Joris van Alphen Photography

Into the Wild

The Beauty of Asymmetry

Posted July 25, 2014. Filed under: Biology, Multimedia, Research. Leave a comment.

Did you ever wonder why left/right symmetry is so common in nature? And why still some species are completely asymmetric?

In a new short video I produced for Naturalis Biodiversity Center, researchers of the Character Evolution focus group show how they are finding answers to these questions by making 3D laser scans of orchid flowers, performing micro-surgery on fly genitalia, and studying human X-rays.

Speaking at Val d’Aran International Nature Photography Festival

Posted June 2, 2014. Filed under: Nature, News, Photography. Leave a comment.


I’m very excited to join an excellent line-up of speakers at the first Val d’Aran International Nature Photography Festival, June 20–22 in Vielha. Other speakers include Iñaki Relanzón, Antonio Liébana, Javi Montes, Oriol Alamany, Paul Bou, and Alfonso Lario.

If the prospect of spending a weekend getting inspired in the beautiful Catalan Pyrenees while enjoying delicious tapas sounds appealing to you (it does, doesn’t it?), you should probably join us. I haven’t been at a Spanish photo festival before, but from what I gather they are always a lot of fun: inspiring, very relaxed, and late nights wining and dining. Also, registration is free. What’s not to like?

I hope to see you there!

Media this Week (BBC Wildlife Magazine, Vroege Vogels TV)

Posted May 8, 2014. Filed under: Multimedia, Nature, News, Photography. Leave a comment.

BBC Wildlife Magazine May 2014 p8-9

By now I’m used to seeing my work in print, but it’s still special when an image that started as something I could see only in my mind’s eye completes its journey to newsstands and doormats around the globe. Certainly the case with this barn swallow in the current issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine. (Original image here.)

Also this week the national BNN–VARA television show Vroege Vogels aired some footage I shot during my previous expedition to Senegal with Montagu’s harrier conservation group Werkgroep Grauwe Kiekendief. I still have field work to do this summer to complete the photo story so it will be a while before you see that. But for a quick glimpse of our experiences in Senegal, watch the TV episode (Senegal footage starts around 19:40).

Marius van der Sandt Scholarship Winners Announced

Posted May 8, 2014. Filed under: News. Leave a comment.

It’s my pleasure to congratulate the winners of the first ever Marius van der Sandt Scholarship for young aspiring nature photographers from the Netherlands and Belgium: David Peskens (29), Tjeerd Visser (22), and Jarno van Bussel (20). You can see their winning portfolios at Marius van der Sandt Foundation’s website.

As part of the scholarship they will work together on a photo project over the course of the next year, and I look forward to mentoring them together with Jan Vermeer, Jasper Doest, Theo Bosboom, and Bas Meelker.

Finally, we really want to extend our thanks to everyone who applied. It was no easy task to select the winners out of so many fine submissions. The foundation has already announced that they will continue the scholarship program next year, so if you were not one of the lucky winners this year, please apply again in 2015!

National Geographic Explorer: Photographing the Last Tigers of Nepal

Posted April 27, 2014. Filed under: Biology, Conservation, Nature, News, Photography. Leave a comment.

Young Sumatran tiger at waterhole (captive). (Joris van Alphen)

A young Sumatran tiger looks up from a waterhole (captive).

I’m very pleased to share with you that I have received a National Geographic Young Explorer grant to do a story about the plight of the last remaining tigers of Nepal. By the latest estimate, only 198 Bengal tigers survive in a number of fragmented natural parks in the lower regions of the Himalayas. If we do not take action today, the Nepalese population will likely be extinct within ten to twenty years.

The photo above shows one of the young Sumatran tigers currently living in Burgers’ Zoo. Of course, a photo of a Bengal tiger would have been more fitting (being the subspecies that lives in Nepal), but I happened to be at the zoo this week to attend the Future for Nature Awards.

Glow-in-the-Dark Fungus

Posted March 6, 2014. Filed under: Biology, Nature, People, Photography, Research. Leave a comment.

