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About the Art: Bryan Alexander

We spoke with Bryan Alexander, the photographer behind our new exhibition Yamal: The Stream of Life, about working in the Arctic for almost half a century.

What are you looking for when you capture a photograph?

When I am out on the tundra or in native camps, I tend to just react to whatever is going on around me. It’s hard to plan too much ahead as things can be so unpredictable in the Arctic.

If I am working on a specific story I will often make a list of the subjects that I feel I need to photograph in order to tell the story.

What are the difficulties you face working in and photographing the Arctic and how do you overcome them? 

The cold is one obvious difficulty when working in the Arctic, especially during the winter months.

With the right clothing though I find I can keep warm enough even when photographing in temperatures as low as -58° C. When it’s very cold I usually wear a combination of modern cold weather clothing and traditional native clothes.

Finding cameras that work well at these low temperatures can be challenging, particularly nowadays with most cameras being electrically operated. Batteries lose their power much quicker at extremely low sub-zero temperatures, so I always have to carry a lot of extra batteries.

Transport can also be a problem when travelling in the Arctic, where the distances are vast. Reaching isolated camps and villages can be difficult due to the limited transport. One camp I visited in Chukotka, Siberia took me a month to reach.

During my time working in the Arctic, I have travelled by a wide variety of transport from traditional Arctic transport like dog sleds, snowmobiles, reindeer sleds, and kayaks, to modern transport, like all-terrain vehicles, motor boats, helicopters, and planes.

  • Nenets Selfie, (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com
    , (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com

Having worked in the Arctic for 47 years now, what changes have you noticed to the landscape and to the people?

Of course, the whole world has changed considerably over the past 47 years and the Arctic is no exception.

The only place that I have been and noticed a significant change in the landscape is Northwest Greenland. The warming climate has resulted in the icecap and glaciers receding considerably there.

The Politiken Glacier, which I first travelled on by dog sled in 1971, was used regularly as a route to neighbouring villages and hunting grounds by the local Inuit during the winter months. Now it is impassable by dog sled because of the receding ice and the deep crevasses that have opened up.

To me, the most striking change to affect the Arctic’s native peoples has been the steady decline in their traditional culture. There have been positive changes too, better transport, schools, healthcare etc. I feel privileged to have been able to document this period of change in the life of some of the Arctic indigenous peoples.

What is your fondest memory of working in the Arctic? Or your most notable incident?

I have many fond memories of working in the Arctic, certainly too many to mention here. I think that the most memorable incident occurred on my second trip to North Greenland.

During the winter, I went walrus hunting with three Inuit hunters from the village of Siorapaluk. We travelled by dog sled and were about 30km out on the frozen sea when the ice broke up around us.

For three days we drifted out to sea on a small ice floe, before being blown back towards the Greenland coast during a severe storm. On our fourth day adrift, the local villagers realised it was likely that we were in trouble and alerted the authorities.

Once the storm had subsided a search for us began. Two helicopters searched for us for over five hours and the pilots were on the point of abandoning their search when one of them spotted us on the ice.

Fortunately, there was a happy ending for all concerned in this rather scary incident and a few days later, we all headed out onto the frozen sea to hunt walrus again.

What is your relationship with the Nenets? How did you gain access to their communities and lives?

I first visited the Yamal in 1993 on an assignment for an American magazine. Travelling in isolated areas of Russia at that time was difficult, so I was fortunate when I was offered a ride in a helicopter to visit a remote Nenets reindeer herders’ camp.

When the helicopter landed in a forest clearing, I was amazed to see how traditional the Nenets herders were. They were living in reindeer skin tents and everyone at the camp was dressed from head to foot in traditional reindeer skin clothes.

Sergei Serotetto, the head of the group of herders, invited me to have a meal in his family’s tent. We all got on very well and I ended up asking if I could stay with them. There was a problem in that I had lost my bag containing my cold weather clothing. Sergei and his family quickly solved that problem by finding me a reindeer skin parka and long boots to wear.

I ended up staying over a month with them as they travelled from the forest north across the River Ob and then onto tundra on their 1000km spring migration. The longer I spent with these herders, the more interested I became in Nenets culture and the problems the people faced.

After I returned to the UK, I managed to persuade the magazine’s editor to send me back to the Yamal again at the end of the summer, to re-join Sergey and his family as they began their journey south back to their winter pastures.

