National Geographic : 2018 Mar
Northern gannets BASS ROCK, SCOTLAND (FIRST PAGE) During breeding season, 150,000 gannets throng this island in the Firth of Forth. In winter the birds decamp south as far as West Africa. To make this image, Wilkes and an assistant lugged his gear 122 steps uphill and set up near the ruins of a church about six feet from the nesting birds. Standing on the rocky ground for 28 sleepless hours, he took 1,176 photos. “It’s like a meditative state,” he says. “I’m alert to everything. I’m seeing everything.” He selected about 150 photos to make this image. PHOTOGRAPHED WITH PERMISSION OF THE DALRYMPLE FAMILY AND THE SCOTTISH SEABIRD CENTRE Lesser flamingos LAKE BOGORIA, KENYA (CENTER) The lesser flamingos of Africa’s Great Rift Valley thrive in the extreme environment of high-altitude soda lakes, feeding on algal blooms that are toxic to many other creatures. The birds are not migratory but nomadic, traveling from one lake to another, wherever food is plentiful. Wilkes shot 1,742 photos over 36 hours from a 30-foot scaffolding wrapped in camouflage, capturing the endless movements of the flamingos and the marabou storks stalking them. He chose about 30 for this image. Sandhill cranes ROWE SANCTUARY, NEBRASKA (THIS PAGE) From mid-February to mid-April, half a million sandhill cranes gather along the Platte River. Emaciated when they arrive from Mexico and the southern United States, they fatten up to migrate on to sub-Arctic and Arctic nesting grounds. From a blind 25 feet high, Wilkes shot 1,377 photos over 36 hours, using about 200 to create this image. During the day the cranes gorge on waste grain left in fields. In the evening they return to the river in wave upon wave. “It’s one of the most magnificent things I have ever witnessed,” he says. PHOTOGRAPHED WITH PERMISSION OF AUDUBON’S ROWE SANCTUARY Panoramic images capture a single day in the life of these birds. Photographer Stephen Wilkes selected a vista, set up his camera, and photographed from day to night. Wilkes then edited the photos to select the best moments and digitally blended them to compress an entire day into a seamless composite image. “ What you are seeing in these pictures is truly the story of what happened in that day,” he says.