Sometimes our backyard neighbours are be a bit more neighbourly than wanted. About a month ago my wife Bronwyn was collecting the washing from the line when she noticed a Shield bug (Poecilometis sp) on her clean slacks. Fortunately these days her first reaction to something with six legs is to call me rather than to squash it. Closer inspection showed it had also deposited a neatly arranged array of green eggs.
Setting up the field studio I photographed the bug together with the one clump of eggs I had been able to remove from her slacks still adhering together. By photographing them in the one frame I was able to maintain the scale. If you look closely at the bottom of the freshly laid eggs you can see a black strand – courtesy of Bron’s slacks!
But there is more to this tale. A friend Denis Crawford, is working on a project that required a Shield bug. Denis took the bug and eggs to photograph and after releasing the bug kept the eggs. On Monday evening the 4th November, just 20 days later, he phoned to say they had hatched; thus completing a “life cycle” – from clothes line, to field studio and back to the garden.
-by John Tiddy, Victoria, Australia
After two days of participation in the annual Europarc Conference, this year in Genk, Belgium, I am convinced more than ever that the nature photography community needs to get itself into gear and start talking to people outside its own ranks if it has any hope of achieving anything.
Europarc brings together many of the most influential people in nature conservation practice and policy in Europe (including the DG, Environment) not only to listen to keynotes but also, through a series of workshops, to create a number of resolutions, some of which are presented directly to the relevant offices in Brussels. This is how things are done, programmes devised and launched. So, where was the community of creatives that flocked to London for Wild Photos last week? Well, the fact is that of the 640 or so delegates from 40 countries, I was alone in making the case for close collaboration between the two communities. Continue Reading…
French wildlife magazine Nat’Images is featuring MYN in their October / November 2012 issue. Contributor Denis Palanque conducted interviews with co-founders Niall Benvie and Clay Bolt and wrote the six-page article, which gives an excellent overview of the project’s achievements and goals for the future. To learn more visit the publication’s website here!
We’re so pleased to announce that The Nature Conservancy is featuring a Meet Your Neighbours image as their “Photo of the Month” for October. Clay Bolt‘s image of an Imperial Moth caterpillar on autumn leaves will be the perfect thing to lead you in the season (if you happen to be in the Northern Hemisphere, that is). You can download the image for your computer’s desktop by going here. While you’re there, take a moment to read Clay’s essay and share your thoughts in the comment section below on some of your favorite “common” wildlife.
Excerpt from the article:
I am an explorer with a passion for traveling to exotic locations, spending at least some part of each and every day deep within some uncharted part of the world. During my travels I’ve witnessed creatures with forms and behaviors so bizarre, so fantastic, that they defy the imagination and yet getting there isn’t difficult or expensive. You don’t even need a passport to travel. Patience, and a change in perspective, is the key to this kingdom. Be warned though: once you descend into this wilderness you’ll never see the planet in the same way ever again!
This place that I’m talking about is the miniature world at your feet, the one that dwells within the leaf-litter on the forest floor and in between the cracks in the sidewalk. These hidden places, which may seem lifeless from our high vantage point, are havens for wildlife. As Piotr Naskrecki points out in his brilliant book The Smaller Majority, “over 99% of life on Earth is smaller than the human finger.” Allow this soak in for a few moments. Whoever said “exploration is dead” has surely never spent even a few moments gazing into the eye of a flower or scanning the moss covered buttresses of a decaying stump. As a macrophotographer, my mission is to take viewers into this realm so that they might be encouraged to go out and see it for themselves.
Many thanks to Neil Losin and Nate Dappen of Day’s Edge Productions for including MYN in their work on the Ibiza Wall Lizard in the Spanish Mediterranean! Neil has written an excellent post on National Geographic‘s Explorers Journal detailing how the technique was used to showcase the amazing diversity within this species on the islands of Ibiza and Formentera. You can read the article by going here.
As you can see, there is a tremendous amount of variety in color and shapes within this one species. It is a beautiful mystery! As Neil writes in his article:
“During the expedition, as I approached the project one day at a time, I don’t think I fully appreciated the diversity of the lizards. But now that the adventure is over and I look back on our photos from dozens of different islands, the variation from one population to another, particularly the diversity in color, is stunning! Some of the most amazing inter-island differences occurred between islands that were barely separated at all. Even between islands just a few meters apart – islands that shared similar terrain, climate, and biological communities – there were often stark differences in the color, size, or behavior of their lizard inhabitants.”
Thanks again Neil and Nate! The images that they have produced will be used in an upcoming coffee table book on the endemic lizard. To learn more visit their website at www.daysedgeproductions.com.
Meet Your Neighbours contributor Joris van Alphen has just embarked on an incredible expedition to document the wildlife found on Borneo’s mysterious Mt. Kinabalu. Van Alphen, who calls the Netherlands home, is on assignment with National Geographic Netherlands/Belgium to cover the historic expedition, which is primarily comprised of scientists from the Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Sabah Parks.
The main mission of the expedition will be to answer the question of whether or not Borneo is a “Hotbed or Storehouse of Evolution.” From Joris’ blog:
“In 2007, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei pledged to protect the mountainous and inaccessible heartland of Borneo. The literal pinnacle of the Heart of Borneo’s biodiversity is Mount Kinabalu, with 4,095 m the tallest peak in Southeast Asia. The mountain is—geologically speaking—young (only 1.5 million years), but its biological wealth is unique: thousands of species occur only there and nowhere else on earth.
