For 2012, my photographic year did not really begin until July when I visited New Zealand, but I made up for it during the last five months of the year with two trips to Kenya, establishing more photo safaris, alongside accumulating a few more wildlife images. 2013 is starting to look busy already as a result, so happily, after a slow start, the grand total of 2012 was one of progression in more ways than one.
In May I was notified of three of my images reaching the final round of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. 2012 did not reach the same level of good fortune of 2011.
The image I held some hope for was a black and white image of a leopard catching a ray of sunlight at sunrise. I’d once thought it nigh on possible to make a successful black and white of a leopard, given their coat has the most striking colour of any of the African cats. After seeing the work of another photographer’s leopard, I decided to have a go, and after trying several I came up with this one, called First Light.
In July I visited New Zealand for the first time in a few years accepting an invitation by the Auckland Museum to speak about my photography and of my success in 2011’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
I also took the opportunity to see and photograph something unique to New Zealand (and realising a long held dream) a giant weta or wetapunga. Wetapunga are among the world largest insects and we were granted the opportunity by Butterfly Creek who have a breeding program for them. I have a video of that experience here, the video part taken unwittingly on an iPhone by Maegan McDowell.
Also at Butterfly Creek were several Australian estuarine crocodiles, including this youngster of about 18 inches long. While he was being held by a colleague, there was time for me to catch a picture of its remarkable jewel like eyes.
In August I was in Kenya again leading a group of seven to witness the great wildebeest migration. There were eight of us altogether and we were privileged to see three good wildebeest crossings, one taking an almost an hour to pass, replete with a monster crocodile making the most of its opportunity.
But it was not insomuch the crocodiles’ taking the wildebeest I was seeking, but of the chaos that it is during the crossings. The first crossing was primarily of zebra, the second one a mix of those and wildebeest, the third was mostly wildebeest. The objective was to catch the event on a grander scale and I think I achieved that with a few as here.
Knots (Part I)
On the stairs of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year pre-awards night gathering in October, I met Thomas Hanahoe, who, coincidently, I’d first met on the very same stairs of the very same event exactly one year before. In 2011 he accepted an award for his image of the knots at Snettisham as I did for A Flick of the Tail. This year he was doing just the same, knots again, only this time his image was accepted into the black and white category. Even though I’d missed the cut this year, his story helped make it up for me. He told me that he had been influenced by my own black and white work so was encouraged to enter one himself.
It’s very satisfying to learn that your work influences, and to get a prestigious award for it makes it more so. However I did scold him as his entry may possibly have cost me a place. (Joke.)
I’ve since visited Snettisham, for the first time in December, but more on that later.
All About Ron
This picture was from 2011 but I include it here as it is a lesson of 2012, that lesson being: don’t throw away your rejected images because recently when I went back on my old images to see what I may have missed, Ron showed up. The full story is here.
There has been much discussion about the cheetahs of the Masai Mara and of their jumping on the safari vehicles to obtain a better view. In August we witnessed this, and with much sadness too. On that occasion there were up to a dozen other vehicles soliciting a cheetah to jump up onto their roofs for the sake of a photo and a thrill. The cheetah’s poor cub was having a nightmare of it, narrowly avoiding the moving vehicles wheels as it tried to follow mum about.
She had already lost one cub and one guide informed me that he believed it was lost under one of safari vehicle’s wheels. After the cheetah jumped down and began pursuit of prey, she was followed closely behind (and in front of) by a convoy of tourists and photographers. But we were not among them on this occasion, after what we had witnessed we decided to go the other way.
In October we saw the same cheetah again, albeit in quite different circumstances. This time she was with her cub and there were no other vehicles, in fact ours was the only one there for the best part of two hours. In that time she jumped up on our car four times.
This lead to discussion between my client and I, and of the driver guides and camp managers we’d spent time with. One view is that we should have driven away and denied her the opportunity to jump. Another view was that the cheetah was jumping entirely of it’s own volition, and that there was nothing wrong in that in itself. The concerns arrive when there are irresponsible drivers as we saw in August, endangering the cheetahs’ lives or influencing their behaviour.
Nature’s Best Awards
In September, I learnt that Embracing the Wind claimed an Highly Honored Award in the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards in the Art and Nature category. This was particularly satisfying because this has always been one of my more popular images, taken in 2009, so it was pleasing to see it being recognised at last after so many near misses.
Black and White Kenya
Kenya in August and October this year saw me add to my collection of black and white pictures, including some close range pictures, some with a long lens, some with shorter lenses. One of these was taken with a shorter lens. Can you guess which one?
A D800E and a 400mm f/2.8
In November I purchased a Nikon D800E to go with my D3s and a new 400mm f/2.8 prime lens to replace my 200-400 f/4 zoom. The zoom is a terrific lens but I felt that I would be achieving more now with the prime. It’s sounds odd to think of a prime being more flexible than a zoom, but with converter compatibility it offers me options that the zoom couldn’t. Also the apparent flexibility of the zoom is made up for by me having the prime on one camera, and a 70-200 zoom lens on another. So far I my believe my decision to be inspired and I look forward to using them more in 2013.
Knots (Part II)
In December, I travelled with Richard Peters very early one morning to ensure that we got from London to Snettisham in Norfolk in good time for the knot spectacular at high tide later that morning. I guess you could say that this was my UK bird-life debut. I’ve dabbled a bit here and there, but I have never really taken it too seriously until now.
It was also a good opportunity to get something a little different than what I have achieved before. In the low light early in the morning, in order to avoid excessively high ISO, I adopted the use of low shutter speeds in order to achieve something a little abstract alongside some of a more conventional nature. I previously posted about these here.
I also have a number of other goals for 2013 (as should any photographer) and mine, in part, is to excel at two new techniques of wildlife photography. One is on its way already, the other I look forward to. Hopefully on this date at this time next year, I will be able to tell you about those.
Until then all the best to everyone and to your photographic success in 2013 :)