Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nature's fierce laws of survival

The Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year award winners are on view now at the Natural History Museum. Always a stunning show there are 100 wonderful prize winners to see there in December. I've posted some already, but this one by French wildlife cameraman, Gregoire Bouguereau, captured my attention. Read Gregoire's explanation to experience Nature's fierce laws of survival.

Practice run
When a female cheetah caught but didn’t kill a Thomson’s gazelle calf and waited for her cubs to join her, GrĂ©goire guessed what was about to happen. He’d spent nearly a decade studying and photographing cheetahs in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, and he knew that the female’s behaviour meant one thing: a hunting lesson was due to begin. The female moved away, leaving the calf lying on the ground near her cubs. At first, the cubs took no notice of it. But when it struggled jerkily to its feet ‘the cubs’ natural predatory instincts were triggered,’ says GrĂ©goire. ‘Each cub’s gaze locked on to the calf as it made a break for freedom.’ The lesson repeated itself several times, with the cubs ignoring the calf when it was on the ground and catching it whenever it tried to escape – ‘an exercise that affords the cubs the chance to practise chases in preparation for the time they’ll have to do so for real.’

Gregoire won the 2012:Behavior: Mammals Award. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

IPA Wildlife Awards

Browsing through the annual International Photography Awards is always a pleasure. Now in its 10th year this must be the most comprehensive competition in the industry with over 61 Pro categories and a similar amount for Non-Pros & Students.  To date the IPA have paid out over $175,000 in prizes.

This year I was struck by the entry of Netherlands wildlife photographer Marsel van Oosten whose wildlife work is familiar to National Geographic readers. Marsel and his partner Daniella Sibbing run wildlife
workshops all over the world for their students.

His entry is titled "Close Encounters."

It's not hard to see why. Without Marsel's courage I'd be inclined to call it "Run Like Hell!"

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

It's the photographic awards season again. My favourite time of year. Leading off is the brilliant Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide.

From an entry of thousands they whittle it down to 52 superb commended images who then vie for the title. The winners are announced on October 17th and the exhibition opens to the public two days later at the Museum. Well worth a visit. Here is just a taste of it:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Medusa Emerald

The Medusa emerald

The Medusa Emerald is one of the world’s finest mineral specimens, having been hidden for millions of years in a huge bolder of quartz. The Natural History Museum in London now has it on display, the first time in Europe, and it's a unique Emerald. It is unusually large with high clarity and intense, strong colouring and is more like eight Emerald sticks protruding from a bed of quartz rock.

Its owners, Gemfields, used state-of-the-art techniques to reveal it, millimetre by millimetre, cutting it from the rock to reveal the beautiful emerald crystals within, a labour that took several months by the world's specialists.

Writing The Emerald Killers began my fascination with emeralds.  I used the notorious Boyaca Emerald Valley in Colombia as a backdrop for my thriller about the illegal trade in emeralds there. I also discovered that the green gemstones should not exist at all. A quirk of nature millennia ago brought chromium and vanadium from another continent across the world, trapped in the earth’s moving tectonic plates, to fuse with clear beryllium, creating the lustre of the intense green colouring.

Emerald is twenty times more rare than diamond and sells at the same price per carat. Its specific gravity being low any emerald is larger per carat than other gems. If you hold an emerald to the sun you will see its fine ‘garden of inclusions,’ a tracery of tiny chambers trapping the gases of its creation within it. These do not detract from the price.

These ‘inclusions’ are sealed with palm or cedar wood oil before it’s sold. In my book they are smuggled out of Colombia to New York and legitimised into the gem trade.

The Medusa is on display at the Natural History Museum for 12 months.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Seb Coe and the perfect shot

There is a brilliant spread in the Daily Mail today depicting Seb Coe re-enacting his historic Olympic win in the Moscow Olympics. It's by photographer Igor Monichev but the original next to it, taken 32 years ago, was an example of the job the great staff photographers of that era did. The by-line was Monty Fresco.

I was on the Daily Mail and the incomparable Monty Fresco was our cameraman trackside. His name was on the original picture - twice in half an hour. Monty was a legend, a man with boundless energy, unlimited courage and an artist renowned for going to any lengths to get a news picture. He once hired a red, double-decker and drove it to the Thai Embassy because he heard that the King and Queen of Thailand loved London buses. Sure enough, they came out, fascinated by it and wanted a ride. The security men couldn't throw Monty off it because he had hired it, it was his bus - and he drove them sightseeing around London all afternoon - and the Daily Mail got an exclusive.

Back at the Olympic trackside, 50 snappers got Seb Coe's astonished look as he broke the tape in the 1500 metres. Within minutes Monty and the other cameramen had their version of the win on the wires to their London newspaper offices. Each snap was slightly different, an arm up or down. Nobody had that crucifixion, arms wide shot. Calls were made, some snappers blaspheming down the line at London's demand for perfection, didn't we know 'our man' had won!

Not Monty. He hunted down every snapper on the finish line, asking to scrutinise their negatives until he found the perfect shot from an East european photographer. Within half an hour it was back over the wires and onto the Daily Mail front page - with Monty's by-line on it, of course! Monty was the absolute perfect professional.

Friday, June 22, 2012

$35m Ferrari Moss never drove

The 1962 Ferrari GTO

Now, I love a sports car as much as the next guy, especially a Ferrari but is the world of classic cars going bonkers?
I mentioned in a previous post the red 1957 Testa Rossa that sold for $16.4m at the Pebble Beach auction last year, that's seven times more than a new Bugatti Veyron, the world's fastest and coolest sports car. That Ferrari ran at Le Mans and never won but an anonymous rich guy fancied it - and the gavel came down at a world record price.

