Archive for Africa

I am the 2014 European Wildlife Photographer of the Year!

Posted in African Wildlife, European Wildlife, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2014 by Neil Aldridge

It’s with humility and immense pride that I can announce that my photograph ‘Living Rock Art‘ has won me the overall title of 2014 GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

The photograph is an artistic take on two blesbok antelope stampeding across the plains of South Africa’s Kariega Game Reserve. The shot was entered in the competition’s Nature’s Studio category before being awarded the overall title by the panel of judges. However, it’s a photo that very nearly didn’t happen…

I was in South Africa working on a story about the rhino poaching crisis and one particular rhino named Thandi that had survived a brutal attack by poachers. I think I had photographed Thandi from every possible angle so my guide – and now good friend – Brendon Jennings and I decided to take a break and explore the floodplains of the Bushman’s River. That’s when we found the herd of blesbok.

With the light on the plains fading fast, I decided to switch to a longer exposure and shoot in a more artistic style than my usual documentary approach. I stepped off the side of the vehicle to use the vehicle as a blind and to get a ground-level angle of the animals stampeding past. That’s when I heard a loud crack…

My ankle had turned in a hole. I landed in a heap in the dust. The pain was unbelievable but, fortunately, I had somehow planted my tripod and camera safely as I fell. I was able to sit up just in time to see the blesbok approaching. I grabbed my camera, locked my focus on them and panned smoothly as they careered past. Only once they had disappeared in a cloud of dust did I turn my attention to my injuries.

My fall may have been but the picture was no accident. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I know that, but I was working hard to capture their movement in a still photograph. What I hadn’t banked on was that the shapes created by their striking black and white leg markings would so closely resemble Bushman rock art, which influenced the title of the image.

I collected my prize in Lunen, Germany at a ceremony marking the competition’s 14th year surrounded by incredibly talented photographers that I have nothing but respect for…which makes this win all the more special.

I’m pleased to say that my success in the competition was not just restricted to Africa’s plains. My photograph of a shoal of tiny Okavango robber fish swimming up the Selinda Spillway in northern Botswana was selected as Highly Commended in the Underwater category too.

All of the winning images can be seen on the competition’s website www.gdtfoto.de

You can see my winning shots and more on my website www.conservationphotojournalism.com

Join me in Botswana in 2015…

Posted in African Wildlife, Photography, Travel, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2014 by Neil Aldridge

I’ve teamed up with friends at ODPSafaris and Pangolin Photo Safaris to offer two exciting photo safaris to Botswana in June 2015. Both tours will give you the chance to join me in the famous Okavango Delta and vast Chobe National Park as we go in search for elephants, fish eagles and my own favourite species, the African wild dog, amongst others.

Combining these two exceptionally diverse destinations in one tour puts this safari head and shoulders above others. Both the Okavango and Chobe offer unequaled opportunities to experience and photograph Botswana’s incredible wildlife. While staying in Chobe we will make the most of both land and water based activities. This includes shooting elephants and other visitors to a waterhole from a bunker hide and utilising the famous Pangolin photography boat, which is equipped with swivel chairs and gimbal heads built into a sturdy photographic setup that will offer the best possible solution for your needs.

The area of the Okavango Delta that we will be visiting – the game rich floodplains of the Khwai river – is well known for its unrivaled African wild dog sightings with up to three packs of this endangered carnivore denning and roaming within close proximity of the camp. We will be timing our visit with when the packs usually den so our chances of encountering this endangered carnivore are good. The Khwai river also offers some of the finest birding with the area boasting a count of more than 420 bird species. Chobe’s famously high population of elephant provides unforgettable photo opportunities but we will also use boats to help you get close to kingfishers, hippos, fish eagles, buffalo and crocodiles.

