Tim Laman

Last updated

Timothy G. Laman is an American ornithologist, wildlife photojournalist and filmmaker. He is notable for documenting all the species of bird-of-paradise in their native habitat during research expeditions with colleague Edwin Scholes of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. [1] His bird-of-paradise work was first published in a 2007 article about them for National Geographic . In 2016, he won the top prize in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards, for his image of an orangutan climbing a tree to feed on figs. [2]


Early life

Laman was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1961 to American parents originally from Michigan who spent their careers working as protestant missionaries in Japan. He spent most of his childhood in Japan before attending college in the United States. His early education included Japanese public school, home schooling by his mother, American schools on military bases in Japan, and finally graduating from Canadian Academy, an international school in Kobe, Japan. Laman received his a B.S in biology from Hope College in Holland, Michigan in 1983. Laman graduated with a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University in 1994. [3]


Laman first traveled to the rainforests of Borneo in 1987. Since that trip, the Asia-Pacific region has been a major focus for his photography and research. He initially pursued a doctoral program in neuroscience and animal behavior at Harvard University. Later he decided to take a year off from his studies and joined biologist and ecologist Mark Leighton as a field assistant. [4]

Upon his return to Cambridge, he transferred to the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and completed his doctorate in 1994. His pioneering research in Borneo’s rainforest canopy for his doctoral thesis was featured in his first National Geographic article in 1997, which he both wrote and photographed. He continued documenting little-known and endangered wildlife as a regular contributor to National Geographic, publishing 23 feature stories to date. In addition, Laman has published more than a dozen scientific articles on rainforest ecology and birdlife as a research associate in Harvard University's Ornithology Department in the Museum of Comparative Zoology.


Laman published his first article in National Geographic magazine in 1997, and has been a regular contributor to the magazine ever since. He has published 23 feature stories as photographer, and authored four of those as well. Laman's photography has focused on capturing images and videos of subjects that were difficult to document, such as the Sunda flying lemur and other gliding animals in Borneo, displaying birds-of-paradise and critically endangered bird species including the Nuku Hiva pigeon and the Visayan wrinkled hornbill of the Philippines. He focused on documenting endangered and at-risk animals in order to promote awareness and encourage conservation efforts.

Building on his career in still photography, Laman began filming for natural history documentary films around 2009, and has been a cinematographer for numerous films, including the BBC's "Planet Earth II", Netflix's "Our Planet - Jungles", Netflix's "Dancing with the Birds", BBC's "Seven Worlds - One Planet", Netflix's "David Attenborough: A Life on Planet Earth", and BBC's "Life in Color with David Attenborough".


Laman has received many accolades and awards, including the “Outstanding Nature Photographer” award in 2009 from the North American Nature Photography Association, their highest honor. [5] Twenty-two of his images have won recognition in the Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. In 2016, he was named their Wildlife Photographer of the Year. [6] He won several prizes in Nature ’s Best International Photography awards, including first place in the Underwater category.[ citation needed ]

Birds of Paradise: Revealing The World's Most Extraordinary Birds

Laman completed the first comprehensive photographic coverage of the Birds of Paradise. He collaborated with ornithologist Edwin Scholes on this series. They inhabit rugged and remote regions where they pose an extreme challenge to locate and photograph in their dense rainforest homes in New Guinea. Laman and Scholes spent over 18 months doing fieldwork in the New Guinea region over an eight-year period with support from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Conservation International and the National Geographic Expeditions Council. [7] Their book, Birds of Paradise: Revealing The World's Most Extraordinary Birds, was published by National Geographic Books in 2012. The work was featured in a National Geographic Channel documentary, a National Geographic article in December 2012 and in a traveling educational museum exhibition. The goal of the book and subsequent features was to protect these magnificent birds and New Guinea’s biodiverse rainforests. [8]

Laman has led many expeditions as a National Geographic Expert with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Expeditions. He teaches photography and educates participants on the local wildlife and natural history. He led tours in remote locations around the world, including the Galapagos, Antarctica, South Georgia, Botswana and Rwanda. He later worked for Wildlife Of The World By Private Jet, which includes diving the Maldives.

Laman's tree-climbing exploits and doctoral research feature in Chapter 7 of Mike Shanahan's 2016 book Ladders to Heaven: How fig trees shaped our history, fed our imaginations and can enrich our future, republished in North America as Gods, Wasps and Stranglers (US). [9] [10]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">David Attenborough</span> British broadcaster and naturalist (born 1926)

Sir David Frederick Attenborough is a British broadcaster, biologist, natural historian and author. He is best known for writing and presenting, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, the nine natural history documentary series forming the Life collection, a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bird-of-paradise</span> Family of birds of the order Passeriformes

The birds-of-paradise are members of the family Paradisaeidae of the order Passeriformes. The majority of species are found in eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and eastern Australia. The family has 45 species in 17 genera. The members of this family are perhaps best known for the plumage of the males of the species, the majority of which are sexually dimorphic. The males of these species tend to have very long, elaborate feathers extending from the beak, wings, tail, or head. For the most part, they are confined to dense rainforest habitats. The diet of all species is dominated by fruit and to a lesser extent arthropods. The birds-of-paradise have a variety of breeding systems, ranging from monogamy to lek-type polygamy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mattias Klum</span> Swedish freelance photographer and film producer

Mattias Klum is a Swedish freelance photographer and film producer in natural history and cultural subjects. He is the son of Swedish academic educator Arne Klum (1925-2016) and Ingegärd Klum, née Stefanson. Klum has worked full-time as a freelance photographer since 1986, and as a cinematographer and director on numerous film and television projects since 1994. Klum describes and portrays animals, plants, and natural and cultural settings in the form of articles, books, films, lectures and exhibitions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chris Packham</span> British naturalist

