Peter Chadwick: Conservation photography & West Coast Birding

Are you an avid photographer?

Do you enjoy birding, nature trails or spending time in the outdoors?

What is your favourite South African destination?

“South Africans are spoilt,” is a common theme that comes up in conversations around braais.  “We have so much natural beauty around us, but we don’t realize it until we travel abroad.”

My jaw dropped as I gazed out the plane window, on my very first trip to South Africa four years ago. Flying into OR Tambo International airport in Johannesburg, I loved the texture of the Magaliesberg mountain range beneath me. A tapestry of chocolate brown, lush green and citrus orange hugging the gleaming city of gold. A short layover and two hours later, we glided effortlessly towards my final destination, Cape Town. There’s something different about the African sky – I had never seen so many shades of blue! From the welcoming embrace of Table Mountain to the ivory sand dunes of the West Coast, it is clear why Cape Town is repeatedly featured as one of the world’s most beautiful cities!

Black Harrier hunting in hovering flight

A Black Harrier hovers over a prey item. These endemic birds have their breeding stronghold in the West Coast National Park.

When I stumbled across Peter Chadwick’s photographs on African Conservation Photography, his work opened my eyes (once again) to another natural beauty: South African wildlife. As a dedicated conservationist and wildlife photographer, Peter’s work has been featured globally and won multiple awards. I had the honour to interview Peter about his philosophy, conservation efforts and experience in the West Coast:

Lisa: Peter, if photos speak a thousand words, I believe your photos translate into full length productions! Tell me, how did you become a wildlife and conservation photographer?

Peter: Thank you, Lisa. I grew up in the outdoors of Zimbabwe, and my father was a photographer. He instilled my passion for wildlife at an early age! Since then I have been in conservation for over 28 years… but my biggest challenge is to get people to understand and cherish our wildlife and biodiversity. That’s when I turned to photography as a medium for powerful storytelling.

Lisa: I have to admit, you are the first “conservation photographer” I have come across in Cape Town. How is it different from general photography?

Peter: For me, conservation photography has a specific purpose: to create a compelling photo that tells a story, that will arouse passion in the viewer to want to learn more about the wildlife featured (and ultimately take action).  Technology has shortened our attention span to less than 7 seconds… and a powerful image can be the hook to get someone to say “Wow,” pause and click-through to read the actual story.

If you think of the most influential photographers of our times: Robert Capa and Steve McCurry, their photos capture the emotions of our human story. That is what I strive towards… to capture a moment of time, that if correctly composed can positively influence the way that we respond, think and act.

Lisa: I definitely felt an emotional connection when I saw your photo of the Black Oystercatchers. Tell me about your experience on the West Coast.

Peter: South Africa’s West Coast has a fascinating history. SANParks was a trailblazer for conservation in Southern Africa since 1926. They recognize that by preserving West Coast’s biodiversity, they can offer greater social economic land value: eco-tourism instead of agricultural farmlands.

Working with Cape Nature, they reached out to private landowners and set aside special areas, such as Malgas Island and Dassen Island. This created viable, sustainables jobs for marine biologists, birding guides, indigenous floral guides and more. Today, West Coast hosts over seven endemic birds such as African Black Oystercatcher, Cape Gannets, Jackass Penguin and many more. It’s a global hotspot that attracts thousands of birding enthusiasts from around the world every year. We have such wonderful biodiversity at our doorsteps, it is a shame that South Africans prefer to book holidays abroad when everyone else are coming to us!

Lisa: This is why we need to get the word out there! Thank you so much for sharing your story with me, Peter. What will be your advice for wildlife enthusiasts?

Peter: Take the time to explore what’s on your doorstep, and you will be absolutely amazed at how the fresh air will clear your soul.

What stories do you pick up from Peter’s photos? Find more out about South African seabirds, and plan your next trip up the West Coast!

The Namaqua area of the West Coast is well known for its floral dispalys during springtime.

The Namaqua area of the West Coast is well known for its floral dispalys during springtime.

 

A pair of Cape Gannets preen one another at their island roost and at the end of day that was spent fishing out at sea. Malgas Island, Western Cape, South Africa.

A pair of Cape Gannets preen one another at their island roost and at the end of day that was spent fishing out at sea. Malgas Island, Western Cape, South Africa.

 

West Coast Rock Lobster fishermen prepare to head out to sea for a days fishing as the sun rises over the horizon. Paternoster, Western Cape, South Africa.

West Coast Rock Lobster fishermen prepare to head out to sea for a days fishing as the sun rises over the horizon. Paternoster, Western Cape, South Africa.

 

The salt marshes of Langebaan Lagoon form an intricate network of habitat that is vitally important as a feeding area to global migrating waders and waterbirds.

The salt marshes of Langebaan Lagoon form an intricate network of habitat that is vitally important as a feeding area to global migrating waders and waterbirds.

More about Peter Chadwick:

His photography is internationally recognized, with his work appearing globally in a wide range of print media. He regularly writes conservation related articles for a number of magazines. Peter is also the winner of the 2011 Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife in the Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and is a winner of the Eric Hosking Award in the British Gas Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Learn more about Peter’s philosophy, conservation efforts and experience in the West Coast. Explore the global hotspot on your doorstep that attracts thousands of birding enthusiasts from around the world every year! http://www.peterchadwick.co.za/biography

Written by Lisa Huang

Road-Trip-Southern-Africa-West-Coast-Way-Routes

West Coast Way is South Africa’s road trip with the most twists. Explore a unique collection of 101 road trip stops along themed routes by planning a self-drive trip or guided tour for a nature and adventure-filled Cape West Coast vacation. The new West Coast Way “basket” of free routes on offer include the West Coast Way Tractor Route, the West Coast Way Berg Route, the West Coast Way Foodie Route, the West Coast Way Cultural Route, the West Coast Way Wild Route – as well as the newly launched Cape Way Route – all of which are designed to showcase the many attractions and activities that are already on offer on the Cape West Coast and inland areas – but may be unknown to many.

For more information on West Coast Way, the other routes on offer, and the list of 101 Things to Do on the West Coast visit westcoastway.co.za or call West Coast Way on 0861 321 777. Connect with West Coast Way on Facebook and Twitter at WestCoastWaySA.

West Coast Way is South Africa’s road trip with the most twists. South Africans and visitors can explore a unique collection of themed routes to do adventure-filled Cape West Coast self-drive trips or a West Coast Holiday. The new West Coast Way “basket” of free routes on offer include the West Coast Way Scenic Route, the West Coast Way Berg Route, the West Coast Way Foodie Route, the West Coast Way Cultural Route – as well as the newly launched West Coast Way Wild Route, all of which are designed to showcase the many attractions and activities that are already on offer on the Cape West Coast and inland areas – but may be unknown to many. For more information on West Coast Way’s #WestCoastTwist and the list of 101 Things to Do on the West Coast visit www.westcoastway.co.za or call West Coast Way on 0861 321 777. Connect with West Coast Way on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at WestCoastWaySA.

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