Returning to my field research site in the Kalahari desert, I took my SLR camera trap in the hope of catching something special. Working with my good friend Dylan Smith, who knows the area and its beasts like the back of his hand, we managed to get some beautiful shots of the female leopard that is gradually repopulating the reserve. She appeared a few years ago, perhaps having worked her way down from Bostwana. With a male who is also occasionally seen, she has now successfully reared at least two litters on the reserve. And from the looks of our images she may just have produced her third. Its fabulous to have these beautiful cats back on the land after so many years away.
WiLDiMAGES - Andy Young Photography
I am an evolutionary biologist seeking to capture something of the world.
My research frequently takes me to Africa's wild places, but much of my photography involves hunting for peculiar mammals on other continents. I have a particular interest in camera trapping and noctural photography. My two primary subjects are Humans and The Wild.
Follow me @animalsocieties
I finished trouble-shooting my SLR camera trap just a few hours before leaving for my research site in the Kalahari. The potential for environmental portraits of noctural creatures is unparalleled in the area, ranging from small antelope, through aardwolves and aardvark to leopard, lion and the Kalahari special, the brown hyena. In setting the trap, you're effectively setting up a wild studio in to which your animal must walk. I look principally for that rare congruence of an active trail for the target animal and an immediate background that conveys something of its context; the goal being to produce an intimate environmental portrait that a traditional long-lens approach would struggle to capture. Keeping the camera close to the trigger line, using a wide angle lens, and lighting the scene with wide-angle off-camera flashes that leave light levels falling off at the edges of the frame can all help to capture these quiet moments in the darkness. I was stoked with both of these images for quite different reasons. I built the trap using Emmanuel Rondeau's outstanding guide here.
Brown Hyena - Kalahari desert
Want to fit all of this kit in to your hand luggage and then lug it around the bush in comfort at the other end? Then take a look at the F-Stop Loka. Tagging some photography on to a research trip invariably leaves me squeezing as much gear as possible in to as small a space as possible and a recent trip to the Kalahari was no exception. My experience with a new bag left me sufficiently stunned to put a note on here - this bag is a TARDIS. I managed to fit all of the above, plus a spotlight, in to my hand luggage for international and internal flights, no questions asked. Designed to fit neatly in to an overhead locker while providing the space, padding and environmental protection needed when lugging your kit in the wild, this bag does an exceptional job. It should cope equally well with the lugging of nappies, squeezy-food, soft toys and optics, all in a vomit-proof container - ideal for supporting the free-ranging antics of the grubs in the wild!
We moved down to Amboseli for the last few days of the course, with Kilimanjaro looming high through the clearing clouds as we approached.
Our camera traps revealed one of the higlights of the trip - striped hyena visiting the camp rubbish pit. Other visitors included African civet and white-tailed mongooses.
Laikipia, Northern Kenya
I returned to Northern Kenya in January with our Masters in Evolutionary Biology field course. After a great day in Samburu, with good views of aardwolves and northern specials such as gerenuk, golden pipit and fan-tailed raven, we headed down to Twala in Laikipia to walk with an olive baboon troop used in Shirley Strum's long-term research on these fascinating primates. Thanks to the team at Twala manyatta for their kind hosting in this beautiful part of the world.
I've been working in the Kalahari desert for fourteen years, so it was with great excitement that I finally encountered my first Pangolin; without a doubt one of the coolest mammals on the planet...
We returned to the Mara for the last few days of the fieldcourse, to take in the open savannah and big rivers. As ever it yielded a classic open grasslands experience with a few nice moments, including close views of serval, mating lions, a lioness and young cubs, hyena and lion activity around a de-tusked dead elephant, and nice views of genets on the trailcams that we set up in camp.
Rift valley lakes
As usual we ran our research projects in and around the Naivasha area and broke our stay with an overnight trip up to Nakuru. Both lakes were full to the brim after the strong rains this year, with large parts of Nakuru inaccessible due to the extremely high water. We had great views of a spotted hyena den, dozing lionesses and a confrontation between black rhino, as well as the more usual diversity of ungulates and bird life. No sign of the bushpigs that we picked up on last year, and still no sign of a striped hyena; everyone needs their nemesis beast.
We spent our first few days of the MSc Behavioural Ecology field course up in the beautiful Meru National Park in Northern Kenya looking for some of the more unusual beasts of arid North. We managed to find reticulated giraffe, lesser kudu, Grevy's zebra and a wonderful gerenuk; all new mammals for me. A few small volcanos also betrayed the underground activities of naked mole-rats, but sadly the sabre-toothed sausages themselves were nowhere to be seen. I'd love to come back here - its peaceful and wild.
We rounded off the field course with a few days in Amboseli. The haze slowly cleared in our last few hours in the park to reveal the snow capped peak of Kilimanjaro.
Rift valley lakes, Kenya
We started the new year with the MSc behavioural ecology field course in Kenya. The water levels in the rift valley lakes are very high this year, leaving the flamingos struggling as the salinity drops. In the shrinking land between the rising waters on Nakuru and the park fence, we found these lions dozing in the trees - that's one way to stay away from the buffalo.
The Honey badger is one of Africa’s most enigmatic and elusive carnivores, so I relished a chance to get up close with one, out and about in its natural habitat. A good friend at my research site in the Kalahari desert is raising an orphaned cub, who is quite a handful at eight months old - he loves a wrestle and firmly grips my boots as we walk through the bush at dusk.
Headed to Aliwal Shoal off the KwaZulu Natal coast with Jim, hoping for a close encounter with a tiger shark. A whirl of black-tips and silkies brought wide smiles, and the recharging strobes drew inquisitive bumps from the bolder among them. As we dropped into the whirl for a second time, a broad icicle-striped torpedo cruised slowly through the blue, silenced our bubbles and was gone. Magic.