This month our favourite images and footage include Tony Wu’s adorable flying squirrels, Alejandro Prieto’s other-worldly axolotls and enchanting landscapes from Scotland: The Big Picture. Read on to discover the stories behind these fascinating images…
Pål Hermansen – Shrinking Ice
A stark visual reminder of the impact of climate change is retreating glaciers. Capturing the changes in glacial landscapes is a challenge photographer Pål Hermansen took on in his recent book “time-travel.” Hermansen travelled through the Norwegian western fjord region re-photographing places captured by pioneering landscape photographers from the last part of the 19th century.
The first challenge was to find the old photographs. Hermansen explains: “it is easier now as many can be searched for in university libraries available on the web.” The second challenge is “figuring out exactly where the old photographer had been standing. Often the spot is difficult to find because of landscape changes and a high percentage of the spots are simply impossible to locate nowadays.”
Eventually, Hermansen replicated old images of the Melkevollbreen (top images) and Briksdalbreen glacier (bottom images). These glaciers are part of the biggest glacier in Norway, the Jostedalsbreen Glacier. It is clearly evident that the extension of the glacier has decreased significantly in the last 100 years.
Tony Wu – ‘Furry Balls of Lightning’
Photographer Tony Wu has spent the last three winters documenting adorable Japanese dwarf flying squirrels (Pteromys volans orii), native to Hokkaido. Photographing one of these squirrels in-flight is a lot harder than you might think. According to Tony Wu the little rodents are “like furry balls of lightning.”
Capturing the action required a lot of waiting around in freezing conditions, and careful observations of the squirrels’ behaviour. “Plus luck,” adds Wu. “Maybe as much as 90% is down to luck. The rest is understanding the behaviour better with each encounter.”
Wu had to learn how to predict and follow their flight paths, then calculate precise focus points and camera settings based on many possible fields of view and distance combinations: “I’ve made enough mistakes that I can pick the right combination with reasonable frequency now, provided the squirrel concerned does what I think it will do. Which doesn’t happen very often. They seem to know exactly when to do something totally different!”
There were fewer individuals around this year due to a pair of owls that had moved into the area. According to Wu, the owls hit the population hard, but the remaining squirrels have adapted to survive: “It is fascinating. The squirrels became more active during the day, probably in order to avoid the owls. I got opportunities to photograph them in decent light, which is almost unheard of. It’s a lot better than shooting at dusk and dawn all the time.”
Joel Sartore – A Nasty Sting
This video of Namibian sea nettles is part of photographer Joel Sartore’s incredible ‘Photo Ark’ series. This series aims to document species before they disappear.
Joel describes the jellyfish as “one of nature’s most amazing creatures. Moving along on ocean currents, they have no central brain yet have thrived for millions of years. The sea nettle is a carnivore that hunts prey with tentacles that are covered with stinging cells. When the arms touch small marine animals they ‘cling and sting’, paralyzing the prey and eventually hauling it towards the sea nettle’s mouth to be digested. Very ingenious!”
Alejandro Prieto – Superhuman Axolotls
Axolotls have an incredible super power: they are capable of regenerating almost every part of their body including their limbs, retina, heart and up to half their brain. Consequently, this species are the most studied species in the world. At CINVESTAV centre in Mexico scientists are even researching if the regeneration abilities of this endemic species can be harnessed by people.
Unfortunately, their numbers have dropped dramatically in the wild and they are now considered critically endangered by the IUCN. They are threatened by habitat loss, water contamination and non-native fish. These fish compete with the axolotls and eat their eggs. Urgent action is needed to restore the population and photographer Alejandro Prieto aims to raise awareness and encourage conservation through his photo series
In the image below left Prieto captures a fascinating behaviour of the axolotl. By illuminating the axolotl from behind he was able to capture details of the gills after the axolotl shook its head. Axolotls shake their gills in order to breathe and this generates the particles that can be seen suspended in this image.
The two images below were taken high in the mountains in Sierra de Manantlan, a protected area in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Prieto says “it can be a physical challenge reaching this area but the biggest challenge was withstanding the low temperatures of the water for long periods of time.” To capture the image below right Prieto battled with lighting, shallow water and freezing temperatures.
Prieto‘s commitment has enabled him to capture a species that has not yet been formally classified (its full Latin name is still to be decided on). Very little is known about it and work to gather more information is ongoing…
David Weiller – Caterpillars or Slugs?
Slug moth caterpillars have some pretty strange characteristics. These creatures have heads that can retract into their thorax and spines that can deliver a painful sting. They are named slug moth caterpillars due to the way they move. Their tiny legs are reduced to small suckers rendering them unable to walk. Instead, they glide along a cushion of lubricant moving in a slug-like manner.
Here photographer David Weiller captures the caterpillars feeding on a palm leaf at La Gamba Tropical Field Station, Costa Rica. Filmed here is the species Acharia nesea. It is recognised by a striking fluorescent green jacket-like patterns on its back. There are over 20 species of species of slug moth caterpillar, this species is just one of them.
