This was 2018
Updated: Jan 4
What an amazing year it was! Although I've been doing this for over 4 years now, I still can't believe how lucky I am to get the chance of being a photography tour guide. Of course, all of this wouldn't have been possible without your continued support, enthusiasm, dedication and passion. Thanks to all of you, this was again a year filled with unforgettable moments, fun and friendship.
To me, it is still a bit overwhelming so, instead of showing my Best Nine, I would like to give a summary of 2018, also for my own journal and memories. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you! Without you this adventure wouldn't be possible.
The year started with a trip to Bulgaria/Greece for Golden Eagles, Hawfinches and most of all...Dalmatian Pelicans! For years I wanted to capture these magnificent birds and as Yves Adams, who had been guiding this trip for many years, has some other trips coming up in this same period the upcoming years, STARLING wanted me to join him for a recon. So in 2020, I'll be guiding a small group there. And as of this writing, the two planned tours are already fully booked.
It was definitely worth the wait and the birds are just perfect models and the backdrops are amazing. I was actually curious if I could do something more creative with it. Well, you can decide for yourself, here are two of my favorites.
For more images, please have a look at this gallery >>
Not long after our bird adventure in Bulgaria, Yves and I took a group to Japan for our two-yearly Winter Wildlife Photography tour. Another one of my favorite tours. 😊 Not only do we look forward to the monkeys taking a dip in the thermal baths, the whooping sounds of the swans, waking up in a mysterious frozen landscape, the foxes roaming the frozen plains of the lakes, the eagles resting on the pack ice, the dancing crane birds and, of course, the culture shock we experience with every visit. Sometimes a bit odd looking and funny, sometimes eye-opening. If there is one country you should put on your bucket list, it's Japan!
I did another recon in April and this time I visited to the biggest Animal Wildpark of Europe: Cabarceno National Park in Spain. It is maybe a bit weird to read that a nature photographer does a recon to a 'zoo', but in my opinion an Animal park is still the best place to learn how to take pictures of animals in the wild. It is thé place where you can concentrate on your composition techniques and learn to see the light, without the stress and frustrations of missing out. Not only will I be teaching the guests these techniques but also post-processing, and in particular, black and white, my long lost love. If you are curious, click to see more >>
Will I ever get tired of it? Each year, I ask myself this question when I'm on the small Island of Helgoland just north of Germany. It is the hotspot for the Northern Gannets and just a few hours from Belgium! For years I've been taking guests to this unique place, to practice their bird photography. We stay for about 4 days and only take pictures of these birds. Well, to be honest, we do visit the seal colony on Düne for a few hours. Now, you may ask yourself if the guests don't get bored of one subject for such a long time? None of them are hardcore birders and, believe it or not, many of them return the year after. Of course, you can’t just let the guests take images of the birds for 4 days, you have to keep them busy and, on Helgoland, I do this with different techniques. One day we work on nice bokeh glittering in the background, on that same sunny day we can also get a ‘fine art’ black background or get some high keys against the sky. As the birds are extremely close to the walkway (sometimes less than one meter) a wide-angle works wonders, certainly when it is overcast, the images just ooze drama! You can also focus on behavior, get some action shots of birds fighting and landing, go creative with a slow shutter, integrate it with flash photography, look for abstractions and a whole lot more. Check out my gallery for some inspiration >>
In the summer I took 7 guests to Namibia and I can only talk in superlatives about this country. It is truly a photographer's playground! The diversity of images the country has to offer is incredible! From chasing the shadow line in Dead Vlei, creating geometric figures with the fur seals on Cape Cross or just isolating them against a back background, shooting a graphical interpretation of a Pelican at Walvis Bay, taking wide-angle macro shots of the small five in the Namib Desert and fantasy-like backlit images of animals in their surroundings. And I could go on for ages but not only the images count...the experience and the feeling the country gives you, certainly when you are the only group at Dead Vlei during sunrise, when you can watch the milky way in the quiver tree forest in complete silence, when you have the ghost town of Kolmanskop all to your own, when 2 cheetahs pass you at a few meters and a meerkat sitting on your shoulder to scout the area. Those experiences are just unforgettable and last a lifetime!
From heat to cold...from the dry Namibian desert to the lakes of Canada. The final two weeks of September Bart Heirweg and I got to guide a group to the Canadian Rockies for the fall colors. Of all the fall destinations I've seen, this place tops them all. The color change can be very short, sometimes only two weeks, and actually not a lot of trees change color, but those who do...oh my god! You'll find the most incredible scenery along the highway in Jasper and in Banff, be sure to check out the Vermillion Lakes but most of all, Hillsdale. There isn't an official parking lot, but to me, this is one of the most beautiful fall locations within the Rockies!
Before we come to the last trip of 2018, I did another recon to London. Not to do city- or street photography tour, but to document the rut of the Red Deer. The last couple of years I've been looking for a good spot for this yearly wildlife event. Richmond Park is, in my opinion, the better place within Europe if you are looking for easy rut photography. It tops the Veluwe in the Netherlands and Jaegersborg in Denmark. You don’t need to walk a long distance, it’s natural looking and, for me, it's not that far to get there.
And last but not least, the Galapagos Islands. This destination is on the bucket list of many and it took us over 2 years to organize this tour. A lot of operators go there but we wanted more freedom than most could offer. As you know you need permits to go on land and there are many restrictions. So it was our goal to find an operator/boat that could ensure us long landings at the best times of the day and give us the freedom to do our thing, so we could ensure good images. And it worked out! We could spend several hours on the different islands, spread out (of course, staying within the walkways) and benefit of first and last light. Definitely an unique formula! See the Galapagos gallery here >>
And now I'm looking forward to 2019, with a wildlife tour in Costa Rica, a Creative Wild Workshop at Cabarceno NP, for the zillion time shooting Northern Gannets at Helgoland 😊, getting up close with African Wildlife in Zimanga and taking guests to the playground of Namibia :-)