From heights to depths
Many of the 20 photographers who took the pictures shown in the exhibition What a Wonderful World are biologists who have chosen photography as a means of connecting a large number of people with science. They are all very adventurous in their attitudes to field research and able to create amazing images: let’s see two of them in detail.
Photographing a greater bird of paradise performing a courtship ritual on top of a branch at a height of thirty metres, in perfect light conditions and with the rainforest in the background, is no mean feat. Tim Laman did it after years of trial and error and eight days spent climbing up and down the trees in the Aru Islands in West New Guinea. The technique used is almost unbelievable. A camera sewn inside large leaves and hidden on the branch that the birds of paradise normally use for perching was connected by means of an 18-metre USB cable to the tree opposite, where Tim built his «suspended» post. From inside a leaf tent, the photographer adjusted the camera’s focus and exposure by means of a laptop. In addition to the aesthetic value of the images and videos that Tim managed to capture, their scientific value is also enormous: so far, no scientist had ever been able to observe the behaviour of this rare animal from such a short distance.
Tim is a field biologist and a wildlife photojournalist. He was born in 1961, and spent his childhood in Japan, where he developed an early interest in nature exploration. He first went to the Borneo rainforest in 1987, and the Asia-Pacific region (especially the Indonesian archipelago) has since become the main subject of his scientific and photographic research. Tim has earned a reputation as a person who is able to return from his travels with shots of subjects almost impossible to photograph, such as the flying animals of Borneo, the displays of the birds of paradise and some of the most endangered birds in the world. Tim collaborates with his wife, Cheryl Knott, on orangutan research and conservation projects.
In this poetic shot a young whale shark filters the water rich in plankton attracted by a light in the night. The photo was taken in the Gulf of Aden, off the border between Djibouti and Somalia, where Thomas P. Peschak spent many nights with Somali fishermen to document the rich biodiversity of the seas surrounding the Arabian Peninsula. Despite its size, the whale shark is totally harmless to humans.
Thomas P. Peschak
Born in 1975 in Germany but raised in South Africa, Thomas is a marine biologist specializing in the conflict between man and nature. He became a photojournalist (mainly underwater) when he realized that he would have a greater impact on conservation through photographs than through statistics. In 2008, his first photos for National Geographic magazine documented the discovery of Hanifaru Bay, near the Maldivian atoll of Baa, where manta rays gather to feed on plankton: the story raised public awareness and prevented the construction of a harbour at the site, which has been declared a marine protected area. Today he focuses on documenting some of the most critical stories of our time regarding the conservation of oceans and islands.