Happy World Orangutan Day!

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to observe these incredible and critically endangered primates in the Gunung Leuser ecosystem, Sumatra, Indonesia.

Combining my passion for wildlife with basic design skills, I've started creating infographics demonstrating the plight of some of the most iconic animals to roam the planet, starting with the world's largest arboreal mammal, the orangutan!


21 Inspiring Wildlife Photographers to Follow on Instagram

Will Burrard-Lucas

With close to 200,000 followers, Burrard-Lucas is one of the most followed wildlife photographers on Instagram. He is somewhat of a pioneer in the industry, having invented new gadgets including “BeetleCam” and “BeetleCopter”. His "Camtraptions" have helped him to achieve beautiful wildlife images from very unique angles the latest of which includes incredible nighttime images of a highly-elusive black leopard in Kenya.

David Lloyd

One of my personal favourites, David Lloyd is a New Zealand born photographer that has taken some of the best African animal shots out there. He is particularly skilled at capturing portraits that help the viewer to really connect with the subject and prefers to shoot in black and white. Lloyd’s fine art prints are often on exhibition and can be purchased on his website. For those based in the UK, look out for his photography workshops hosted by the British Wildlife Centre.

Konsta Punkka

Based in Helsinki, Finland, Konsta Punkka has managed to develop a style I am in total awe of. His wonderfully unique depiction of woodland animals including bears, foxes, and deer are truly a joy to behold. Most of his shots are moody and dramatic, with many other photographers aiming to emulate his work, but Punkka’s portfolio remains at the very top. A photographer whose work I'd happily decorate my home with.

Melissa Groo

Best known for her bird photography, Melissa Groo's feed contains perfectly composed shots often comprising soft hues and low contrast. Groo also posts some stunning images of mammals if birds aren't your cup of tea.

Brian Skerry

With over half a million Instagram followers, Brian Skerry is one of the most popular wildlife photographers on social media. A wildlife photojournalist for National Geographic magazine, he is an expert in marine wildlife and underwater environments. From the tropical reefs of the Indian Ocean to the freezing waters below the polar ice, Skerry has dedicated more than 10,000 hours capturing amazing underwater images from all over the world.

Richard Peters

Awarded "European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015", Richard Peter's work is artistically composed with a combination of dramatic lighting and a minimalist feel. Most of his images are animal portraits exhibiting intense emotion and expressions. His unique style enables the viewer to engage with the subject in a way that most other photographers can't achieve.

Lee Fisher

Up there with the best photographers on this list, Lee Fisher has an incredible portfolio of wildlife images comprising some of my personal favourite subjects (Lion, Leopard, and Deer). Each image is a work of art in itself and would grace the walls of just about any home.

Shannon Wild

Shannon Wild is an Australian wildlife photographer and cinematographer based mainly in Africa. She is one of the few photographers that has mastered the art of creating vibrant and colourful photos without going too heavy with contrast or saturation. While most of her images contain African animals, she also has some amazing shots from the Arctic.

Shaaz Jung

Shaaz Jung runs his own safari camps in southern India and spends most of his time in the forest. This lifestyle has afforded him the opportunity to capture some of the best images of big cats that I've ever seen. I am particularly in awe of the beautiful leopard shots in his collection.

Austin Thomas

Another top bird photographer who has attracted many Instagram followers for his photos of walking owls and close-up shots of bobbing pelicans. His feed also contains some magnificent images of birds of prey in flight.

Brian Scott

This photographer has nailed the art of animal portraits and has a very similar style to that of Lee Fisher (particularly his black and white lion shots). All of his images have a very clean and crisp feel to them that makes them very pleasing on the eye. His work on birds draws particular attention.

Beverley Joubert

An award winning photographer and videographer, Beverly Joubert works with her husband Dereck to produce some of the most epic wildlife conservation documentaries including "The Last Lions" and "Eye of the Leopard". Most of her images reveal high contrasts with earthy tones. Her feed has a good mix of artistically composed and candid shots.

