Andrew Walmsley Photography: Blog en-us (C) Andrew Walmsley Photography (Andrew Walmsley Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:07:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:07:00 GMT Andrew Walmsley Photography: Blog 90 120 The best camera in the world... the one you have on you, as someone wise once said. It's very true, I often find myself bogged down with bags of cameras, lenses, flashes and all the cables I can lay my hands on, having convinced myself that I'll need every last bit of it. That's all well and good, because often on my larger scale commercial shoots I will need to get all the different looks using every focal length I have to hand, but lately I've been training myself to leave the big stuff at home and just throw my little Fuji X-M1 over my shoulder. I felt that I needed to sing its praises a little, so this post (the first in a VERY long time) is my tribute to it!

One key consideration about using a smaller camera is that often the low light ability can be questionable, as sensor size is key to the amount of light that the camera lets in. My little Fuji is equipped with a DX-sized sensor, the same as many consumer DSLRs, and I've found that it performs brilliantly, all things considered! The great thing is, being so small, I can wedge it into spaces in trees, fences, walls, anything to keep it nice and steady.



The other thing with a small camera, and arguably the best thing, is that this wee toy comes with me everywhere! With the 27mm 2.8 pancake lens on it, it literally slips into my back pocket, so I find myself taking pictures in places that I wouldn't otherwise have thought of, having left the heavy gear behind so the world doesn't turn into a permanent 'job'. The main thing I've found is that a tiny camera can clip onto the back of my climbing harness, allowing me to snap away as I ascend, before hauling the 10kg bag of lenses and assorted bits up to the canopy.




I've been so impressed by the picture quality from such a minimalist camera, that it has now become the only camera I have on me in many instances - here are some images I shot on recent trips to Morocco and Slovenia with Lucy, taken with a couple of different lenses - the only ones I have that natively fit the body are the kit 18-55mm and the previously mentioned 27mm, but with the addition of a cheap and cheerful eBay adaptor I've found that I can steal Lucy's longer lens for a few shots... it's all manual focus, of course, but the peaking indicator is so quick and accurate to use that there's no issue with getting things sharp, as long as it's not a cheetah in full sprint!


I'll write more here soon - stay tuned for updates! 


(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew Fuji Walmsley X-M1 adventure climbing nature people photography travel wildlife Sat, 06 May 2017 13:17:33 GMT
Snapping branches... In my last post I broke the news about my obsession with everything tree-related. I honestly think that over the next few years I will be reversing evolution and reverting to a more arboreal existence. With every climb I find new scenes, new angles, new light to chase. The logistics of getting cameras up trees and keeping them from high-speed meetings with the ground has been an interesting one, and I have discovered what happens when one slips from my fingers - surprisingly little, to be honest! Good old Nikon...


Andrew Walmsley Photography


However, when it comes to lighting the canopy, things become a bit more frustrating and tricky. I have spent the last couple of weeks clambering around a favourite beech tree at night, working out how to position and fix remote flashes to branches, how to set the power correctly and what colours will create the mood I'm looking for. I must have climbed several hundred metres up and down ropes just setting, resetting, and re-resetting a flash that I didn't get quite right the first time. Who needs the gym? 


Andrew Walmsley Photography


Then comes the problem of fixing the camera in place. Most of the images here were taken with a 30 second exposure to pick up the lovely light pollution of Oxford's skies - I was hoping for stars, but I think I'll have to go further afield next time. Anyway, I've started lashing a monopod to the tree and it works ok. It's amazing how much movement occurs at height though, even in barely noticeable wind - a close eye on the weather forecast would be a prudent move. Thanks must go to my long-suffering climbing buddy Tim for repeatedly staying still for extended periods in the rain... thanks, Tim!



There is one question that needs to be answered though; why am I focussing on trees? Well, other than being obsessed by climbing them from a young age, I think we take them for granted, almost forgetting that they are a living entity in their own right. As a wildlife photographer I have always spent my time searching for the feathered and the furry creatures that call the trees their home, but I've found my work becoming more focussed on including this habitat in a new way. I've also come to realise that a point of human interest can really help us to see an environment from a fresh perspective, so have been teaming up with some incredibly talented aerial acrobats and performers - more on that to come soon! For now, here is Leo testing out my harness for some future photos...


Andrew Walmsley Photography


...annnnd in contrast, here is yours truly trying something similar. More orangutan than circus performer, but I'll work on it. Check back soon for more tree-based action!


Andrew Walmsley Photography

(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Mon, 03 Nov 2014 15:15:32 GMT
A life in the trees One piece of photography advice that I always carry with me comes from a man whose work is a regular feature in LIFE magazine, National Geographic and countless other publications, the legendary Joe McNally. When someone once asked him 'How do I take more interesting photos', his reply was simply 'Stand in front of more interesting things'. Fair point.

All too often we believe that an expensive new lens, some magical filter or a tweak in photoshop will make everything better, when, actually, just taking our cameras somewhere they've never been before is all that was needed. To this end, I have been taking my cameras up trees. 

I've always been obsessed by trees and how to get as high up them as possible. After I had mastered balancing on solid ground, I was straight up into the trees where I would often spend whole days investigating the mosses and lichens, and the countless beetles that lived within. My parents quickly learned that if they couldn't find me at eye-level, a quick scan of the canopy would usually reveal a grinning little boy covered in scratches, rabbiting on about how a robin came really close and why did he have to come down, couldn't lunch be brought to him. 

