A short film about the Spotlight Sumatra exhibition in London which I’m part of can be seen below, covering the opening ceremony. Those involved talk about their own thoughts about this beautiful island and the plight of those crucially endangered specie of wildlife that live there. It’s something that I’m very passionate about and have been to Sumatra twice in as many years on my self-funded trips to capture with my camera the beauty and the not so beautiful things that are happening there.
SOS have some of the fantastic Spotlight Sumatra panel photographs for sale once the exhibition is finished at the end of May 2014. If you’d like to buy a piece of history at the same time help the cause to save Sumatra and its wildlife then click here to see all the details.
I hope all those that have visited so far have really enjoyed the displays and to those visiting between now and the end you’re in for a visual treat, many thanks for all the support for SOS and those other people and Chartres involved.
Here is another slideshow I did once I came back from Sumatra. It shows me trekking through the jungles of Sumatra on the trail of the Sumatran orangutans, a magical time, tough but magical enjoy.
I was recently asked to do a talk/questions and answer session at Nottingham University for the students on the Biological Photography & Imaging MSc, BSc course, School of Life Sciences. It’s great to be asked back once more after last year’s talk which I really enjoyed. Helping others to “see” wildlife and use the medium of photography to capture what you see in an ethical, respectful was my message.
I was joined by other photographers where everyone talked about their own careers, where they started, their futures and what best advice we can give to the next generation of photographers.
It tops off a wonderful year talk wise for me and my wildlife photography, I have had the honor of presenting two talks at different times in the Natural History Museum in London as part of their Genesis program of talks alongside the amazing exhibition of Sebastiao Salgado. I love going through my work and how and where it begin showing the foundation to my wildlife photography today.
I have a designated page here on the talks I offer and booking details etc. Some of the talks I do are listed if you want to no the many others I do then just send me an email,many thanks.
I was asked by high street giants Currys &PC World to become a judge on their six week photo challenge recently. The competition encouraged everyone who entered to put their skills to the test in a series of photography challenges. It was wonderful to be asked to be a judge and to set one of the tasks which I did. I choose Composition as I feel this is a real important element to any photograph. Click here to see the task I set.
I’m pleased to announce here are the winners from each of the categories from the recent Currys/PC World six week photo challenge. Well done to all that entered. With so many incredible entries to choose from, it was tough picking.
This is the winning image from the challenge I set by Sean Lowe from Pembrokeshire. The image was called – ‘ArachnidWalk’ and was takenusing a Nikon D90, 90mm 2.8 1:1 Macro.
“I chose this image as my winner because I thought the photographer showed a real understanding of composition within this image. Spiders by their very nature are often found once disturbed, hidden away in dark, dank places only really visible once you come across them or through the loud screams of someone seeing them all of a suddenly.
This image brings their beauty to the forefront and lets you see just how stunning up close they are at the same time placing the Spider among its natural habitat. I loved the lighting and the shaded areas which adds a great deal to the image. I love the space given to the image by placing the subject over to the right with the Spider slightly angled inward.
The image is sharp, well-composed and for me was the winner from a brilliant standard so well done to all those that entered there were several all competing in my mind for the winners spot but I went with this image, thank you.” –Craig Jones
Well done to everyone that entered the standard was very high and all the winners can be seen on Currys/PC World Blog here
A good Photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart, and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. Four years ago today my website went live and I turned my childhood hobby into my profession. I don’t see this as work but a way of life for me. My first blog post was about one of my images Family Life being commended in the British Wildlife Photography Awards- BWPA. It was the very first time I had entered any image into any form of competition and in the year that my website had launched it was a nice moment for me.
When I first started out I had no clue really how to work a computer, I had no knowledge of working Digital cameras, no formal photography training or background, I had no business or marketing plan, no money and had to borrow and beg off credit cards. I brought a prime lens with what money I had saved from working on the mobile cranes and rope access work I did for a living before photography. I learned how to work my camera and get the best from it in a way that works on the ground. I learned how to process images really getting the image right in camera rather than changing it in Photoshop.
I knew I had alot of knowledge of wildlife, I had great skills in fieldcraft and approaching animals and my heart was always among nature. I set up a few workshops that took clients to places I had visited since I was a kid to see and photograph some of my favorite wildlife and so my business started and grew. I was one of the first to start One to Ones with clients, offering a real encounter with wildlife at the same time learning key skills to improve my clients own wildlife photography. I still run these and my other trips very successfully today.
I’d like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you for the support of my clients, editors, and people over the years that I have had the pleasure of working alongside. I am launching a photo competition today where the prize is a One to One with myself in the UK. With my ethics as the backdrop to this competition I want those that choose to enter to have captured a truly wild moment. No props, no perches, no animals made to do something in return for food. I just want a simple image taken by the photographer who used his/her own skills and knowledge.
