Archive for nature

Badger vaccination story wins BWPA

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, European Wildlife, Exhibition, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

I’m proud and excited to announce that my badger vaccination story the alternative is a winner of the 2013 British Wildlife Photography Awards. The six-image portfolio picked up the top award in the Documentary category – my second win in as many years of entering the category (my last win was in 2011 as I served as a judge of the competition in 2012).

The set of photographs documents the process of trapping and vaccinating badgers against bovine TB. Many of the UK’s most influential scientists, NGOs and landowners – such as The Wildlife Trusts and The National Trust – believe vaccination is a viable alternative to culling. Yet, the government has chosen to press ahead with a cull in England, claiming that culling badgers is the best method for controlling bovine TB in Britain’s cattle. Find out more on the Badger Trust website.

This six image edit is taken from my autumn 2011 BBC Wildlife magazine cover feature Kill or Cure, which also featured as an online gallery on their website discoverwildlife.com. You can also see a more complete set of images on my website conservationphotojournalism.com

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the awards in London as I am currently working in Africa but I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to all winners in the 2013 British Wildlife Photography Awards. Please support the awards by attending the exhibition as it travels around the UK and by buying the book on the BWPA website.

Why I choose Rohan…

Posted in Photography, Travel, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

From the Rohantime site…

(c) Sam Owen Photography

The huge bear lifted his head in my direction. He knew I was there but he couldn’t see anything thanks to my camouflage. As much as I wanted to sit and watch him feed, I couldn’t stay motionless for long. The mosquitoes were relentless and biting me through my clothing – from my face to my fingertips. I also had cameras and provisions on my back for the night ahead and in 30-degree heat, I was struggling to see for the mix of sweat and Deet running into my eyes. I made the decision to push on and seek refuge in my hide away from the insects and sun, hoping the bear would return to the clearing later and give me a chance to photograph him.

That encounter with a brown bear deep in Estonia’s Western Taiga forest helped me prepare for my upcoming African expedition. As a wildlife photographer I need clothing that will protect me against biting insects and help me cope with intense heat. That’s why I choose Rohan’s Overland shirts. I started wearing the short-sleeve versions while photographing African wild dogs in South Africa a couple of years ago in confidence that the UV-resistant technology would protect me during long days in the harsh African sun (having had a biopsy a few years ago, this technology is important to me).

This time around, not only will I be taking the Ultra Silver t-shirt to provide that extra layer of UV protection but I’m consciously adding the long-sleeve Overland shirt to my list of essential gear too. Over the next two months I will be dodging hippos while canoeing Botswana’s Selinda Spillway, photographing bird life and unparalleled elephant congregations on the Chobe River and tracking predators in Zambia’s Busanga swamps. With malaria a very real risk in these watery wildernesses, I’m going to need the Biteguard™ anti-insect technology of the Overland range as much as its UV protection. The neutral colour palette of the range is also an essential consideration for me when tracking dangerous game.

Because a large number of mosquito bites happen close to the ground, I need to be sure my legs are equally well protected. I count on Rohan’s Trailblazers trousers to deliver this through their Biteguard™ protection. These are without doubt the most comfortable trousers I’ve ever worn and the high degree of stretch in the fabric makes these the perfect trousers for any photographer who – like me – throws himself around a lot to find the best angle on a subject. The convertible option will also allow me to turn those trousers quickly into shorts – perfect for the African winter where cool, crisp mornings quickly give way to hot days.

The heat was also the defining factor when deciding to travel with Rohan’s Freight Vest. I’ll be honest, I used a similar vest made by another manufacturer for years but found it stifling and heavy both on location and while travelling through airports. While I’m walking in the Kalahari Desert in a few weeks time I’ll be grateful for the Freight Vest’s breathability, as well as the conveniently sited pockets large enough to carry my spare DSLR cameras, lenses and batteries.

Having this vest with me will mean I will have the flexibility to leave my camera bag behind if I want to and shoot with more freedom, spontaneity and creativity. I guess those three words sum up how many of us like to travel these days too. Thanks to Rohan, I now can…because I just can’t afford to stop and worry if my gear is going to stand up to the challenges I set it.

Read the full piece and see the Rohan range at Rohantime.com

What do you do when you meet a hero?

