Photographing wildlife

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I've finally got around to uploading some of my photos from my Brazil trip this summer to Flickr. I've always admired wildlife photographers, but this year in particular, I'm in awe of them. It's incredibly difficult to get good shots of animals: even if the animals in question are not particularly shy, they are either moving too fast (how inconsiderate of them) or sitting in the least well-lit spot in any particular landscape.

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The River: Day

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I stand on the wooden pontoon, looking at the river. I am on my own now, and everything is quiet and still except the river itself. The fast, relentless current makes you feel dizzy if you focus your gaze for too long at one spot. I'm determined to have a swim, but I know that it's going to be a challenge to fight the current. The pontoon creaks as I shift my weight, its boards bleached silver-grey by heat, rain and relentless sun.

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Wild swimming

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One of the great treats of going to Brazil is a trip by boat to swim in the river. We find a nice spot with a sandy river beach, ignore the resident caiman, and pile in to the caramel coloured water. The water isn't cold, exactly, but it feels cool after the roasting heat of the sun. I love the tropics, but don't care for the heat very much, so I value any opportunity to get cool.

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Snakes on the Plains

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Watching wildlife is often the outcome of random encounters, and your luck never seems proportional to the time and effort you put in. Sometimes you lie silently on your belly on a freezing moor at dawn for hours and don't see so much as a rabbit, but at other times, you stroll along whistling and almost trip over a rare and wonderful animal. We were quite fortunate on this trip and had a lot of the latter kinds of experiences, including seeing not one, but two, whole anacondas.

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5.30 am

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(Tuesday 19th August, 5.30am, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil) It's 5.30am and the sun is just beginning to colour the eastern horizon a delicate peach, shading to deep indigo at the zenith. The river is very still in the silver half light, and a veil of mist hovers just above the surface of the water. A cool, light breeze drifts shreds of mist, like smoke, towards me, as I stand on the boardwalk watching.

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Landed

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I'm back in the UK after three weeks in Brazil. It was a good trip: the students worked hard and enjoyed themselves, we saw a lot of interesting animals, and my colleague and I made good progress on a grant application. However, it's a long time to be away from Mr. Bsag, and it's very nice to be home. When I got back from the airport yesterday and sat down on the sofa with him, cup of tea in hand, I was more content and happy than I've been for some time.

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Off to Brazil again

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It's that time of year again when and colleague and I take a group of students to Brazil for a field course. I'm off on Monday, leaving -- with great reluctance -- Mr. Bsag and Cleo to fend for themselves for three weeks. We're in the middle of nowhere, so it's very unlikely that I'll be able to post anyting to the blog while I'm away. As usual, I had intended to make some posts in advance to be published during my absence, but as usual, I haven't had time.

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Dawn to dusk

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Our working day, while we were in Brazil, was dawn to dusk -- about 5.30 am to 6 pm. We were up and out by 5.15 am, watching the light rush over the landscape, as it tends to do in the tropics (no languid, leisurely dawns there), then we headed to breakfast at about 6.30 am, feeling like we'd already accomplished something. Then there was the relatively cool, productive period until about 11 am, an agonising hour when our stomachs rumbled incessantly for lunch, followed by the flattening, oppressive heat of the early afternoon until about 3 pm.

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Incubation

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It seems that I may have brought a little stowaway back with me from Brazil. A couple of weeks into the trip, I noticed that I had a small lump on the bottom of my left foot, between my big toe and second toe. That wasn't very surprising, because I am -- as I have said before -- a mosquito magnet, and had gathered a impressive collection of bites by that time.

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Travel disconnects the senses

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I'm back. At least, I think I am. Brazil is such a huge country, and so far away from the UK that travelling from the centre of Brazil feels like an expedition in itself. I started back on Saturday, at 3pm local time, and didn't get back to Birmingham until 1pm on Monday. There was the 20 hour bus ride, the hours of waiting at Sao Paulo airport, the 11 hour flight followed by another 1 hour 40 minute flight, and finally the taxi ride home.

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