May 14

To celebrate the launch of the inaugural Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award at this year’s Wildscreen Festival, Arkive is getting to know the award’s amazing jury, who are themselves international photography professionals. Here we meet Peter Cairns.

 

Peter Cairns

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I spent my childhood in the English Midlands, but I’ve been based in the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands for over 20 years now.

I’ve been a freelance nature and conservation photographer since 2000 and am a founding director of The Wild Media Foundation, a social enterprise that generates conservation media through projects such as Tooth & Claw, Highland Tiger, Wild Wonders of Europe and 2020VISION.

In 2015, I founded SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, a company dedicated to producing compelling visual media that promotes the benefits of a wilder Scotland.

I am also Board Member of Scottish rewilding charity Trees for Life, and a Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

 

View over Glen Einich in late summer, Scotland | © Peter Cairns

What was your exposure to photography growing up?

Very little until my early adult life. My Grandad was a keen photographer but I took little interest until my mid-twenties. He did however, instil in me a passion for birds and when that resurfaced in later life, it provided the catalyst for my early attempts at wildlife photography.

Black grouse (Tetrao tetrix), Scotland | © Peter Cairns

What in your opinion makes a good photo story?

There’s a word that I use a lot in evaluating stories I document myself and those covered by others: Compelling. Is this story compelling?  Does it captivate my interest and perhaps more importantly, does it move me? Our job as conservation photographers is firstly to inform. If we can then inspire, that’s a bonus. The Holy Grail however, is to influence. If a story influences a change in mindset or motivates an action, it’s been successful.

Do you have any memorable photo stories of your own?

I tend to forget pretty much everything I’ve done as soon as I’ve done it! I’m not one for dwelling too long on the success, or otherwise, of my own work. There’s always so much more to do. That said, certain stories do have a habit of bouncing back to life years ahead and that is true of some work I did on Scottish wildcats which is still doing the rounds ten years after the images were taken.

Scottish wildcat (Felis sylvestris) stalking along track in pine forest, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland | © Peter Cairns

You’re Project Director of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, why is rewilding important to you and Scotland as whole? And how do you best communicate your rewilding vision to a wider audience?

Most of the projects I’ve been involved with over the years, and the lessons learned from them, have culminated in SCOTLAND: The Big Picture. In some ways it brings me back to working very close to home where I know the lie of the land physically, culturally and politically. It’s important to understand the context of a story to tell it effectively.

Despite notable conservation success stories, Britain is one of the most ecologically depleted nations on Earth. All of our large carnivores have gone. Most of our large herbivores have gone and across huge areas of Scotland the land is degraded and pretty much devoid of life. Rewilding offers an opportunity to revitalise vast landscapes and to restore the natural processes that sustain all life.  This cannot and should not be achieved at the expense of people but to the benefit of people. In terms of communicating what is quite a complex message, we tend to tease out individual stories within the wider story, using species like red squirrels or ospreys as “ambassadors” of the wider rewilding narrative.

There’s no silver bullet at work here. It takes time to change people’s belief systems and we’re on that journey of change. Every now and then we see a glimpse of success – from someone reading our books or attending a presentation perhaps -and that spurs us on. Visual storytelling does make a difference.

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) on the edge of a woodland pool, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland |             © Peter Cairns

You are on the jury for Wildscreen’s inaugural Photo Story Panda Award. Why do you feel it’s important that Wildscreen is including stills photography within the Panda Awards and the Wildscreen Festival?

When I look back over the last 20 years, there are images that are seared onto my mind. They made me think differently and act differently.  I want as many people as possible to see compelling images created by talented photographers and to feel differently as a result. Wildscreen is providing the mechanism for that to happen and I’m delighted to be part of it.

If you could give 18 year old you one piece of advice for building a career in photography, what would it be?

Think hard before you jump – you need to be financially sustainable to enable your voice to be heard – that’s not easy these days. Let your head rule your heart, not the other way around.

Secondly, build relationships – they will become your greatest asset. There, that’s two bits of advice!

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Thanks to Peter for talking to us, and we look forward to seeing him and the fantastic array of submissions at the Wildscreen Festival 2018!

You can find Peter on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, or visit his website petercairnsphotography.com

Revisit the Arkive blog soon to meet the rest of the Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award jury.

