Archive for Okavango

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…

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

Six images in the Share The View competition…

Posted in Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

©NeilAldridge

Six of my photographs have been selected in the winning portfolio of the Audubon Society’s Share the View International Nature Photography Competition. It’s a shame not to have been amongst the winners but my sincere congratulations to Bence Mate (Grand Prize, Best Bird winner) and Suzi Eszterhas (Grand Prize, Overall winner).

©NeilAldridge

Those of my entries which made it into the top portfolio include a portrait of a Canadian bald eagle feeding, two little terns in courtship display, a zebra stallion biting the neck of an adversary, a portrait of a meerkat, a close-up wide-angle shot of a colourful painted reed frog in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and an intimate portrait of a white rhinoceros – a shot which also features in BBC Wildlife magazine’s 2013 calendar.

The winners and top 250 will be featured on the Share the View website in early January 2013, so be sure to check back then.

©NeilAldridge

2013 BBC Wildlife Calendar…

Posted in Photography, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2012 by Neil Aldridge

The December 2012 issue of BBC Wildlife magazine goes on sale this week. As well as exceptional features on Ethiopian wolves and giant otters, and a portfolio on winter in Siberia, the issue includes the 2013 edition of the sought-after BBC Wildlife Calendar. I’m really proud to say that two of my photographs feature in the calendar – a malachite kingfisher snapped in the swamps of Botswana’s Okavango Delta earlier this year and a portrait of a white rhino, taken in the home of rhino conservation – South Africa’s Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park.

As you would expect from BBC Wildlife, the calendar – which marks the magazine’s 50th anniversary – is full of wonderful wildlife photographs taken from the equatorial waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve to the frozen wilderness of the arctic circle. Pick up a copy and be inspired.

See these photos and more on my main website…

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

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

New photo safari dates confirmed

Posted in African Wildlife, Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Take Action with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2010 by Neil Aldridge

I have teamed up with Letaka Safaris to offer just six people the chance to experience the wild wonders of northern Botswana, one of Africa’s most celebrated and exciting wildlife edens. Join me for the unforgettable trip ‘Botswana Exposed‘ in 2011 as we travel through Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve, Khwai Concession, Savuti and Chobe National Park photographing one of the world’s largest concentrations of carnivores, the desperate interactions between predator and prey at the end of the long dry season, the myriad of returning migrant birds and the lush Savuti region as it hasn’t been seen for 30 years.

This 11-night/12-day photographic trip from Maun to Kasane takes in the best of Botswana, starting with the famous Moremi Game Reserve on the eastern edge of the vast Okavango Delta. Heading north, we will enjoy the freedom of the Khwai Concession before moving into the Savuti marshes and finishing on the banks of the Chobe River. Northern Botswana is home to huge herds of elephant and buffalo and has an incredibly high concentration of carnivores. The end of the dry season also promises some exciting and raw animal interactions. The bird life is phenomenal too and we will be taking this all in in what promises to be an unforgettable trip. Find out more and book your place via the safari pages of my main site www.conservationphotojournalism.com