I'm not sure why it took me so long to discover how much fun could be had with rope and carabiners, but for the last couple of years I have been building my skills and collection of toys to get my camera into some amazing places. So far I've been lucky enough to climb above the forest canopy in an enormous fig tree, photograph monkeys at their level and even sleep under a thin veil of leaves, wrapped in a hammock with nothing but clear air for almost 60 metres below me. I have a few plans for my arboreal shoots - watch this space for more soon...




(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew Walmsley blog forest monkey photography tree wildlife Thu, 16 Oct 2014 11:45:33 GMT
The forest refugee  

For the past few weeks, I have been lucky enough to enjoy the company of Lucy Radford, a conservationist and writer from Bristol. Ordinarily, I would attempt to ham-fistedly bash away at the keyboard to describe my adventures, but the subject matter for today's post affected me too greatly to be able to describe it properly... so please, Lucy, share the story of a palm oil refugee with your wonderfully woven words...


Green desertPalm oil plantations line the roads, a constant reminder of their rampant spread throughout the region.


On the first day, a few hours before dusk, we crossed a river, wading thigh-deep and slipping on smooth rock as the water tried to push us downstream.  To our left, tall, straight rubber trees oozed slow white streams, oblivious to the monkeys dashing inelegantly along their branches.  To our right, the oil palms were an illusion of forest, shading us with green, only their regimented formation and the bare ground at their feet to reveal the deception.  As we walked, we learned of labour-intensive rubber production affected by time and rain, and the relative ease of a crop that needs harvesting only once every two weeks.  We learned of monkeys and orangutans eating the fruits of trees designed to supplement income, and as we crested a hill, we saw the brown furrows of a nearby peak denuded of its trees, bare and desolate and a barrier to the monkeys and orangutans choosing fruit elsewhere.


Welcome to NothingThe view from the orangutan's bed - a brand new palm oil plantation where forest used to stand.


Tree graveyardBlackened soil and charred tree stumps mark the transition from forest to plantation.


On the second day, a few hours after dawn, we swelled in number and we crossed the river again.  We passed through fields where even the oil palms were absent, only blackened trunks surviving the poisoning that makes way for a new generation.  With increasing heat came decreasing talk, our solemn feet leaving the plantations further behind, tripping over roots and slipping into shallow water as the wild pushed its way past the rubber trees and came to meet us.  Hope flared with new nests above our heads, then disappeared as the branches we craned our necks towards stayed still in the hot, wet air and the orangutans remained in our imagination.  The mosquitoes joined us on our search, their constant whine biting into our consciousness as the sting of their bites tattooed angry lumps onto our skin.  


Crossing the riverThe beginning of the journey into the forest-farm fragment.


Passing through the palm oilRabin and Joko begin their search at the boundaries of the palm oil plantation.


On the third day, we drove to Langkat, hopeful that the orangutans would not evade us there.  Here, the palms were fewer and the forest feeling stronger, pervading our senses and making our footsteps clumsy in a habitat made for the arboreal.  A farmer stopped us; he had seen an orangutan that morning and we followed his outstretched arm with our eyes and then our feet, coming to rest in the shadow of some tall trees where we caught our breath until a flash of orange took it away again.  He swung effortlessly across our line of sight, demonstrating his long arms and reminding us that we're earthbound.   Stumbling more than walking, hands grabbing roots and clasping at thick soil in our hurry, we followed him to a pandan tree and sat on a fallen trunk to listen as he ate.  We had found him, and now we could not lose him again.  Four of us sat quietly at the edge of a path, watching as he rested in the heat of the day, and two drove to Medan, to find the vet, find the transport cage, and, with phone calls and negotiations, find him a safer place to live.



First sightingA glimpse of orange through the trees reveals the orangutan's presence.


As the hours wore on, we barely moved.  We ate carefully as he slept, talked in hushed tones and followed him at a distance when he moved in search of food, our heads heavy and swimming in the heat as he led us into a valley where the mosquitoes reached fever pitch and the shriek of cicadas drilled into our brains.  Contemplative, he ate termites from a piece of bark, then sat still for a while, moving only for an occasional cough as the sun began to dim from painful heat to muted light.  A phone call from the road told us help was on its way, and we joked with quiet laughs as we waited.  We started to get comfortable and he moved again, gaps between trees disappearing under his easy swing.  We caught up with him at the pandan tree, his kiss-squeaks of warning fading to silence as we planted our feet and kept our heads low.  Fruit in hand, he looked at us with mild interest and a trust that hit our stomachs with a fist of guilt. The chainsaws buzzed in the background as his careful hands picked the fruit apart, finding the best bits gently, slowly, because he had no idea his time was short.  I focused my shaking hands and racing mind on my camera, fighting an urge to lie on the ground and cry.  When angrily brushing tears away didn't stop them chasing each other down my face, I sat and looked at him, silent with a sudden despair I hadn't prepared for.  He looked back, still calm, and I willed him to understand what we were about to do.  He made his night nest as the team from Medan arrived, tired and frustrated and still negotiating a safe place to take him, so we left him in the gathering gloom of dusk, hoping he would still be there tomorrow.



Slim pickingsThe orangutan eats his second pandan meal of the day, running out of options as the forest dwindles around him.


