Welcome to the temporary site for timhearnwildlife.com.

I'll be posting a few shots here while working on the main site, which is currently under construction...

Timhearnwildlife has been a long term passion and project of mine which is now reaching fruition. It is (or strictly speaking, will be) a commercial resource for wildlife and natural history photography and writing.

Over the last 10 years, I've been fortunate enough to travel extensively to all 7 continents, taking photographs and notes, and the site will showcase the results.

Please feel free to browse....

Friday 29 October 2010


We think of Antarctica as being the last pristine wilderness, and to a large extent it is. But signs of human damage are becoming more commonplace. The Albatrosses are dying in numbers as a result of illegal long line fishing, and washed up garbage is becoming more evident. It's a depressing sight to see.

This fur seal was modelling a piece of discarded rope like a tie, and we had to catch the critter and remove the rope before it became a real problem for him. This was surprisingly difficult, as seals are slippery, manoeverable, and have sharp teeth.

He didn't really want to cooperate, but it had to be done for his own good. Apart from anything else, a light blue tie was never going to work with those muted earth tones.

Thursday 28 October 2010


Well, long-suffering-Dilly departed this morning for a 10 day work jaunt to Malawi, checking out luxury lodges and sipping large, icy, freshly-squeezed drinks in beautiful locations. It's a tough life being a travel consultant. (Actually, it is. I know this because I occasionally remember to ask long-suffering-Dilly how her day was).

This leaves me alone in charge of fortress Balham. Which is not a luxury lodge, has a little dubiously-aged  milk that hasn't been put back in the fridge, and being located in Balham, is decidedly not beautiful.

So to make myself feel less hard done-by, I was going through some penguin photographs and found these rather lost looking Adelies, taken on the antarctic peninsular.

The one on the right is a male, and the one on the left is a female. I know this, because only a male would stand on the highest point of somewhere and scout the horizon as if he expects to suddenly know his precise location.

And only a female would stand like that and know that he's wasting his time.

Now, I'm off for a coffee. Without milk.

Tuesday 26 October 2010


Members of the Hollywood pride in South Luangwa. It's a medium/large pride, that was exhibiting some strange behaviour when I was out there. The pride had embarked on what can only be described as a killing spree.

First, we watched them take on a wounded buffalo for a couple of hours one evening. The badly wounded buffalo managed to get into the river and hold them at bay. And then the lions simply walked away, as if they couldn't be bothered to finish what they'd started.

The following morning, we found them on another buffalo kill, and then during the next few hours they took down another two buffalo and a warthog. The warthog and second buffalo were killed but hardly eaten at all.

The pride had a number of cubs with them, and it seemed likely to me that school was in session and the cubs were being taught how to kill. Our guide, however, thought that it was simple bloodlust - lions get pretty charged up when they hunt and feed. There's a degree of mob mentality and adrenaline overload and during this period, they may have just been in the mood to kill anything that passed by.

The shots were taken at sunset, while the lions rested up before the coming night. Lions are normally pretty dull subjects while they're resting, but the light and scenery was so good, and the pride so charismatic, that I couldn't resist rattling off a few shots.

Monday 25 October 2010


Some penguins for a chilly Monday morning in London.

Shot in Antarctica, the porpoising penguins almost drove me crazy trying to predict their movements and capture them in focus. Finally, I got a few shots that were sharp. What with all the action and trying to wield the long-ish lens, it was only when I reviewed the shots that I realised that there were three different types of penguin here.

Leading the pack is a chinstrap penguin, with its distinctive helmet and chinguard markings.

Next up is the gentoo penguin with the bright red beak and feet and white bonnet across the top of the head.

Close behind are the macaroni penguins. The name is due to the yellow eyebrow feathers (my term, not a technical one!) which were considered to make it look like a 'dandy' (someone who dressed raffishly). When the name was chosen, there was a popular nursery rhyme called 'yankee-doodle dandy' -

'Yankee-doodle went to town
Riding on a pony.
He stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni'.

So now it all makes perfect sense.... and I think we should be happy that it isn't called the yankee-doodle penguin.

Penguins travel in groups a lot, to avoid being singled out by predators like leopard seals, but until I took this shot I wasn't aware that the different species travelled together as well.

You live and learn...

Friday 22 October 2010


On Vancouver Island, I came face to face with this monster grizzly who apparently was too busy fishing for salmon to take any notice of my tuneful singing or ranger approved bear-repellent shouts of 'Hey Bear!'. This is not what they told me would happen. Yikes!