Each tour lasts eight nights – with four nights spent at each destination – and there are eight places available on each. The first tour runs from the 7th to the 15th of June while the second runs from the 15th to the 23rd. Further information, tour itineraries, costs and links to how you can secure your booking can be found on my website at conservationphotojournalism.com/tours. I hope you will join us…

Choose the cover of my new book…

Posted in African Wildlife, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2014 by Neil Aldridge

I’m excited to announce that I am working on a new book and I am giving you the opportunity to have your say on what the front cover photograph should be.

I would really like to hear from you so I’ve made it easy for you. The choice has been narrowed down to portraits of two of Africa’s truly iconic endangered heavyweights – the African elephant and the critically endangered black rhino. Both shots were taken in the wild at two of my favourite locations. So, which do you prefer…

Cover_elephant Cover_rhino

 

Thank you for voting. The book will be available for pre-orders shortly. So keep an eye on this blog and my website.

I’m also excited to say that you can see a preview of some of the shots from my upcoming book in my two talks at the British Birdfair in August. More information on the talks can be found on my Facebook page

Go! Magazine features my black & white portfolio…

Posted in African Wildlife, Photography, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2014 by Neil Aldridge

I’m proud to say that June 2014’s issue of Go! Magazine features a portfolio of my black and white photography. The magazine is available across Southern Africa.

(c) Neil Aldridge

The portfolio includes some of my favourite photographs from Chobe, Botswana and South Africa’s Kariega Game Reserve and Kruger National Park. This is the second portfolio of my work that has featured in Go! Magazine after my African wild dog story Underdogs featured in November 2012.

(c) Neil Aldridge

Buy your June copy of Go! to see the full selection of images or head over to my website conservationphotojournalism.com to see more galleries and to buy prints of my black and white photography.

One last push – please help by donating…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Take Action, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

© Neil Aldridge

When I set out to photograph my African wild dog project Underdogs four and half years ago I did so with two goals – to raise awareness of this incredible species and to make a financial contribution towards their conservation. Now, with a major new project on the horizon, I am launching one final push to raise funds for their protection. Please donate to my campaign on indiegogo.com. 100% of the money raised will be donated to wild dog conservation projects in Africa and used to send you ‘perks’ – personal thank yous for donating.

This project has been everything from exciting and fun to testing and emotional. The highs of winning international awards with photographs from this story contrast severely with the lows of coming to terms with knowing that every dog that I followed day-in-day-out in South African has since been killed. I am proud to think that the project has succeeded in raising awareness of the wild dog’s plight. Millions of people around the world have seen this work through international exhibitions, sales of my book, magazine features and online galleries. However, it is contributing to efforts on the ground that will make the greatest impact to the future of this species and this 48-day campaign aims to achieve just that.

Please donate what you can. If you can afford to give between £10 and £25, I will send you a print of one of my award-winning photographs. Any donation between £25 and £100 will see you receive a signed copy of my African wild dog book Underdogs. Donations over £100 will earn you a signed copy of my book and a print of an award-winning photograph in recognition of your generosity. I understand that not everyone can donate but that doesn’t mean you can’t help. Please send this link to others who may be able to contribute.

The African wild dog is in trouble. There are as few wild dogs in Africa as their are Tigers in Asia but, as pack animals, only a small number will ever breed. This means that the future of the entire species rests on only about 10% of the total number of wild dogs remaining – so about 400 individuals. We need to help equip those with the skills to save the species with the right tools. On the campaign page you will see a list of things that I am aiming to help projects access. Your help is appreciated and will make a difference. Thank you!

To donate, visit indiegogo.com/projects/save-the-african-wild-dog/x/3412838

My Okavango Delta gallery is online on BBC Wildlife website…

Posted in African Wildlife, Travel, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

Selinda Spillway © Neil Aldridge

A choice selection of photographs from my Botswana travel portfolio published in the March 2013 issue of BBC Wildlife magazine is now online at discoverwildlife.com – the website of BBC Wildlife. This portfolio compliments the insightful piece by editor Sophie Stafford that uncovers the intricate relationship between the wildlife of northern Botswana and the water that feeds this parched land.

