Marsel van Oosten@marselvanoosten

Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Squiver Photo Tours
Next tour: Japan
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Marsel van Oosten

One more day in Tokyo and then we’re off to Hokkaido for the start of our White & Wild Japan tour.

I can only hope we’ll get conditions like in this image that was shot on a previous trip and got published in Nat Geo.

Marsel |


Marsel van Oosten

We just arrived in Japan for the start of our annual photo tour.

We won’t be visiting the snow monkeys this time, so this is an old memory that I shot over 10 years ago.

This image for me is the perfect example to show that these monkeys are one of very few species that bathe not only out of necessity, but because they really enjoy the warm water.

They look like three old men, dozing off 😆

How would you caption this?

Marsel |


Marsel van Oosten

This is the last image from the series ‘Prints for in da house’. It was photographed in Botswana and now graces our entrance wall. It’s about 140cm wide and you can already see it when you arrive at our house and walk towards the front door.

Tomorrow I will post the entire series again with pics of the prints in da house.

And now back to packing my bags for Japan.

Marsel |


Marsel van Oosten

I’ve been absent for a while because I had several deadlines to meet. The last image I posted here was from the series ‘Prints for in da house’ and I will continue with those - two more prints to go.

Picking an image for the living room was difficult, because our living room is double volume and needed something extremely large or it would look silly. I wanted something simple, preferably a portrait, and ended up selecting this one. Not my most spectacular image, but I felt it was the right choice for the space. It was shot 10 years ago with a Nikon D3 and a 70-200/2.8 lens.

Note that the D3 is ‘only’ a 12MP camera and that I had this printed at almost 3 meters (9 feet) tall. How that is possible? Two reasons: it’s not so much about the amount of pixels, but about the quality of those pixels. And second: the larger the print, the larger the viewing distance. The loss of quality from enlarging an image will be compensated by the increased viewing distance.

Meanwhile all the prints are up on the walls, and I will share the results with you shortly.

Marsel |


Marsel van Oosten

The next image from the series ‘Prints for in da house’ is another leopard, and it’s for our bedroom. It’s one of my favorite leopard images, but I just never got around processing it. It looks great in color and I was not entirely sure what the black and white version would look like, but I’m really happy with the result.

It was shot on our Beyond The Great Rivers photo safari in Zambia in 2016. We spent the entire afternoon searching for leopards in one of our favorite parts of Lower Zambezi National Park, and just as we thought it wasn’t gonna happen, it did. 15 Minutes or so after sunset we spotted this beauty resting on a branch - a low one even. It was very relaxed with our presence, so I had time to carefully position our vehicle for the best angle.

Being in a forest area, the light levels had already dropped considerably, so we had to create our own light to add some depth to the image and separate the leopard from the background. I’m usually not a big fan of clutter, but here that clutter behaves very nicely and basically turns into a low contrast pattern. Instead of being merely an element of distraction, it adds a sense of habitat and wilderness to the image. As usual, the subtle shadow detail can never be appreciated on Instagram at this size, but you’ll have to take my word for it that it’s pretty cool :-) All prints should arrive later this week, and once they’re up I’ll show you the results.

Nikon D810, AF-S VR 200-400/4.0, 1/30 @ f/4, ISO 6400

Marsel |


Marsel van Oosten

During the process of selecting images for the series ‘Prints for in da house’, there were a few images that I at first considered and then later decided not to use. This is one of them. It’s a fine image and it would look great on a wall, but I couldn’t find the right spot for it. Also, I have a massive lion print in the living room (3 meters tall!) and I think that’s enough lion for the house.

This one is from the dark depths of my image library in a corner where I very rarely venture. Photographed in Zambia in 2007 with a Nikon D2x, AF-S 600/4.0, 1/200 @ f/5.6, ISO 640. Pretty sure this guy is no longer around.

Marsel |


Marsel van Oosten

In the series ‘Prints for in da house’, here’s another one for in one of the bedrooms. I love leopards, so I decided to put leopards in each of our 7 bedrooms. Just kidding! Three bedrooms, so three leopards in the house.