Sudhir Shivaram

Sudhir Shivaram is an award winning photographer that specialises in wildlife photography learning tours and workshops. Based in Bangalore, India, his work on tigers and Asian leopards are particularly noteworthy. Shivaram is one of the best photographers to follow for those who wish to develop their knowledge and skills in the art of photography.

Jon Cornforth

A great all-rounder with a portfolio of stunning photographs taken on land, underwater, and in the sky. Jon Cornforth is an award winning wilderness photographer that has built up a beautiful collection of images that he shares on his Instagram account. Personally, I'm a big fan of his humpback whale shots taken off the coast of Hawaii.

Suzi Eszterhas

If you're into cute baby animals then Suzi Esztherhas is the one person on this list you should definitely follow on Instagram. Suzi has published over 100 magazine cover and feature stories worldwide, with her stunning images of animal mothers and their young being very popular with followers.

Brendon Cremer

As a professional photo safari guide, Brendon Cremer has the added advantage that comes with knowledge in animal behaviour. His style is unique, with many of his images containing subjects in unorthodox poses. Some of the photos are very candid and his choice of composition is often out of the box, but that's what makes his work so interesting.  

Kaisa Lappalainen

With one of the classiest portfolios on the list, Kaisa Lappalainen has managed to collect a fantastic set of images that cover a diverse range of species. She has managed to develop a series of striking wildlife photos without using heavy contrasts or vibrant hues. I'm a big fan of her work on bears, puffins, and orca.

Morne Hardenberg

As a huge shark fan, I just had to put Morne Hardenberg on the list. Specialising in both photography and cinematography, his Instagram feed contains some spectacular shots of a wide variety of shark species. The Burrard-Lucas of the sea, he has managed to capture many of his photographs from very unique angles.

Joel Sartore

I'm a particular fan of Joel Sartore because he uses his photography to draw attention toward conservation efforts to save endangered species. His animal portraits are incredibly beautiful and the type that one might stare at for hours. Be sure to follow Sartore if you enjoy close-ups and support conservation.

Paul Nicklen

I've saved the wildlife photographer on this list with the most Instagram follows until last. With a whopping three million people following his feed, it's not hard to understand why he has so many fans given his exquisite portfolio. Hands down one of the best conservation photographers in the world, Nicklen is renowned for his marvellous work on both the north and south poles.

If you liked this article, you can also follow updates on similar articles by following my own wildlife photography Instagram account @woodswildlife

Into the Mist

Mountain Gorilla

During the past 18 months, I have been on an incredible journey throughout the Asian and African continents that has included many wonderful encounters with wildlife. From experiencing my first safari to diving with great white sharks, I have been very lucky. One might think that such a lifestyle would eventually grow wearisome, however, my desire to witness wild animals in their natural habitat grows stronger with every experience. Fortunately, I was able to further indulge my passion when I relocated to the small east African country of Rwanda last December. Aptly named “The land of a thousand hills”, Rwanda boasts a wide array of flora and fauna to be marvelled at. It is best-known among wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists for its high concentration of colourful birds and endangered primates.

Since moving to Rwanda, I have taken advantage of the many wildlife watching opportunities that this great land has to offer, visiting Akagera National Park and also travelling to the beautiful Nyungwe Forest to trek chimpanzees. There really is no other way to observe such spectacular animals than in their natural environment, as their behaviour and interactions with one another are in stark contrast to that when behind bars in a zoo. They were both truly amazing days that I will never forget. However, the magnitude of these experiences was overwhelmingly dwarfed by that of last weekend’s gorilla trekking.

Rwanda is one of three countries that are home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla. Surprisingly, it was as late as 1902 when these graceful beasts were first discovered by scientists, and since that day, mountain gorilla populations have been under serious threat of extinction. Poaching, habitat loss, disease and warfare have all contributed toward their decline and in 1981, it was estimated that as little as 254 mountain gorillas remained. Perhaps most horrifying of all, silverbacks were killed for their heads and hands which were sold to collectors. In addition, many protective parents were killed when their babies were taken away to be exhibited in zoos all over the world. Thankfully, recent years have seen large conservation efforts which have helped to ensure that these creatures have not become mere museum memories. It is now believed that there are at least 880 individuals wandering the hills of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A large contributing factor toward the recovery of the mountain gorilla population has been through ecotourism. Wildlife enthusiasts from all corners of the globe travel to eastern Africa to witness the glorious spectacle of the great apes roaming freely in their natural habitat. Visitors must book permits weeks in advance, as the number of people allowed to view the gorillas each day is very limited. Encounters with our primate cousins are also restricted to a single one-hour session per day, and so the $750 fee per permit may seem astronomical to some. In hindsight, I cannot put into words how insignificant the cost turned out to be.

