real time and photograph it digitally, in colour. Thereby much better opportunities open up for working in a controlled way and creating visually interesting images.
Although both metals, birds and animals can give rise to Kirlian images, my favourite subject, like for the early pioneers, is still plants. This is naturally related to the fact that plants can most often be studied in a two-dimensional perspective. But I have also developed the process further and adapted it to some three-dimensional motifs, such as larger flowers.
Even though I have now achieved some control with the technique, the image results are still unpredictable. It can be frustrating, but the lack of reproducibility is also fascinating. Often it is only possible to have one exposure taken, since some plants almost “burn up” before more images can be made. Many species are not at all suited for this kind of photography. But from time to time, magical and exciting moments emerge, where structures and forms are revealed that cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is the results of such moments of visual surprise that appear on these pages.
Richard Du Toit – Horns and Hooves
(Giraffe) Isimangaliso is s fantastic park, with varied habitats and nice roads where I encountered these young giraffe… There was a herd of about 15, and on some days they were close enough to the road to take photos of. It’s not one of the big-name parks, but it is definitely very worth a visit, especially for birds. A bonus being it is also not crowded with visitors.
(Gemsbok) A roadside scene in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. What an epic park! Nowadays this park is so popular it can be a struggle to get a booking. As with most wildlife, things happen suddenly and often without notice – these two gemsbok suddenly clashed horns. Spotting the action is not usually the problem, the tricky part is getting good view with the camera!
(Black Rhino) I seldom see black rhino as they are shy and rare. This individual was sleeping in tall grass by the road and suddenly stood up – we were both equally surprised! The tricky thing here was focusing through the tall grass, but I managed to capture this photo, one of my favourites of a black rhino. It also had a beautiful horn. Sadly, nowadays many rhinos are dehorned for their own safety, and even more rarely seen due to the ongoing poaching.
(Waterbuck) In winter and spring, the Mopani trees in some parts of the Kruger turn a beautiful range of red and gold. Unfortunately, the bush is very thick and few animals live in the Mopani, so it can be hard to photograph animals amongst the trees. However, I encountered these waterbuck and positioned myself to photograph them through soft focused leaves, creating this beautiful effect.
Jen Guyton – New Beginnings
Sunrise on the floodplain of Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, is especially enchanting during the dry season. Before the rains arrive, the clouds begin to gather and the sun’s rays filter through the smoke from widespread bush fires. The fires are an important part of this type of ecosystem, keeping Africa’s iconic savannas from becoming woodlands. They also spur the grasses to shoot up nutritious new growth, causing the savanna to explode into brilliant green as soon as the first rains arrive. The fires, like this sunrise, are a new beginning. Together, they bathe the park in an otherworldly glow, a sure sign that the rains will soon arrive and revive the landscape. Here, a few male waterbuck amble along the plain, waiting for the rains to come.
Guy Edwardes – Patience is Key
Landscape photography often requires long periods waiting for the light to be just right. I’ve photographed the pattern of walls at the base of Wasdale in the Lake District several times, but I’d never managed to capture them in nice light. Last December I had an opportunity to try again. This time I climbed the side of Great Gable at about 12pm. Conditions looked perfect with occasional breaks in otherwise quite heavy cloud… ideal for creating a spotlight effect on the valley below.
However, with the sun close to the horizon at that time of the year any shafts of sunlight were very few and far between. It wasn’t until 3pm that a single burst of light momentarily illuminated the fields below. During four hours of waiting the light was right for only thirty seconds…but that was enough to be able to capture the shot I had in mind. (below left)
Guy Edwardes – Misty Morning
Snow in Dorset is rare at the best of times, but last winter there was only one day with snow on a ground for any significant period of time. As is often the case it was only north Dorset that caught it. Whenever I’m at home and snow is forecast, I will always head north to the Cranborne Chase area in the hope that some might have settled on the higher ground. On this particular morning I wasn’t disappointed, as not only was there snow but mist as well! I had to think quickly to find a location that might work in these conditions and remembered a lone tree at the edge of a valley.
I had tried to photograph this tree before, but it always blended into the distant hillside beyond. The mist on this morning helped to separate the tree to allow it to become a distinct foreground focal point. (above right)
Denis-Huot – Different Perspectives
Lake Bogoria, is an alkaline lake located just north of the equator in Kenya, and at times is home to one of the world’s largest populations of lesser flamingos.
‘Around a small, inaccessible islet on Lake Bogoria, lesser flamingos congregate in these shallow waters. Using a drone allows you to capture this view from above, giving a totally different perspective.’
Lake Magadi is the southernmost lake in the Kenyan Rift Valley, it is an alkaline lake, approximately 100 square kilometers in size. During the dry season, it is 80% covered by soda and is well known for its wading birds, including flamingos.
‘If the rains are not abundant, Lake Magadi in southern Kenya can be adorned with bright pink patches of soda drying in the sun. Only aerial shots can fully show the depth of colour.’
The Samburu National Reserve lies on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river in Kenya, with the Buffalo Springs National Reserve lying on the other side. The river provides the flora and fauna of this region with a lifeline, without which, little would survive.
‘In Buffalo Springs (Samburu), a source permanently feeds a small natural swimming pool and a river which allows all the fauna of this desert area a constant water source. Michel was having lunch after swimming in the pool, when these elephants came nearby. Our flight at an altitude of 150 m did not bother them at all.’
Mont Saint Michel is an island commune, that lies of the north-western coast of Normandy. Classed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it is a popular tourist attraction, with the abbey being used as both a religious site, and a prison at various times in its history.
‘We had settled down to spend the night on the edge of the salted pastures of Mont Saint-Michel, the tide was low revealing the sandy expanses of the bay. A drone flight in the magnificent late-evening light made it possible to convey the atmosphere of the bay.’