During those four years I have tried and will continue too be as real with my images as possible. Capturing truly wild moments using my own skills rather than rely on bringing the subject to you through bait, food or using captive animals. In an age where you can almost buy any set-up image you want, choosing your perch or prop, setting the background. Where the animal is made to jump, fly,dive and stand on two legs and so forth in return for food and getting the paying guest his or her chosen image.
My wildlife photography was born out a sheer love and passion for nature from a young age. From those early days I spent so much time being at one with nature, close to and watching, hidden from view on the off chance I would see a certain animal. Learning to get close to wildlife without disturbing the life of the animal, almost forgetting the outside world and becoming part of the animal I was getting close to or watching. By doing this I could understand the animal better, gaining many skills by observing their behaviors at the same time giving the subject complete respect which allowed me a private window into their personal and private lives.
My images represent an event that occurred in the wild something that I witnessed and recorded with my camera. My skill lies in interpreting and presenting this in a way that invokes beauty, mood and emotion with each moment captured. Respect for wildlife has to be the first thing in any image obtained, love nature and she will give up her secrets to you.
The result is real images where the subject is completely relaxed by your presence. At the same time the photographer will learn so much more about the subject and the environment in which the subject lives. You have to learn about your subject and fieldcraft to really embrace the world of wildlife I feel and in turn wildlife photography.
Wildlife photography for me is capturing a moment in the wild, I make no bones about disliking set up images, captive images or where the animal is made to do something in return for a reward, this is image making not true wildlife photography where the subject becomes a commodity in order to facilitate those paying guests. Where the photographer has given no real explanation to how and what was behind the image.
The photographer has a duty of care not only to the wildlife but also to the general public who view your work. And in my eyes if you do this for a living and you work in this manner than you should have the integrity to tell those that judge you how you got the image and what skills you used in the pursuit of such an image. Wildlife is not a commodity in which you use to make money from one minute then try and use it as a vehicle to promote your own interests and cause the next.
What I’ve always tired to offer with my workshops here in the UK and abroad is an experience, a true moment in nature where you have learned how to work the land, learned abit about the subject and other skills. The hope is you go home afterwards and apply these skills learned and apply them to your own photography, this is my aim and what’s behind my workshops/trips.
Those clients that have spent time with me really benefit from this approach and learn much more in my eyes. Many have wrote their own thoughts on my Testimonials page which can be seen here.
So with all this in mind I have launched my competition today and its meant to empower those that enter to work in a more ethical way, love wildlife first and foremost and the rest will fall into place I believe. Its open to anyone and by showing a total understanding of your craft and the ethics behind the image you send in. I will look forward to seeing all these images and the winner will learn more of what they have already demonstrated with their winning image.
The competition will run from the 1st October until the 21st October. The winners will be announced by Friday 25th October. You don’t have to have any fancy camera gear, or be a pro or think you’re not good enough if you think you have a nice shot your proud of and its a truly wild moment then enter. The prize is the One to One day with me. Where I will show you everything I know, how I work and it will be fun at the same time very rewarding in terms of knowledge shared and fieldcraft learned.
Please email/message your image at 600 x 600 and 72dpi to my Craig Jones Wildlife Photography facebook page here.
The rules are very simple:-
1. Anyone, any standard may enter the competition.
2. Only one entry per person.
3. The competition is open only to UK residents.
4. Your image must be completely wild were nothing has been changed by the hand of man.
5. The competition will run from October 1st until Monday 21st October.
6. The winner will be announced by Friday 25th October.
I would then like a brief explanation of the story behind the image as I am very strong on this and again it tells the full story to those not lucky enough to have been there when the image was taken.
With another year almost over this brings my 2012 photo tour programme to a close. What a year it has been, from the beaches of Norfolk to the heat of the Indian forests of Ranthambhore in search of the majestic Bengal Tigers and the amazing and unique island of Madagascar and its famous Lemurs, to breaching Humpback Whales in the Indian Ocean. Thank you to all of my valued guests for your custom and company and I hope you’ve had a wonderful time on my trips as well as learning more than you knew at the start of your adventure.
My 2013 tours are filling fast, with new destinations added along with my popular and favourite destinations. The emphasis of my tours is to maximize wildlife watching and photography options for everyone while at the same time enjoying and learning more about the habitat and the wildlife that coexists alongside our target species.
I’d be delighted if you’d join me next year or in the future to witness the amazing wildlife my trips offer, while learning more about the subject and photography. The locations chosen for all of my tours offer unrivalled photographic opportunities. The pace of each trip is such that there is ample time to indulge in all that is on offer and maximise the photographic potential of each location.
Here you can read just a few of the reasons why lots of other photographers have chosen to join me.
In February 2013 I will start the year with my amazing trip to the Falklands which is now fully booked. For details of my 2014 trip please click here for more information.