Since my two visits there in 1993, I have returned to the Yamal on a number of occasions to document life in different camps and communities. I have photographed, not only Nenets, but also different cultures like the Khanty, Komi and Selkup, who also live in the Yamal.

  • Young girl with goose, (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com
    , (c) Bryan Alexander / Arcticphoto.com

What was it like returning to the Nenets over the years? What surprised you the most about how the community has changed or hasn’t?

Although I have visited the Yamal region many times since 1993, it was only in 2017 that I re-visited Sergey and his family. They were at their winter pastures and it was wonderful to be with them again. It was just like visiting old friends anywhere.

At first glance, there didn’t appear to have been much change. Sergey and his family were still living in the same reindeer skin tent and his wife Galya still made reindeer-skin clothes for the family.

However, I noticed that there had been no snowmobiles in the group back in 1993, everyone travelled by reindeer sled. Nowadays every herder drives his own snowmobile.

In 1993, there had been no electricity at the camp, candles and kerosene lamps were the only light source. Now every tent had a small portable generator, bringing not just light but enough power for laptop computers and TV. Children can watch cartoons before going to sleep, and later in the evening after they have finished their work the adults can watch movies.

In 1993, gas development in the Yamal Peninsula was just beginning. I thought that within ten years there would be no more reindeer herding on the Yamal Peninsula but I have been proved wrong. Although the reindeer herders have lost a considerable amount of their pastures to the gas industry there are now many more reindeer in the Yamal than there were in 1993.

What do you hope people take away from this exhibition?

I would like to think that people will take away an insight into Nenets culture and that the exhibition may even inspire some of them to visit the Yamal see the region for themselves. 

What do you have coming up next?

At the beginning of September 2018, I will be in Moscow for the opening of my exhibition, “The Arctic Circle of Life” at the State Museum of Oriental Art. After that, I plan to travel to Siberia’s Gydan Peninsula and photograph there for about a month.

The Mantle of Animism

Marcelo Camus from the Arts Team at St Christopher’s Hospice tells us about a project initiated through the Horniman’s new art programme The Studio, which was performed at one of our summer Big Wednesdays.  

Her mantles are made from the finest materials, including gold threads, and her mantle covers all of her body apart from her face and hands...her devotees can touch her mantle, leave prayer notes beneath her feet or place their head on the back of her mantle and ask for a miracle. This is the custom of the shrine... The Handbook of Contemporary Animism by Graham Harvey

What inspired the project?

The Horniman’s new co-curated area The Studio with a programme and commissioned exhibition have offered opportunities for community groups to create their own project for visitors for the family summer programme.

  • The Mantle of Animism, Planning the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice
    Planning the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice

Patients and carers visited the Horniman with St Christopher’s Arts Team to see the collections and to understand ideas of ethnographic curating and collecting. Inspired by the theme of Animism in nature, introduced by The Studio Collective and artist Serena Korda, but looking at it form a perspective of healing and medicine, two topics very close to the hearts of those in end of life care.

Inspired by this visit to the Horniman patients began working on a large-scale magical mantle and other inspired animals and objects. Made of a myriad of hand-felted imagery - the hyde of a large human-animal mask.

The Mantle has been worked on intensively and majestically performed at the Hospice as part of our annual summer exhibition.

What processes were involved in making the Mantle

We ran groups every day of the week and brought the animism concepts into all of them. On Mondays the community choir, made up of 80 members, created a song for the performance.

  • The Mantle of Animism, People making the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice
    People making the Mantle of Animism, St Christopher's Hospice

On Tuesdays our Open Access Art Group explored dry felting to create a large surface fabric, while on Wednesdays, the group designed masks made into fling bird like puppets.

Thursdays and Fridays we continued to work with the mantle through dry and wet felting techniques.

We also invited school groups to come to work with the patients on the theme and to contribute to the project. This enables young people to visit the Hospice and dispel fear, taboos and stigma around death and dying.

Eventually after tremendous effort we created a magnificent magical beast!

Seeing the Mantle take shape and progress week after week has been so exciting. The stories, conversation and imagination that take place in sessions from each person is powerful. We hope this was communicated to audiences at the Big Wednesday event at the Hormiman.

  • The Mantle of Animism, The Mantle of Animism during a performance, St Christopher's Hospice
    The Mantle of Animism during a performance, St Christopher's Hospice

Tell us about St Christopher’s Hospice

The Hospice have been building their partnership with the Horniman over the last two years, and have a dedicated team of arts therapists and artists who run workshops for patients, families, carers and community members.

