Happy New Year, Reminiscing 2015 - Ben Cherry
Snow capped Black Cullins

Feeling surprisingly hangover free, I thought I'd take this time to quickly reminisce what an amazing year 2015 was and look forward to 2016, before everyone else surfaces! Last year (got to get used to that!) was a pretty vintage year, nine months spent in tropical conditions, three in Borneo and six in Costa Rica. 

Fujifilm and Borneo

At the start of 2015 I was in conversation with Fujifilm about a project to take a collection of their X-Series products to Borneo, to give them a rugged outdoor test and obtain some images to highlight their qualities. In conjunction with this I was lucky enough to get an internship with a wildlife multimedia company called Scubazoo, based in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. These three months allowed to travel extensively around this incredible island and to also create a project for myself, covering the uncertain future of a particular pygmy elephant population. 

The friendship created with the guys at Scubazoo, giving me an insight into their amazing lifestyles was great inspiration and running this Fujifilm project alongside this gave me a tremendous opportunity. 

When I first started getting involved with Fujifilm in 2013, my photography was slowly developing from solely wildlife photography to environmental photojournalism, I think in part due to inspiring photographs and my degree, both of which educated me in environmental issues and the power of photography. However, despite calling myself an environmental photojournalist, I knew that I need to publish a meaningful story to prove to others and (most importantly) myself that this is what I wanted to do and what I am capable of. The story took a long time to process, long after my trip had finished and my second highlight had started. I took a long (LONG) time to write the story and discuss it with close family and friends to get their views on it as I wanted to make sure that it was portraying the right message.

During a Skype interview for a magazine feature in Outdoor Photography Magazine with Nick Smith (October 2015 issue), he kindly offered to help in whatever way he could if I created some environmental photo stories. I of course took him up on this, and he very generously put me in touch with Angela Schuster, the editor of the Explorers Journal, the membership magazine for the New York based Explorers Club. With an input from WWF Malaysia and a bit of story development, the article came to life and is in the current issue of the Explorers Journal. The six-page article and surprise front cover (!) is my publication highlight of 2015, but as well as the afformention Outdoor Photography feature, I also featured in What Digital Camera Magazine as well as numerous blogs for Fujifilm UK.

The cover was a complete surprise!

A huge thank you has to go out to everyone involved in making that trip and publication possible. From Fujifilm UK and Japan (particularly Marc Horner and Kunio Ao) to Scubazoo (especially Christian Loader and Jason Isley) and of course Nick Smith and Angela Schuster. My first front cover and environmental article. Hopefully 2016 will bring around more! 

Researching Scarlet Macaws

The second placement of the trip was a research-focused role conducting monitoring on a reintroduced scarlet macaw programme. Undertaking this role with my girlfriend, we were based in a remote location in Costa Rica, with some simple but pleasant accommodation. We were obviously naive about the opportunity and it was a huge, but rewarding, learning curve. From trying (and ultimately failing at) Spanish to adapting to tropical conditions and walking at least 35 miles a week in search of these charismatic birds. 

There are plenty of things to discuss from the Costa Rica experience but those are for separate blogs (one already up on our actual macaw research). Focusing on summarising 2015, being allowed to be involved with prototype Fujifilm kit in the X-T10 and XF16mm F1.4, was a great personal achievement and encouraged me to raise my standards. 

Before the two main trips, I also had a fleeting trip to Romania to photograph an Ice Hotel for Untravelled Paths, an amazing location and experience, but also a huge learning curve. The hotel was remarkable. 

Before I go off waffling too much, I think I'll stop and enjoy the first day of the new year!

Just one final BIG thank you to everyone who helped me in 2015. It was stellar. Lets all have a brilliant 2016.

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