In April you can catch the season moving from winter into spring and see the wildlife of the Norfolk coast come alive on my Early Spring in Norfolk trip with 2 places remaining. Click here for more information and booking form.
Then in the middle of April I travel to the wonderful Dutch island of Texel for my Texel photo tour run alongside friend and fellow wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel who lives in Holland. It’s a haven and paradise for thousands of waders and waterfowl during the spring/summer months where they choose this picturesque island to play out their courtship routines and breed, feeding their young all quite close to you, presenting some of the best opportunities to photograph Avocets, Spoonbills, Caspian, Black Terns, Oystercatchers, Kentish Plovers, and many more waders. Click here to see this photo tour.
Then I round April off and follow through to May with my second trip and head to Ranthambhore for my Tigers of India tour. The Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve is the single largest expanse of dry-deciduous forest left intact in India. It is one of the best places in India to see these amazing animals in the wild. My first trip is fully booked and I have a couple of places left on my second trip. For details please click here. If you would like to buy one of my limited edition Tiger prints that help a charity I support then please click here to be taken to 21 Century Tigers website.
The month of June finds me travelling north to two amazing places for wildlife. Firstly my ever popular trip to the Isle of Mull which lies on the west coast of Scotland. It has a breathtaking coastline of 300 miles and the climate is a mixture of rain and sunshine. The island is a wonderful place to see Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles, Otters, Porpoises and a whole host of Hebridean Wildlife. Come and join me as I take you around this beautiful island on this amazing 6 day/5 night trip. I still have places available so click on this link to see the details.
Later on in June I have a new photo tour-Stunning Shetland, where we will spend a whole week on this wildlife packed island. I will be working with my friend who lives on the island to deliver you some of the best animal and birdlife in the UK. I only have two places left so for more information please click here.
I start the month of July off with a brand new trip to the wild forest of Finland. You will get the opportunity to photograph wild Brown Bears, Wolves and the very unique Wolverine all from purpose built professional hides perfectly designed for photographers. These shy, iconic predators will go about their business around you, giving you a unique insight unto their lives at the same time giving you some if not the best opportunities to photograph these rare and elusive predators. I have a couple of places free so for more information or to book click here.
Another brand new photo tour for 2013 is my Jaguars of Brazil trip. Join me on this amazing 8 day trip in August to the Pantanal in Brazil to see the beautiful Jaguar in its wetland and woodland habitat. Wildlife in the Pantanal includes Anteaters, Howler Monkeys, Jaguars, Giant River Otters, Caimans, Anacondas, Ocelots and Capybara, along with a host of colourful and exotic birds. I have places free on this trip at present so for more information or to book please click here.
In September I am planning a 9 day trip to Sumatra which hopefully will be completed and ready for you to view very soon. Then in the month of October it’s my Madagascar photo tour. After this year’s successful trip to this amazing island I am doing another 11 day trip photographing the very unique wildlife this island has to offer. For more information click here.
I then finish the year off with my Winter Waders in Norfolk trip. This place is famous for its winter flocks of Geese, Wildfowl and Waders who begin to gather here to make their home during our winter months. I have places free at the moment so for more information please click here.
In between all of these trips I also offer workshops to Skomer to photograph the Puffins, Mountain Hares, Spring Tides & Barn Owls. I also run workshops for Dippers, Red Grouse and Water voles which are still as popular as ever, all these worshops can be viewed here. I take clients to places I have visited since my early teens so they are very personal to me and make great one day workshops photographing these subjects as they go about their lives in the wild.
Lastly, my One to Ones, which are still very popular. The list of places throughout the year and more information can be seen by clicking on this link. Many thanks to all of the wonderful people that I’ve met this year and I look forward to meeting new and existing clients in 2013.
Just before I go if your looking for a wildlife calender for 2013 that helps and supports the amazing work of the wildlife trusts then click here to purchase this amazing calendar. I am proud to say that my Otter image has been chosen as the front cover and also January image of the month.
I have just had two amazing days presenting my talks from my recent trip to Sumatra alongside Panut the founder of OIC from Sumatra. A big thank you to everyone that attended the Spotlight Sumatra talks in the Natural History Museum, London and Chester Zoo. I’ve only been back from Sumatra a few weeks and my trip is still so raw, with every image I process and publish taking me back there. I had amazing access over the two weeks and the images formed the basis of my talks. To speak at two such amazing and well respected places was a great honour for me.
I’ve made many visits to both places since childhood, Chester Zoo is an hour away from where I live and has an amazing successful breeding programme with all its animals but more so the very rare wildlife entrusted into its keeping. Sumatran animals are doing so well at the zoo. The Sumatran Tiger and the Sumatran Orangutans all giving birth to babies there. I met some amazing, passionate people during our time there all doing amazing work. The zoo does so much for wildlife conservation around the world. I have visited many places being a wildlife photographer from Madagascar to India and very often the locals in the countries I visit always mention Chester Zoo somewhere in our talks, that just shows you how respected this place is.
