The editors at BBC Wildlife magazine just let me know that my story pitch made it to the final round of selection for their BBC Wildlife Photographic Grant, sponsored by Kowa. Though I did not get the grand prize, I am honored that the editors picked my pitch to be in the final and that they asked me to submit a gallery of images for their website. Thank you photo editors! And am very much looking forward to finding out who the overall winner is in a couple of days!
In my profession it is often simply impossible to get the picture without the help of other people. To follow up on the Reviewing the 2014 Photographic Year post, I would like to thank those amazing people and organizations who made it possible for 2014 to be such an awesome year.
I first traveled to Uganda to try and photograph the African Golden Cat (this was my second try as this species was also my goal in Gabon last year). In Uganda I teamed up with David Mills who has been studying these elusive cats for the last four years. David and Laila Bhaa-el-din (from Gabon), are the experts on this species. For most information that is known about this felid, either of the two had a hand in attaining it. David is currently finishing up his PhD looking at thousands of camera trap images along with other data to determine the ecology about the Golden Cat in the eastern part of its range.
We were able to get two series of pictures of two different grey morphed African Golden Cats, all due to you, David. Thank you also David for your generosity, your willingness to help, not letting me be killed by that charging elephant, but most importantly your friendship! (Also for all of your help with setting up camera traps in Scotland!!!)
Alongside David, was Sam Isoke. Sam has been conducting wildlife research in Uganda for over two decades. He has also been assisting David since the start and knows as much as there is to know about the African Golden Cat. While I was there, Sam was even afflicted with a bout of Malaria. Unwavering, after a few days rest, he was right back in the jungle!
Thank you Sam for guiding me through the forest, helping me set up camera traps, your amazing cooking, and the great conversations.
I had the privilege of joining an anti-poaching team for two days as they looked for illegal activity in the forest. Both John Okwilo and Godfrey Nyesiga are extraordinary men as they head into the jungle every day, possibly risking their lives to protect the forest and the animals that live within it. During the two days I was with them, they found numerous examples of illegal logging activity and they removed both a neck and a foot snare, directly saving the lives of at least two animals.
Thank you John and Godfrey for allowing me to join you, but more importantly for the great conservation work you are doing in Kibale National Park!
A very heartfelt thank you also to Florence, who washed my extremely dirty clothes and ironed all of them to ensure that all potential Mango Fly eggs that may have been laid on them were killed. Thank you Florence for your smile, your help, and your beautiful fabric!
Francis, thank you for getting me and all of my gear safely in and out of the field. Thank you for your patience, your help, and your willingness to answer all of my questions!
Due to the help of Michelle Anne, I was able to go into a local classroom to photograph the educational outreach programs that David initiated and that Michelle manages and impliments. These lessons teach the children about the nearby forest, what animals live in them, and why those animals are important. It’s incredibly important information that most of these children would never otherwise receive. Thank you Michelle for your continued persistence to the cause and for sharing your work with me.
After Uganda came Scotland, where I was looking for the Scottish Wildcat. Kerry Kilshaw has been studying these small cats in the eastern part of the country for quite a while there. She finished her data collection last year and is now in the process of writing up her dissertation. She has helped the government on multiple occasions to answer the questions about Scotland’s largest carnivore. The Scottish Wildcat has a much better chance at survival with Kerry’s knowledge and research.
Thank you Kerry for all of your generous help as the Scottish Wild cat picture exists because of you, for helping with the organization, and for driving all the way to meet me, all while taking care of a toddler!
And finally, I would like to thank my fiance Kailani, because of her, we went abroad (since she was doing her PhD research), which meant that I was able to spend time in France, Spain, England, Wales, and Australia. Being with you is always the most fun and all the adventures we have together mean the most to me. Thank you for being so supportive and for caring so much about what I treasure. I love you.
Like last year, I would like to thank (my gratitude is really beyond words) the cat conservation organization Panthera. Their continued efforts in saving wild cats is immediately apparent and it is a true honor to have had the privilege to work together last year (and as always, I very much look forward to working together in the new year!). Please keep doing what you are doing; cats and people all over the world are thankful for it. To the general public, please donate to them, if you are in any way interested in cat conservation. 100% of your donation will go directly into the field!
WildCRU, an Oxford based research unit, who often partners with Panthera, conducts carnivore research all over the world. Many of the researchers I have worked with in the past, including last year are associated with them. WildCRU also allowed me to photograph their Badger work this last year, for which I am very grateful. Please check out their website for more information.