This is a another example of an image that is pretty cool in color, but that looks so much better in black and white. The amazing texture on that log and the soft tones in the background really look amazing in a large print (and not so much as a glorified thumbnail on Instagram, lol). I photographed this leopard on our Tigers & Leopards tour in 2016, and I still remember it well because we had to do a lot of serious off-roading to find it again after we lost visual. The light was dropping fast and this was a particularly beautiful leopard, so we were very keen to get another opportunity to photograph it. When we found it again, it was sitting super relaxed on this log and stayed there for a minute or two. The light was awesome - very soft in the background with a subtle light beam.

Nikon D5, AF-S VR 80-400/4.5-5.6, 1/200 @ f/5.6, ISO 5000

Marsel |


Marsel van Oosten

Here’s another print I prepared for our new house in South Africa. It’s for the bathroom, so I figured something with water makes sense 🙂

This image of an emerging hippo was photographed on our Beyond The Great Rivers photo safari in Zambia two years ago. We took our group to a small river where there’s usually a nice pod of hippos. The river is quite narrow and the hippos are very relaxed, so we were able to get out of the vehicles and lie down flat on the grass to get an eye level perspective of these magnificent beasts. Not too close to the waters edge though - don’t want to get eye to eye with a croc.

Timing was crucial for this location: I knew that the sun would rise behind the hippos and as a result the river bank behind them would be backlit and dark -exactly what I wanted. Then, an hour or so after sunrise, the sun would be powerful enough to make the background even darker while at the same time creating enough light to make the water spray stand out. The sun rises quickly in Africa, so we only had a small window of opportunity - an hour too late and the hippos would no longer be in the shade and the light on them would be too harsh.

That’s the big advantage of having been to a location multiple times - knowing what the options are and when to go for them.

Shots like this are not easy because they require a slow shutter speed, and the animal is obviously moving. You need to predict where the hippo will emerge, pre focus, and press that shutter button very gently like it’s a balloon filled with nitroglycerin.

If you would like to join us on this year’s Zambia tour, have a look on my website for more info, dates and prices.

Nikon D500, AF-S VR 200-400/4.0, 1/30 @ f/5.6, ISO 64

Marsel |


Marsel van Oosten

Last month we finally moved into our new house in South Africa, and the past couple of days I’ve been working on some images to fill the massive white walls. This will be a first for me. Never before have I put my own images on my walls. People were always surprised when they visited us in our home in Amsterdam - they expected a house full of spectacular nature images, yet all they could find was a single painting. Of a goose. For some reason I just never felt like looking at my own images - I do that enough already when I’m working.

This time it’s different though. Our new house is larger and extremely minimalist with huge white walls. It’s über clean and I absolutely love it to death, but it needs something to bring some life into the rooms. And as our house is in Africa, Daniella and I decided that we would pick African wildlife for all the rooms.

There are no colors in our house - everything is white, with lines and accents in black, and all fabrics are shades of grey. Therefore the images have to be black and white. I don’t do a lot of black and white, but I absolutely love it. It requires a completely different way of thinking when you’re processing, and if you want to do it really well, also when you’re shooting. In some ways, black and white is a lot easier because you don’t have any colors to distract from the essence, but it’s also a lot harder because you don’t have any colors 🙂

The images I selected are all images I have never posted anywhere before, so I processed them specifically for this purpose. What’s interesting, is that not every great image is a great candidate for a black and white conversion. And some of my color images that were so so, were pretty amazing in black and white. It was a very fun project to do.

This image of a leopard was photographed on our Tigers & Leopards tour two years ago.

Nikon D500, AF-S VR 200-400/4.0, 1/60 @ f/4, ISO 6400

Marsel |


Marsel van Oosten

In my previous two posts, I have discussed the threats that tigers are facing and the causes. One of the most important steps for the tiger countries to take in my opinion, is to fence the parks. Yes, I can hear you saying: but tigers should be roaming free! They should, but the reality is that habitat loss and conflicts with humans are two of the three main threats tigers are facing. Fencing the parks would mean that tigers can no longer wander into villages and farms (where they will kill livestock, and thus get killed by farmers), and that people can’t easily venture into the parks. Most of South Africa’s game parks are fenced for this reason. Fences work, like all barriers. That’s why you have a front door.