Helen Director of SOS, Panut and I had a guided tour of the zoo by vet Steve Unwin. I had sat in on a meeting he’d being having earlier with Panut and Helen and other important staff from the zoo. I was amazed at his knowledge and passion for the Orangutans. His no-nonsense approach really struck a chord with me and afterwards I told him. Time is running out for many animals throughout the world, but the problem is so acute now for the Sumatran Orangutan that everybody using all their knowledge and expertise needs to come together to help save this first great ape that may become extinct should current trends of de-forestation in Sumatra be allowed to continue. These words were echoed throughout Steve’s conversions.
During our visit we witnessed the new baby Sumatran Orangutan that was born there last week. His proud mum, Emma who was showing off here new baby boy to the public. Holding the baby so close reminded me of their wild counterparts in Sumatra. I have never witnessed such a close bond between mum and baby outside of humans during those encounters I saw in Sumatra and the same bond was clear to see here in Chester Zoo. Click here to read this amazing news.
Both talks were full houses and again I cannot thank everyone enough for attending and showing their support for the problems facing the Orangutans and their rainforest habitat. I met some wonderful, lovely people during those two days. I met some of the Sumatran Orangutan Society trustees who were all very nice, thank you all for helping Helen and SOS each of you. Thank you to the guys at the Natural History Museum for all your help in setting up the talks and slideshow. Special thanks to our host who helped Panut and me through it all, Ana Rita and kind lady.
Thank you to everyone from Chester Zoo for caring so much about the wildlife within your zoo and around the world. We had two lovely ladies helping us through the talks, comparing and doing the raffle. So a massive thanks you to Penny and Andrea for your help. Both have worked for many years at the zoo doing wonderful work, I hope we can see you all again in the future doing something along the same lines.
Lastly a huge thank you to everyone who attended both talks, what’s happening in Sumatra cannot go on any longer unchecked. With firm and loyal support small things will lead to change on the ground there and in turn a safer world for the Orangutans. I’d like to finish this blog with one of the presentations I showed. Just processing these images brought every emotion I went through in Sumatra flooding back to me. It’s a mixture of what I saw during my time there. It upsets me just watching this clip such was the effect this place and trip had on me. For best results watch in HD on YouTube full screen here.
The Spotlight Sumatra talks have been hugely successful already, raising money for SOS from prints, and many other items. Showing through powerful presentations what is happening out there. If you are a school. Trust, Zoo, Camera Club or anything like that who would like to host this series of talks then please get in touch with Helen Buckland, UK Director SOS here. Alternative contact me through email here many thanks.
My two week adventure, two years in the planning to the Indonesian island of Sumatra has now ended and I’ve had a wonderful trip. A real rollercoaster of a journey both physical and emotional for me. The scale of the issues in Sumatra overwhelmed me from the moment I touched down until the time I left this island. Too read about them is one thing but to be there on the ground and see them for myself is another. I’ve had unprecedented access to the wonderful and tough work SOS/OIC staff are doing out in Sumatra during my time there.
To view this slideshow at full size then please click here
There are only couple of charities out there doing amazing work and I am convinced that without the pressure from these people on the ground in Sumatra alot more Orangutans and forest would have vanished by now. It’s to all of them I give thanks and also Helen from SOS who has helped me to get out there and work alongside the teams. A trip I will never forget and it’s been an honor for me as a person to see these truly beautiful animals we share so much of our DNA with. I only hope the world can act and save them before its too late.
I truly love wildlife that’s why I capture their beauty with my camera. I have seen things during my time in Sumatra that have upset and angered me, and my only way to help these voiceless animals is to show the world my images depicting what’s happening out there. I trekked 20km a day, I’ve climbed the rainforest trees, I’ve slept rough and washed in rainwater to be close to these amazing animals. I wanted to capture their beauty, their spirit and help them reach a wider audience through the wonderful people that are helping to keep them alive out there and around the world. My work will give them a voice, and in turn I truly hope their voices will be heard.
I have witnessed first hand the burning of land. The day before I left Sumatra I was taken to an area of primary forest inside the national park that has been cut down and burned. A westerner like myself, with a camera at such a sensitive site, could have meant trouble for me, should I have been compromised but it was my choice and my decision to see this place so I can show what is happening. A very, very moving experience for me, I couldn’t speak as I asked the person with me to take this image of a 300 year old tree just lying on the ground, plants upside down still clinging to the tree.
It’s easy to blame the palm oil but for me the blame lays with the government there, as they don’t protect the national parks and continue to grant logging licenses. They allow the vile palm plantations to grow and increase, destroying the rainforests. Never in all my life have I seen anything like this, I was moved to tears and all I wanted to do is help and go back into the jungles to see these guys. I’ve lived and slept rough, washed with rainwater, climbed up trees on ropes to gain a level viewpoint on them, joining the Orangutans in their world on their terms. I’ve sweated in the intense heat and humidity to photograph these amazing animals.