As is becoming tradition, I wanted to review the last year and see what goals I was able to accomplish from my bucket list. Last year was quite amazing as I traveled to six different countries to spend almost all of 2014 abroad. This provided many opportunities to have some very unique experiences.
I am including only the highlights from this year in this post (for the full list just click the link above). I am also only showing one or two images of each species/location, if you want to see all the pictures from that subject just click that name and the link will take you to the appropriate gallery.
Visit and or Explore
Tropical Rainforests (Adding to last years jungle adventures was a four week trip in June to Uganda)
African Golden Cat (June 2014) – More on that later
Scottish Wildcat (September 2014) – More on that later
3 species of Civet (Completed this goal with getting a picture of an African Civet in June, 2014)
This year I added “All 3 Puffin Species” and I have one species of the three after photographing the Atlantic Puffins on Skomer Island:
1000 bird species in the wild (I am at 234, having added 44 species this year), just a few here:
300 mammal species in the wild (I am at 107, having added 10 species this year), just a few here:
20 critically endangered and 50 endangered species (I am at 6 and 22 respectively)
Another great year, which always gives me enthusiasm for making next year even better!
How about you, anything particular that you photographed in 2014 that you are really happy/proud of?
*If you are interested in purchasing any of the pictures displayed in this post, please check out my fine prints page for pricing.*
The results are in for BBC’s Camera Trap Photo of the Year Competition. I have entered some of my SLR camera trap pictures every year into this camera trap photography contest and this year the quality level of images has definitely stepped up in this competition. I think it was smart of them to separate the contest into a research and photography category as that allows for the lower resolution research pictures to shine on the same level as the SLR camera trap shots.
I’d like to first highlight that a good friend of mine, and an amazing biologist, Laila Bahaa-el-din, was commended in the Rare Species category with a beautiful picture of a red morph African Golden Cat. This stunning photograph perfectly fits in the rare species category since it is extremely difficult to get even a camera trap picture of this cat. After nine weeks trying to get a high resolution picture of this species, I was only able to photograph two individuals. Laila has hundreds of pictures and videos of this cat! You deserved this recognition, nice job Laila, I am really happy for you!
I had the honor of sharing an award in this same category of Rare Species with Laila, as the picture of the Marbled Cat got runner up (behind an Iranian Cheetah so, I mean, that’s a given first place!). This picture was a total team effort, to read more check out both of these past blog posts. (Borneo Bay Cat and Thank you for 2013).
The magazine’s editors always do a separate selection from the winners of the category, in their Editor’s Choice Gallery. This too is another great collection of images (I love the tiger coming out of the darkness), and I was again truly honored to have one of my images associated with such great pictures, photographers, and biologists. It is of a Malay Civet, captured as it is crossing over a buttress root in the dense rainforest of Malaysian Borneo (my friend Andy Hearn and I were trying to get a Sunda Clouded Leopard here, but we’ll take what we can get).
There are a few things I am really excited about in regards to the results (I am of course happy that two entries placed, but that’s not important). One, is that the competition winners are filled with cats — in fact nine out of the 39 winning photographs depict one of our feline friends. Better yet, it highlights some of the least known and endangered species in the cat family. This contest allows a lot more people to be exposed to these amazing amazing animals, hopefully converting a few people out there into cat conservationists, or at the very least into more environmentally aware people (how can one not be excited about that?!?!).
I am so very glad BBC has started this competition and it is truly blooming into a great project that is not only entertaining, but also will drive environmental change.
*If you are interested in purchasing any of the pictures displayed in this post, please check out my fine prints page for pricing.*
Photographing wildlife in your local state park is one thing, traveling across the world to try and capture images of elusive species in remote areas is another. You have to start thinking beyond picture taking to managing staying out in the field for extended periods of time. Convenience stores aren’t around every corner and if you are missing something you may just be plain out of luck. Though the list of things to bring is extensive I wanted to explain my top ten essentials that I take every time I head into the field.
1. Camera Gear
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: without camera equipment you wouldn’t be doing much photography. Having multiples of items, especially cameras, is essential. This way, if something breaks, you don’t have to give up shooting altogether. I have had two cameras break on me while I was on location, though inconvenient, it didn’t halt my photography as I could just keep going with the back-ups.
