Wildlife photographer and author Graeme Green reveals the ‘new big five’ to track down and shoot – with a camera…
Thomas Vijayan’s Bengal tiger, Bandhavgarh National Park, India “The tiger is one of my most favourite animals to photograph. I travel all the way from Canada to Indian forests to capture their majestic beauty. Ranthambhore is another national park in India which I often visit, which is filled with majestic tigers. But this picture was taken in Bandhavgarh. Local people and officials in India are trying to protect the tigers in whatever way they can and the tiger population is now increasing in a large scale. This picture was taken on a rainy day. In Indian forests, it’s very difficult to get a proper picture of a running tiger, as they all are thick forests. I kept the camera settings fast enough to freeze the running tiger.”(Image credit: The New Big 5)
The New Big 5 is an international project I started working on in 2019. The ‘big five’ is an old term used by colonial-era hunters in Africa for the most prized and dangerous animals to shoot and kill: elephant, rhino, leopard, Cape buffalo and lion. I thought there was a better idea: to celebrate the animals that we share the planet with using photography, rather than hunting.
I first had the idea of a new big five of wildlife photography around a decade ago, when I was on assignment in Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans. Maybe it was hearing the word ‘shooting’, used for taking pictures, that sparked something, but the genesis was more from thinking about the idea that trophy hunting is an outdated concept, something that belongs to the past, and that wildlife photography is much more meaningful to people these days.
I launched the project in early 2020, not long after the pandemic hit. I created the New Big 5 website with podcasts, photo galleries, interviews and articles, plus a request for people to vote for their five favourite animals to photograph and see in photos. Incredibly, around 50,000 people from around the world voted.
Initially, I just thought it was a cool idea and something that should exist as a counter to the original; a big five of photography, rather than hunting. But as I started working on it, I wanted to focus the project on highlighting the threats that are facing wildlife, such as climate change, poaching, the illegal wildlife trade and the loss of vital habitats.
The New Big 5 was never intended as an anti-trophy hunting campaign; as a journalist and photographer, I’ve seen many of the issues facing wildlife first-hand, and I wanted to do something to raise awareness and hopefully help, by flagging problems and discussing solutions.
It was always my hope to produce a New Big 5 book – the next step in my mission. With 225 incredible wildlife photos from 146 global photographers, the book has a chapter for each species in the New Big 5 – elephant, lion, polar bear, gorilla, tiger. The aim of the project was not to just focus on big iconic species, but to get people interested in all kinds of creatures and issues around them. There’s an extensive chapter on many endangered species, including frogs, penguins, spiders, lemurs, sharks, vultures, manta rays, rhinos, whales, cheetahs and turtles.
I wanted to create something positive and hopeful, even though the situation we’re in is dire. The message of the book is that all creatures, from termites to tigers, are essential to the balance of nature, healthy ecosystems, and the future of life on Earth. The book points the way to a wilder, fairer world; a path available to us if we choose to take that route.
The New Big 5 project did a great job at highlighting endangered species and threats facing animals around the world. I want the book to do the same and to make a difference. This book is a powerful reminder of the incredible beauty and diversity of the natural world, and what we stand to lose if we don’t take urgent action to protect wildlife and the planet.
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Adam has been the editor of N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine for almost 12 years, and as such is one of Digital Camera World's leading experts when it comes to all things Nikon-related.
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