Tomorrow came at 5 am, with a hurried breakfast and clothes still damp from the days before.  It was 22 degrees when we got in the car, then 28 as we left the village, then 32 as we assembled our equipment and our minds in the palm oil field at the boundary of his piece of forest. He was waking up as we got to the pandan tree by the path and moved away as the team got ready, perhaps, now, sensing what was to come.  Quick and practised, the team went after him, the tranquiliser dart they carried all too real and stark.  They caught up with him and then I caught up with them, his body suddenly diminished as he hung by one arm above the net they held ready. Minutes passed slowly and then all in a rush as he lost his grip and hurtled to the ground.  His face in the net was beautiful in the saddest possible way as his long, nimble fingers reached out and found only thin air.  Watching as if from a thousand miles away, I felt hope and grief spike light and heavy as human hands stroked long orangutan hair, reassuring him through the fear that pierced the sedatives and made his breath rasp.   


An early startKriezna, HOCRU Field Coordinator, gets ready to go before 6 am.


The HOCRU team preparing for the rescueWith dart guns prepared and Riani the vet on standby, the team get ready to move in.

WaitingSitting amongst the remains of a felled tree, specialist vet Riani waits for the HOCRU team to dart the orangutan.



Waiting for the dropRabin makes some quick adjustments to the net to ensure a soft landing for the tranquillised orangutan.




Preliminary check upFollowing his drop from the tree, vet Riani gives the orangutan a quick check over for injuries before the team evacuate him from the plantation.




A heavy loadJoko and Rudi carry the tranquilised orangutan through the thick undergrowth in the rubber plantation.




No space leftAs the palm oil expansion marches relentlessly on, the refugees are moved to safety.

Coming roundAs he wakes up from his sedated state, the refugee finds himself in a crate in which he will be transported to a quarantine unit before re-release in protected forest.


The orangutan in this story is a 60 kg young adult male who lived in fragmented forest that grows around farmed rubber trees in Langkat, North Sumatra.  The fragment of forest is now bordered by palm oil, and every day the forest shrinks, chainsaws and bulldozers clearing it to make way for the palm oil plantations to expand.  On 15th April 2014, Orangutan Information Centre's (OIC) Human and Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) rescued the orangutan from a habitat no longer safe for him to continue living.  This is a last resort; it happens only when there is no other way to ensure an orangutan's survival.  Later that day, after the events described above, the orangutan was taken to Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program's quarantine facility, where he will remain for 30 days before being relocated to a new forest home. Thanks also go to Sumatran Orangutan Society for all their support; without their help and the generosity of their donors, work like this would be almost impossible. To read more of Lucy's thoughts on conservation, visit her blog,  How to be a hummingbird


(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew HOCRU Indonesia OIC SOS Sumatra Sumatran Walmsley image oil orang-utan orangutan palm photo photography plantation rescue Sun, 20 Apr 2014 17:48:50 GMT
New look website! Whoooop! Hi everyone! Well, it's only been a year since I wrote here. Quite a year, I must say, I'm not quite sure what happened to it, but the good news is that my back catalogue is now in much better shape that it was, and now I'm ready to crawl back out of my processing cave, stumbling and blinking into the sunlight to see what my next adventure will be! There's so much to choose from...

New look front page! Exciting, huh?

So, what's new? Well, first of all there have been a few changes around here. A cleaner, crisper front page, a new web address, more images to see, all available as prints... that's a pretty good start! Coming soon I will have detailed photo stories about the projects I have been working with, many of the images are already available on my 'Projects' page... even more excitingly, I am currently putting together some beautifully crafted audio slideshows to bring you the sights and sounds of my adventures. That, along with some behind the scenes videos, will bring you all deep into the world of a conservation photographer, in which you will meet the many characters who are working tirelessly to save their corners of our fragile spaces. 

I will also be using my website to bring you more news from the field, which, combined with my twitter feed (@walmswild), will keep you informed with where I am and the fascinating subjects I have found to point my lenses at. There are also a few announcements that will be coming very soon, some of which are more exciting than I can really explain... just keep in touch, ok? Good! 

So, I will leave you to browse some of the new bits in peace, please let me know what you think. All the photos look best full-screen, be sure to click those slideshow buttons and sit back, preferably with a cup of tea in hand...

(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew Photography Walmsley blog image look new website Sun, 22 Sep 2013 13:24:34 GMT
Water, water everywhere... Today I thought I'd share something a bit different from my travels, in particular a few abstract images that I took a couple of weeks ago whilst sailing on the overnight ferry to Baubau in South Sulawesi, affectionately known as the 'slave ship' because of its economy on personal space and the occasional clouds of diesel fumes that can give it an unnerving appearance at times. Anyway, these images were all taken as the sun was setting overhead, and, resisting the temptation to point my lens at the burning skies above, I decided to click on my longest lens and shoot the streaming sea below... for fellow shutter-monkeys out there, these were all taken at 300mm and speeds of approximately 1/10th of a second... enjoy...




Ahhh, I do like something a bit abstract and arty every now and then. I actually think these three would make a great triptych of canvas prints in somebody's home... I'll work on getting that ready and release it as a limited edition someday soon - go and find a suitable wall somewhere and I'll keep you informed when it's ready!

Final image for today just proves that it's not just us who like to play with water. I had another amazing morning with the yaki a few days ago, very sadly my last for now as I'm moving on to new projects as we speak... Many, many thanks once again to Harry Hilser and the team at Selamatkan Yaki for making me so welcome and showing me the beauty of these legends of the forest, I wish you every success in securing their future with us on this little blue/green rock spinning in space...


Clap clap your hands! He never did catch that dragonfly...


Right, that's all for me for now, I have to go and find a new, more powerful way of removing essence of trees and mud from my clothes... you can take the photographer out of the forest...


