Photographers' Blog

Wildlife of Farne

Farne Islands

By Nigel Roddis

The Farne Islands, a cluster of rocky outcrops in the windswept ocean off the northeastern English coast, might not sound like a particularly welcoming destination. But although they are a harsh environment for humans, they are a haven for wildlife, from grey seals to some 23 types of seabird.

I had been to the islands many times before to go diving, but this time I wanted to shoot an extended story about the many species that live there. Over the course of the project, which ran from May to November 2013, I spent seven days both on the islands themselves and under the sea that surrounds them, photographing the teeming wildlife.

This was a fascinating year to document one of the Farne Islands’ most distinctive inhabitants: puffins. Every five years, UK conservation charity the National Trust conducts a census of this strange-looking seabird, with its black-and-white body and colorful bill. The latest one began in May this year.

The rangers who carry out the survey have to search some 90,000 burrows on the islands, where electricity is scarce and running water non-existent. They have just one day off a week to go back to the mainland, but if weather conditions are poor they can be left stranded. Once this year they were stuck on the islands for 17 days.

Yet the rangers who work on the census are extremely dedicated and this year they got good news. The survey showed there were almost 40,000 pairs of nesting puffins on the islands, a significant increase from 2008 when the number was just 36,835.

Latitude Zero from underwater

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

By Jorge Silva

Once your eyes go below the ocean waterline, you know that there is an immense parallel universe brimming with images.

Ever since I began taking pictures I haven’t discovered anything that grabs me like diving does. Luckily, I don’t have to neglect photography while diving; they are perfectly complementary.

GALLERY: GALAPAGOS POSTCARDS

Photographing underwater is a challenge due to the inherent demands of diving, and the technical difficulties that underwater photography presents.

Behind the snakehead legend

Mt. Vernon, Virginia

By Gary Cameron

Spending time on the water pursuing fish is one of my favorite, relaxing pastimes. Spending time on the water pursuing fish as part of my job comes in as a close second.

In a city that requires plenty of time having photographers covering men in suits behind microphones with lots of blah-blah-blah, going out on a Virginia Department of Game and Inland fisheries biologists “stunboat” for a day of chasing, capturing, monitoring, studying, dissecting and releasing the once-feared northern snakehead fish was an assignment I looked forward to.

The northern snakehead (Channa argus, for those of you who stayed awake in Latin class), became an instant, and feared, celebrity in the Washington, D.C. area back in the summer of 2002. It was reported that someone had discovered a snakehead in a pond in suburban Maryland and this intruder would search, spread, and destroy other species found in local waters, specifically, the Potomac River. Adding to the “fear factor” of the snakeheads very aggressive disposition, an extremely slimy coating, and a mouthful of sharp teeth, was the fact that snakeheads are obligate air breathers. Not only are they comfortable under water, they, like turtles, can spend time breathing air OUT of water as well. Locals were told to kill any snakeheads to stop the spreading of the species, and while you’re at it, hide the women and children as well. This was one bad-ass fish.

The tiger, the pig and the cage

Sumatra Island, Indonesia

By Beawiharta

Over a three-week period in February, I covered two very different animal-related assignments in Indonesia – the slaughtering of snakes in West Java and the preservation of the endangered tiger in Sumatra.

In West Java, Wakira along with his 10 workers kill hundreds of snakes each day for their skin at his slaughterhouse in Cirebon. While in Sumatra, real estate tycoon Tomy Winata saves and releases tigers into the wild at his Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation. I didn’t enjoy the snake slaughterhouse assignment because snakes are dangerous and disgusting, but I really liked visiting the tigers in Tambling.

After a nearly 90 minute flight on a Super Puma helicopter from Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, we landed at the Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation on the southern tip of Sumatra Island. The 45,000 hectare forest reserve can only be reached by boat or plane. As soon as we reached the Sumatran Tiger Rescue Centre on our golf cart, we could immediately hear the roars of the tigers. Seeing three ferocious tigers up close was shocking to me. At times, it was difficult to move and I trembled in fear as the view from my camera lens made me forget that they were actually caged up.

Paradise city in grizzly bear country

“Take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. Take me home. Oh, won’t you please take me home.”

Apparently those few lyrics from the Guns ‘N Roses 1987 hit song Paradise City are the only parts of the song I know and also the only song I know the lyrics to. I can’t even recite the Star Spangled Banner. But singing in a false seagull strangling soprano while hiking and camping in grizzly bear country was my way of not creeping up on a bear and surprising it and thus becoming bear food.

However, there was no amount of preparation I could have done that wasn’t immune from my own self-inflicted anguish and anxiety. Learn from my failure: when camping by yourself in bear country never ever ever ever read a book about grizzly bear attacks while you’re trying to go to sleep in your sleeping bag. Sleep just doesn’t happen with that running through your mind and every little sound in the forest is sure to be a grizzly bear on its way to attack you. And for God sakes, skip over the parts about the bear’s mating habits.