Archive for Animal Photography

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

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BBC Wildlife feature my Estonia tour images…

Posted in Conservation Photography, European Wildlife, Photography, Travel, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

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I’m proud to say that BBC Wildlife Magazine has chosen to feature a selection of photographs taken by myself and Remo Savisaar during the trip that we co-led for Estonian Nature Tours in 2013. You can enjoy the gallery online at their website discoverwildlife.com

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If this taster of what Estonia has to offer excites you, Remo and I will be introducing guests to Estonia’s fantastic wildlife again in 2014. During this nine-day tour you will have the chance to photograph from hides, boats, vehicles, viewing towers and on foot as we seek out bears, beavers, birds and other animals in Estonia’s vast forests, bogs and wetlands. You can see the full itinerary and tour details on my website conservationphotojournalism.com

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

Posted in African Wildlife, Photography, Travel, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

As the old adage suggests…if you can see the white of the eyes then you’re pretty close. This is even true in the case of elephants. For the most part, an elephant’s eyes seem tiny compared to their colossal grey bulk and are lost somewhere amongst cavernous wrinkles and behind a curtain of wiry eyelashes. It was this white of an elephant’s eye that I was seeing through my viewfinder. That’s how close we were after spending several frustrating days searching for that shot which captures the essence of northern Botswana more than any other – thirsty elephants reveling in water.

Northern Botswana is not only one of the world’s premier wildlife-watching locations, it also  happens to be my favourite destination for photography and wildlife. As a result, being on the Selinda Reserve to the east of the Okavango Delta with the inspirational Great Plains Conservation and Botswana Tourism as my hosts, I was in my element. Our guide Reuben was making my job a lot easier too. Always thinking one step ahead by considering the light and lay of the land, he instinctively placed the vehicle in the right place each time without me needing to ask. Our only problem was that the resident elephants were being unusually skittish and seemed to be thinking even one step ahead of Reuben. Finally, after combing the reserve by boat and truck, we chanced across a relaxed herd approaching the water.

I lifted my chunky 400mm f2.8 lens and rested my beanbag between it and the side of the vehicle to give me a steady platform. All lined up while quenching their thirsts, the herd of pachyderms was performing wonderfully. Just as I pressed the shutter to fire off the first frames though, my camera all of a sudden became strangely light in my hands and the view through the viewfinder became nothing but a white blur. My five kilogram lens had inexplicably unclipped itself from the teleconverter and tumbled the best part of two metres off the side of the vehicle. After some initial muted cursing and a scrambled recovery of my most prized piece of gear from the sand below, I was able to come up with one positive from this embarrassing blunder – at least we weren’t shooting from a boat as we had been doing the previous evening. It turns out that an accumulation of Kalahari dust had made the clip holding the teleconverter to the lens stick and fail.

Painful lesson number one learned…keep your gear as clean as possible or you’ll spend several lonely hours picking sand out of every corner, crack and connection while everyone else is having a good time! I guess at this stage I can also pay homage to the build quality of Canon equipment if a lens can just be picked up and dusted off after such a sickening tumble to the sand below.

Lesson number two was as potentially disastrous but more a result of my own over-confidence. Check back soon for how not to waterproof a camera…

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

Join me in Estonia in 2012…

Posted in European Wildlife, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

Done Africa? Looking for a new adventure? I have teamed up with leading Estonian wildlife photographer Remo Savisaar to offer just six people the chance to discover and photograph one of Europe’s wildest countries. This exciting new 9-day photo tour combines specialist photographic tuition with expert wildlife guiding.

Join us as we travel from the capital Tallinn to the Baltic coast and Saaremaa Island where excellent birdlife, coastal landscapes and vast forests await us. After leaving Saaremaa we will head east in search of beavers, bears and bogs. For a full itinerary, head over to my website.

With the tour limited to just six guests, Remo and I will have the chance to work both with the group as a whole and with each guest individually to develop specific skills and interest. Estonia is an exciting location full of opportunities for photographers of all levels. At the end of my first trip I didn’t want to get on the plane home and we’re confident you’ll feel the same. So why not take a look at the itinerary we have in store?

Bear & Marsh Harrier images © Remo Savisaar – visit Remo’s website

More information on my website at conservationphotojournalism.com

New images online at Photoshot

Posted in Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

A new selection of my wildlife, conservation and travel photography is available online at Photoshot and their specialist wildlife and nature collection NHPA. The number of my photographs available to buy here is growing all of the time and there will be new images, particularly from my work photographing the signs of spring, going online in the coming weeks. Simply enter ‘Aldridge’ into the Photoshot site’s search function or find me on NHPA’s Photographers page to view the collection of my images.

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com

Northern headaches

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

What a week. Having planned to shoot at what I thought to be fail-safe locations across the north of England over the course of a week, grim weather and elusive animals contributed to a paltry return of exactly sixty photographs. I saw almost everything that I hoped to photograph, although mostly through a veil of drizzle and at a distance even the best telephoto lenses would struggle to reach.

Lancashire’s Red squirrels were the first to elude my shutter finger and I had to admit defeat and retire to the shelter of a cafe for the afternoon for some emails and editing. I didn’t think peregrine falcons would give me as much of a run around the next day, especially knowing that Yorkshire’s Malham pair would still have their now airbourne chicks hanging around. As I made my way up to the cove I saw one of the parents make a mid-air manoeuvre to pass food to the chicks, after which all three promptly disappeared off into the distance. After five cold hours of sitting and hoping in gradually lessening light and worsening weather, I again had to begrudgingly admit defeat.

The weather never improved enough for me to justify going after in-flight peregrine shots again and so I concentrated the rest of my time in the Vale of York seeking out adders and the threatened water vole. Having searched heathland for some hours I was thrilled to find a male adder basking in the sun. The problem is, by the time I found him he had obviously warmed sufficiently to be able to slink off into thick gorse. Still, it’s only the second time I’ve ever managed to get any shots of this beautiful and declining species.

Photographing the usually delightful and previously obliging water vole proved as irritating as listening to a tape-loop of the Beatles’ Revolution 9. A local researcher friend assured me that she had heard the distinctive ‘plop’ of vole into water and seen them out foraging along the river in the weeks previously. It’s hard to tell how hard the harsh winter hit these small mammals but based on my luckless daily quests to find and photograph them, I’d say pretty hard. After a few days of sitting camouflaged in the undergrowth seeing nothing but nettles and smelling nothing but himalayan balsam, I decided enough was enough and headed home content in the thought that a week in some of the UK’s best countryside in the company of some of its rarest animals qualifies as a good week for some. And hey, if everything was tethered or caged to make it easier for photographers then I’d fall out of love with my job rather quickly. Yes, as a career it has to be viable but the unpredictability, the challenge and the chase make it worth every slow, cold, sodden, nettle-stung hour on a riverbank.

Visit my main website at www.conservationphotojournalism.com