We’re heading into November with a selection of highlights that have been added to the site over the last two months.
September saw a great influx of underwater and marine imagery from both warm and cold seas. Ben Cranke has returned from the sub-Antarctic with great coverage on king penguins and elephant seals. There is also plenty of European wildlife and an interesting submission from Robert Thompson featuring silk moths and Irish landscapes. And of course, much more – browse the gallery to view the full selection, including both stills and video clips.
Kim Taylor – Very Hungry Caterpillars
The first sign that sawfly caterpillars were active on the willow tree was a series of small holes appearing in one of its leaves. Tiny caterpillars were nibbling at the edges of these holes and it seemed that a time lapse sequence of them eating their way through the leaf would be interesting. However, the prospect of producing worthwhile time lapse under natural conditions was limited. Even a slight breeze would cause the tree to sway and the leaf to move and daylight would tend to overwhelm whatever artificial light was used to continue the sequence during the night. For these reasons, the willow branch on which the caterpillars were situated was brought into the studio where it was firmly mounted with its base in water. By this time, the small holes were visibly growing larger. With the camera taking a shot every two minutes, the leaf was beginning to look somewhat ragged after the first day. Then, unexpectedly, tiny holes began to appear in a part of the leaf as yet undamaged. Another batch of sawfly eggs, unnoticed on the underside of the leaf, had hatched and the minute caterpillars were beginning to feed. Unfortunately for them, their bigger cousins were demolishing the leaf at a far greater rate, and many were moving off to find other leaves higher up the branch. It is not clear what happened to the second batch of caterpillars as few made it to other leaves on the branch, which was returned to the tree a day later complete with the larger caterpillars.
Robert Thompson – Northern Ireland landscapes
Comprising six of the nine counties, which make up the province of Ulster, Northern Ireland has many iconic locations for landscape photography. What is so fascinating about this small, but remarkable country is the diversity of its special landscapes and unique coastline, some 195 miles in length, part of which encompasses the UNESCO World Heritage site at the Giants Causeway on the north Antrim coast.
Lying approximately 100 miles south on the County Down coast are the famous Mountains of Mourne, immortalised in Percy French’s iconic song, “Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the Sea”. The high Mournes comprise 12 peaks, each over 600m, the highest being Slieve Donard at 853m. The Mournes are one of the oldest mountain ranges in Ireland, dating back 50 million years ago. Lough Shannagh, located at 390m in the high Mournes is surrounded with deeply incised peaks and is the largest natural lake formed 10,000 years ago when the melting ice retreated.
Robert Thompson – Exotic Moths
Moths have always been seen as the poor relatives of butterflies. These inhabitants of the night receive much less attention than their flamboyant butterfly cousins. People’s perception of moths is often one of indifference however, they are much more unassuming creatures, secretive, yet their beauty and colour surpasses many butterflies.
Saturniidae are a group of super moths belonging to the family Lepidoptera, with around 2,350 species mainly of tropical origin. They are among the largest moths in the world, with some species having a wingspan of 16cm. Males have large, feathery antennae which are used to locate females many kilometres away. Some species contain large eyespots on their hindwings, which remained concealed when at rest but are exposed when the adult moth is threatened. Saturniids are nervous moths by nature and challenging in many ways to photograph.
David Noton – Misty Mountains
Down in Chamonix the valley lies under a thick layer of fog, but at the Aiguille du Mdid it’s a pristine winter morning with views as far as the Matterhorn. I’d waited a week for conditions like these, catching the first cable car up the mountain every day. I was wheezing in the cold, thin air with a stinking cold that would turn to bronchitis after this mountain foray, but what a view… (below left)
Daniel Heuclin – Taming of the Shrew
This shrew was captured by hand by my companion. We placed her in a small terrarium lined with sphagnum moss and dead leaves. We fed her with insects (we breed cockroaches to feed our lizards!) and earthworms, and quickly, she picked up the bugs and devoured them. She has become very friendly, so I took the opportunity to photograph her. Captured as an adult, we kept her for a year. Then we released back into our garden, where she had been captured originally. (above right)
Neil Aldridge – Patience Pays Off
Just seeing an osprey plunge-dive for a fish is one of the most exhilarating wildlife watching experiences. Thanks to conservation efforts over the last few decades, Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park is one of the best places to see these birds and experience this spectacle. However, capturing it on camera is another thing altogether. In recent years I have only tried to photograph these ospreys. You can’t see the bird approaching because you’re tucked away out of site in a bunker hide, so you only have a split second to react as it drops seemingly out of nowhere and crashes into the water in an explosion of water and wings. My pictures were like everybody else’s – a sequence from the osprey chest-deep in water through to lifting itself clear, dripping wet with a fish in its talons. For me though, the part of the action I wanted to capture was the final few moments before the bird hits the water when it throws its feet forward and stretches its talons out in front of its face, primed for impact with water and prey. I want people to see and appreciate how exciting these birds are and to feel proud that we have them thriving here in Britain once again.