(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew Indonesia Sulawesi Walmsley macaque monkey photo photography water wildlife yaki Wed, 05 Sep 2012 04:39:25 GMT
Finally! A follow up on the swamps... Time is a strange beast. Recently, what has felt like merely a few days, appears in reality to have been several weeks. I guess that being in Indonesia doesn't help with this warped perception, as the strict timeframes we are used to living by in the West slowly dissolve, and the phenomenon known here as 'rubber time' takes hold. Anyway, this preamble is designed really only for one purpose: sorry it's taken so long to get more images to you all!


So here, finally, are some of my images from my trip to the beautiful swamps of Kalimantan, home to everyone's favourite ginger ape. However, since I was only visiting for a few days, I'm not sure I would call it home... ok, rubbish jokes aside, I do of course mean the Bornean orangutan. I was lucky enough to spend a whole day in the presence of a simply stunning flanged male called Salvador. A male orangutan develops the large cheek flanges when he becomes the dominant animal in his territory. I have spent a lot of time around many different species over the last few years, but I could genuinely feel the air of power and confidence that Salvador was creating. The word 'awesome' is used too frequently to describe completely un-awesome things in the media, but a character such as this can truly be described as nothing short of awesome. 


One of my favourite parts of the whole experience was seeing how an animal that can weigh up to 90kg can move with such grace through the canopy. Many people would possibly argue that grace is not the most accurate word for their method of locomotion, but any animal who can travel by bending trees to worrying angles before reaching out to the next without making too many catastrophic errors deserves some respect in my opinion! One species that calls the swamp home that may be more unanimously acknowledged as graceful are the F1 drivers of the forest, the Bornean agile gibbons... when not speeding through the trees, they can be found relaxing for a couple of minutes, even finding time for some gibbon gang signs...


These guys certainly keep you on your toes. Unbelievably long arms and reflexes that put the best fighter pilots to shame allow these speedsters to almost fly through the forest, which makes following them quite a challenge. The swamp forest is a difficult environment to move through even at low speeds, but while tracking these guys, I would have been completely and utterly at a loss if it hadn't been for the incredible local guides who apparently hover through the swamp. I'm forever soaked up to my waist, but I'm yet to see a guide with more than a light splashing around the ankles... 

Anyway, here is another gibbon comfortable at home in the treetops - these are now another of my favourite subjects, as they look incredible but certainly make you work for the shots!



Of course, life in the swamp is not limited only to the tops of the trees. Eyes watch you from everywhere, many of which are never even seen. That is certainly the case with this Wagler's pit viper, which I probably would have never seen, even if I had stumbled into it face first! Usually for these sort of shots I would be digging around my bag for my 105mm macro lens... however, I'm always wary of something that carries big teeth and venom in it's face, so stayed back a bit with a 200mm. 



All these experiences would have been impossible without the kind support and expertise of the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, and many of the images here are available as prints, of which 20% of the proceeds will go to support their work to study and protect this unique and threatened habitat. For more information on their work, please visit


I have many many more images from the swamps to show you, and plan on heading back sometime in the next few weeks to capture even more, but in my next post I'd like to bring you something a bit different. I've been learning how to access the canopy itself to find a different angle on life in the trees, and have just returned from two weeks of lugging myself and my camera into the sun-drenched branches to see what life is like up there - the shot below was taken before sunrise on my way to one of the secluded tropical islands around South Sulawesi... my Indonesian adventure continues...


(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew Borneo Photography Walmsley Wildlife blog gibbon orangutan peat snake swamp viper Sun, 26 Aug 2012 05:31:23 GMT
Beautiful Borneo! Well, one wee bit of it... A couple of weeks ago I had the enormous privilege to visit the Sabangau tropical peat swamp forest near Palangka Raya, Kalimantan. Located in central southern Borneo, this area of forest is positively teeming with wildlife, and is home to an incredible array of endemic primate species, namely the Bornean orangutan, the red langur and the Bornean agile gibbon. I'll bring you pictures of all three in my next post, I promise, but for now I would like to start their story by showing you the simply stunning landscape in which these animals' lives are played out - I give you...the Bornean rainforest!



All three of the above photos show the same patch of forest - the only difference is the time at which they were taken and the weather during the sunrise. The colour differences are purely down to the quality of light on the morning in question. I love to revisit locations that I know well, as the moods can change every minute, especially in the first few moments as the sun appears over the horizon. The other, intangible ingredient of each image is one that everyone should endeavour to experience... hearing the whoops and cries of gibbons drifting through mist-wrapped trees is something else. 



Speaking of the sunrise, here it is in all its glory! For camera fans out there, this was shot with a 300mm lens, with a 2x converter on a D300s, which gives an effective focal length of 900mm in old-school terms... be careful when taking this sort of shot, as pointing something that closely resembles the Hubble telescope at a massive nuclear reaction is generally not advised... I have learned from my mistakes, and this time I pre-focussed on the horizon before the sun rose. By then locking the focus and taking care not to nudge the manual controls, I peered in to the side of the viewfinder to see whether my aim was true - even without seeing the whole picture, it's fairly obvious when you've got the sun in frame as a rich glow emanates from the depths of the camera body. Best not keep it pointed like that for too long if you would like the camera to maintain the shape it was when you bought it...