May 8

For the first time in its 36 year history, the 2018 Wildscreen Panda Awards, widely regarded as the most prestigious accolade in the wildlife film and TV genre, will recognise the craft of wildlife photography, with the introduction of the Wildscreen Photo Story Panda Award.

The Panda Awards ceremony is the flagship event of the Wildscreen Festival, the world’s biggest global gathering and celebration of screen-based natural history storytelling. The photo award is being launched to further cement the conservation charity’s commitment to and belief in photography as a powerful and impactful tool for raising awareness about and protecting the natural world across society.  It will celebrate and recognise the very best in photographic narrative, uniting it alongside the world’s very best natural world film talent.

© Neil Aldridge

Announcing the award, Wildscreen’s Director, Lucie Muir, said: “ As we approach CBD 2020, in Beijing, it is essential for the future of our planet that everyone understands the critical importance of biodiversity and the responsibility we all have to protect it. Therefore, there is no better time for Wildscreen to recognise the craft of wildlife and environmental photographers in telling nature’s stories, side by side and united with the world’s best filmmakers. Our community of talented storytelling professionals are transforming the way people see and understand nature, they are our eyes on our natural world and a voice for those that cannot speak, and it’s our role to celebrate and thank them.”

Jury Chair, Sophie Stafford, said: “Storytelling has been part of the fabric of society since the dawn of human language, but in a world addicted to instant gratification it’s a skill that is being lost. Sadly, there’s never been a time it was needed more. As pressures on the natural world become ever more intense, there is no better time to launch a photo award to showcase the most important and compelling wildlife stories of our time. This new Panda Award will reward dedicated photographers for committing the time and resources required to shoot a well-rounded story, and highlight the beauty of our planet and the challenges it faces.

 

CALL FOR ENTRIES

Entrants have between the 18 April to 8 June 2018 to submit photo stories comprising of between six to ten images that have an aspect of the natural world as a central focus, with a clear and powerful narrative weaved between the images.

The competition is open to professional and amateur photographers worldwide, over 18 years. The judges will also be looking for exceptional emerging talent photographers, under the age of 30, which will be considered for an ‘Emerging Talent Photo Story Panda Award’.

© Neil Aldridge

Entries can be made via the online submission portal on the Wildscreen website, available at: www.wildscreen.org/panda-awards

 

Judges

The inaugural competition will be judged by a stellar panel of international photography professionals, including –  Kathy Moran (USA), Senior Editor (Natural History), National Geographic Magazine; Britta Jaschinski (Germany/UK) photojournalist and co-founder of Photographers Against Wildlife Crime; Peter Cairns (UK) nature and conservation photographer and founding director of The Wild Media Foundation and Jasper Doest (Netherlands) conservation photographer.

The jury will be chaired by wildlife magazine editor and seasoned international photography competition judge Sophie Stafford (UK) and award-wining conservation photographer Neil Aldridge, winner of the World Press Photo 2018 Environment category, as the competitions’ technical consultant.

© Britta Jaschinski

 

Prizes

Three nominees will be announced in August with the overall winner revealed at the Wildscreen Panda Awards ceremony on Friday 19 October 2019. Each of the nominated photo stories will be featured in a large-scale outdoor photography exhibition in central Bristol, UK, in October 2018, reaching a public audience of over 45,000. Nominees will also be invited to present their work during the internationally-renowned Wildscreen Festival programme, as part of its unrivalled line-up of industry leaders.

Wildscreen Festival

The Wildscreen Panda Awards, nicknamed the ‘Green Oscars’, have sat at the heart of the Wildscreen Festival since it was founded in 1982. Taking place every two years, over 900 filmmakers, photographers and broadcasters from over 40 countries, convene in Bristol, UK for one week to do business, collaborate and celebrate the nature storytelling genre.

The Wildscreen Festival 2018 takes place from October 15 to 19 and will deliver an unrivalled programme of film screenings, keynotes, masterclasses and networking.

May 16

Arkive would like to introduce The Wait, a short film from production company Contra, which follows the journey of a wildlife photographer on a hunt to document the elusive European bison in its natural habitat of the Romanian mountains. The story details how it can take weeks to capture a shot, and the patience required to wait for this moment.

We have been speaking with Michel d’Oultremont, wildlife photographer and subject of the film, to learn about his motivations for wildlife photography.

Who are you and what is your profession?