So, I felt the best way to do that was to film a dive in slow motion. The only snag was – as I mentioned – you can’t see the birds approaching. This meant picking a patch of water, composing a wide-enough shot to capture the approach, pre-focussing, hitting record and hoping that the bird would dive where I envisaged it would. With my second camera I could then use a longer lens on a fluid head and try to react quick enough to catch the moment in greater detail. Even though the water body is relatively small, it’s hard to predict where the ospreys will appear. One dive was so close to the edge – something that the birds rarely risk because of the shallow depth – that the splashes hit the hide. Fortunately for me though, I struck it lucky first time. I’m a firm believer that the longer you spend in the field watching and photographing your subjects that you reduce the element of luck required to get the shot, but getting this dive at the first attempt even surprised me.
Ben Cranke – King of the Penguins
I was fortunate enough to travel to South Georgia Island as one of only 7 passengers, aboard an expedition yacht. Spending close on three weeks on the archipelago meant plenty of time with King Penguins. I set out to try and portray their tough lives in that harsh environment, by photographing their daily activities. This first involved watching them as they moved around, and then deciding on how to depict these behaviours photographically. The trip was timed to be at the islands in early spring, when there was still plenty of snow on the ground. This meant clean white backgrounds, adding to the imagery. The penguins are preyed on by leopard seals, with the result that they like to move around in groups. Walking through fresh snow fall can also be tough for the large and heavy birds, so they also usually stick to well-trodden paths. With this in mind, I photographed them with a variety of focal length lenses, including wide angle images from cameras I positioned low to the ground and concealed with snow, releasing the shutter using wireless remote triggers from a respectable distance.
The weather conditions where harsh, with snow fall on most days and icy katabatic winds whipping up blizzards on several. Beach landings from a small zodiac can also be tough in South Georgia, so once landed I tended too not return to the yacht till the day was done, which meant long landing days of up to 11 hours with no shelter from the conditions or anything to eat or drink, carrying all my camera gear for the full period. The toughest, but most rewarding day for photography, was when a blizzard swept through St Andrew’s Bay. We were fortunate to be able to land in the high winds. Once landed, navigation was tough due to substantially reduced visibility, and keeping my fingers warm enough to operate a camera through thin gloves, a challenge. However, I marvelled at how the penguins managed to go about their activities in such extreme conditions. They formed large, tightly packed clusters to share body heat, and in a short time were covered in a layer of wind driven snow. This also meant myself and my cameras were also soon snow and ice covered, the cameras needing regular cleaning to keep them operational. Despite the ferocity of the storm, photographing such magnificent birds exhibiting how perfectly adapted they are to this inhospitable, yet beautiful environment, was an experience I will always cherish.
Pascal Kobeh – Circling Sharks
It was the end of the dive. Boats no longer feed the sharks, but they must have done in the past, because as soon as the sharks hear the engines of the boat they gather and come close. On this picture there are only Caribbean reef sharks, but there are also silkies with the same behaviour. Of course, they were not interested in me. Even though the weather was not as calm as I wanted that day, I managed to get this split shot. (below left)
Sergio Hanquet – Marine Tangle
For those of us who sail daily and in the open sea, encountering floating objects adrift is increasingly common. This image was made on the outskirts of the island of Tenerife in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It is an art of fishing that is not allowed in the Canary archipelago. It was also not operational and curiously, due to the type of mesh and ropes used, it can be deduced that it came from non-Canarian fishing boats and has likely been dragged into these waters by the wind and marine currents. Although the absence of algae and other possible objects accumulated shows that it has only been adrift for a short time. The only consolation, is the reality is that, in front of this immense oceanic desert, small fish and pelagic invertebrates find this the ideal place to protect themselves from possible predators. (above right)
Nick Upton – Mermaid’s Purse
Many years ago, as a university biologist, I studied invertebrates of rocky shores, spending long hours peering under rocks and into rockpools at low tide. Now, as a photographer, I still visit rocky shores to hunt for whatever I can find on the lowest tides of the year, using a range of techniques to photograph shore life above and below water.