The reason why I found myself up to my thighs in water, mud and fire ants in the first place was to document the work and wildlife of the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, otherwise known as OuTrop. They are working to study the flora and fauna of this essential habitat, as the more that we know about a forest and its inhabitants, the better prepared we are to protect it should a developer find their sights settling on it. As ever, the race is on to show which has more value: on one side, there is the peat and the wood; on the other, the balanced ecosystem that we, and all other life on this planet rely on to provide us with food, air, water, and countless other essential environmental services. I'm sure it won't take you long to work out which is currently seen as giving investors a bigger bottom line, but by studying exactly how we rely on the forests the scientists working here can hopefully give the case for the trees a bit of a boost. Similar work is being carried out around the world, as governments look to put an economic value upon the very life support systems that allowed us to flourish on Earth. It is a real shame that those in charge can only see in terms of currency, but this is sadly the state we currently find ourselves in. Maybe one day we won't make each and every species justify its existence by the value of what it does for us, but for now we will just have to continue to prove that every form of life has its place and every loss of biodiversity will hurt our wallets, as that seems to be the only language that the people in power understand. 

I hope that by visiting these extraordinary places filled with truly stunning wildlife I can help to show people the visual beauty and the aesthetic value that it provides; endless tracts of treeless, burnt no-man's land doesn't tend to have the same appeal. The image below simply shows one of those rare moments that it all comes together - before getting on the boat, the sky was clear - as soon as I got on board and we started moving, this perfect cloud appeared across the sun, scattering beams of light across the sky over the local village. As soon as we got to shore, it had moved on. 



Be sure to check back again soon, I have spent the last few days sorting out the 8000 images that I have somehow managed to take since arriving in Indonesia, and have plenty more to show you soon. Many of them feature large, ginger haired primates in dense forest... I'm waiting for your jokes now...

(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew Borneo Indonesia Kalimantan Sabangau Walmsley gibbon orangutan peat photography swamp wildlife Tue, 03 Jul 2012 12:02:53 GMT
If you want to be a species saver... education's what you need  

For several weeks now I have been based in the impressively hot and vibrant city of Manado in North Sulawesi, working with Selamatkan Yaki. Regular followers of my scribbles will be very familiar with the yaki, or Sulawesi crested black macaque... if you're not, check them out here... or here, come to think of it. These Critically Endangered monkeys are many things to many people: to me, they have rapidly become one of my favourite photographic subjects I have ever encountered; to tourists, they are another tick on a must-see list for a trip of a lifetime; for some, they are the must-have centrepiece for the Christmas dinner table.  


Another morning starts as it always should in macaque culture - a good, mutual grooming session surrounded by lush greenery


Like most bushmeat hunting, this practice has been a part of the local culture for many generations. In recent years the demand has grown exponentially, particularly in more affluent areas well away from the yaki's stomping grounds. Some of the local hunters, concerned with the declines that they have seen in the macaque populations, have turned their hands to guiding tourists in the Tangkoko nature reserve and drawing attention to the yaki's plight. Still, the demand for festive feasting continues, and while an animal has a price tag around its neck, someone will be prepared to oblige the customer.


The first beams of light through the forest catch a yaki in a pensive mood...


So, how do we solve a problem like this? It's a very delicate balance to influence aspects of culture without offending those who hold it close, and once offence is taken it can be almost impossible to take it back. This balance is particularly key when those who are trying to inspire change are outsiders, as is often the case. One key solution comes down to the simplest statement: Children are the future.


Field project manager Harry Hilser with children from SMP1 (junior high) school in Bitung. This class is hopefully going to be part of a new environmental education programme.


 Over the last decade or so I have travelled to many parts of the world and experienced a fairly diverse range of cultures, and in my experience, children are inherently fascinated by nature. I know that huge parts of my own childhood were spent whittling away in rock pools or peering under every boulder I could find. Before venturing to Indonesia I was lucky enough to take my wee niece around a zoo in the Cotswolds, and seeing her face brighten with every animal she found was simply incredible. I believe that one of the most long-lasting and vital links in conservation is to harness this excitement and curiosity in our environment to reconnect us as a species with the world we so intricately rely upon.  


Matilde Chanvin (left) and Viktor Wodi (far right) of Tangkoko Conservation Education perform a dance with schoolchildren from Batu Putih, a village that lies close to Tangkoko nature reserve.


To this end, Selamatkan Yaki has formed a partnership with a fellow NGO, Tangkoko Conservation Education, who for the last year and a half have been striving towards a better future for the forests and all those who call them home. Their main aim is to work with schools in the area, creating activities for all age-groups in the towns and villages that surround the habitats that are crucial to the macaque's survival. By tapping into the children's energy and creativity at an early age they are ensuring that the early bonds with nature last into adulthood, even into future generations. 


One of the children's drawings showing the life that they see - snakes, yaki, deer and the creeping destruction of deforestation...


Possibly one of the biggest benefits of a close connection with local children is that the flow of information is bi-directional. While the conservationists and scientists share their discoveries and passion for the forests and the wildlife within, their eyes are in turn opened to a child's unique and surprisingly insightful view of the world. As adults, our opinions are often cemented in place, where a child's imagination is given free-reign to roam where it likes, which can help us to approach a problem from a new perspective. I heard a brilliant example of one such case recently: some of the children from a school in the vicinity of the forest were given an assignment to draw their favourite wildlife. What flowed forth were beautifully imagined scenes of roaming herds of elephants, giraffes feeding from the tops of tall trees and hunting lion packs - almost the full set of the African 'Big Five'. Not really a problem, you may think, as the children were obviously interested in the natural world. However, it turns out that the reason for the absence of local fauna in their pictures was simply because no books were available to them on the animals that they share their environment with.  After making the relevant materials available, their drawings were filled with yaki, snakes, deer and eagles, and even showing their perspective on subjects such as deforestation - now, if that doesn't show a connection to the world around them, I'm not sure what does. 


