New Phytologist

I'm very pleased to have one of my Amazonian aerial photographs on the front cover of new Phytologist. The shot was taken from a helicopter at about 6am just as the sun was rising. The light was perfect, with mist rising from the forest canopy.  Flying low level over the forest is really exciting. You feel as if you can almost touch the treetops. Quite a lot of aerail shots are done using drones now, but there's nothing quite like looking through a viewfinder at scenes like this using a Nikon D4, or Hasselblad. 


Cabo Pulmo National Park, Mexico.

Cabo Pulmo National Park is a marine success story. Only twenty years ago it was protected by the Mexican government as a reserve. Within that time its had one of the fastest grow backs of marine life anywhere in the world.

Shots like this are generally termed as half in half out or splits. I wanted to capture the Sonoran desert coastline from the sea. However, rather than take a normal shot from the boat, I realised when diving there that it would be nice to take a shot of what it looks like from my dive mask. When we surface the deep blue suddenly appears below.. its beautiful. I only wish there had been a whale shark in front of me at the time. 


Science of the canopy.

Collecting data from leaves fifty meters up a Castanea tree in the Amazon rainforest is not a walk in the park! 

For this shot, I winched up a Pro 7b flash, with the head attached to a boom pole, soft box attached. It was a real pain to set up, because I was being stung by wasps and covered in small mosquitos.  Nonetheless, I was able to throw a bit of soft light onto Cecilia, seen here balancing. The idea for a photograph like this is to capture the foreground, background, understory and sense of height all in one go.  I only wish I had had a Gopro at that time, which would have made a fun video.... next time. Anyway, I hope this conveys a sense of the beauty and serenity of what its like in the canopy of a large Amazonian emergent tree.


Beyond the Canopy

Here is Neill Prohaska maintaining a infrared camera used to take measurments of the forest canopy. I'm not going to go into the scientific detail, but rather explain the shot. 

We were up 210 foot flux tower in the middle of the Tapajos rainforest. I decided to use a 16mm fisheye lens to capture the whole scene. I used a Qflash which was easy to carry up the tower and had the power to overpower the sun at that time of day, (bare bulb).  It was an amazing place to be, with a incredible views, trees for hundreds of miles in every direction. I wanted to capture a moment which truly expresses the atmosphere of the work and place. 


Vertical down

Whenever I look back at this photograph, I can still feel the whistle of wind rushing through the cockpit of the Cessna aeroplane.

I wanted to capture the Carmanah Valley  temperate rainforest on Vancouver Island vertically from above. To do this, the pilot did a test run to see if I would not freak out! We climbed up a bit and he put the plane into a 90 degree corkscrew spiral. We did three circles and then powered out of it. He said "lets do it again but this time flip open your door window slowly and then you'll be able to shoot vertically down without getting the wheels in the shot". Well, as soon as I opened the window it became a instant hurricane in the cabin. I had made sure my camera was hooked up to a strap so that it didn't get sucked out!  On the second circle we could feel the plane bumping into its own turbulence....  We had to fly off grid into the wilderness to find the right spot. There were a few patches of forest that had beautiful patterns to them so we tried a few more spirals until I got the shot. It was a totally mind blowing experience and something I'll always remember, fantastic pilot skills. And special thanks to Blake MacLeod for setting me up with logistics.


Old School Climbing

This was a really fun shot to do, but very hard work! I was hanging from a rope about 30 meters high so that I could get a horizontal shot through the understory. Thanks to Mick Eltringham (arborist) I was in safe hands as he set up the ropes for me. I wanted to capture Nestor seen in the photo, in the middle of the forest concentrating on collecting canopy leaves for data sampling. Nestor is old school when it comes to climbing. He's using leg clamps only tied on with leather straps! He's carrying a long pole with pincers to cut the samples. Its incredibly difficult this type of field work, but Nestor seemed to make it look so easy. Glad to know this photo is hanging in the Carnegie Ecology offices at Stanford, CA.



Cabo Pulmo

Cabo Pulmo

What a fantastic underwater shoot in Baja, Mexico. Being new to underwater photography, I had only dived once before in the Great Barrier Reef. It was truly a lot to take in, as I had just completed my PADI. Many thanks to Julie Xelowski-Brooker my dive instructor and The Dive Shop in Tucson for getting me through it. And of course to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum who commissioned me for the shoot. 

Imagine rolling off the back of a small boat in choppy water about 2k out. Almost as soon as I had descended, I was surrounded by this absolutely massive shoal of Big Eye Travali.... I made sure my camera was set up before I dived, Shutter Priority 125 / ISO 400. I noticed the light flooding down through the deep blue and took advantage of my fisheye lens, knowing it would capture the entire scene and meter the light correctly. I think this is one of my best shots ever.... just had it printed and framed one meter square. 

Cabo Pulmo is a real success story in conservation, the abundance of marine life I saw  there was equal to the Great Barrier Reef. More info here :


Once upon a forest

Once Upon a Forest (Il était une forêt) A film by Luc Jacquet

This image was shot about 45 meters up in the canopy of a Moabi tree in Ivindo national Park, Gabon. Francis Halle, seen here sketching canopy fauna, which he has done throughout his career. Its truly remarkable seeing this part of the rainforest, a largely hidden and unknown world!

I wanted to capture a cinematic portrait that conveys the awe of these magnificent trees. This particular tree had a 50 meter crown, just enormous! I decided to stitch two shots together which helps capture the size. More about this shot here :

And here are some behind the scenes video of the film crew in the forest.