Sumatran Orangutans are afforded the highest protection in law, these species are classified as critically endangered by the world conservation union – IUCN, yet they are still killed, kidnapped, poached and shot at, trapped and hurt each day in Sumatra. They are in the way, their home of protected park is being eroded around the edges with illegal logging each week and the Indonesian government does nothing to protect them or their homes.
Orangutans are only found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Their forest homes are encircled by the illegal logging and palm oil plantations. They are killed by farmers and poachers, while their babies are kidnapped and sold on the black market to become someone’s pet or trophy. Some of the Orangutans get saved and have a second chance to return to freedom.
Unlike the other great apes such as Gorillas and Chimpanzees, Orangutans are solitary animals. They live a peaceful life, moving through the jungles looking for food which mainly consists of fruit, young leaves and seeds, sometimes insects and termites. They are arboreal species which means they rarely come down to the ground from the safety of the trees. It’s not until you see, watch and witness them that you begin to see and realise it’s like watching yourself in a mirror. Their behaviours and the enduring characters are the spitting image of us.
This is where my amazing journey begins and over the next several weeks I will show you whats happening out there through my images, and will go through the adventures I had during my time in Sumatra.
After a long flight to Madan, the capital of Sumatra, I was met by Panut the top guy on the ground and founder of OIC, who has worked in Sumatran Orangutan conservation for over a decade. He took me to the head office in Medan and I met some of the team that would be accompanying me during my time there. I received a very warm welcome and had my first taste of the humidity in those first few hours which I learned later always hovers at around 70-80%. The easiest way for me to explain just how humid it was is to go run a bath, leave the room and then after ten minutes go back and open the door and that temperature is what it’s like in Sumatra, very hot and your clothes become soaking wet within minutes.
While meeting the team and enjoying my first cup of Sumatran coffee which is something the island is famous for. I had my first glimpse on this trip of a Sumatran Orangutan. It wasn’t what I was expecting and brought me to earth with a bang. The skeleton remains of a Sumatran Orangutan, all neatly packed into a box. It had formed evidence into a case that was never proved. The remains were exhumed from a village where locals claimed it had been accidentally shot with an air rifle and had been buried five years previously. It was found by the Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit ( HOCRU) during one of their field surveys. The pellet can be seen behind the left eye and as I looked at the bones I just couldn’t help but think what a shocking and undignified end to this Orangutans life.
Soon after I said my goodbyes to the team at the office, I then headed off to my first location in the foothills of the Gunung Leuser National Park. After several hours of driving we reached Darmas house. He’s an amazing naturalist that has lived his whole life in this area. His knowledge and expertise would help me see these amazing Orangutans over the next several days which Darma had planned for me. I stayed in a simple hut surrounded by his crops of rice and other produce he grew to feed his family.
I couldn’t sleep that first night, the excitement was overwhelming. Hearing different noises and strange goings on around me with the wildlife, as I unpacked and got my gear and equipment ready for the mornings trek. What seemed liked ages was only a few hours as I woke at dawn, the sun bathing the tiny hut I was sleeping in with the warmth from its rays.
I had my first view of the landscape and it was amazing. To my front I had one of the active volcanoes on the island, a small trail of smoke just filling out from its brim. To my right I had the Gunung Leuser National Park, home to around six thousand Sumatran Orangutans and covering some one million hectares of land in size. The GLNP takes its name from the towering mountain of Mount Leuser.
This park together with Bukit Barisan Selaten and Kerinci Seblat National Parks form the tropical rainforest heritage of Sumatra UNESCO World Heritage Site. These areas are a rich, complex environment with a delicately balanced network of wildlife and plant life. The GLNP is the core of many endangered species remaining habitat, including the Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sumatran Elephant and the critically endangered Sumatran Orangutans.
We headed to the park that first morning, Darma got our permit and then we were inside one of the best rainforests habitat on the planet. Our plan was to trek and find Orangutans within this massive place. We also had Osman with us too, a trained climber carrying all the ropes and other equipment needed, which SOS had hired for me to help me to climb the trees. I wanted to try and capture the Orangutans on their terms giving me a feel for the way they live and not the other way around. The photograph below is of Darma looking for Orangutans.
During those two days I did manage to climb several trees, getting level with many Orangutans within this amazing place. All the time the heat and humidity was tough and my clothes were always soaked especially my shirts, as seen in this image that Darma took of me. I was photographing my first sighting during this trip, a female called Pesek. It was worth every single ounce of sweat and graft.