Children from Batu Putih enjoy a performance by their classmates during a conservation education session. Making the activities fun and positive gets them deeply involved and helps the message stick.


I guess what I'm saying is this: to reconnect ourselves to this incredible world that we live in, we have to make sure that nobody is left behind. Every level, from government officials to the farmers pulling ploughs through their fields, we have to work together. As conservationists we often see negatives everywhere and feel like we are battling with the forces of determined destruction. However, working at the very roots of our future society is no battle, in fact quite the opposite. And, when done well, their ears are always open...



Viktor Wodi of Tangkoko Conservation Education



(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew Indonesia Sulawesi Tangkoko Walmsley black conservation crested education macaca macaque nigra photography selamatkan wildlife yaki Tue, 05 Jun 2012 09:04:07 GMT
Dance, monkey, dance! Welcome once again, wildlife lovers! 

Over the last few weeks I have brought you a selection of some of Indonesia's incredible primates in all their glory, running free and wild, living out their brilliantly complicated lives in some of the world's greenest parts. I'm really starting to love Indonesia's animals! The positive news is that so do many other people; the bad is that their love isn't always expressed in the kindest ways...



A long-tailed macaque sits out the rest of his days on a post, chained to a tree. In the wild he would be a vital link in a complex social network; here he has an old blanket for company.


Many people throughout Java own animals. There are several huge animal markets that sell a plethora of wildlife, from fish to birds to cats to monkeys. Most of us are familiar with TV scenes of whole ecosystems crammed into tiny cages in dark, hot and smoky rooms, changing hands for a few pieces of crumpled paper. Many of the poor souls on display are taken into this trade as an infant, their mother having been wounded or killed as part of the process. Some are sold as pets, forever to be wired and chained in the blazing sun for our viewing pleasure. And pleasure is what they give us. Regardless of the costs to the animal, emotionally, socially and physically, we will have our pleasure.



An ebony langur sits at the side of a busy road, a length of bike chain restraining her. Her owner was happy to show her off to me - the problem is that he simply doesn't understand her needs


Now, it would be very easy to sit back and shake a judgemental finger at other countries, governments and peoples, but this is truly a global problem. Certainly, the chains and suffering may be more visible in the images here, but I would struggle to find the time to type all the cases of primates being used for our pleasure that many of us would recognise. Even from just the last couple of years I could mention 'The Hangover' films, Costa Coffee adverts, viral videos of lorises being tickled and grasping at umbrellas, or monkeys riding pigs. How many of us watched them and laughed? I'll put my hand up and admit that I used to enjoy the now classic PG Tips adverts featuring young chimps riding skateboards - in fact, so ingrained is that image in my mind that the very mention of the brand floods my vision with vivid scenes of apes in bright woolly jumpers, tottering around with cups of tea. So, the image of a 'funny monkey' is one that we can all relate to - maybe it's time to allow our empathic nature to shine through and look a little deeper into the tortured characters who we find it so easy to point and laugh at...



Welcome to Hell. A long-tailed macaque performs tricks at the side of a busy road, masked in a doll's head.


...which brings me on to some 'funny monkeys' that we may not be able to laugh at quite so heartily. The stark realities of these animal's lives are there for all to see, forever bound to the side of a road, scratching out their legacy amongst our waste while we ride on by, barely giving their pitiful existence a second glance. This is the world of the 'topeng monyet', or masked monkey.

They start their lives in much the same way as those in the pet trade, snatched from the wild and handed over to a trainer, who cruelly punishes it until it can do 'tricks', such as riding a bike, carrying little loads, even prostrating itself on a monkey-sized mat to take part in his daily prayers. Many of the tricks are enacted with the enslaved performer wearing the head from a little girl's doll, presumably to accentuate the comic appearance, although whether this is achieved is up for debate - personally I find that the blank eyeholes and cracked visage adds to the gruesomeness of the spectacle on show. All this is usually carried out in the blazing heat: it often exceeds 35C in the shade here, and there is never any of that on offer to the animals.



This trick is apparently known as 'The Supermodel'. This image haunts me every time I see it.


This, then, is the life of a performing monkey. I know that the dusty roadside above may appear to be in stark contrast to the glossy movie screens that we are more familiar with, but the simple truth is this - primates are not pets or performers and never should be. Their need for social structure and support is just too ingrained in what is, when it comes down to it, a wild animal.

The two groups who I would like to introduce you to today are both working with local government and on the ground with an aim to ensure that no more souls will ever have to endure this terrible treatment. The first, Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), is based in the Indonesian capital, rescuing the monkeys and, where possible, releasing them back into the wild on a secluded island. They are also petitioning the Indonesian government to make the practice of the topeng monyet illegal, an essential first step towards more secure prevention.

The second group, it may surprise you to hear, is based in Cornwall, in the UK. Wild Futures is a sanctuary that rescues and rehabilitates monkeys from the UK primate pet trade, something that many people are shocked to hear exists at all. Many of the monkeys that they care for are capuchins that originate from South America, and their stories are almost identical to those of their Indonesian cousins. Captivity does terrible things to any wild animal, but the considerable intelligence of primates leaves them particularly susceptible to severe stress.

