Archive for Africa

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.

Underdogs is on the shelves in South Africa…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

I am really proud and excited to announce that my acclaimed African wild dog book Underdogs is now available to buy in the shops across South Africa. This 156-page coffee-table conservation book focuses on the Southern African population of this endangered carnivore and so South Africa has always been a major market for the title.

African wild dogs suffered in 2011 with many packs being hit hard by poaching and persecution. 2012 has seen high profile support for the conservation of this iconic and charismatic carnivore in South Africa. I simply hope that Underdogs can add to people’s understanding of these creatures and play at least a small role in securing their future in South Africa and beyond.

Download a provisional list of outlets selling Underdogs (this list will be updated wherever possible).

You can see a gallery of photographs and read more about Underdogs on my website, where it is also possible to order a signed copy of the book.

Are The Dog Days Over…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

In 2009 I was lucky enough to spend time with a pack of African wild dogs and their one month old pups at their den site deep in the Limpopo river forest. The time spent with them still rates as my favourite wildlife experience and the photographs that I took feature heavily in my new African wild dog book Underdogs. This is why it was so hard to receive the news that the pack was found dead from deliberate poisoning recently.

Andrei Snyman of Botswana’s Northern Tuli Predator Project reported that the pack had been found dead at their new den site agonsingly soon after the alpha female had given birth to a new litter of pups. To make matters worse, a male leopard, African wild cat and African hawk eagle were also found poisoned after feeding on two carcasses laced with Temic – a highly toxic poison. Two men have been arrested in connection with the incident and claim that they lost livestock to the animals (although it cannot be said which species was responsible for the predation).

The incident spells the end of the line (for now) for the Tuli wild dog pack – once a much celebrated success story following their high profile cross-border translocation from South Africa. The incident also threatens the viable future of the wild dog in the Limpopo Valley following on from the removal of the Venetia Limpopo pack just across the river in South Africa in 2010. With wild dog numbers so low and populations so sparsely distributed, sub-populations like the Limpopo Valley population are essential for the future of the species as young wild dogs can disperse to form new packs and keep the gene pool healthy.

This news came to me just days before my African wild dog book Underdogs arrives in South Africa. The story of the Tuli pack features in the book and I am really proud to be supporting wild dog conservation through sales so please do visit my website to order your signed copy. Every copy sold will make a real difference on the ground to those few wild dogs remaining and to the people dedicating their lives to protecting these charismatic yet marginalised predators.

Order Underdogs on my website conservationphotojournalism.com

I love it when they cooperate…

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

One of the beautiful things about photographing wildlife is that you’re never fully in control. Sure, this is also why many people don’t have the patience for wildlife photography but this suits me down to the ground. Controlling, directing and creating the scene for the perfect image is not in my nature…which, incidentally, is one of the reasons I don’t photograph weddings.

Of course it’s frustrating when you’re all set up, the light’s perfect and you’re waiting for a wild dog to saunter into an opening just for it to decide to change tack at the last minute and nip behind a bush. But that’s the hunt for the perfect shot that keeps wildlife photography interesting. We’ve all done it – muttered under our breath, willing our subject to ‘look up’, ‘turn around’ or ‘stop there’. Every once in a while, they even cooperate….

I filmed this clip on my Canon 5D MK2 while shooting stills with my 1D MK3. I was on a commission in northern Botswana and we came across this Leopard on Chief’s Island in the Okavango Delta while on a drive with our hosts Wilderness Safaris and Botswana Tourism.

See more videos on the Conservation Photojournalism Facebook page

Botswana…dream-maker, equipment-breaker (Part Two)…

Posted in African Wildlife, Photography, Travel, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

As I wrote last week, for all of its beauty and allure, northern Botswana can hold some valuable lessons for the photographer. From the dry Kalahari desert to the lush delta of the Okavango, it is a land of contrasts. And so it is from my encounter with this lethally-dry Kalahari dust in my last post that I take you to the cool, refreshing domain of the hippo and crocodile.

In order to tell the story of northern Botswana’s wildlife and wild places you have to think water. As a photographer, there are a few ways to capture the importance of water to the region and its wildlife. One approach is from the air. Picking out hippos and herds of elephants in the vast landscape of channels, swamps and islands makes aerial photography here a real treat. The other approach is from in the water. Now, I’m no David Doubilet and the remit for my commission in northern Botswana was almost exclusively terrestrial. As a result, my already heaving luggage wasn’t going to contain a sturdy, professional underwater camera rig. I did manage to squeeze in a flexible ewa-marine housing for my slr though. The only problem with this particular housing is that it has no way of accommodating a flash unit and despite shooting in the crystal-clear waters of the Okavango Delta, additional lighting was essential to the kind of shot I had in mind – a split-level view of the delta’s water lilies in flower and the tangled network of roots and reeds beneath the surface.

Planning ahead (or so I thought), I packed a dozen clear freezer bags and a LOT of tape. My plan was to waterproof my flash unit in the freezer bags, run the off-camera chord out of the top of the underwater housing (which could remain open seeing as I was shooting split-level) and secure the flash underneath the housing using the tape. I had used a similarly ‘Heath Robinson’ set-up in the past to shoot water-level shots of white-tailed eagles in Scotland and so I had reason to be confident.

The strong pre-flood currents flowing through the delta washed me along until I found the right spot to stop and try my hand. Hippos had opened up a channel through the papyrus reeds where it was shallow enough to stand. The temperature of the water made it a pleasure to stay in and search for the right composition while the afternoon light seemed just right for photography. With the support crew on hippo-watch, I was loving every minute of it. When I started to notice my flash strobing by itself though I couldn’t help think that perhaps the inviting waters had made me too comfortable. I had been in the water for so long that my home-made rig had lost its ‘infallible’ waterproofing and the unit had begun to short-circuit. Back on the boat I rushed to get the batteries out and get the unit drying in the sun. Knowing what was still ahead in my itinerary and my regular use of flash to fill the dark shadows created by the harsh African sun, I couldn’t afford to lose my flashgun at this stage.

Back at Xigera lodge, I was finally able to check the results of the afternoon’s escapades. Luckily, not only did the flashgun make a full recovery but I discovered that the flood-induced short-circuit had happened after I captured the scene I had envisaged in my head. To see the full results of this shoot hosted and supported by Wilderness Safaris and Botswana Tourism, you’re going to have to wait a little longer for them to be published in print, so keep an eye on this blog for more news…

Visit my main website at www.ConservationPhotojournalism.com