Scotland: The Big Picture
Although it may come as a surprise Scotland’s beautiful environment has become nature-depleted. Only 3% of natural woodland remains and many species are threatened or even extinct. Scotland: The Big Picture aims to rewild land and water across Scotland and help wildlife flourish again. Photographers are working together to capture Scotland’s natural beauty and encourage rewilding.
Mike Mckenzie – Elusive Scotland
Photographer Mike Mckenzie spends his time capturing interesting and unusual wildlife hidden across Scotland, including this incredible adder (Vipera berus) and magpie inkcap fungi (Coprinopsis picacea).
Mckenzie says “I’ve always liked reptiles and I kept many as a teenager, breeding certain non-native species.” With the aim of photographing most of the UK reptile species he could not miss the opportunity to capture an adder. “I found this adder a long time ago, she would bask in the same spot any sunny morning in Spring. I decided to try and photograph her and went early before she emerged.” After wating, laid down with camera and lens flat on the ground, Mckenzie managed to capture the female basking among bluebells.
In the winter, reptiles are less prevalent and fungi become the hot topic for photography. Mckenzie explains: “I enjoy looking for interesting shapes and forms, often trying to illuminate them creatively.” Some species are particularly challenging to capture and Mckenzie has been searching for years. One lucky day in a beech wood, he found a local population of the iconic and elusive magpie inkcap. “This is the only one I have ever found one in such a perfect state of deliquescence. This process, where the cap breaks down into an inky liquid in order to spreads its spores, only lasts a short period of time.”
James Shooter – Scotland From Above
Scotland is known for its natural beauty but perhaps not so commonly from the angle photographer James Shooter captures it…
Shooter describes Scotland’s coastline as “so diverse – from the west coast white sand beaches to the rough geology of the Moray Firth, and everything in between. It’s wild and beautiful wherever you look. In summer, the small coves come alive with a riot of colour. Flowering gorse spreads across sand dune moguls, lighting them up in bright yellow.”
Aiming to capture the full beauty of the coastline Shooter explains “The full palette of colour is hidden until you get above it. From the air, the turquoise waters seep into the frame and combine with the yellows and greens to make the perfect summer scene.” This aerial shot is of Clashach cove in Moray Firth.
Billy Arthur – An Atlantis in Shetland
On the barren silty seabed of Ronas Voe, in the Shetland Islands, lies a small creel boat wreck. Despite its seemingly lifeless surroundings the 25m deep wreck holds a certain appeal to photographer Billy Arthur… it has become a haven for marine life.
However, capturing this underwater Atlantis poses challenges. According the Arthur “such a small wreck on quite a featureless site can be quite hard to find. I’ve always managed to get my bearings correct but I know a few divers who have spent the whole dive searching to no avail.” It is not necessarily plain sailing once the site has been found. “The challenge at this site is avoiding disturbing the seabed and stirring up the slit as this make shooting very difficult,” explains Arthur.
Capturing the myriad of creatures, such as the king scallop below right, required a pinch of luck. “The king scallop’s eyes are so delicate and sensitive to light that it can be tricky to shoot. They usually close their shell as soon as they sense my presence. Luckily this one didn’t mind me, or my underwater strobes, which I used to help bring out the colours and detail of this beautiful bivalve.”
The amenable creatures allowed Arthur to capture incredible details. “This common hermit crab (below left) certainly wasn’t camera shy and let me take a few shots of the detail in its amazing eyes,” Arthur enthuses. “Also, the shell was covered in a furry looking hydroid called ‘hermit crab fir’. Hermit crabs are always a joy to shoot and are one of my favourite subjects.”
James Roddie – Patience Pays Off
Feral goats have been roaming wild in the Scottish Highlands for hundreds of years. Whilst some are quite accustomed to people, the individuals found in more remote areas can be extremely shy. Photographer James Roddie captured this feral goat (below left) in one of the remotest places on the UK mainland – Fisherfield in the Scottish Highlands.
Roddie explains “I had wild-camped at 850m altitude, and woken early to catch the sunrise. I had only walked a short distance from my tent when I heard the distinctive sound of goats calling to each other. I stood still for a few moments, and this lone individual appeared, nicely rim-lit by the sun.”
A creature Roddie sees more commonly in Scotland is the pine marten. Roddie says that “this female pine marten (bottom right) was a regular visitor to my forest hide In the Scottish Highlands for over 7 years.” Usually pine martens are crepuscular, however, mature females are active during the day in the summer months. They spend much of their time foraging and hunting in order to feed their kits.
Roddie waited 10 hours a day in his hide between April and August, waiting for the female to appear. A scattering of peanuts worked as a good incentive and according to Roddie “she appeared in broad daylight, right in front of a patch of brightly flowering gorse.”
Take a look at our July Highlights gallery for more of our favourite images from this July: July Highlights Gallery
Or you can explore our print site where you can find a gallery for July highlights: July Highlights Print Gallery