I left the comforts of my hotel room at around six o’clock on a misty Sunday morning and shortly after I arrived at the base camp where I was to learn which gorilla family I would be trekking. My guide announced that we had been assigned to the Ntambara (fighters) group – a band of 16 individuals. I met with the six other trekkers who had been assigned to the same group and we all briefly introduced ourselves to one another. Soon after, we excitedly jumped into a jeep and headed off toward the foot of the mountain of which the Ntambara group were located. Around half an hour later we arrived at our destination, climbed out of the jeep and began our ascent up into the mist.

During the relatively effortless hike toward the national park, we made a few stops where our guide taught us about some of the flora in the area. It was interesting to learn about the local vegetation and it helped to make the 45 minutes it took to reach the border of the national park go by quickly. Before crossing through the park’s perimeter, our guide gave us instructions on how to behave when we came across the gorillas and ways in which to react to different situations that may occur. Shortly after, he received confirmation on his two-way radio that the trackers had located the Ntambara group. They continuously updated him on the location of the gorillas and it became clear to all in the group that he knew exactly how far they were positioned from us. My fellow trekkers and I were keen to learn how long we would be hiking before we found the gorillas to which our guide teasingly responded “less than five hours”.

As we climbed over the cobblestone wall which separated the surrounding farmland from the forest, it became very apparent that this was going to be an arduous trek. It had rained continuously throughout the past few days and we all found ourselves ankle deep in the thick sodden soil. We hiked for around half an hour on the main trail before we met with one of the trackers and veered off onto a completely new route. I began to grow excited as it became obvious that we were in close proximity to the Ntambara group.

We continued through the thick lush green forest for around 15 minutes before happening upon two other trackers who instructed us to stop. Within seconds I heard a noise that sounded very similar to that of bongo drums and instantly I recognised that it was the sound of a gorilla beating its chest. I could feel my eyes growing wider and an adrenaline rush like I had never felt before as the realisation set in that we were about to be acquainted with one of the greatest animals to roam the planet.

As we approached the area from which we had heard the chest-beating, a large and imposing silverback emerged from a nearby bush and slowly moved his way toward us. Members of our group began frantically throwing themselves off the trail to allow him the space to pass through. I had not imagined that I could have been within a metre or so of a wild animal with such immense power and lived to tell the tale. As he unhurriedly distanced himself from us, everybody breathed a sigh of relief as if they had believed that a strictly herbivorous creature had recently acquired a taste for human flesh. We continued on to discover more members of the Ntambara group which included two females, a juvenile and an even larger Silverback feeding in a small opening.

We spent the next hour almost entirely in silence as we observed the gorillas moving in all directions around us. As we gradually moved our way around the tranquil forest, we managed to locate other members of the Ntambara group including a few amusing adolescents. Unoriginal as it may be, though, the toddler provided the most enjoyment for me personally. Before encountering the gorillas we had been instructed that should any of the infants approach us, we should make every effort to back away in order to ensure that no complications would arise with their extremely protective parents. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was distance myself from the juvenile that seemed intrigued by a fellow trekker and I. Nevertheless, I felt incredibly privileged to have been within a few feet of the curious little chap.

The enhanced elation I felt in contrast to my previous encounters with wildlife was undoubtedly down to the fact that I had spent less time behind the camera lens and more time simply observing. From previous experiences I have learnt that photographs are no substitution for enjoying the moment as it happens.

I honestly cannot find the words to express the wonder of sharing a short moment in time alongside such immensely powerful and magnificently intelligent animals. Magical perhaps, but the only way that one can really understand the euphoria surrounding even the briefest encounter with such glorious beings is to experience it for themselves.