But doesn’t South Africa have massive poaching problems at the moment with rhinos? Clearly those fences are not working! That is a logical fallacy. The fact that there’s a lot of poaching despite the fences, can only mean there would be a lot more poaching without them. Kruger National Park was once completely fenced. Then several years ago the fence on the Mozambican side was removed, and immediately poaching went up - as expected.

Rhino horn is more valuable by weight than gold, diamonds or cocaine. An average sized horn can bring in as much as a quarter of a million dollars in Vietnam. But the rhino poaching epidemic is relatively new. In 2007, no more than 13 rhinos were poached in South Africa. In 2014, a whopping 1,215 rhinos were poached. That’s an increase of 9,246.15% in merely 7 years. But, one year later, in 2015, poaching went down again, as it did in 2016 and 2017. There is hope.

Also, because the demand and therefore the price for rhino horn has skyrocketed in a super short period of time, organized crime got involved in ways they never did in India. Armed militias even use helicopters to shoot rhinos from the air - they land, remove the horn, and fly off again in a matter of minutes. Although rhinos are large and have a reputation for being tough, they are very easily poached; they visit water holes daily and can be easily killed while they drink.

Marsel |


Marsel van Oosten

Here’s another tiger image that was shot at the ex-situ tiger conservation project in South Africa, Tiger Canyon. Some of the comments said that I forgot to mention the fact that the tiger numbers in India are increasing again - so there is hope.

I would like to say a couple of things about that. First, the latest numbers are debated by tiger researchers and biologists. The Director for Science Asia Wildlife Conservation Society, the Director of the Russia Program-Wildlife Conservation Society, the Senior Director of the Tiger Program Panthera, and a Zoology researcher from the University of Oxford said in their joint statement: “Using flawed survey methodologies can lead to incorrect conclusions, an illusion of success, and slackening of conservation efforts, when in reality grave concern is called for.” Second, despite the increase we should not forget that for over a century, as in one hundred years, tigers have been decimated in India as well as other tiger countries. In those 100 years, 97% of the tiger population perished. Even if the claim that tiger numbers are on the rise again for the first time in over a century is true, surely that is not proof of a successful conservation strategy at all - it is just good news.

Good news should not be reason to sit back and think that it’s gonna be alright - that’s what’s so dangerous about news like this. It’s in the same category as “there’s never been so much ice around the North Pole as this year”. That would be great news indeed, but few people would conclude that we have stopped climate change.

Another comment was about the rhino poaching epidemic in South Africa, and how having fences around the game reserves apparently has no effect at all. I will address that in my next post.

Marsel |


Marsel van Oosten

The are two ways of thinking: inside the box and outside the box. Most people think inside the box, which explains why they always come up with the same obvious solutions for a problem. But what if those obvious solutions barely work or not at all? Then you need to look beyond the obvious, free from conventions and traditions.

At the start of the 20th century, it was estimated there were over 100,000 tigers in the wild, but the population has dwindled outside of captivity to between 1,500 and 3,900. In 1969 the tiger was declared an endangered species and nothing has changed since. Well, except that there are currently more tigers held privately as pets in Texas than there are in the wild.

The threats that are driving tigers closer to extinction all stem from, surprise surprise, man. Tigers are threatened by habitat loss, conflict with humans, and poaching to feed to the illegal trade in tiger parts and products for Vietnam and China.

The vast majority of all wild tigers live in India, a country with 1.3 billion people and counting. With approximately 456 people per square kilometre and no fences around their national parks, habitat loss will become an even bigger problem in the near future. And according to the World Bank, the percentage of the population living in poverty in India was 60% in 2011, equalling 763 million people living below the poverty line. With the price of tiger parts on the black market rising to astronomical levels (up to 20,000 USD just for the pelt), tiger poaching is not going to end anytime soon either.

With all this in mind, John Varty started Tiger Canyon in 2000, an ex-situ tiger conservation experiment in South Africa aiming to protect a growing population of free-roaming tigers. Like most game reserves in South Africa it is fenced, to keep the tigers in and the people out. Critics say that tigers don’t belong in Africa, but they don’t realize that tigers, lions, leopard and cheetah all roamed the same continent once before.

It’s a controversial idea, but in the end that may be exactly what we need.

Think wide.

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