© Neil Aldridge

The story tells how recent research has mapped the movement of animals in relation to the flood cycles of the Okavango Delta and how the dynamics of the Selinda region to the east of the delta has changed now that the Selinda Spillway is flowing again for the first time in 30 years. The story’s sub-plots include how one of the Okavango’s smallest inhabitants – the termite – influences the lay of the land, creating islands that are used by birds, colonised by plants and fought over by leopards as prime hunting territory.

© Neil Aldridge

This is the latest selection of my work to feature on the BBC Wildlife magazine website and follows 2012’s British Columbia portfolio, a badger vaccination portfolio, which accompanied my Autumn 2011 feature in the magazine, and a selection of African wild dog images from my book Underdogs. A second gallery featuring the Bushmen of the Kalahari will be online shortly, so be sure to keep an eye on discoverwildlife.com

Botswana travel feature in BBC Wildlife…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation Photography, Photography, Travel, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

In April 2012 I travelled to northern Botswana for BBC Wildlife magazine to photograph the intricate relationship between wildlife and water and see how the annual flooding of the Okavango Delta dictates animal movements and behaviour. I’m pleased to say that this portfolio features in the March 2013 issue of BBC Wildlife.

© Neil Aldridge

The photographs illustrate editor Sophie Stafford’s insightful travel feature, which covers research surveying how wildlife populations have changed and moved with recent flood patterns. You can see a selection of photographs from this story in a new gallery on my website. In this gallery, I show how Selinda lions spend their free time, how the yawn of a hippo can make you think twice about getting closer and how one of the Okavango Delta’s smallest inhabitants influences the fortunes of the region’s wildlife.

© Neil Aldridge

Botswana is an incredible country and remains my favourite location for photography and wildlife watching. If you’re thinking about going, be sure to pick up a copy of the March issue of the magazine and give Sophie’s article a read. Also, keep an eye on my website for upcoming photography tours to Botswana.

See more on my website conservationphotojournalism.com

Help…I’m drowning in nostalgia!

Posted in Photography, Travel, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

A quick glance around you in the run up to new year’s eve is likely to reveal newspapers each featuring special ‘2012 in review’ supplements, a television set showing one panel show’s ‘special Christmas edition’ after another (probably all filmed sometime in August), websites showcasing their ‘pictures of the year’ and a host of blogs by photographers reviewing their achievements in the year gone by. I was tempted to wade in and join the nostalgic party but if I – someone who neither owns a television nor buys newspapers – feel somewhat overwhelmed then I’m guessing you could do without one more person jumping up and down shouting “look what I did, look what I did”, right?

I also figured that if you did come to this blog expecting a what-was-what in the world of Conservation Photojournalism in 2012, it would be a lot simpler for you to use one finger to just scroll your mouse down the page and pick out the highlights that I bothered to write at the time, thereby saving ten of my fingers the effort of revisiting old news.

In the midst of all this nostalgia, I’m really looking forward to 2013. The first few weeks of the year will be taken up with a plethora of competition submissions of various sizes and guises, the completion of my first ebook and the launch of a range of high quality photographic prints for sale via my website. In terms of destinations, I will be exploring new locations like the Galapagos Islands and returning to old favourites like the Highlands of Scotland. I also have the first of my new photo tours to Estonia in partnership with Remo Savisaar running in May. Finally, with my African wild dog book Underdogs now firmly on the shelves of shops or (hopefully) living rooms, I will be putting the finishing touches to the proposal for my new, dream project and hopefully doing the first recce trip later in the year. Stay tuned…2013 is going to be a great year!

UNDERDOGS reviewed in Environment Magazine

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

A review of Underdogs – my African wild dog book – features in the latest issue of the magazine Environment. The magazine is a collaboration between some of Africa’s leading environmental organisations, including the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) with whom I worked while photographing Underdogs. The editor of Environment, Dr John Ledger, reviews the book and says:

“This is more than a ‘coffee table’ book because, although it is a large-format hard-cover edition, beautifully illustrated by the author’s excellent photographs, it also has a very informative text that imparts the scientific aspects of Wild Dog conservation…This is a lovely book to have and a very worthwhile read.”