I managed to get level with her and a few others with my wide angled lens to show more of this amazing primary forest that they live amongst. Ever so often she would make a sound by kissing her lips together to communicate with her baby. I managed to get a few clean images of him as the vegetation was so dense most of the time and the angle in which I was shooting up was often not enough. His name is Wati and he is the son of Pesek. I have captured him here looking down at me and who knows what he was thinking here. To watch these animals is like looking into the mirror as they are so much like us, only 4% DNA separates them from us.
A few moments after these images were taken she took her baby deeper into the rainforest and out of view. We carried on walking deeper into the heart of this breathtaking rainforest. The noise and the smells all triggering my senses as I watched for any movements. Often we’d come across some of the largest trees in the world, bursting out from the forest and pointing directly up to the sun. The size of these amazing living specimens was unbelievable.
I wanted to climb this one but we didn’t have enough rope, which was shame. In the shadow of these majestic trees there were tiny, beautifully coloured flowers. Completely dwarfed but still growing in this amazing and diverse habitat. Their patterns, shapes and colours all amazingly beautiful in their own right, some attracting other wildlife. Its such an amazing ecosystem you can see how everything fits and works alongside each other in the interest of survival.
As we carried on trekking deeper into this amazing place we came across another Sumatra Orangutan, Darma told me her name was Sumu and she’s 38. She was rescued many years ago, chained up all day as she was kept as a pet. It’s a form of status to have one of these as a pet in Sumatra. She now lives free in Gunung Lesuer National Park, and is one of the lucky ones. She trusts people again now after her shocking start in life, as time as heeled the wounds of how she was treated as a pet. She has been given a second chance through the hard working of the guys on the ground in Sumatra.
She had a baby with her and was just watching and playing with the little one. It was like watching a mum and her baby back home, so beautiful and real, I just couldn’t put it into words. I just sat down and watched the marvellous and wonderful power of a mothers bond towards their child. all played out before me. Sometimes in nature things dont need any introductions, no explanations. A cold shiver came over me as I just sat and watched something so powerful, so gentle and so caring unfold amongst one of the most special places on the planet. Capturing those moments with my camera is what wildlife photography means to me.
My first day within the Gunung Leuser National Park came to an end and the light went so quickly inside the jungle. I just sat down for a few minutes and looked through a few images as I wanted to relive what I’d seen that day. Too often with wildlife photography you capture something and then something else comes up. Giving you no real time to see and look at what you were lucky to capture.
I slowly went back to my time with the Orangutans that day, while viewing my photographs, before Darma said lets go and we ventured back to the small hut I was going to be living in during my time with him. While his wife prepared me a plate of rice, fish and other wonderful food. I had a shower with rainwater collected in a large tub, using a small cup to throw the water over you as you washed. I was exhausted and this heat and humidly had drained me on that first day trekking. We covered around 20km and with my kit weighing around 30kilos it was tough but worth every single once of sweat.
Even though the water took my breath away, as I threw it all over me, it worked and really woke me up. Twenty minutes later I was washed and brushed ready for my evening meal and fuel for the following days trekking. I soon went to bed after a lovely meal. All my gear had been cleaned, dried and prepared for the following day and with my images all backed up the morning couldn’t come quicker enough for me.
As the dawn broke we were already inside the Gunung Leuser National Park on the trail on the Orangutans. I’d been lucky so far as we hadn’t had much rain, with just dry conditions and sunshine with temperatures around 36c and the humidity around 75%. Once you enter the jungle the light almost disappears in the early morning. Amazing to see and hear the different array of bird life, insects and other wildlife calling and making their mark as the sun rose. We headed deeper and deeper into the jungle giving you a feeling that she was just swallowing you up.
The going was tough, with hilly terrain in places almost 70 degrees straight upwards to gain a vantage point in which to see and listen out for the Orangutans. They build nests each night and sometimes they are late risers so we were ideally placed for them to be waking up now as we were deep inside the jungle as the light increased with the rising sun.
We could hear and see some movement in the trees so we put up a quick rope set up, and I climbed up around 30 feet to become as level as I could with a female Sumatran Orangutan. I only managed a few images before she moved and here is one of my favourites. The primary forest can be seen in the background as she moves from one tree to another.
I’d been really lucky so far as I had seen all the Orangutans in their natural habitat. I had also visited a place in which the rangers put food out for them. This helps people who have travelled to have a better chance of seeing these amazing animals. On the second day we passed through this place and it was very touristy. Although its a good way for the park to monitor some of the rescued Orangutans who have been released back into the wild.
Alot of Sumatran Orangutans in this area have been given a second chance with many never visiting this area again, but there are some that do for the easy food on offer. They put out bananas and the Orangutans come, clean up and then vanish as quickly as they came. It helps them see if they are alright and also gives the people a chance to see what they may have travelled thousands of miles for, to see a Sumatran Orangutan. I preferred the rain forest so after a short stop at this site we then carried on trekking.
