A tourist at Jigokudani Monkey Park, Japan, was so desperate to get a close-up of this young Japanese macaque in a natural hot spring that she held her phone ever nearer to her subject. Suddenly, the monkey snatched the device from her hand and retreated to the middle of the water to examine its prize. Marsel, who was leading a photographic tour at the time, saw the chance for a striking picture. His main challenge was the steam rising from the 42˚C water into the freezing air. ‘I wanted a really low angle,’ he explains, ‘but that meant getting close to the water. My lens was cold and kept fogging up, making focussing almost impossible.’ At first, the macaque just fumbled with the gadget. It had no idea what it had stolen but was nonetheless pleased with its new toy. It even managed to let the built-in flash go off a few times. When it finally held the phone just as a human would, looking intently at the screen, Marsel was ready to capture the image he had envisaged. Japanese macaques are thought to display culture, where a learned behaviour (most famously washing food) is passed on to other troop members and their descendants. But it remains to be seen if future generations of tech-savvy macaques emerge.
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Marsel van Oosten, The Netherlands
Photography was initially Marsel’s escape from a fast-paced, successful career in advertising. But a Tanzanian safari ignited his passion for photographing wildlife, and five years later, he became a professional nature photographer. Now exhibited and published worldwide, he has won numerous awards, runs nature photography tours and is a regular contributor to National Geographic.