As neighbours in Sydenham, we think it is important to establish a working partnership with the Horniman. The many collections available right next to us, from anthropological funerary and ritual items through to musical instruments, all play a role in the importance or moment of death in our lives.

No one goes untouched by this, yet our tools to deal with it are underdeveloped and unspoken.

The Arts Team at St Christopher’s places this at centre stage, creating artworks in response to what people are thinking and feeling at the end of their lives. What better place to showcase this powerful message that a Museum dedicated to the artefacts we leave behind?

Tell us about yourself

For St Christopher’s I have helped lead on many large-scale collaborative projects both in and out of the Hospice.

My own artistic practice sits within what is termed Social Art Practice. I have been commissioned by organisations to create live immersive events, installations, social interventions and outdoor arts with communities and the public.

I contribute this experience to the Arts Team at the Hospice to consider how we can enable the patients and give them agency to create powerful social gestures. The focus of my work is about collaboration, co-authorship and positive group dynamics.

See The Lore of the Land exhibition from 20 October in The Studio.

World Gallery: Tattooed Memory

Temsuyanger Longkumer speaks to us about "Tattooed Memory", his incredible artwork that features in our new World Gallery in the Nagaland Encounter. 

Can you talk us through what 'Tattooed Memory' means to you?

Tattooed Memory is a memoir of growing up in a tribal community with a dual ethnicity.

My parents were from the Ao tribe in Nagaland. The Ao’s were among the first tribes in Nagaland to receive western education, which came along with Christianity.

After embracing Christianity my parents went on a missionary journey to the Konyak region, one of the most remote areas in Nagaland where they eventually settled and raised their family. My siblings and I were born and raised in the Konyak way of life, but we were also taught the ancestral customs of the Ao tribe through songs and stories.

The sculpture is a body cast I’ve made of myself. It displays a Konyak tribe’s facial tattoo and an Ao tribe’s Tsungkotepsü shawl. The tattoo and the shawl are both highly respected symbols of their respective tribes and something only great warriors and highly accomplished citizens are entitled to wear. When I was young I greatly admired the visuals and what they stood for and dreamt of one day achieving the same.

The sculpture also includes the landscapes I would explore as a child and a watchtower from where I would watch the world go by as part of the head. A memory-laden river takes the form of eyelashes which I have made from my own hair. They work their own down to meet the roots where it all began.

What do you find important to your creative process?

I find interactions of all kinds central to my creative process. Even the smallest conversation on a seemingly random issue can sometimes spark brilliant ideas. 

What mediums do you enjoy working in at the moment?

Currently, I’m enjoying working on a series which uses a multitude of mediums - painting, printmaking, and Claymation.

This group of works involves over-arching ideas relating to the human body as a microcosm of events in the universe. I am exploring the relationship between the microscopic world - the politics and diplomacy between neighbouring cells, the battles waged, fought, spread, repelled - to that of the external world outside of the skin.

What are the difficulties or challenges you encounter when creating artwork like this?

Apart from the technical difficulty of composing the varied materials into a coherent body, the main challenge in creating ‘Tattooed memory’ has been in finding a balance between an artistic interpretation and the darker side of the subject sometimes involved.

The practice of headhunting contributed largely to the exclusive rights to own the facial tattoo and the tsungkotepsü shawl, not to mention the influence it had on the vast array of artistic expressions in the forms of dance, songs, sculptures and architectural designs.

The new World Gallery has as a strapline, ‘what it means to be human’. What does being human mean to you?

Being human, to me, is to live and partake in life with empathy, to the best of one's ability, and the fact that we ask ourselves "what it means to be human" is what makes us human.

What is one thing you believe we all share as humans?

Possibility.

About the Art: Mark Thomas

As our blog series highlighting the work of photographers featured in the British Wildlife Photography Awards comes to a close, Mark Thomas tells us why diving with seals can create some unforgettable moments.

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

The Farne Islands have one of the largest populations of grey seals in the UK with hundreds of pups born each autumn. Diving with these beautiful, gentle creatures is one of the highlights of UK diving. The pups will sometimes approach divers, nibbling on fins, mask straps, and camera gear. Diving with seals can be hit and miss - on occasions the seals keep their distance and watch the strange, cumbersome, bubble-blowing creatures from afar. When you encounter a particularly inquisitive pup, however, the experience is unforgettable and results can be spectacular.