To read the review of Underdogs in full, see the latest issue of Environment online at environmentmag.co.za/ebook/Env-12 or subscribe at environmentmag.co.za. Underdogs is now available across South Africa at leading stores, such as Exclusive Books, Estoril Books and PNA.

To order a signed copy of Underdogs, please visit my website.

Enough with the radio transmitter bashing…

Posted in Conservation, UK Wildlife, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

I’ve heard them called necklaces, nooses and ASBO’s (a reference to the electronic tags used to curb anti-social behaviour in the United Kingdom) but isn’t it time we learned to love the radio collar? These devices (which include tags for whales and harnesses for birds) have allowed researchers to record essential and surprising information about animal behaviour for years. Our understanding of the natural world would not be what it is without this technology yet many conservationists, wildlife lovers and photographers continue to turn their noses up at them. What I want to know is can the radio transmitter’s role in solving wildlife crime cases – as we saw recently recently in the case of an unfortunate Scottish golden eagle – help to convince the remaining detractors?

I would not have been able to capture the photographs in my African wild dog book Underdogs were it not for the radio collars worn by several wild dogs on various Southern African reserves. These endangered carnivores regularly cover such great distances that they were recently reclassified by the UN as a migratory species. The vital efforts of the researchers I worked alongside simply would not be possible without this technology. Without it, finding wild dogs would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Radio collars do not only allow researchers to track the movements of animals, they also allow researchers to find their study animals quickly for observation and other crucial work.

The introduction of GPS technology has both improved the efficiency of wildlife tracking and research as well as gifted us some mind-blowing insights into the movements of animals. We now know that African wild dogs disperse over distances greater than 450 kilometres to form new packs and that great white sharks will make the 11,000 kilometre migration between South African shores and the waters off Australia. The findings from research projects where GPS tracking has been utilised helps to broaden our thinking as conservationists and to inform protection policy both locally and collaboratively. The BirdLife Flyways Programme is a great example of how the mapping of migratory movements of species by using GPS technology can allow for a more evidence-based and targetted approach to conservation across borders and promote the safe passage of species.

One additional benefit of tracking technology that surprises many people (and one which I hope will help to convince those who continue to question the merits of this conservation lifeline) is the increased ability to prevent and solve wildlife crime. Radio tracking collars and transmitters can act as a deterrent to would-be persecutors. Although, sadly, a GPS collar was not a deterrent in the case of this magnificent free-roaming lion that was shot on a farm near South Africa’s border with Botswana in 2009, the signal from the collar did lead concerned researchers to the crime scene. In Scotland recently, RSPB staff were able to use GPS data to piece together the final movements of a golden eagle found with two broken legs. The data secured from the GPS transmitter worn by the young eagle, together with the results of the post-mortem, helped the RSPB to come to its conclusion that the eagle had been the victim of persecution.

The recorded persecution of golden eagles in Scotland is believed to be dropping. Surely it is now time to appreciate the role that technology – alongside relationship management, education, habitat restoration, control of invasive species and policy review – plays in such success stories? It could well be that you already recognise and appreciate all of the science but just can’t get the thought out of your mind that a wild dog wearing a collar looks too much like your dog at home. If that is the case, when you next catch Rover humping the sofa and find yourself driving Fido to the groomers, challenge yourself to consider your perception of what makes an animal wild. Think about the sheer number of creatures that are in decline and struggling to find their place in our developed world and ask yourself if the fitting of a radio transmitter that could help to save a species really makes an animal less wild and more like Rover.

What I hope, more than anything, is that you won’t settle on the fallacy that keeping all of nature looking pretty and picture perfect is somehow more important than improving our understanding of the natural world and our ability to conserve it.