The origins of these “endemic” species have been a mystery: are they young, recent evolutionary offshoots from the species that live in the lowlands? or perhaps relicts from times when Borneo was much cooler? In other words: is the mountain a biodiversity hotbed or rather an evolution’s storehouse?
To solve this question, this year (10-25 September) a team of 40 scientists from Malaysia’s Sabah Parks and The Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis (NCB Naturalis) will go on an expedition. First, they will sample animals, plants, and fungi on Mount Kinabalu and in the surrounding Crocker Range. Then, the high-throughput DNA analysis lab at NCB Naturalis will then be used to try to crack the mountain’s mystery.
The results will provide important information to the conservation agencies in the three countries: finally they will know how evolution shaped that unique biodiversity that lives within the boundaries of the Heart of Borneo.”
Now, some of you may wondering why MYN is interested in this expedition when our mission to help people connect with the wildlife in their own community. Again, Joris explains…
“I look forward to photographing my own Neighbours in the Netherlands and the French Thiérache, which has become a bit of a second home to me. But this is where I’m going to undermine my message about “biodiversity begins at home” a little bit, because the first real work I’m doing on this project will be in Borneo. The expedition I’m going on is the perfect opportunity for it. There is currently no one in Borneo working on the Meet Your Neighbours project and I think these kind of images could be useful to a variety of conservation programs there. What’s more, I will be in the unique opportunity of traveling with forty of the world’s foremost experts on just about anything that lives on Mount Kinabalu. I’ll get a chance to photograph many species I wouldn’t be able to find by myself, without specialist knowledge of the area.”
The images that we’ve received so far are nothing short of spectacular. We’ll keep you updated as the expedition progresses. In the meantime, please bookmark Joris van Alphen’s blog for his own updates. Oh, and in case you’re wondering what type of gear Joris is carrying into the field to create the MYN images, see the photo below. For a detail description of the gear visit this link. A very special thanks as well to sponsor Redged for supplying Joris with much of the gear shown below.
Via Piotr’s excellent blog, The Smaller Majority:
During the last few days I was supposed to be a member of a team of photographers and scientists, whose job was to document the biodiversity of animals and plants of the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. This event, organized and sponsored by the National Park Service and National Geographic Society, aims to bring together scientists, naturalists, students, and all people interested in nature, to create a snapshot of the incredible diversity of life of a single place, and further the understanding of the role of national parks and other protected areas in its preservation. I had been looking forward to my participation in this event, and meeting some of the most accomplished photographers in the country, including teams from the Meet Your Neighbours project and the International League of Conservation Photographers. Alas, a string of unforeseen events forced me to cancel my travel plans at the last minute, as I was, literally, packing my bags with the photographic equipment.
The MYN team just returned from an action-packed weekend working in Rocky Mountain National Park as part of National Geographic’s 2012 BioBlitz. MYN and iLCP team members Karine Aigner, Clay Bolt, Krista Schlyer joined scientists and volunteers at several sites during the event including Lily Lake and Iceberg pass, which is an Alpine Tundra ecosystem due to the elevation. Team members Neil Losin and Kevin FitzPatrick were also on-site as active participants in the event. Neil made a wonderful discovery this past Friday during the event, which we’ll be sharing more on in the coming days along with many more stories from the field. Stay-tuned!
You can read a brief field-report by going to National Geographic’s “News Watch” site by going here.
After a few weeks of taking pictures only around the backyard, I had the chance this weekend to go on my usual small rainforest spot in Piedade-SP and was greeted by an exciting bug finding. It’s a medium sized de-alate queen measuring about one centimeter, found almost at midnight walking on some branches at eye level. By the time I found it the only small orange ant I had in memory was Pseudomyrmex and assumed that was what it was. After I touched the branch the ant stopped moving instead of speeding away or dropping itself, this shy behaviour was very cooperative for photos and it was even possible to make a 3-shot stack, something I rarely do using a flash due to slow recycle time. After some impromptu pictures I moved the ant to shoot it on white for the MYN project.
The next day when I got home I saw some Pseudomyrmex pictures and realized it looked nothing like it, it belonged to the little known Acanthoponera genus. In general these ants are arboreal predators on rainforests but there isn’t much data about the natural history of this genus, specially regarding their hives. I was lucky to come across a very recent revision on Heteroponerinae by the myrmecologist Rodrigo Feitosa which recognizes so far only six species of Acanthoponera, two of these are new and undescribed (one represented by only a queen) and even castes of ants from some the previously known species are still unknown. This specimen had a different petiolar spine shape and I assumed it could be something new, but after getting in touch with the author of the revision, he confirmed it as a variation that can happen within Acanthoponera mucronata. The area where it was found isn’t even deep in a isolated and conserved forest, it’s a small spot of secondary vegetation surrounded by farmlands, yet despite occurring near populated areas these ants seems difficult to come across, and I hope to at least produce some valuable data about their hives with this queen. -João P. Burini
In 2012 João graduated as a biologist working mostly with invertebrates in Atlantic Rainforest areas in southeastern Brazil, but with a growing interest into birds as well. To learn more visit João’s website at www.flickr.com/photos/techuser/
Later this week, I’ll be shooting MYN style for the National Geographic BioBlitz in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. I had been wanting to create a portable, easy-to-assemble light table for photographing invertebrates. I built this one in a matter of minutes using PVC pipe and connectors that I purchased for a few bucks at the home improvement center. It fits into my backpack and works like a charm! -Clay