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2015 Wrap Up of My Favourite Images

As I sit in Newark airport, on my way home from my final trip of 2015 to the USA, Antarctica and Argentina, I am enjoying some snippets of real contact with wifi in over a month of travel.  In the course of my catch up, Facebook seems to have sent me my 2015 in review which I found mildly amusing.  It did send up some highlights but as I sit here in the 17th country I’ve visited over the last twelve months I thought I would round up my year in a blog post that truly highlighted some of the wondrous places we visited and worked in since February.  It seems fitting to avoid January as that month is usually my busiest time in the office and it is almost impossible for me to get away so from month to month, here was my year:

FEBRUARY – MOROCCO

While visiting Marrakech we also search for endangered Moufflon in the Atlas, went trekking in the High Atlas and visited the incredible kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou.

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Ait Ben Haddou has rightly been used on numerous film sets including Lawrence of Arabia and Game of Thrones. It is so spectacular it is a treasure of the Sahara.

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Moroccan people often decline if you ask to take their photograph so I caught this sneaky shot in Ait Ben Haddou of a man enjoying the morning sun, with his cat.

MARCH – INDIA (LADAKH AND RAJASTHAN)

I never thought twelve months ago that my next trip to Ladakh would send my work with snow leopards catapulting around the globe to 80 countries.  We were incredibly fortunate to experience the wildest and most unimaginable trip with snow leopards you could ever wish for.  It started with finding a cat in a village that had killed six sheep, followed by relentless treks in high altitude and biting cold to locate others and finally ended up in a remote valley where we were privileged to share the lives of three wild snow leopards over a week at close range.

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My “Spot the Snow Leopard” photo was catapulted to millions of people around the world via print and social media.

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I actually really missed this cat after we left Ladakh. I had developed a soft spot for his gnarly appearance that he managed to get through too much wild sex with the female we’d seen him mating with. I hope I meet him again sometime.

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The main photo of my snow leopard hunt sequence.

To thaw out from our epic snow leopard trip, Mark spoiled me with a week in Rajasthan, staying at a converted Rajput palace called Samode, about an hour out of Jaipur.  Samode was our base for exploring Rajasthan’s more famous attractions including the Amur Fort in Jaipur and the Palace of the Winds (both touristy and not really our thing).  The highlight for us on this part of our India trip was the spontaneous decision to visit Sambhar, a salt lake town in Rajasthan that must have enjoyed great wealth from the salt trade before the Brits decided to tax it heavily.  Sambhar had no tourists or facilities to support tourism at all.  There was no wifi (thank god), no cafes and no guest houses – just incredible architecture, friendly people and long walks through beautiful streets where we not only got lost but lost ourselves in the beauty of rural India.

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A little girl with a pensive smile in Sambhar, India

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The beautiful art of Mehndi is still practiced widely in Rajasthan.

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Mesmerising rural India.

APRIL/MAY – AUSTRALIA (VIA ZURICH AND SINGAPORE)

Towards the end of April I was blessed to fly back to Australia to visit my family.  It is one of the hardest things in the world about my job – my time away from my family and friends in Australia.

JUNE – GREECE AND TURKEY

Finally a holiday!  Mark and I took off on a diving holiday in Greece and Turkey to celebrate my birthday at the end of June.  We had initially planned to visit Turkey only but the island of Kastellorizo lured us across the Mediterranean for a night and we were enthralled.  Aside from the isolated seclusion of Kastellorizo, highlights for us both included diving on ancient wrecks and amphorae off the coast of Turkey, visiting a traditional Yaila in the Taurus mountains of Turkey (above the treelike and in the snow) and also exploring Istanbul on foot.

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Istanbul at sunrise is a sensory experience of sound and light!

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Scuba diving with ancient amphorae off the coast of Turkey was a first for me.

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The beautiful, deep-water port of Kastellorizo in Greece will be the centre point of a feature story I am publishing in Australia during 2016.

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Kastellorizo is adorned with doorways lined by Bougainvillea.