But that's chicken droppings compared to the $35m paid by US car collector and billionaire Craig McCaw in a reported private transaction with Dutch owner Eric Heerema (see It is said Heerema paid $8.5m for the GTO 10 years ago. The fascinating fact, to me was that the race car, painted in the apple-green colours of UDT-Laystall race team, was made for Stirling Moss to drive, England's most celebrated racer never to win a world title - and my personal hero as a sixteen year old.

Sadly for Moss, he suffered career ending injuries in a crash at Goodwood in April 1962 and thus never got to drive it. But still, it's sold as Moss's GTO. In fact, it was raced by British driver Innes Ireland at the 1962 24 hours of Le Mans, but did not finish. Ireland took it to a win at Goodwood subsequently in the Tourist Trophy, so it was Ireland's GTO in reality, but, hey, the Moss name sells for more.

footnote. I achieved a lifetimes ambition, driven round Brands Hatch in a Lister-Bristol by the great man before I was too gaga to enjoy it.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

More brilliant wildlife pictures

In London with the kids this summer and want somewhere to go? The Natural History Museum is staging a magnificent outdoor collection of its greatest wildlife pictures. Over 80 large scale panels of award winning Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibits and its open to the public on the front lawns from March through to September. And its FREE.

Friday, March 9, 2012

One for adrenaline freaks (like me)

One for the adrenaline freaks out there (like me.) This is a practise lap of the Isle of Man TT in 2011 by Michael Dunlop. Held over two weeks, 26th May to 8th of June around the tiny island, the TT race is a 37.73 mile circumnavigation through countryside, villages and towns at 130 mph and is unique. Many classes of bikes take part and is amongst the most dangerous sporting events anywhere in the world and the most thrilling. Watch the video full screen by clicking on it twice then selecting full screen button!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The International Photography Awards

Splendid Watermite by Martin Oeggerli - 1st Special Photography

Let Them Eat Cake - a portfolio by John Wright - 2nd Ad Fashion Pro

The Look - by Yulia Gorbachenko - 1st Beauty Pro

Women of History - by Peter Lippmann - 1st Fashion Pro
Last year I brought you the IPA Awards. The 2011 winners have now been released in New York and feature the finest photography across the professional and amateur classes globally. There are so many categories you must visit the site to catch them all, an opportunity to see great photographers at work. Here's just a taster to get you started.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy 70th Birthday Muhammad Ali


Rnd 1 - I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale, only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I'm so mean I make medicine sick.

Rnd 2 - There's not a man alive who can whup me. I'm too fast. I'm too smart. I'm too pretty. I should be a postage stamp. That's the only way I'll ever get licked.

Rnd 3 - I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.

Rnd 4 - I am the astronaut of boxing. Joe Louis and Dempsey were just jet pilots. I'm in a world of my own.

Rnd 5 - If you dream of beating me, you'd better wake up and apologise.

Rnd 6 - There are two things that are hard to hit and see. That's a spooky ghost and Muhammad Ali.

Rnd 7 - One of these days, they're liable to make the house I grew up in a national shrine.


Rnd 8 - Frazier is so ugly he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wildlife.

Rnd 9 - Frazier is so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head.


Rnd 10 - I've seen George Foreman shadow boxing. And the shadow won.

Rnd 11 - It's a divine fight. This Foreman - he represents Christianity, America, the flag. I can't let him win. He represents pork chops.


Rnd 12 - I'll beat him so bad, he'll need a shoehorn to put his hat on.


Rnd 13 - Sonny Liston is nothing. The man can't talk. The man can't fight. The man needs talking lessons. The man needs boxing lessons. And since he's gonna fight me, he needs falling lessons.


Rnd 14 - You're always talking about, Muhammad, you're not the same man you were 10 years ago. Well, I asked your wife, and she told me you're not the same man you was two years ago!

Rnd 15 - I'm the best. I just haven't played yet.

With thanks to Eurosport

Friday, January 6, 2012

Revisiting Scott of the Antarctic

Expedition photographer Herbert Ponting

The fated five men at the pole took this last picture with a string attached to the camera before setting out on their last journey

Captain Robert Falcon Scott became a national hero after his expedition to be first to the South Pole in 1912 ended in tragedy. Having successfully reached the Pole he discovered Norwegian rival Roald Amundsen had beaten him there by five weeks.

On the 800 mile return journey the five man team encountered deteriorating weather, frost-bite, snow blindness, hunger and exhaustion. First, Edgar Evans died after a fall, then Lawrence Oates, hampered by a war wound to a leg, left the tent to walk into the blizzard with the immortal words, "I am just going outside and maybe some time."

Reduced to three, the team covered a further 20 miles before making their final camp. Trapped by a fierce blizzard for nine days their provisions finally ran out. Waiting for death Scott wrote many letters, to his wife, his mother, his old commander, to many dignitaries and penned a Message to the Public explaining their predicament and finally his last scribble which read:

"Last entry. For God's sake, look after our people."

Of the five men, Scott was the last to die on the 29th March 1912. His memory was celebrated across the British Empire and he became a hero and a legend to be known forever as Scott of the Antarctic.

Now the Natural History Museum in London is staging a major exhibition celebrating Scott's three year journey to the Pole and his many scientific achievements on the trip. They have gathered all his specimens and artifacts, tools, diaries and clothing alongside a life-size representation of Scott's hut.

It runs from 20th January to 2nd September 2012 and celebrates an era of exploration and courage.