  • OpenWide, 'Open Wide' by Mark Thomas which features in the 'Behaviour' category at this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards, Mark Thomas
    'Open Wide' by Mark Thomas which features in the 'Behaviour' category at this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards, Mark Thomas

How did you go about getting that shot?

I took this photo on a dive club trip to the Farne Islands in May 2017. The pup was one of a trio who joined us in a shallow bay - the other two kept their distance and can be seen in the background. This individual was especially bold, swimming alongside and mouthing the camera housing - perhaps seeing its reflection in the dome port.

Did you use any particular equipment or software?

I was using a Nikon D3 with a 15mm fisheye lens, in a Sea & Sea underwater housing, with twin strobes. I use Photoshop to process the RAW images.

  • Grey_seal_pup_FarneIslands, Mark Thomas
    , Mark Thomas

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

The bulk of my diving is around UK and Ireland - especially Connemara in the west of Ireland, the west coast of Scotland, and North Wales. I have dived further afield, including around the Galapagos Islands, Revillagigado Islands, and Sulawesi Islands, but the thought of lugging expensive, heavy kit on long-haul flights puts me off.

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

Diving in the UK and Ireland is often quite challenging - bad weather, tides, and poor visibility together with cold water add to the difficulties for the underwater photographer. Despite this, it is well worth the effort - with wonderful underwater scenery, wrecks and a rich diversity of colourful and strange marine life. Non-divers are constantly amazed at what can be found a few metres beneath our seas and it is a pleasure to be able to showcase the sights we see underwater. 

  • Corkwing-wrasse_Connemara, Mark Thomas
    , Mark Thomas

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

Photography has been a hobby since my teenage years, when a summer job enabled me to buy my first camera - the Pentax ME Super. Rugby was my passion for over 30 years but once the knees gave out I decided to take up a long-standing ambition to dive and in 1998 I joined the local dive club in Northwich - Hartford SAC. Several talented photographers in the club encouraged my interest in underwater photography and in 2002 I bought a secondhand Nikon F90 film camera and housing before joining the digital revolution a few years later. 

  • Lumpsucker_MenaiStraits, Mark Thomas
    , Mark Thomas

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

Underwater photographers should be comfortable in their diving, with good buoyancy control and a healthy regard for the underwater environment.

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

In the winter months, diving is usually restricted to freshwater quarries and rivers, and recently Liverpool docks. These dives are useful for keeping skill levels up and practising techniques. Again, people are surprised at what can be found in these underwater environments. Next year there are plans to dive in  Donegal and Connemara in Ireland, the Scottish lochs, and the Farne Islands.

  • mauve_stinger_Connemara, Mark Thomas
    , Mark Thomas

About the Art: Phillip Price

As part of our ongoing blog series on the work of photographers featured in our exhibition of the British Wildlife Photography Awards, Phillip Price tells us about how he hopes his photography work will make the case for a wilder Scotland.

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

I am a photographer for Scotland: The Big Picture and beavers are one of our key species to highlight the benefits of having a wilder Scotland. As a result I spend a long time with this animal trying to showcase the huge benefits they can have to our ecology and society. People perceive bracken as a nuisance, to find out that beavers eat it, means there is another wonderful reason to make space for beavers in our landscape.

  • Beaver Bracken Eater, 'Beaver Bracken Eater' which appears in the 'Behaviour' category in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards., Phillip Price
    'Beaver Bracken Eater' which appears in the 'Behaviour' category in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards., Phillip Price

How did you go about getting that shot?

I was running one of my Beaver photography workshops when I saw an island float down from the far end of the loch. It was luminous green and was moving quicker than the current, eventually, the penny dropped that the floating island was in fact a beaver carrying an enormous mouthful of bracken. The client and I then ran to a safe position at the loch's edge in line with where it was heading, got down to eye level to the water and waited. The Beaver eventually swam past enabling a handful of shots to be taken with this being the best. We were both elated and knackered as beavers swim much quicker than they look capable of.

How long did you have to wait for this shot?

The evening workshop was around four hours and this happened right at the end, but I have been waiting to get a shot like this for Scotland: The Big Picture for two years so a fair amount of time in the field.

Did you use any particular equipment or software?