JULY/AUGUST – CUBA (VIA PARIS AND AMSTERDAM)

For Mark’s birthday and for work, we visited Cuba which was a long desired destination for both of us.  It certainly didn’t disappoint.  Havana was like wandering around one gargantuan sized film set and it gave me the opportunity to explore the home of Ernest Hemingway on the outskirts of the city.  We then went diving in the spectacular Jardines de la Reina for a week which put us in the water with large schools of Silky and Caribbean Reef Sharks, then also a brief swim with the American crocodiles of the swamps nearby.  The diving in Cuba left us reeling and wishing we could both grow gills to stay down there longer.  It was literally like the Caribbean must have been before it was overfished and over-touristed.

Swimming with American Crocodiles in Cuba was a first for me and this image was actually published by National Geographic online this year!

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I fell in love with Cuba’s Jutias this year!

After this we explored some of Cuba’s key nature reserves including Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Cueva de las Portales and finally the incredible swamps of Cienaga de Zapata where we surveyed some incredible avifauna and also met some of the most passionate guides working to conserve some of Cuba’s biodiversity hotspots.

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER – SOUTH AFRICA, NAMIBIA, BOTSWANA AND ANGOLA

After three years of planning I set off in early September to lead my own expedition through Africa by 4WD.  Alongside talented leader Sean Braine (who co-drove with me) and a support vehicle driven by incredible Himba leader Rodney (Mbembazu) with a Damaran assistant, Dion, we traversed southern Africa over nearly a month and enjoyed the most incredible wildlife encounters in the Kalahari, Etosha, Damaraland and in the Okavango Delta.  For a brief time we even dipped our toes into Angola from the Kavango region of northern Namibia.

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Deadvlei has been photographed so much that it’s difficult to find an unusual angle to shoot it from. With my group we experimented with bursts created by the sunrise on our morning trip there.

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The beautiful Himba women of Namibia.

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Three of five Cheetah litter cubs we encountered in the Kalahari

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Another alternative view of Deadvlei

Africa beguiled our entire team with its incredible landscapes and friendly people.  I don’t think any of us could ever forget the encounters we enjoyed with five Cheetah litter cubs in the Kalahari, the pride of 19 truly wild, desert-adapted lions in Damaraland, being charged by a rhino in Damaraland also, the warm smiles of the Himba, the stunning red dunes of Etosha, getting lost in Kolmanskop or exploring the Okavango by mokoro canoe.  It was a tremendous journey that culminated in a lunar eclipse on our last night in Windhoek.  None of us ever wanted to go home.

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Squacco Heron in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

NOVEMBER – THE NETHERLANDS AND USA

In early November I popped across to the Netherlands to meet three women I had only known by social media before but who I had long admired.  It was a fantastic weekend of meeting people in real life that I had enjoyed so much contact with online before.  These girls were so inspirational in their own right and I now feel honoured to call them real friends.

Later that month I was lucky enough to plan and lead a week-long photography workshop in the incredible Bosque del Apache and White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, USA.  With a small group of three clients we enjoyed some incredible skies and wildlife over 6 days of shooting in one of the premier wildlife refuges of the States and also one of the most ethereally beautiful monuments in the country, White Sands.  Although the weather gods frowned upon us in White Sands, they shone brightly for us at Bosque and left us all reeling.  It was a great week with a brilliant group!

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Motion blur of Snow Geese ‘blasting off’ behind a flock of Sandhill Cranes in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

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A flock of Snow Geese in flight at sunrise.

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A group of Sandhill cranes fly in to roost at sunset, Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

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Even in bad weather, White Sands National Monument is incredibly photogenic!

DECEMBER – ANTARCTICA AND ARGENTINA

After leaving New Mexico I flew to Ushuaia via Houston and Buenos Aires to co-lead a group of six guests on a 19 day trip to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica.  Again, another group of fantastic people (I am really blessed with good clients!), travelling to an incredible corner of the world!  We visited a large Black-browed Albatross breeding colony on West Island in the Falklands, several wildlife and historical sites on spectacular South Georgia and eventually made two landings on the Antarctic continent before we returned to Ushuaia.

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Even Chinstrap penguins get itchy scratchy moments!

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Gentoo Penguins are very frightened of Brown Skuas on their breeding colonies – for good reason! Here is a Brown Skua with its stolen Gentoo Egg for dinner!