Bioluminescent Filoboletus fungus with mycologist Luis Morgado

Mycologist Luis Morgado studies a bioluminescent Filoboletus fungus in the light of a red torch, allowing his eyes to remain adjusted to the dark. Crocker Range, Borneo. (For National Geographic Magazine NL/BE)

Sometimes the most fascinating natural phenomena lie hidden in plain sight. In 2012 I spent several days in the Crocker Range on Borneo, on an assignment to cover a scientific expedition to the area. Every day I would follow the expedition’s scientists over a slippery trail that wound its way up the mountain slope. Years before, a large tree had fallen across the steepest section of the trail, and numerous small Filoboletus mushrooms now sprouted from its decaying remains.

I made a photo as the expedition’s mycologists took a sample, but paid no further attention to the otherwise dull-looking fungus. Then on our last night in the area we made one more foray into the rainforest. A park ranger had told us fantastical stories about a fungus that glows in the dark. Eager to see this with our own eyes, we struggled up the slippery trail in the pitch-blackness. Sure enough, there was the same fallen tree that we had passed so often, now glowing from the mushrooms that illuminated it like tiny green lanterns. It was a breathtaking sight and we marvelled at it for hours.

The first light of day was already in the sky when we finally made it back to the field station and sleepily crawled into our sleeping bags.

Winter Update

Posted February 27, 2014. Filed under: Nature, News, Photography. One comment.

When temperatures drop, some animals like this robin find shelter in unoccupied houses. Thiérache, France.

When temperatures drop, some animals like this robin find shelter in unoccupied houses. Thiérache, France.

Winter flew by this year. I suppose that is because we didn’t have one. After a prolonged autumn we’re now already having our first days of spring. At any rate, it’s been a busy couple of months.

Mistletoe-covered tree on a misty winter morning in the Oise river valley.

Mist rises in the Oise River Valley one winter morning after days of heavy rain. Thiérache, France.

In November and December I was glad I could make a couple of trips to the Thiérache and spend time on my local conservation project. I did the usual wildlife and landscape work. I also joined local hunters, and photographed the slaughter of two pigs at a small farm, which I will share more about later. Between trips I wrapped up an educational short for Naturalis’ Character Evolution Focus Group. The video explains how insects conquered land thanks to an organ called the Serosa:

After the New Year my schedule really picked up. I spent a few days in Washington, D.C., for the iLCP Fellows meeting. It was a lot of fun getting to know some of the other photographers and staff that make up iLCP. It was especially great to finally meet Clay in person, and see some familiar faces from the NANPA Summit in McAllen, where so much of this began for me. (To think how much has happened in the past three years!)

I came back with barely enough time to pack my bags for an expedition to Senegal. I met up with scientists of Werkgroep Grauwe Kiekendief to work on a new story about their research on Montagu’s harrier migration and the conservation issues in the Sahel. I’m thankful that I could again count on the support of Redged and Canon Netherlands. The first part of this story will be published later this year and the second part is on my agenda to photograph this summer.

Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus).

A Montagu’s harrier flies over the savannah of Khelcom, Senegal.

Joris at work on top of the four-wheel-drive in Senegal. Photo by Ben Koks.

At work in Senegal. Photo by Ben Koks.

I came back looking dirty and unshaven from three weeks of camping in the Sahel dust. Two days later I found myself wearing a suit to present my Kinabalu–Crocker Range Expedition story at the 7th NVN International Nature Photo Festival. It was quite the transformation, I can assure you. Luckily I was first in the lineup, so that after my talk I could sit back and enjoy the work of the other presenters. And they were wonderful: Vincent Munier, David Tipling, Jonathan and Angela Scott, Sandra Bartocha, Jonathan Lhoir, André Kuipers (who made stunning photos during his time in the International Space Station), and many local friends and colleagues.

Joris van Alphen at NVN International Nature Photo Festival

Speaking at the 7th International Nature Photo Festival in Burgers’ Zoo this month. Photo by Gerard Burgers.

Speakers of the 7th NVN International Nature Photo Festival

Speakers of the 7th NVN International Nature Photo Festival. Photo by Gerard Burgers.

All right, enough blabber about me. I have a couple more announcements to share with you. After that it’ll be back to the regular stories about nature and science.