How the toss of a coin led to this daz­zling pho­to­graph

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

AF­TER last month’s piece on New Year res­o­lu­tions, here’s one that could send you off in the foot­steps of my friend Emily Gel­lard, 24, from Mot­tram.

She’s an in­spi­ra­tion for young and old, with most peo­ple’s bucket list ticked off by the time she was 20.

Just back from a trip to pho­to­graph po­lar bears in Sval­bard, the wan­der­lust soon kicked in, and a year ago Emily spread out a map of the world and tossed a coin into the air, say­ing to her friends, ‘Wher­ever this lands, I’m go­ing for 12 months!’

As the coin span in the air, there was a tan­gi­ble ex­cite­ment in the room with all eyes on the Lucky Dol­lar as it hit the Pa­cific and be­gan to roll south, be­fore spin­ning tan­ta­lis­ingly close to Easter Is­land, in the South At­lantic, turn­ing on it­self once more and com­ing to a halt on Brazil.

And that was that, with all those present 100 per cent sure that Emily would be as good as her word. In­deed, she has been there ever since, but that is just part of the story.

Emily stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy at univer­sity and had al­ways had a pas­sion for ad­ven­ture.

Her first trip, when 19, was with best friend Lois Green, of Glos­sop, when the pair vol­un­teered in the Ama­zon rain­for­est for one month.

Emily says that al­though they didn’t see a Jaguar, her imag­i­na­tion was fired up to one day spot and maybe pho­to­graph this amaz­ing feline. It was then on to Africa and spend­ing a month of vol­un­teer­ing in Botswana.

Emily says: “It was a phe­nom­e­nal ex­pe­ri­ence that con­sisted of spitting co­bras in our tents, the sound of hye­nas at night and wak­ing up to ele­phants and hip­popota­mus bathing in the river. That kicked in the trav­el­ling bug and a few months later I saved up to go to the Arc­tic on my own to pho­to­graph the po­lar bears.

“I spent about 10 days on the boat and it wasn’t un­til the fi­nal day that we man­aged to spot them, about 20 po­lar bears on one huge glacier.”

While study­ing, Emily trav­elled to Aus­tralia, hired a camper­van and drove down the east coast alone, be­fore fly­ing to New Zealand and driv­ing round the en­tire south is­land pho­tograph­ing the mag­nif­i­cent scenery. This was fol­lowed by three months in a re­mote part of Su­ma­tra deep in the heart of the jun­gle to try to view and pho­to­graph the il­lu­sive Su­ma­tran tiger, with­out any luck.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing her de­gree, with an eye­wa­ter­ing itin­er­ary of travel un­der her belt, Emily, in search of even more ad­ven­ture, com­pleted a sky­div­ing li­cence as she was plan­ning on in­cor­po­rat­ing this into her trav­el­ling as well.

At the age of 22, and as good as her word, Emily fol­lowed the spin of the coin to the Pan­tanal Wet­lands of Brazil, and from the out­set she was en­chanted by the place – the cho­rus of howler mon­keys, the calls of the birds and the talk and ex­cite­ment of the il­lu­sive jaguar that roamed freely through the wet­land.

Emily be­gan as a tourist at the Pan­tanal Jun­gle Lodge for a three-day wildlife tour but be­came friendly with the own­ers, who re­alised her tal­ents, and very soon be­came part of the team.

Emily says: “Weeks turned into months and I had made good friends with the staff, learned the lan­guage and was adapt­ing to the mos­qui­toes, the most dif­fi­cult part, al­though when you are work­ing in par­adise these things be­come ir­rel­e­vant.

“Af­ter about a month and a half in the Pan­tanal I got to see my first jaguar, an un­for­get­tably in­cred­i­ble mo­ment.”

It was when Emily shared her jaguar pho­to­graphs that I re­alised what a spe­cial tal­ent she had, and be­cause I knew her idol was Sir David At­ten­bor­ough, I got him to send his best wishes to her and a signed pic­ture of him­self.

Sir David had just fea­tured jaguars on his new tele­vi­sion pro­gramme and he was very, very impressed with Emily’s im­ages of this elu­sive mam­mal.

Emily knew noth­ing about the card and when it hadn’t ar­rived af­ter three weeks I had be­gun to worry that it may have been lost, but in the end Emily opened the en­ve­lope a cou­ple of days be­fore Christ­mas.

“I couldn’t be­lieve it,” she said, “Sir David is an ab­so­lute leg­end!”

A jaguar pho­tographed in the Pan­tanal Wet­lands of Brazil by Emily Gel­lard

The Laugh­ing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

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