As always, a few clicks on your mouse and maybe some quick presses of the numbers could help ensure a better life for those who are unable to help themselves. I mentioned in a previous post about the tough realisation that some of my images may be capturing some of the last moments of a species upon this planet - in this case, I sincerely hope that my photos will be among the last of such unnecessary cruelty. This trip is proving to be a huge rollercoaster of emotions for me, I never expected to find myself so attached to everything that appears in front of my lens - I hope you can share some of this attachment with me, as I really do believe that uncovering our true empathy is the key to our survival... tune in for more adventures soon...  

(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew Indonesia Java Walmsley captive macaque monkey monyet photography topeng wildlife Fri, 18 May 2012 10:00:14 GMT
A day in the life... Selamat pagi! Good morning! Or good day. Or night. Delete as appropriate.

Today I thought I would give you time, space and peace with your thoughts by simply showing you some recent photos with nothing more than a basic caption for company. This, I feel, will give you some idea of what it has been like to spend time with these animals, lying on the ground with a camera in hand, looking into the personality and character of each individual and trying to understand the life that he or she is living. So go on, treat yourself to five minutes away from your daily hustle and look into someone else's... the similarities are uncanny...



A pause for thought...sometimes simply contemplating one's toes can be quite therapeutic...




Peace at last... a mother's life is a busy one




If I'm awake, it's playtime! Play is so important to young macaques for building skills and social bonds




Play can sometimes be boisterous though - although the teeth are bigger, it's just like kids in a paddling pool!




Sometimes we all just need some me time though.


Thanks to everyone for your amazing comments and feedback through Facebook and email, it means so much to me having the support from people back home. I hope that my images can give you an insight into a new world and see our cousins in a new light - as always, if you would like more information about Sulawesi crested black macaques and to find our how you can help these Critically Endangered primates, please visit the Selamatkan Yaki website. We are planning a few events for the coming weeks, all the info and photos will be with you as soon as I know it!

(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew Blog Photography Sulawesi Tangkoko Walmsley Wildlife black crested macaca macaques nigra wild Fri, 11 May 2012 02:51:24 GMT
The yaki of Tangkoko Hello again everyone! The last few days have been quite an experience - for fans of bullet points, this is what has been happening:

  1. Trees
  2. Heat
  3. Sweat
  4. Monkeys
  5. Rain
  6. See number 3
  7. See number 5

If you would like some more detail, please make yourself comfortable and read on... the grooming session is optional...


A crested black macaque relaxes on the beach for an early morning grooming session


You join me in North Sulawesi where I am spending a few weeks with my good friend Harry Hilser to experience some of the frontline conservation work that goes on to save one of our planet's many Critically Endangered species, the Sulawesi crested black macaques (or yaki, as they are known locally). The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List identifies them as such because they have shown a population drop of between 80-90% over the last 30 years - this is a truly alarming figure, and the last few individuals are clinging to survival in the remaining forest patches. Harry is the field project manager with Selamatkan Yaki ('Save the crested black macaque') which seeks to spread word of the yaki's plight and inspire everyone from local children to government officials to pull together to reverse the recent trends. 


A group of yaki make a charge across the beach in a show of muscle. The social dynamics are complex with such gregarious animals, and scuffles are common


We ventured to Tangkoko National Park where three distinct groups have been identified. Our guide, Samuel, has lived around this forest all his life and has an uncanny ability to locate the animals in an area that I could have wandered aimlessly in for days without even finding my own feet. We set off in the soft pre-dawn light and straight into the forest, where barely a glimmer of sky shows through the canopy - even with today's camera equipment, light is still a fairly essential requirement, but as I ticked my shutter speed ever slower, we came across a group of monkeys moving with a very definite purpose. They were on their way to the beach. Perfect! Clear space, light, and an all important breeze to slow my continuous over-heating problem! The following three hours were among my favourite experiences I have ever had, as the yaki accepted our presence and allowed us to go quietly about the business of making images. 




Mutual grooming is a great way to secure bonds in the group, and also feels pretty good!


I have never experienced such touching moments with a wild animals before, it was a trip that I will never forget. The knowledge that this species is on the brink of survival somehow makes it so much more poignant - as with many of the species I will be visiting on this trip, nobody can yet say how their future will pan out. 


A beam of sunlight catches a female's face as she looks to the canopy 


Their main threats include the bushmeat trade and, of course, like so many other species, the relentless march of deforestation. Shrinking forests and easier access to previously impenetrable habitats are challenging the survival of many species on the edge, and the yaki are no exception. Yaki has become a delicacy to be enjoyed during religious festivals, and it's popularity on the dinner table has increased unsustainably over recent years. Groups like Selamatkan Yaki are doing everything they can to slow their decline, but, like most conservation work, the work that needs to be done far outstrips the essential financial support that is sadly lacking. The survival of any species shouldn't depend on how many numbers we throw at it, but this is now the situation we find ourselves in. 


A well earned break from foraging 


I find it so hard to simply take images of animals, knowing that every photo I take may be capturing some of their last moments with us on this planet. I can't help but get swept away in their story and intwined with them as individuals. I try and make my words here uplifting, full of the spirit of the wildlife I see and my experiences with it, but sometimes it tears at my heart when I can see the storm clouds gathering on the horizon. 

There is a beam of light though. As I type this, the sun is literally shining through a gap in a dark sky over Manado, through the Selamatkan Yaki office window and into the room. People are waking up to the need for conservation, both locally and internationally, and pulling together to make sure that these brilliant animals can continue their journey with us. By clicking any of the links featured here, you too can help to educate the world about the wonderful characters that are yaki.