On the very lowest tides, I sometimes come across quite large fish stranded in rockpools, including Lesser spotted catsharks who lay their strange “mermaid’s purse” eggs in the summer among seaweed, attached with curly tendrils. I often find old, darkened egg cases washed up on the shore, and occasionally find young, transparent egg cases like the one in this clip with single embryos developing into young fish with beating tails and hearts, attached to a large yolk sac with an umbilical cord.
This fish would be around 3 to months old, with another 3 months or so to go before hatching out as a perfectly formed young Catshark. I got this video clip by dipping a 45cm long waterproof macro probe lens underwater while lying full length beside the rock pool to operate the camera above water. Sunlight was enough to illuminate the egg case for video shots and I added some extra flashgun lighting for some matching stills.
Alex Mustard – Underwater Worlds
(left) Kelp forests are really important for our coastal environment; 389 different species of British marine life have been recorded living on this species of kelp alone. Photographing it is tough because it grows so densely – I had to plunge my camera down into the fronds to get this photo, which shows one of the major herbivores, a sea urchin feeding on the forest. I really like this view as it reveals a secret view of the forest, one that is hard for us to see normally, unless we are willing to plunge out head down through this underwater canopy.
(middle) For obvious reasons I haven’t been photographing coral reefs for a while and this enforced absence has drawn me to some of the subjects, like anemonefish, which were my favourites when I first saw this amazing marine habitat. This species is a spinecheek and is a male. This species has one of the biggest differences between the males and females. The latter can be 2-3 times bigger and is a deep crimson colour, often looking almost black underwater. If all works out well, this young male will one day become a female. Anemone are male-first hermaphrodites.
(right) The rain was pelting down when I took this photo and although it was daytime, it was almost completely dark in the waters of this Scottish loch. This beast is a long clawed squat lobster which has made its home in a discarded bottle. I like to think it is a whisky bottle, but I suspect it once contained beer! I used a brand new underwater bug-eye’s view lens for this image, which really allowed me to get down to the eye level of this crustacean.
Edwin Giesbers – Owls of All Sizes
Long-eared owls are among the few owl species that live together with other species. From September to early spring, they sit together in a roosting tree. The roosting trees are even in residential areas, and research has shown that these owls have a greater chance of survival. The rust tree is also the place where new relationships arise: in January the first contacts are made between females and males
In a small village near my hometown of Nijmegen – in a street with several houses – there are a number of trees that have been home to a large number of long-eared owls, up to 15 owls, every autumn and winter for many years. Every year I go and have a look, and sometimes it seems that there are no owls, but if I look a little longer and better, I always discover them. (below left)
With the size of a blackbird, the little owl is our smallest owl. It is a well-known owl in mainly small-scale agricultural cultural landscapes and often breeds on farmyards. Unlike the previous owls, the little owl is active during the day, especially in the morning and afternoon and evening during the breeding period. That fact and also the occurrence in the environment of humans offers new and different photographic possibilities than with long-eared owl and tawny owl. You spot the owls best when they are on the lookout on the ridge of a barn or in the vicinity of the breeding site where they often sit on poles on the lookout. Because little owls are small and yet also quite shy, you will get the best results if you photograph them from a hiding place.