I've just spent the first of two days at Wildphotos 2010, the UK symposium for wildlife photographers. And what a day. Some of the best photographers in the world (and me) gathered in one room at the Royal Geographical society, swapping laconic anecdotes and exotic itineraries, pronouncing scientific names correctly, comparing scars....well, OK, it wasn't quite like that. But it was pretty darned inspirational.

AND I got to hear one of my favourite photographers speak. David Doubilet is one of the great underwater snappers. Part man, part fish. His influence ranks right up there with Jacques Cousteau. And like Cousteau, he has a magnificent nose, presumably the product of some kind of sub-aqua photographer's evolution, developed to cut smoothly through the water like a shark's fin. But unlike the wooly-hatted master of the Calypso, Doubilet doesn't have ze 'umerous acc-sonte, so he's easier to listen to.

Dave (I think, since we've been in the same room together, he wouldn't mind me calling him Dave) held us mere mortals spellbound for an hour and a half with some of the most beautiful photographs that I've ever seen. By the second shot, I was drooling so much that Dave could have dived in the puddle around my chair. If you haven't come across his work yet, get yourself into the nearest Waterstones and search out a copy of 'Water, Life, Time' or go his website www.daviddoubilet.com. 

Oh, and tell him Tim sent you. He'll know just who you mean.

Wednesday 20 October 2010


The hippo photos that everyone wants are the fight and the yawn. Hippos spend most of the day sunbathing in the fierce African sun (against which they secrete their own hippo suntan lotion, incidentally). To get the shots, you'll want to be watching them at dawn or dusk. Which is when the light is at its best, anyway.

Hippos fight mostly over territory. Full-on battles are relatively uncommon - hippos live at close quarters to each other, often in numbers, and since each hippo has a pair of twelve inch long lower incisors at its disposal, regular serious aggression would be counterproductive. But skirmishes are quite common. They happen fast and with little warning, though, and most will be over before you've reacted. Look for big male beachmasters squaring up to each other as a prelude.

At dawn, the hippos return to the safety of the water after a night spent grazing, and gather in their pods. Re-entry into the water tends to be along favoured routes, and as such, males may have to pass in close proximity to beachmasters who are already in position. This 'running of the gauntlet' can allow the photographer to anticipate the skirmishes, so keep your lens trained on the beachmaster as other hippos enter the water.

Which brings us to the yawn. Hippos yawn as a threat display, so watch the males in particular when other animals from outside the pod approach too close. 

The other reason- I've heard - is that it actually is a yawn, for the same reason that we do it. In that they've lain around all day, and as evening approaches and the time comes to leave the water, the hippo needs to reoxygenate its muscles in order to drag its vast carcass onto land and walk around. It makes sense; certainly, the time to observe yawning (non-threat variety) is close to sunset.

Monday 18 October 2010


Owls aren't easy subjects - firstly they tend to spook easily and secondly, to get interesting behavioural shots you generally have to shoot at night, which is unpredictable in terms of controlling the light. While I appreciate the many virtues of flash, taking natural looking shots of wildlife in the dark isn't really one of them.

So I was chuffed to capture this evocative shot of the largest owl in the world - the giant eagle owl. It was shot without flash in the early evening. The light source was actually a land cruiser spotlight with a red lens - red light disturbs animals less than white light, so many safari vehicles use it on night drives. When the time came to process the RAW shot, I simply altered the red cast to a more moonlighty blue.

There are very few images which I would alter in this way- I sit firmly in the camp that says photographs should be left 'as shot', and I would never manipulate a wildlife shot to change the core image. But in this case, the pose of the owl and the detail of the branch were so aesthetically pleasing that I felt justified in modifying the colour to enhance the mood of the shot.

The owl seemed quite intrigued by our belching, rattling land cruiser, and let us get to within a couple of metres before spreading its immense wings and taking flight with a whoosh of air and a sudden absence of owl.

Maybe I deserve a slap on the wrist. And I won't be able to enter this image for any competitions. But I really like the result.

Saturday 16 October 2010


The name of Shenton Safaris is held in high esteem by wildlife photographers, and with good reason. Derek Shenton, ably supported by wife Jules, has constructed a series of hides from which to view the spectacular wildlife around Kaingo Camp in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park. One hide for elephant crossing the river, one for hippo (described by the BBC Planet Earth cameraman as the best hide he's ever sat in for a week!) and one for the annual Carmine bee eater nesting season. And Derek has done a magnificent job.

Each year, large numbers of Carmines fly in to reclaim the nest holes drilled into the mud, sand and rock on the banks of the Luangwa river. They perch in their thousands on the twigs and walls of the river bank...just about 10 feet from the front of Derek's water-based hide. Not half bad.