Hello, my name is Michel d’Oultremont, I’m 25 years old and I have been a wildlife photographer since the age of 10 – I have had the great fortune of starting very young with an unconditional love for wildlife!

Michel d’Oultremont

Michel d’Oultremont

 

We found The Wait to be very emotive. Can you tell us more about your relationship with the natural world and why you wanted to photograph the European bison?

My relationship with nature is very special – I spend hours and hours in the wild trying to find and observe wildlife. It’s a way of life for me! Since the WWF (Worldwide Wildlife Fund) has started to reintroduce wild bison into the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, it has been a dream of mine to explore this region and to see these spectacular beasts. I’ve always been quite drawn to big animals like bears and muskox, so the bison is the next logical progression of that passion!

European bison © John Ford

Your creativity with the landscape shows through your work, do you have a specific image or style in mind before you begin shooting?

It all depends – I like to capture the animal in its natural habitat, so often I have to relocate to find the best light and environment. Once I’m set up, I wait for an animal to pay me a visit: a nature photo is a meeting – you just have to wait for it to happen. Although sometimes I do think more about the image and I try to realise it in any way I can.

What do you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that?

It may sound stupid, but I try to capture beauty in my photographs, to show the beauty of wildlife. So I try to take photographs that highlight this beauty and make for aesthetically pleasing pictures. When I manage this it is a real pleasure, but it doesn’t happen very often – maybe four or five times in a year.

Short-eared owl fight over a mouse during winter in France, no bait used © Michel d’Oultremont

Is focusing on a reintroduced species of particular importance to you? Do you feel any extra pressure when capturing images of a rare creature?

This type of project is very important because it allows wildlife to come back to its stomping ground. The work of the WWF is very important – they make the reintroduction of wildlife into the mountains possible! I don’t seek out rare animals especially, I photograph everything that happens to pass in front of my lens so it’s more that I am opportunistic.

This picture was taken in Belgium right next to my house, this nice owl decided to nest in a tree that I know very well, a real treat to be able to observe them naturally  © Michel d’Oultremont

Which animals and landscapes would you most like to photograph if you had no constraints?

That’s a really difficult question, there are many species I dream of photographing, like the Persian panther or the Siberian tiger. I would also love to go to the Canadian Arctic to see Polar Bears! There is still a lot to see, and that’s what’s great!

The Wait conveys a sense of solitude and at times loneliness, what is the longest and hardest time you have spent waiting for a subject?

I have had to wait several weeks before finding the subject and light I’ve been hoping for! But this isn’t restrictive because there are always things happening. The most difficult conditions I’ve experienced are without a doubt winter in Norway, where I was caught in a huge snow storm, but I love that these difficult conditions bring a sense of poetry to the images.

“I stayed at a location in Sweden for a week waiting for the singing black grouse. One morning the whole area was frosted, the sun was reflected on a cloud and in the drops of water, which gives these incredibly magical colours!” © Michel d’Oultremont

What is one thing you may recommend in wildlife photography?

The best advice, I think, is to know and research the species well, and do everything you can not to disturb the wildlife.

Top three items you never travel without?

The three things I always travel with – apart from my photographic equipment, of course – are my binoculars that I always take with me, my knife for quickly making a natural shade, and my notebook to try and write down everything I experience in the field.

Romanian Mountains © Michel d’Oultremont

Romanian mountains © John Ford

We’d like to thank Michel for speaking with us. If you’d like to see more of Michel’s work you can visit his website, or find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also visit The Wait website to watch the film and read more about the team behind it.

Apr 27

In this guest blog, wildlife photographer and Wildscreen Exchange contributor Avijan Saha discusses his experience with human-animal conflict in West Bengal, India, where an ancient Asian elephant migratory route has been blocked by a 20-kilometre-long fence, and the implications it has caused for both wildlife and human communities.

My name is Avijan Saha, I am from Siliguri, West Bengal, India. By profession, I am a photographer and since 2008 I have been working in West Bengal on human-elephant conflict issues with forest officials, NGO’s and nature activists. I try to raise awareness with my photographs. I believe that photography is one of the most creative tools to tell a story – one frame at a time.

 

Avijan Saha

The foothills of the Himalayan Mountains are an ancient migratory route for Asian elephants. In this landscape there is plentiful water due to the meeting of various different rivers and their tributaries, providing the elephants with the hydration they need to continue their lengthy journey.