Posted in Conservation, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

So last night I had the privilege of meeting Sir David Attenborough at a Galapagos Conservation Trust event at BAFTA on London’s Piccadilly. The question is: what do you do when you meet an inspiration, someone who through their life’s work has influenced your decisions about your own career? Some people go quiet in awe, some people go straight in for the autograph, others ask for their photograph to be taken with that person.

So what did I do? Happily, I don’t actually get star-struck and so it was none of the above. As he had given so much to an appreciative audience on a fantastic evening barely three weeks after having heart surgery, I chose to give something back to him – something he could take away – in the form of a signed copy of my book Underdogs with a personal letter of appreciation slipped inside. My love for African wild dogs and my drive to understand them and share their plight has been influenced by memorable scenes in series such as Trials of Life and Planet Earth. Beyond that though, Sir David’s greatest influence on my own work has been in his ethical appreciation for the natural world around him and avoiding sensationalising wildlife encounters by provoking behaviour just for better ratings.

Sir David continues to lead his field of wildlife film-making and he uses his position to engage people in the most uncomfortable and pressing issues facing our own species and our planet. His recent heart surgery should also come as a reminder that he is merely human. For those reasons, among many more, he needs to be respected and treated with dignity. I hope that others will remember this if they should ever get the chance to meet this incredibly inspiring man. While I completely understand the desire to have a record of such meaningful events in life, a digital photograph could be lost on a phone or stolen on a laptop whereas a shared moment with a warm handshake and the exchange of a few sincere words will stay with you for ever. I know it will stay with me. I just hope he likes the book…

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

Sony World Photography Awards 2013

Posted in Exhibition, Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

The exhibition of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards is currently on at London’s Somerset House and, while I don’t usually use my blog to review exhibitions or publications, I just felt there was a little too much to say for one tweet…

As expected, the breadth of the concepts on show at the exhibition is considerable and should inspire any photographer to develop a new way of looking at the world…until you get to the ‘Nature and Wildlife’ category, that is. With so many important issues affecting our natural world to communicate through a powerful medium like photography with the backing of a global brand like Sony, I couldn’t help leaving the exhibition feeling let down. Not to take anything away from those photographers that brought us beautiful, amusing and striking studio portraits of chickens and flowers, the organisers simply need to think very carefully about what it is they want to achieve through this category. Quite simply, the ‘Nature and Wildlife’ selection fails to deliver insight into any real issues in the way that other categories do. The competition’s website does actually feature a shortlisted story on gorillas, proclaiming that the “series is about the gorillas, these apes losing their natural habitat”. Yet, rather disappointingly, the photo set turns out to be a bunch of close-ups of captive gorillas, expressed in black and white to presumably add some element of eloquence and poignancy. If this category is not meant to convey any serious message (or place any real importance on showing wild animals or places), the best move the organisers could make is to rename it something less assuming, like the ‘Animals and Plants’ category.

For all of these reasons, the greatest example of application in photographing wildlife and nature in its true form is in fact evident in the open competition, instead of amongst the professionals. Above and beyond creating a beautiful image, in taking his winning photograph Krasimir Matarov has actually bothered to take us out of the studio or zoo and into the wild, alien world of the spider.

But these are just my thoughts. The 2013 Sony World Photography Awards exhibition is at Somerset House until 12 May 2013. Why not see for yourself?

Canvas prints of my work now available to buy on my website…

Posted in African Wildlife, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

I am really pleased to say that canvas prints of my photographs are now available to buy from the online shop on my website. The collection available includes limited editions, new and never before seen images, award-winning shots and some old favourites. I personally selected those images that could have a real impact on any wall. To see the selection, go to conservationphotojournalism.com/canvasses

Canvas Prints (c) Neil Aldridge

Canvasses are available in two sizes – A1 and A2 – and are sorted into six categories – Limited Editions, Black and White, African Wildlife, European Wildlife, Landscapes and North American Wildlife.  Fine art prints of my work will also be available shortly, so please keep an eye on conservationphotojournalism.com/shop.

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

A quick blog on fox hunting…

Posted in Conservation, European Wildlife, UK Wildlife, Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

So this short blog post is a result of a recent conversation I had with somebody about fox hunting. The conversation was civil and chatty enough but the underlying debate was based on the fact that this person was admitting to me that they enjoy fox hunting and have continued doing it since the ban came to pass.