Christopher Gary Packham CBE is an English naturalist, nature photographer, television presenter and author, best known for his television work including the CBBC children's nature series The Really Wild Show from 1986 to 1995. He has also presented the BBC nature series Springwatch, including Autumnwatch and Winterwatch, since 2009.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frans Lanting</span>

Frans Lanting is a Dutch National Geographic photographer, author and speaker.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wildlife photography</span> Photography genre

Wildlife photography is a genre of photography concerned with documenting various forms of wildlife in their natural habitat.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paradise riflebird</span> Species of bird

The paradise riflebird is a passerine bird of the family Paradisaeidae. It is one of four riflebird species in the genus Ptiloris. It is found in subtropical, temperate rainforests in eastern Australia. The species is sexually dimorphic; the male is black with iridescent blue-green patches, while the female is gray-brown and white.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jonathan Scott (zoologist)</span>

Jonathan Scott is an English zoologist, wildlife photographer and television presenter specializing in African wildlife.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Steve Backshall</span> British naturalist

Stephen James Backshall is a British naturalist, explorer, presenter and writer, best known for BBC TV's Deadly 60.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nature photography</span> Photography genre

Nature photography is a wide range of photography taken outdoors and devoted to displaying natural elements such as landscapes, wildlife, plants, and close-ups of natural scenes and textures. Nature photography tends to put a stronger emphasis on the aesthetic value of the photo than other photography genres, such as photojournalism and documentary photography.

Clifford Brodie Frith is an Australian ornithologist and wildlife photographer. He and his wife Dawn Whyatt Frith have studied and published on Australian birds for many years, and publish books as Frith & Frith.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jimmy Chin</span> American mountain climber and film director and skier (born 1973)

Jimmy Chin is an American professional mountain athlete, photographer, skier, film director, and author.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Honeyborne</span>

James Honeyborne is the creative director of Freeborne Media, he previously worked as an executive producer at the BBC Natural History Unit where he oversaw some 35 films, working with multiple co-producers around the world. His projects include the Emmy Award and BAFTA-winning series Blue Planet II, the Emmy Award-nominated series Wild New Zealand with National Geographic, and the BAFTA-winning BBC1 series Big Blue Live with PBS.

The following is a chronological list of 148 television series and individual programmes in which Sir David Attenborough is credited as writer, presenter, narrator, producer or interviewee. In a career spanning eight decades, Attenborough's name has become synonymous with the natural history programmes produced by the BBC Natural History Unit.

<i>Lost Land of the Volcano</i> British TV series or programme

Lost Land of the Volcano is a three-part nature documentary series produced by the BBC Natural History Unit which follows a scientific expedition to the island of New Guinea. The expedition team, which includes specialist zoologists, explorers and the BBC crew, travels to the extinct volcano of Mount Bosavi in central Papua New Guinea to document the biodiversity of this little-visited area and search for new species. At the time of filming, logging was taking place about 20 miles (32 km) south from the volcano, and one of expedition's aims was to find evidence to support the case to protect the area. Some members of the expedition team travelled to the island of New Britain several hundred kilometres to the east to chart an unexplored cave system and observe an active volcano.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sandesh Kadur</span> Indian wildlife film producer

Sandesh Kadur is an Indian wildlife film producer and conservation photographer known for his contributions to BBC Planet Earth II. Sandesh's films have been shown on various television networks including National Geographic Channel, BBC, Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kalyan Varma</span> Bangalore wildlife filmmaker

Kalyan Varma is a Bangalore-based wildlife emmy nominated filmmaker, photographer and conservationist. He is one of the founders of Peepli Project, co-director of Nature InFocus nature and wildlife festival, and founding member of India Nature Watch. He currently freelances with BBC Natural History, Netflix, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Disney+, and also works with grassroots NGOs like Nature Conservation Foundation to highlight environmental issues in India. He is a recipient of the National film awards for his film Wild Karnataka and Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pete Oxford</span> British photographer

Pete Oxford is a British-born conservation photographer based in Quito, Ecuador. Originally trained as a marine biologist, he and his wife, South African-born Reneé Bish, now work as a professional photographic team focusing primarily on wildlife and indigenous cultures.

Thomas D. Mangelsen is an American nature and wildlife photographer and conservationist. He is most famous for his photography of wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, as he has lived inside the zone in Jackson, Wyoming, for over 40 years. In 2015, he and nature author Todd Wilkinson created a book, The Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek, featuring a grizzly bear known as Grizzly 399, named so due to her research number. He has been active in the movement to keep the Yellowstone area grizzly bears on the Endangered Species List. Mangelsen is also known for trekking to all seven continents to photograph a diverse assortment of nature and wildlife. A photograph he took in 1988 titled, "Catch of the Day" has been labeled "the most famous wildlife photograph in the world". In May 2018, he was profiled on CBS 60 Minutes. He has received dozens of accolades throughout the decades.

Mohammad Murad is a Kuwaiti wildlife photographer who specializes in bird photography. His photos have won awards such as the 2017–2018 Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award (HIPA) Merit Medal.


  1. Powell, Alvin. "Glimpses of Paradise". No. November 20, 2012. The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  2. Amos, Jonathan. "Ape's fig challenge wins photo award". No. October 18, 2016. BBC News. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  3. "Photographer Tim Laman Biography". National Geographic. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  4. Porter Brown, Nell. "Paradise Found". No. January- February 2013. Harvard Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  5. "Awards". NANPA. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  6. "American Tim Laman wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016". Natural History Museum. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  7. Powell, Alvin. "Glimpses of Paradise". No. November 20, 2012. The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  8. James Estrin (3 June 2013). "Rare Glimpses of Birds of Paradise". Lens. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  9. Ladders to Heaven
  10. Chelsea Green Publishing. Gods, Wasps and Stranglers.