Before we left the park on that second day we had another chance encounter with Suma but this time her baby just climbed up and over the top of us and looked down at me for a few seconds. This image captured that wonderful moment when a baby Sumatran Orangutan, the future of the species, had a look at me before venturing back to mum. Those two days in the national park were magical. I’d seen our closest living relative and watched them. As the day drew to an end I had some time back at my small hut to reflect on the those days before, backing up my images and heading for my evening meal with Darma and his family.
The next day Darma took me to a place right on the edge of the national park he calls ‘the block’. It does have a proper name but to those working for the chairty out there and for the purpose of this blog and the welfair of the Orangutans I will just call it ‘the block’. Its an area of forest and rocky out crops encircled with rubber and palm oil plantations. Up until around a month ago there were 17 Sumatran Orangutans living there but recently that number has increased to 18 with the birth of a baby.
These Orangutans live in an area that’s almost cut off, apart from a few corridor of trees that have been planted by friendly farmers that have tried to look after this population since it was first found in 1974. Darma himself owns a small piece of land here and regularly plants trees to increase those corridors for the Orangutans to move around in and not become completely trapped within this small area on the fringes of the national park.
A river separates the national park and this area so the Orangutans are unable to return to the park as they hate water. He told me that most of the farmers tolerate the Orangutans and help them rather than shooting or killing them which is common practise by farmers throughout Sumatra, as Orangutans offen raid their crops, and in some cases take their livelihoods away.
During my time in this area I witnessed several Sumatran Orangutans. Each one reacted very differently to my presence. A mother and baby were very shy and hardly showed themselves as they sat in a tall fruit tree. Hear through the vegetation I managed to catch a tender moment when mum gave her baby a kiss to the head. Soon after they moved from this tree back into the safety of the block.
The second sighting was a wonderful experience as I had come across a male who was trying to romance a female Orangutan. He was calling, kissing his lips and generally trying desperately to win her approval with his show of strength and antics. I felt so lucky to even see these apes let alone be part of their courtship, or the build up as least.
The female can be seen below. Most of the time she just sat on what seemed a favourite and well worn tree of hers.
The male tried in vain to come close on a number of occasions, showing outwardly displays of affection towards her with kisses and tender touches. I switched to video mode on my camera and made a few short films of this amazing behaviour that will form part of my future presentations on these amazing and enduring creatures. It is truly like watching ourselves when you spend time with these beautiful animals.
My last sighting on that day was of a female Sumatran Orangutan with a baby hidden beneath her arms. She paused here for a split second having seen me, I sensed her unease at my presence. It wasn’t until I
looked through the viewfinder that I could see she only had one eye. As I took a couple of photos I was saying to myself “you’re alright I’m not going to hurt you”, silly I know but I could see that she was jumpy as I had caught her out here. She was scared, fearful of another attack maybe. My long lens could of also looked like a long gun which added to her nervousness.
She moved soon after, disappearing back into the rocky part of this area where they are safe for the moment. Once I reviewed the image I showed it to the vet and he told me it’s probably through being shot, he then saw another pellet under her right eye, embedded into her skin, which confirmed she had lost her eye through being shot, probably by a farmer who had taken the land she once lived and hunted in.
I just sat and zoomed in, and this image for me sums up just how these amazing and enduring animals are treated by those that see them as a problem or a pest in Sumatra. How we as humans can do this to another living creature is beyond comprehension for me. As that third and final day drew to an end I was full of emotion, angered at how these animals are viewed and treated. I just couldn’t believe that they are truly on the verge of complete extinction at the hands of man.
As I spent that last night with Darma and his family I couldn’t help but relive some of the images I’d seen over the wonderful time that I’d spent with this man, in one of the most beautiful and diverse habitats anywhere in the world. I was being picked up in the morning by a member of the team to be taken to another place to see and photograph the project first hand. As dawn broke I was up and after that last three mornings of routine I had a bit of a lie in that day, to recharge the batteries and pack ready for the long drive.
I said my goodbyes and told Darma I’d be seeing him again next year as his knowledge and passion for the Orangutans is infectious. On the way to my next destination my driver received a call and our plans had changed. We headed north to the Aceh province of Sumatra. A female Sumatran Orangutan was trapped and encircled by palm oil and the plan was to rescue her and her baby and release them back into the National Park. What happened over those next two days really moved me, this next part of my trip will be covered in my second blog and some of the images are very moving and brought me to tears.
My first week had been an amazing adventure, all of my Sumatran Orangutan images wouldn’t have been possible without Darma, his knowledge and his understanding of these great apes was just amazing. I’d like to thank him and his family for looking after me. I raised the money for my own flights for this trip and other costs and I’m already saving for my return next year as I have made a firm long term commitment to these Orangutans and SOS, the charity that I’m helping and supporting with my work. I want to try and help to highlight what is going on out there with my images and talks. To show the world what we might lose if current trends of de-forestation carry on.