Thanks once again for reading my thoughts, I promise to bring you some more photos in the next day or so - my processing queue is a long one, but I know that there are some more good ones in there, just waiting for me to chisel them out - check back soon! 

(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew Sulawesi Walmsley black crested macaca macaque nigra photo photography wild wildlife Tue, 08 May 2012 04:04:52 GMT
The really wild world of Indonesia...this is going to be exciting... Hello from Indonesia! 

I have now been in this incredible collection of islands for almost a month, and I can't believe the pure beauty and drama that I have experienced so far. I am here with one goal: I aim to collect images to show the world some of the real-world conservation work that is going on every day to safeguard the future of the animal inhabitants of this diverse and essential ecosystem.


Dramatic scenery surrounding the Javan village of Cipaganti, GarutMountains around Cipaganti, Garut, Java

Dramatic scenery surrounds the Javan village of Cipaganti, Garut

So far I have dragged my lenses up hills and through mud in the depths of the night to photograph the Javan slow loris, an animal that few people had heard of until it was propelled to fame by a series of videos on YouTube that followed the life of a small selection of bewildered individuals who had found their way into the illegal international pet trade.


Nocturnal surveying

Johanna Rode searches for slow lorises in the wild

I have spent two exhaustingly action-packed weeks with Professor Anna Nekaris from Oxford Brookes University as she tracked down these bizarre and enchanting little primates, as part of her Little Fireface Project which aims to protect the species in the wild and to educate potential loris owners about the truth. They also seek to unlock the mystery that surrounds its darkest secret - despite its unfathomably cute appearance, this animal is venomous... 


Freshly weighed and measured, a young Javan slow loris is returned home in the last light of the day

A young Javan slow loris returns home after being weighed and measured

This adaptation may provide defence, attack or even a shield from parasites, but the one thing we do know is that it causes the animals huge problems when they are caught to be sold as pets - their teeth are often cut from their mouths, so any animals lucky enough to be rescued are unlikely to survive in the wild and are normally never released. There are some amazing conservation groups who strive to do as much as they can for the unwanted animals when their owners lose interest, but it is always an uphill struggle as space is limited in the centres.


A wild Javan slow loris creeps through the canopy at night.

A Javan slow loris foraging at night

After photographing wild lorises, I spent a week with the good people at International Animal Rescue to see what happens to the lucky survivors of the pet trade. Some exceptionally lucky animals are able to be released and go on to live wild lives once again, but most live out their days being well looked after, but always behind bars. So next time someone links you to a video that shows one of these in human hands, ask yourself whether this is really what the animal would choose... I suspect that it's not. 


Tine Rattel of IAR signs a petition to close one of the wild animal markets in Jakarta that sells slow lorises as pets

Tine Rattel of IAR signs a petition calling for the closure of Jakarta's animal markets

I now find myself in Manado in north Sulawesi to photograph some more of Indonesia's extraordinary wildlife, particularly focussing on the Sulawesi crested black macaque - I have been wanting to see them for several years now, I can't wait to bring you all some brand new images very soon! I've needed a couple of days in the office to sort through my back catalogue and now feel like its time to cover myself in insect repellent and get out there once again... more news as it comes, stay tuned!

(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Andrew Indonesia Java Walmsley animal blog loris pet photography rescue slow trade wildlife Wed, 02 May 2012 08:56:32 GMT
Polarbeargate... I feel the point has been missed somewhere

As I'm sure most people are now aware, one very short scene that featured in the latest mind-blowing offering from the BBC's Natural History unit was filmed in a Dutch zoo. The scene, in which a polar bear mother is seen gently nuzzling her cubs in the den, added real tenderness and intimacy to a storyline that had been building throughout the previous episodes, and, as Sir David has said himself, would have been genuinely impossible to film in the wild without loss of cameraman and/or polar bears.


Predictably the media has latched on to this 'scandal', with some commentators trying to brand the entire series a fake, and completely obstructing the important message at the core of the whole project ; we have to start taking some care of our fragile planet. They would rather focus on one tiny snippet taken from over five years' worth of footage in an attempt to sell papers than help to spread a message that we all, one day when the ocean is lapping at our windows, will be unable to ignore.


I feel that the BBC may have been a little naive when they decided to include the scene in the final cut, as the backlash has been quite predictable, and sadly will probably be the only thing that the wider audience will remember about the series in years to come. Those enlightened souls who can see through the media rubbishing campaign fully understand that the scene helps to build strong feelings of empathy with the mother and her new fledgling family, which makes us want to change our ways to ensure the species' survival on this planet; to most, however, it will act as a way out from taking any moral responsibility as the whole issue can be branded as 'fake'.


As a wildlife photographer, this truly saddens me. We need to all stand together to tackle a human problem that is bigger than any dictatorship, uprising or world war. We have to become sustainable. We simply cannot continue in our current ways, we must change. One day it will be too late to ignore. Television and other media has a responsibility to educate and inspire people to recognise the signs that our planet is showing us before it is too late, which may include the novel concept of 'working together'.


So to the critics and media trolls - did the eight seconds of footage from a zoo somehow blind you to the other seven hours of hard-won, beautifully crafted and truly unique film from a disappearing part of the world that most of us will never see? Please, wake up and realise that we must work as a team now, as our own petty agendas will soon count for very little...

(Andrew Walmsley Photography) Sat, 17 Dec 2011 04:15:00 GMT