They're nervy, aggressive little birds, constantly squabbling over territory and taking flight at the slightest loud noise or threatening shadow. So a hide is a must if you're going to get near them.

This aggressive trait is fantastic for photography, though, as it means that there is a constant barrage of pinwheeling bundles of vivid red and blue feathers and stabbing beaks, all flying inches from the camera lens. 

The difficulty is trying to anticipate or keep up with their lightning fast movements. As you'd expect, a bird that specialises in grabbing bees and insects directly from the air is both swift and maneuverable.

Friday 15 October 2010


One of the Lower Zambezi park's specialities is the elephants. They grow big here, and with a single glance, you know that there are a lot of them.

Imagine looking down at the ground immediately after a prolonged hailstorm. Now imagine that the hailstones are actually six inch balls of elephant poo. It's not rocket science.

In October the dry season is coming to an end, and in some places the Zambezi river is shallow enough for the elephants to wade across and feed on the lush islands which have so far survived the season ungrazed. Though elephants swim well, the currents and perils of the river in the wet season make crossing difficult for adults and dangerous for the calves.

Elephants love water, so the daily crossings are an elephant joyfest with lots of splashing and mischief among the groups. Elephants are more exuberant when there's water around. Playing allows them to let off steam. So the hormone-flooded, teenage-angsty, mock-chargey young males can learn that there's more fun to be had in life than just intimidating innocent wildlife photographers and crapping anywhere you like.

Another behaviour that I had hoped to see was an elephant standing on its hind legs. Etienne had photographed one a few weeks previously, so there was a possibility.

Not many elephants have learned to stand on two legs. It doesn't come naturally - it's a deliberate technique which has to be taught and copied.

They do it at the end of the dry season, when the lower branches on the trees have been all but stripped by the grazers.

To reach the food-laden higher branches one daredevil elephant, back in in medieval elephant times, attempted the unlikely acrobatics, and then taught the technique to others in the family. They in turn told their offspring, and so on.

It was a sight that I had really hoped to see, as it offered potential in three diverse areas of interest- Mammalian Physiology, Inherited Behaviour in African wildlife, and the 'Animals doing hilarious things' section on YouTube. Full frontal images of a wild African elephant grabbing air could, I reasoned, be of great biological and comedic significance.

When we arrived at Old Mondoro, though, Etienne hadn't spotted his perpendicular pachyderm for over two weeks, and thought that it had moved on.

Maybe the elephants sensed my disappointment, because five minutes out from camp on our first afternoon, an elephant obligingly elephated for us, and then performed two encores.

Now, there's something you don't see every day.

Interestingly, it seemed that only one elephant in a family would perform the feat. The others would wait for it to rear up and snap off a decent branch. Then they'd steal it.

To me, this seems to demonstrate more intelligence than learning the trick in the first place. So after much studying of field notes and analysis of the behaviour displayed, my scientific conclusions for 'project aerial elephant' are as follows:

Elephants that stand on two legs are clever, athletic and comedy gold (as expected). Ones that don't are of dubious character and should not be left alone with your groceries.


Of all the camps in Zambia, one of our favourites is Old Mondoro. Owned by Grant Cumings, and run by our chums Etienne and Leana (pictured below) it's the sister camp to the the rather more luxurious Chiawa camp just upriver.

Which is certainly not to say that Old Mondoro is in any way less comfortable - it's just about perfect in my opinion. It's better appointed than a bush camp and less chichi than a lodge. So you feel adventurous being there, but you can still charge your camera batteries in your room. Which, incidentally, is nicely open to the elements along one wall during the heat of the day.

This open side to the room gives close up views of passing wildlife, as the long- suffering-Dilly discovered when putting her face on one morning (below). After a moment of shock when she thought she was looking in the mirror and had grown a trunk overnight, she realised her hilarious mistake, and settled down to chat with her new friend. By the end of our stay, the big tusker had her wrapped round the elephant equivalent of a little finger, even prompting her to gather various tasty treats to pile on the cabin steps for his delectation.

In the dry season, Old Mondoro has elephants in camp most days, and Etienne and Leana run the 'elephant shuttle', ferrying guests back and forth to their rooms in land cruisers, thus ensuring their safety, and avoiding any startling of itinerant pachyderms. They gather in camp prior to crossing the river to feed (see post below), and are wonderful animals to have around.

Old Mondoro is a camp like few others- classic, relaxed and with some of the most photogenic landscapes I've seen in Africa. Expect to see elephant (obviously) and lots of hippo and big nile crocodile. Excellent chances also of leopard, lion, kudu, honey badger and all the usual suspects, along with fantastic birds including white fronted, little and southern carmine bee eater. (Of which more will be written later).