Archive for Selinda

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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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…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