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About the Art: Peter Warne

In our latest blog post, we talk to Peter Warne whose work is featured in our exhibition of photography from this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards.

Can you tell us the story behind your photo in this exhibition?

I monitor wildlife at Copped Hall – a restoration project just south of Epping in Essex. Each year the pond in our four-acre walled garden plays host to a mallard family and in their early days, the ducklings chase after flies on the pond surface.

  • Duckling, Mallard duckling supplementing its vegetarian diet with a St Mark’s fly – Walled Garden, Copped Hall, Essex, Peter Warne
    Mallard duckling supplementing its vegetarian diet with a St Mark’s fly – Walled Garden, Copped Hall, Essex, Peter Warne

How did you go about getting that shot?

The sides of the pond slope down allowing one to get to the surface of the water and take pictures at “duckling-eye” level. The challenge is to line up fly and duckling, and to use a sufficiently fast speed to freeze the motion.

How long did you have to wait for this shot?

I had imagined the image over 3 seasons and tried to get the picture many times – this year it came together.

  • Grey Seal, A grey seal enjoying a sand bath – Wells-next-the-sea, Norfolk, Peter Warne
    A grey seal enjoying a sand bath – Wells-next-the-sea, Norfolk, Peter Warne

Did you use any particular equipment or software?

I used a Canon full-frame DSLR with a 500mm telephoto lens enhanced with a 1.4x teleconverter to get me as close to the action as possible.

What are your favourite scenes, species or motivations behind your photographs?

I am particularly fond of birds of prey and the gardens and surrounding fields are blessed with barn and tawny owls, as well as kestrels, common buzzards, sparrowhawks, and most recently, red kites.  In summer we often see hobbies who come for our wealth of dragonflies.  The motivation, as with most wildlife photographers, is to capture the beauty of our subjects and relay them to the general public.

What are the difficulties of wildlife and nature photography that you face?

I have been given complete freedom of the site which amounts to 25 acres of gardens and there is excellent access to the surrounding fields and Epping Forest. If it’s there, it’s my fault if I don’t find it.  The challenges are to take pictures that best illustrate the behaviour of creatures whose lives are otherwise hidden from us.

  • GCG-fracas-2_0379 copy, Two great crested grebes fighting over mating rights with the female who looks on – Lee Valley Park, Herts., Peter Warne
    Two great crested grebes fighting over mating rights with the female who looks on – Lee Valley Park, Herts., Peter Warne

What would you like people to think about when they see your work?

The realisation that wild creatures are very beautiful when you get up close and see their textures and form, and maybe to ponder how they manage to survive in a world dominated by humans.

How long have you been a photographer and how did you get started?

Since the 1970s but seriously following the introduction of digital photography in the 21st century.

  • Hares_2980 copy, Two brown hares staring at a photographer in the early morning light – Epping Upland, Essex, Peter Warne
    Two brown hares staring at a photographer in the early morning light – Epping Upland, Essex, Peter Warne

What would you advise someone wanting to start taking photos of wildlife or nature in their local environment?

Get to know your subject, especially its behaviour.  Take lots of pictures of the same species in all seasons possible and under all weather conditions.  Learn those field-craft skills which are so essential to finding wildlife and getting close to it without disturbing it.

What projects are you working on now or have coming up?

I will continue to work at Copped Hall, to monitor the wildlife in the face of its restoration and the improvements to the gardens.  I am expanding my observations to the surrounding countryside where the signs are that agricultural bird numbers such as yellowhammer, are increasing, brown hares flourish and red kite numbers continue to increase.

I also run study days and evenings at the Hall upon close-up techniques and night photography.  The latter are especially popular and the 2017-18 winter season is already oversubscribed. My own night photography continues to develop.

I give a variety of talks upon photography and wildlife to camera clubs, conservation groups and other interested parties.  These can number five to six in a month and are a real pleasure to me.

  • Folley-crop_6313 copy, Night photography at Copped Hall, Essex, Peter Warne
    Night photography at Copped Hall, Essex, Peter Warne