Herd of Asian elephants at Mechi River bed, Indo-Nepal border

Human-elephant conflict in the Darjeeling Terai has a century-old history and was first recorded in 1907 when a herd of at least 30 elephants migrated into Nepal after crossing the rivers Teesta, Mahananda, Balason and Mechi.

The area from the Mechi River to the Sankosh River is divided into two elephant distribution zones extending across 1,659 square kilometres of forest, comprising five protected areas – Buxa Tiger Reserve, Jaldapara and Gorumara National Parks and Chapramari and Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuaries. A large part of this area lies between the Torsa River in West Bengal and the Sankosh  River and is referred to as the Eastern Dooars Elephant Reserve (EDER).

Herd of Asian elephants in Kolaveri Forest, India

Crop raiding by elephants turned into a serious issue in the Kurseong forest division in 1980 after a herd of around 60 elephants were chased away from agricultural land into the nearby Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. In 2005, the Forest Department reported that around 70 elephants from Mahananda were causing extensive damage on the outskirts of the sanctuary and in bordering Nepalese villages, which was affecting more than 50,000 people.

Human-elephant interaction at Kolaveri Forest, Indo-Nepal border

Kolaveri, a small patch of forest on the banks of the Mechi River, is now the last refuge for the elephants on the Indian side of the border. An 18 kilometre stretch of very fertile agricultural land in the Jhapa and Bahundangi districts of Nepal draws around 100 elephants from the Sanctuary each year, especially during the maize (May-July) and rice (October-December) cultivating seasons. Elephants are continually disturbed and tortured by humans as a consequence of new agricultural activities in their former habitat and face further pressures from farming as land is altered for grazing livestock and the collection of firewood. As a result, there has been an increase in both elephant and human casualties.

Cattle grazing also become a threat for these giants

In 2016, the Nepalese government erected a 20-kilometre-long fence, called tarbar, from upper to lower Nepal to protect their cultivated land, resulting in the Kolaveri elephants being forced to scatter into neighbouring Indian villages. Though the herd was not able to cross the tarbar, one tusker tore down a part of the fencing, causing further animosity. In this bid to stop elephants from entering their territory, the Nepalese government blocked a century-old migration route, which has altered natural behaviour and has increased, rather than decreased, incidences of human-elephant conflict.

This is a trans-boundary conflict situation that needs immediate resolution between India and Nepal. A joint action plan must be formulated, implemented and maintained at both national and local levels to prevent further damage from occurring to humans or wildlife.

Find out more about Asian elephants on Arkive

See more of Avijan Saha’s amazing photographs on the Wildscreen Exchange

Jan 11

I’m Roberto Isotti, a conservation photographer, Arkive and Wildscreen Exchange contributor and PhD in zoology.

homoambiens70963

I’m based in Rome (where I was born). I began my professional activity in the Eternal City and even though I have travelled to six continents, I still maintain a deep connection with the city of Rome, that is forever full of charm and inspiration.

homoambiens57369

I am currently working on a project entitled ‘Wild Rome’ which is a way for me to mix the love for my city and the great passion for nature that drove me to conservation photography and still leads my everyday work.

Wild Rome is a long-term project that tells the story, often hidden, of wild animals living in the city. The idea is to highlight the species that live next to us, often nearly ignored by people. The link between a big metropolitan area, such Rome, and its wildlife is not so easy to catch, but Rome is a surprisingly green city with lots of wildlife.

homoambiens122901

 

In Rome there are:

  • 4 million citizens
  • 19 mammal species
  • 121 bird species, 78 of them nesting
  • 16 amphibian species
  • 10 reptilian species
  • 5,000 insect species

With this project, we aim to tell the stories of the wild citizens of our city who are often seen, but people are not fully aware of. Through photography and storytelling, we will show animals for what they really are, without judgment or hierarchy: non-human individuals with unique characteristics, neighbours with whom we share the city.

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Wild Rome focuses on the biodiversity hosted in our city in a new light, with the hope of creating empathy for unpopular species, showing their hidden beauty and their function within their ecosystems. This will create a tangible connection between people and the animals that have decided to call an overpopulated city like Rome home.

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Please share this blog and help Roberto to inspire people to care for the future of the wildlife of Rome.

Visit Roberto’s website to see more of his amazing photographs and find out more about his Wild Rome project.

 

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