Archive for wpoty

2011…setting a challenging pace

Posted in Photography, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

Before I came to my senses and picked up a camera I used to row internationally (yes, that’s right…I used to think that getting up before dawn and training twice a day most of the year was fun). One of the most annoying things about racing was always when an opposing crew would blast out of the blocks, intent on setting a blistering pace from the start and making you play catch-up. I guess it would be like an arch rival throwing a personal best in the first round of the Olympic javelin competition. Well, for me, the year of 2011 has been a bit like that annoying rival. It’s set a standard that’s going to take new efforts to beat.

Another way of looking at it is that 2011 has been a pretty good year. More than two million people around the world will have seen my African wild dog image Survivor from the 2010 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition during the competition’s traveling exhibition. Winning this year’s British Wildlife Photography Awards documentary category for my country shoot portfolio was also a fantastic honour. This win brought another of my conservation stories to the fore shortly after my BBC Wildlife Magazine feature on the badger ‘cull versus vaccination’ debate hit the shelves – and the magazine’s front cover – in the autumn. However, my third conservation photo story to make it into the public domain was my biggest story of all and the culmination of three years of work. In December my African wild dog book Underdogs was published and, well, it’s a little early to say how it’s gone down but no doubt the reviews will soon start trickling in. I also supported the launch of the book with a talk at the Natural History Museum and this talk wasn’t my only event at this world-renowned institution in 2011 as it followed a short series of photo workshops earlier in the year.

After all of that it probably sounds like I haven’t actually done much photography in 2011. And that is largely true. Being a photojournalist I do spend a lot of time in front of the computer and this year a lot of that time was spent writing Underdogs. I did get to some wonderful locations though. Scotland and Estonia both cemented themselves as favourite locations and made their way back into my plans for 2012 based on what I saw, who I met and the shots I got.

Perhaps I have been a little harsh on 2011 calling it the ‘annoying rival’. After all – coming back to my racing – I remember that there never was a better feeling than coming from behind to beat an opponent. I guess in my celebration of the year that has passed I am just a little daunted at the work that lies ahead of me to make 2012 even better. But then that’s the nature of wildlife photography. Boundaries are being pushed and new markers set in the sand all the time not only by technological advances in equipment but by the techniques and wonderful imagination and innovation of other photographers.

So am I up for the challenge to put 2011 in its place? You bet! With Wanderlust-approved photo safaris in Africa, a brand new photo tour to Estonia in conjunction with Remo Savisaar and some ambitious projects to test my photography, equipment and field skills all in the pipeline, 2012 already looks like it’s going to be a fantastic year. So happy new year and stay tuned…

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The dust has settled…

Posted in Conservation, Conservation Photography, Photography, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2011 by Neil Aldridge

Not only has the dust settled on a few amazing weeks of celebrating all that is wonderful about when wildlife and photography mix but it has also been settling for some time (perhaps for too long) on my cameras. They sat patiently while I wrote, edited, rewrote and re-edited my African wild dog book Underdogs. They then sat patiently again while I recently soaked up inspiration from photographers, editors, agents and filmmakers from across the globe at event after event in London. Now, the time may just be right to clear away the cobwebs, venture out and work on some new projects by harnessing all of the energy gained from the past weeks.

This run of events providing food for thought started with the new WildlifExpo event at London’s Alexandra Palace where I picked up an award at the 2011 British Wildlife Photography Awards ceremony for winning the Documentary Series category with my country shoot portfolio It’s Just a Game. The much anticipated 2011 Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards ceremony followed, won of course by Daniel Beltra’s beautiful image of a tragic scene. After the formalities came WildPhotos at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), giving photographers the chance to slip out of their stiflingly formal clothes and into something that they would feel comfortable networking to within an inch of their lives in. Then, just when we thought it was all over, Canon Pro Solutions 2011 and NatureInFocus followed in quick succession.

The inspiration from a lineup of top speakers and the collective energy and optimism generated amongst photographers at WildPhotos in particular produces so many ideas. Most ideas are kept private and scribbled on note pads in the darkened theatre of the RGS. Importantly though, other ideas are shared and some are even collaborative in nature. For me, this sharing of experiences and ideas is the most important element of WildPhotos and to slip away without having drawn upon the imagination and knowledge of some of the most inspirational minds in the industry would be a trick missed. Advice on equipment, settings, locations and even how to get a project seen and published is all there to be tapped into under one roof for two fantastic days.

Going one step further, I honestly believe that this sharing of ideas and generation of collaborative projects is shaping the future of wildlife photography. More than ever we need to be using our collective passion for our subjects alongside our skills as communicators to make a difference to the protection of our natural world where words and politics often fail. After all, you can’t be a wildlife photographer if there is no wildlife to photograph. That would be about as fun as being the resident wedding photographer at a monastery. RAVEs and projects like Wild Wonders of Europe show that photographers can still work in the solitude that so many value and enjoy but contribute to a synergistic vision that allows their work to make a real difference.

So, with my African wild dog work nearing its climax with the publication of my new book Underdogs, the events of the last few weeks couldn’t have come at a better time. Having soaked up the inspiration and shared my ideas for my next projects with friends and colleagues, 2012 is looking exciting…ambitious but exciting. Not only have I made many new contacts with whom I hope to work in the future but WildPhotos keynote speaker Jack Dykinga provided wonderful inspiration for me as I look to improve the landscape photography element of my future photo stories. By (bravely) sharing his pre-shoot drawings of key photographs for a story, Thomas P Peschak also reiterated the importance of planning ahead and having the money shot in mind before embarking on a shoot. All I need to do now is dust off my equipment and make a shopping list for my new adventures in image making and story telling. I’m not going to say what my new project plans are. For that, you’ll have to stay tuned to this blog or follow me on Twitter. But be patient…time, imagination and planning are crucial to photographing any new and groundbreaking work nowadays.

Thanks for the inspiration and memories class of 2011. Roll on 2012…

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