There are a number of talks coming up towards the end of October – Spotlight Sumatra. I will be presenting a number of presentations and talks alongside Panut who I had the pleasure of spending time with in Sumatra. He has worked in Orangutan Conservation for over a decade and has a dedicated team in Sumatra all doing their best for this great ape. For more details of these talks then please click here. I will doing one on Thursday 25th October at the Natural History Museum in London as part of their Nature Live talks. You can see this by clicking here.
Then on Friday 26th October starting at 7pm I will be at Chester Zoo, Russell Allan Lecture Theatre doing my presentation along with the team from SOS/OIC. The zoo has an amazing record of success with Sumatran animals and does alot of great work for the Orangutans. If you have time then please come along to one of these or the other talks we have planned many thanks.
I have officially joined PhotoTraining4U today as one of their masters, covering my passion of wildlife photography. The films I’ll be shooting over the next 12 months with the team will follow me as I work the land, from dawn to dusk. I will be showing members how I work, photographing wild animals within their habitat, showing their different behaviours and characters within photography. Going through the camera settings and what skills I employ myself in order to try and work with the wildlife I encounter out in the field.
Their website offers quality training for all photographers at an affordable price. The site is based on streaming video that capture photographers at work. PhotoTraining4U is aimed at both professional and amateur photographers alike and is structured into bite size learning films, over 800 at present, each around 20 minutes.
I have always loved helping people throughout my life and when I first started in wildlife photography this carried through. I know how hard it is to get help or advice when you are first beginning to take photos of wildlife – What works? What bag to buy? Is this lens any good? What camera settings? the list goes on. I like to show others the techniques that I have taught myself, what works and what doesn’t while on the ground, in the theatre of wildlife.
In this first film we go through where and how my love of wildlife, nature and photography began, forming the great passion I have for the natural world today which is the foundation to my work and images. The beauty of photographing wildlife is that it is always changing and evolving, encountering the unexpected and in this environment the photographer must learn to work with these changing environmental conditions and behaviours. The result cannot always be predicted, which makes fieldcraft one of the most important skills you have to learn to be fully connected to wildlife.
I always try where possible to ‘work the land’ as I put it, and stay away from staged or set up shots preferring the more natural image, as seen or shot when I encountered the subject, not changing an animal’s behaviour to obtain an image is so important to my work. You just never know what will turn up working in this manner, so being ready to capture what you see is key through composition, fieldcraft and the correct and simple camera settings.
I am not from the techie camera settings background, glued to the histogram strangled with numerous settings and different buttons and functions. I show simply and real techniques in camera that work. I know they work because they are what I use within my own work. An image should come from the heart via the human eye, the camera only captures what the person behind it sees most of the time. This interview in February’s Practical Photography illustrates perfectly how I work and where my true love and passion comes from for wildlife, in this case waders and spring tides in Norfolk. Click here to see the interview in PDF format or you can buy the magazine which is out now.
It’s important to me that in every image I take it represents an event that occurred in the wild, something that I witnessed and recorded with my camera. My skill lies in interpreting and presenting this in a way that invokes the beauty, mood and emotion of that special moment I captured.
The first interview on their site can be viewed here. If you’d like to join this site and see the amazing advice, videos, and help from many different masters not just myself then there is £100 pounds off the marked price of £229 per year. Please quote JONES which is the discount code. This then will give full access to the site and all the help and advice. I will be filming several short films in the wild over the next 12 months, going through different advice and help that will offer you the best chances to capture those beautiful images of wildlife you want, at the same time learning more about the habitats and behaviours of the subjects your watching.
I really do hope the films and advice I will be offering here will be helpful, twinned with the help I have always given on my blog, facebook and twitter pages, which all form a strong base in which to show the beauty of wildlife and help and inspire you all into seeing just how beautiful wildlife is. Its been a great start to the year for myself, with a full page image in the BBC Wildlife magazine, a 6 page interview and images in Practical Photography, click here to see the article.
Thanks to all the people who have booked onto my 2012 photo tours and workshops. My India trip is now full, this will be the third year in a row now I’ve visited this magical place in search of one of the most beautiful animals on the planet, the Tiger. My Magical Mull June trip is full with a few places left for my October trip. I do have places left for my Madagascar trip which you can view here, Masia Mara trip, view the itinerary here and a few others. I’m really looking forward to 2012 and all the trips, plans and filming I have got in store. I hope you all make the best of your time within nature and capture those wonderful moments you witness yourselves, good luck.
And just before I go wanted to say there were some great winning images in the WWT photo comp for autumn, I had two category’s to judge which was nice with a very good standard all round so well done to all that entered. I have been asked back to judge the remaining 3 rounds where the overall winner will be announced later in the year, so good luck to all those that enter.