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Small, broken off pieces of icebergs are called “growlers” in Antarctica and the Gerlache Strait is filled with them – to the point where the noise of the ship hitting them can keep you awake at night.

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Weddell Seals have a tough life with long siestas.

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This is my favourite shot from Antarctica – a Southern Fulmar flying near the ‘throat’ of a large iceberg as we left the Gerlache Strait.

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Giant Petrels, as the scavengers of Antartica, often get a bad wrap but I am one of their few fans (for reasons I will explain in a FB/Blog Post in the new year)

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Giant Petrels truly are the ‘boofheads’ of Antarctica!

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In contrast the gentle courtship between Black-browed Albatrosses in the Falklands enthralled all of us.

For a few days we explored Tierra Del Fuego and we hiked the steep climb up the Garibaldi Pass to search for White-bellied Seed Snipes in the cushion plants.

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Magellanic Woodpeckers really are the clowns of Tierra Del Fuego

We then flew north in Argentina to the resort town of El Calafate to explore Patagonia over Christmas.

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While common, Southern Lapwings are very striking birds. This one posed shyly behind bushes in El Calafate.

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An Argentine Red Fox senses the air around it for danger.

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The incredible hand stencil petroglyphs at Cueva de los Manos, Argentina.

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Young Guanacos often practice play fighting in the wild.

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Andean Condor flying over the Fitzroy Massif in Argentina.

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A portion of the Perito Moreno glacier calves off.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

March – Snow Leopards

On my return from India, with great thanks to Adrian Fowler at Diimex, my images from that trip were published in over 40 countries around the globe as I became the first woman in existence to photograph a wild snow leopard hunt in sequence and the first Australian to ever do so.  It was definitely worth the 17 days without a shower, camped out in -25C each night and the long waits in the ice scanning hillsides for the world’s most elusive and charismatic wild cat.

My snow leopard photos were not only widely represented in print, television and online, I am still working with them in Australia and abroad and will likely be doing so until the end of 2016.

Through social media my “Spot the Snow Leopard” image was shared more than 40,000 times on different pages and generated nearly 250,000 comments.  The likes on Facebook alone exceeded 2 million.  I never truly expected my work to reach such a vast audience.  I knew that what I shot that day was special (I actually cried after we watched that snow leopard hunt and I realised the images I got were in focus and properly shot) but it took a dedicated team of PR people to make my photos realise their full potential.

September – Royal Geographical Society

When I arrived in Windhoek in early September to lead my expedition in southern Africa, I had a copy of Geographical (the journal of the Royal Geographical Society) in my hand to give to friends who had travelled with me in Tibet.  My story on my expedition in far western Tibet had been published and since they had joined me on that trip, I wanted to hand them a copy.

As I was more or less doing so, I learned that I had been granted fellowship to the Royal Geographical Society for my extensive experience in leading and participating in expeditions.  The acceptance of my nomination as a fellow was described by one of my supporters as “one of the fastest admissions to the society in recent times”.

November – WWF

In November I became one of the campaign photographers on the WWF Snow Leopard Conservation campaign internationally.

IN SUMMARY

I am truly blessed to do what I love for a job and this year has been one of the highlight years of my life.  I not only have experienced some of the most incredible wildlife encounters in the world, I have shared them with my amazing partner, Mark and some inspiring and wonderful guests who may have started off as clients but have ended up as friends going forward.  We have also worked with some tremendous teams of people including our staff who keep our offices going while we travel and the dedication of field teams.  Without their help I couldn’t do what I do for a job.

I wish all of my family, guests, friends and colleagues a successful and prosperous time in 2016!

Thank you so much for your support of my work!

2 thoughts on “2015 Wrap Up of My Favourite Images

  1. Malakai Taumoha'apai says:

    Hi Inger,
    Sharing your beautiful photos and travels with you has been a great start to 2016 for me.
    Thank you so much for bringing the world closer to us, and enriching our imaginations and experience. I really appreciate what you do. Maybe one day, we could photograph the Pacific Islands! Lol Lot’s of love and blessings to both of you. I hope the new year give much happiness, more amazing photography and good health.

  2. Martin says:

    Great shots! Really enjoyed this recap of 2015. Happy New Year

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