Now, in case you were in any doubt, I don’t support fox hunting. Not only do I happen to like foxes – young or old, rural or urban, bushy-tailed or mangy – but if there is a problem with urban foxes in the UK then it certainly isn’t going to be sorted out by calling in the horse and hound. London is a city that feels the need to use PA systems to remind pedestrians every two minutes that the weather today has been ‘inclement’ (of course it has, it’s the the UK…). It would be a wet dream for the paperwork department in the Health and Safety Executive if anyone honestly thought that it would be a good idea to send a pack of dogs and a posse of galloping horses through the streets to rid the nation’s capital of these so-called vermin. Realistically, if there is any problem with urban foxes then it is a Defra issue and the government needs to stop talking about hunting and focus on humane control informed by statistics and research, not by passion and opinion.

Luckily, my conversational corival agreed. However, where our views began to part was at the mention of the ‘T’ word – tradition. This word is a particular favourite of the pro-hunting fraternity. While I do agree that many countryside traditions should be upheld, I think it’s time anyone who believes the fox hunting community is getting even the slightest rough deal because they can’t practice their tradition needs a healthy dose of perspective. Last year I was lucky enough to spend some time in the company of the San Bushman of the Kalahari. If you really want to appreciate how a ban on hunting threatens tradition, do yourself a favour and pack your sandals, book a flight to Botswana and take a wander into the desert. Hunting restrictions there threaten the very future of one of the oldest and most important cultures we know – a culture from which every one of us hails.

Strangely, I didn’t quite pick up the same vibe of desperation or feel the same sense of sympathy when looking into the eyes of my wealthy, London-based melancholist as I had when sat in the sand opposite a tribal elder contemplating a future without the right to hunt, without the ability to provide for his family, without a role in society, without a formal education to fall back on…without an alternative.

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

Super Squirrels…

Posted in European Wildlife, Photography, UK Wildlife, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2013 by Neil Aldridge

© Neil Aldridge

Okay so let’s get one thing clear – these aren’t actually flying squirrels, they’re red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). More specifically, they’re Scottish red squirrels. Most of my previous attempts to photograph these wonderfully iconic creatures have been fruitless, which makes me even happier with the resulting pictures from a recent trip to the Highlands.

© Neil Aldridge

If I’m honest, while planning this trip to Scotland I was visualising and hoping for snow…and lots of it. Yet, while neither myself nor fellow South African photographer Ben Cranke came away with the wintery images that we had prepared for (and I always try to plan my shots before a shoot), the show that the squirrels put on and the opportunities that we had to capture their antics were beyond our expectations.

© Neil Aldridge

Ben and I spent two days working a set-up in Glenfeshie (check out the Northshots website for info) in the Cairngorms National Park, moving between a hide by a drinking pool and a hide positioned on the edge of the forest. We managed to learn the habits of the squirrels pretty quickly and finally get the best jumping, drinking and feeding shots that the lighting conditions would allow. While we may have arrived in the middle of a strange mid-winter heatwave, the sun was still low in the sky and barely broke above the treeline, making me pretty glad I had the f2.8 capacity of my Canon 400mm and 70-200mm lenses. I was also quietly happy to see Ben struggling to autofocus in the low light with his much vaunted Nikon D4* (*Disclaimer: this may not have happened).

© Neil Aldridge

It’s neither a secret nor is it new news that red squirrels in the UK have been squeezed out of their natural range by non-native grey squirrels. Grey squirrels cause such damage to the UK’s native fauna and flora that they are listed in the IUCN international list of 100 most impactful invasive non-native species. They are not only larger and out-compete the native reds for resources but they also carry the parapox virus. While greys can carry the virus without being affected, reds are highly susceptible to it. Research shows that in areas where both species occur and where the virus is present, greys can displace the reds up to 20 times faster. This makes protecting red squirrel strongholds both more important and more difficult.

© Neil Aldridge

Having been won over by Glenfeshie’s super squirrels, we left the comfort of the hides behind and spent two days on the surrounding snow-capped mountains searching for ptarmigan. Check back soon to see how we got on looking for white birds in a white landscape in horizontal blizzards.

© Neil Aldridge

Check out more images & news at conservationphotojournalism.com