In most foreign countries you can’t just show up, pull out your camera, and start shooting — especially not for extended periods of time. Many countries require you to get visas before you even depart your home country. Others require you to provide your immunization history to make sure you aren’t bringing in any disease or may be contracting on during your stay. Finally, if you are working in any public areas, you most likely need a permit to conduct your photography project from the governmental department responsible for the environment (sure makes shooting at home sound way more appealing, doesn’t it?!).
3. First Aid Kit
Alright, so you have made it to your remote location finally. You are pumped up and ready to conquer all photography challenges when a major bout of diarrhea leaves you weak and lying in bed for days. You get a bacterial infection and have no way of treating it. A simple injury can all of a sudden become life threatening. All of these scenarios are quite possible, and could have happened to me, if I did not have a first aid kid to nip the problem in the bud right when the issue started to present itself. It’s not much to carry, but it can literally save your life. Check out the CDCs website to see what health issues you should be prepared for at your destination.
4. Water Purification
That brings me right to my next item, well items really. We take clean water for granted, but guess what, in most parts of the world that is simply not the case. So will you just bring gallons and gallons of water with you? Carrying the extra weight is just not feasible. So you have to be able to purify the water you naturally encounter in the environment. A water pump (for sediment extraction) along with a steripen (which kills the bacteria and viruses) are essential to alleviating any kind of water problems.
5. Rain Protection
Talking about water, in the tropical environments I have worked in the most, finding water is no problem, simply because it rains in these ecosystems almost daily. Great for drinking water, not so great for keeping your photo and traveling equipment dry. I always carry raincovers and waterproof bags with me, so if a downpour comes in, I know all is safe.
6. Silica Gels
Related to the waterproof bags are silica gels. In tropical environments, even when it isn’t raining, the humidity is absolutely absurd (my baseball hat was growing three different species of fungi the last time I was in Borneo), which can lead to health issues and fungus growing inside of your photo gear. To ensure that the air within your bags is less humid, silica packets are absolutely essential.
7. Pocket Knife
Another duh item really. It allows you to eat food more easily, cut most anything, and repair a lot of your kit. I use my pocketknife daily when I am in the field and it is the item I would least want to lose.
8. Hand Sanitizer and Toilet Paper
Going to the bathroom in the wilderness is somewhat of an acquired taste. Whether you hate it or don’t mind it, you won’t get around it when you are in the field for extended periods of time. To do things properly though, both toilet paper and hand sanitizer are required. If you don’t have toilet paper, you can always use a leaf, but grabbing the wrong kind of vegetation will guarantee that you won’t forget the tp in the future.
9. External Hard drives
All is well, you are safe, your equipment is safe, and you are having amazing experiences taking amazing pictures. Life couldn’t be better. You are filled with happiness as you see your pictures loading onto your computer and there is no sense of nervousness as you do so because you thought ahead and brought plenty of external storage. When I am in the field, each photograph I take is stored on three different devices, so even if one fails, I still have two back-up copies. I would recommend doing the same for you.
10. Compass and GPS
Assuming that you’d like to return from your adventurous journey, I would recommend bringing both a compass and a GPS to lead you back to civilization. Having worked in the desert and the dense jungle now, I can attest that these two items are probably the biggest life savers. When you are totally away from civilization it is incredibly easy to get turned around. I have stepped 10 feet off the trail in the jungle, closed my eyes, spun around, and had no idea where the trail was when I open my eyes again. You may think all you need is a GPS, but that would also be incorrect. My good friend Andy Hearn and I have walked in circles in the rainforest in Borneo trying to go straight, even while looking at the GPS the whole time. Using the GPS with the compass allowed us to get a proper bearing and get back to our camp.
Food: I didn’t list food as a top ten essential because it isn’t something I bring from home; I buy the necessary supplies locally before heading into the field.
Power: If you are out in the field for more than a week at a time, I’d highly recommend setting yourself up so you can charge your camera batteries with solar power. Otherwise you are carrying a ton of batteries around. (Batteries would have made the list if I didn’t take them out before traveling due to weight restrictions — trust me paying for an extra 175lb in excess baggage fees is not fun, so any weight you can lose is worth it).
As mentioned this list can go on and on, but I think this is a good start. Am I missing something on this list that you think is essential? Let us know in the comments!
Do you want to know less about the gear and more about how I take my pictures? Join me on one of my workshops!