Both in Belgium and the Netherlands there are a number of providers of commercial huts from which you can photograph owls. The advantage of this type of photo hut is that you will get owls in front of your lens with little effort and with a high probability. Often very close by and the setting is arranged in such a way that you can still get some variation in the picture. In such a commercial photo hut I was able to photograph this little owl. The biggest problem was not the owl but the other photographers who were quite noisy – I was afraid the owl would fly away! (above right)
Joao Burini – Pumpkin Toadlet
Despite their striking coloration, these Brachycephalus toads are so small that it’s actually hard to notice them walking on leaf litter. I had to cautiously scan the ground for them in places they’re known to occur to find one, just like if they were camouflaged toads. One of the characteristics I find most interesting about these Brachycephalus is how highly endemic they are. As a genus that only lives in high altitude forests, it means that the hill tops they reside upon act the same way as islands for speciation, and sadly, having such limited geographic distributions also means these species are very vulnerable to landscape changes. This individual was photographed in the Atlantic Forest of the Mantiqueira mountain range, the same region were Brachycephalus rotenbergae was described in 2021 as a new species split from Brachycephalus ephippium. (below left)
Joao Burini – Black Weevils Mating
This pair of weevils were found during a nocturnal walk to photograph spiders in the Atlantic Forest. Under the cover of the night, it’s amazing to see how much invertebrate activity occurs on the same foliage that I’d previously seen empty during the day. Being able to closely approach behaviours like this mating scene without causing interference is challenging, it takes practice, but is also very rewarding. To focus this close, I used the reverse lens technique with a 18-55 kit lens, and a weak flash with a DIY diffuser held slightly behind the subjects to highlight their silhouettes. (above right)
Jo-Anne McArthur – Conservation Through Public Health
When I think back to taking these photos, I remember clearly wanting to respect the privacy of these incredible animals. They are habituated and have been visited by many conservationists, rangers, vets, tourists, photographers, you name it. It’s important that these endangered individuals be recorded in time and place by photographers, so I did it as unobtrusively as I could. When photographing animals, I stay aware of their body language, and make eye contact – or not – depending on how much they express a desire for engagement. The rain was pouring down, which added an extra challenge, as the gorillas tried to stay dry under shrubs and trees. I was able to get a few photos before the troop wandered away onto higher ground. Something I find truly mesmerizing about primates is their smell. It’s something I always appreciate and recall fondly. It’s a musty, earthy smell, sometimes truly pungent.
I admire that Dr. Gladys is not only a skilled veterinarian but an entrepreneur and community organizer. She knows well that to help non-human animals, we have to help we animals, too. This is why she founded Conservation Through Public Health: keeping humans healthy means keeping gorilla populations healthier and thriving. And to keep additional deforestation, habitat loss, and poaching at bay, it’s crucial that people have good, and ethical, jobs. Gorilla Coffee creates jobs and money made from the company also serves conservation efforts. Pretty amazing stuff. It was really neat to see one aspect of that business: the hands-on, fun-to-photograph business of coffee harvesting and cleaning. What a pleasure!
Ross Hoddinott – Journey’s End
When you live in Cornwall, the journey to the Outer Hebrides is a long one. It is a 14-hour drive to the beautiful Isle of Skye, and then a 2-hour ferry ride from Uig to Tarbert. But all the driving and effort is worthwhile when you arrive. The Isles of Lewis and Harris are simply breath-taking. It’s like stepping back in time. The landscape is unspoilt and largely untouched and their isolated beaches are among the most beautiful in the World. Luskentyre is particularly picturesque and renowned. White sand is kissed by clear turquoise waters and mountain peaks form a dramatic backdrop. I visited this beach almost every morning during my week-long stay. On the penultimate morning, the conditions were finally kind to me – warm, early morning sunlight bathed the dunes and tufts of marram grass and allowed me to capture a shot that came close to capturing the isolation and beauty of this wonderful place.
Ross Hoddinott – A Beautiful Bug
I was bringing in some wood to burn on our log fire when, among the log pile, I noticed this stunning little shieldbug wandering about. Before safely rehoming the insect, I decided to grab my camera and macro lens and take a few quick photographs. I gently placed the bug on a colourful leaf and then positioned my camera overhead to highlight the insect’s shape and markings. The leaf created a simple, but colourful background and the bug kept relatively still for a couple of minutes. I didn’t detain it long, though, and had soon rehoused the insect safely in our little wood which we manage purposefully for nature.
Yashpal Rathore – Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary
Kibber is a picturesque little village on the higher regions of Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, known for the Kibber Monastery and the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. Standing at a height of 4270 metres, Kibber is known as the highest motorable village in the world. The local community has been partnering with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), the Snow Leopard Trust’s India partner, for almost two decades. Programs like livestock insurance or corral improvements have helped the people of Kibber cope with occasional snow leopard attacks on their livestock. In return, the villagers are protecting the cats and their prey species from harm, and have agreed to set aside grazing land for the wild ungulate populations.
During last 5 years due to better roads infrastructure, it’s possible to travel to Kibber during winter months. This partnership and its location in the heart of India’s snow leopard habitat have put Kibber on the map as a destination for wildlife lovers, presenting photography enthusiasts with the rare opportunity to see and document rare high-altitude wildlife while being surrounded by snowy trans-Himalayan peaks.
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The full galleries of images can be found here,