Canon 6d and 500mm f4 lens, Adobe Lightroom to process raw file

  • Phillip Price 2, Phillip Price
    , Phillip Price

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

All the motivation now is to see Scotlands' wildlife and ecology improve, it is the only reason I do what I do. Through the project Scotland: The Big Picture we aim to use our images to argue the case for a much wilder and richer use of our landscape. To do away with unhealthy mono-cultures and towards a much richer and diverse spread of species and habitats. As a result, my favourite locations and animals are linked to this ideal, sea eagles soaring over a great coastal oak forest and Otters swimming below the limbs of an ancient temperate rainforest. I tend to run all my workshops in these mind-blowing locations and hope to help create more.

  • Phillip Price 6, Phillip Price
    , Phillip Price

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

The huge damage caused to and disregard of the natural world by our decision makers and some businesses, this is by far the biggest challenge to taking great nature shots in the UK.

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

How exciting and amazing the natural world is and how much fun it can be and hence we need more of it.

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

12 years ago. I started in a studio photographing people then quickly moved into wildlife 11 years ago, which is when I started my guiding and photography workshop business Loch Visions.

  • Phillip Price 5, Phillip Price
    , Phillip Price

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

Local is the key. Start with a project of spiders in your garden or squirrels at the park. Understand your subject, spend time and you will reap the rewards.

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

Sea Eagles for Scotland: The Big Picture is my main freelance job at the moment. My brief is to showcase the huge benefits these animals are bringing to rural communities and also show the solutions to some of the perceived difficulties.
I am also in the middle of setting up a wildlife photography 'park' idea for all my workshops, set in temperate rainforest on the west coast of Scotland which is very exciting

  • Phillip Price 3, Phillip Price
    , Phillip Price

About the Art: Lucien Harris

We spoke to Lucien Harris as part of our blog series looking at the work of photographers featured in our British Wildlife Photography Awards exhibition. 

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

I was walking through a field in Cornwall and I spotted a dead tree. I noticed there were tiny boreholes all over it and wondered what had made them. After a while, I noticed a tiny wasp land and crawl inside. Luckily, I had my camera with me and I thought I'd wait for it to re-emerge so I could get a clear photo of its face. After a while it did and it just sat looking at me for just enough time to get the shot.

  • Wasp you looking at, 'Wasp You Looking At?' which appears in the 'Hidden Britain' category of this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards, Lucien Harris
    'Wasp You Looking At?' which appears in the 'Hidden Britain' category of this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards, Lucien Harris

How did you go about getting that shot?

I didn’t have a tripod so I used twin flashes with diffusers I made in order to light up the scene.

How long did you have to wait for this shot?

I waited around 20 minutes.

Did you use any particular equipment or software?

I used a 105mm macro lens with a 1.4 teleconverter and two twin flashes with homemade light diffusers.

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

I love capturing the unseen as there are so many minibeasts that not many people get the chance to see.

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

Timing and weather, especially the wind. A slight breeze can turn a good shot into a blurry mess very quickly.

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

About the diversity of British wildlife and how we can keep it all safe for future generations.

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

I've been a photographer for 10 years. I started off shooting photos of skateboarding but when I went travelling I noticed all the amazing wildlife and really wanted to capture it for memories when I got home.

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

It doesn’t matter about equipment. Just be patient and concentrate on the composure of the photograph

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

I'm working on a calendar of British bugs which involves local illustrators as well.

About the Art: Ross Hoddinott

As part of our ongoing series on the work of photographers featured in our BWPA exhibition, we met Ross Hoddinott who looks for beauty in the less obvious places.

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

I love springtime and spend as much time as I can exploring the countryside close to my north Cornish home at this time of year looking for close-up subjects. The hedgerows and banks are full of new plant-life during April and May and uncurling ferns look fascinating and beautiful at high magnification. Hart’s-tongue ferns are particularly photogenic and when I noticed these two ferns creating a heart shape when aligned together I couldn’t resist shooting them.

  • 04.41_BOTANICAL_P_609.6_x_406.4_1171709178_HR, 'Hartstongue Heart' appears in the 'Botanical' category of this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards, Ross Hoddinott
    'Hartstongue Heart' appears in the 'Botanical' category of this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards, Ross Hoddinott

How did you go about getting that shot?

I used a dedicated macro lens – optimised for close focus – to enable me to capture a frame-filling shot. I opted for a large aperture of f/4.8 to create a shallow zone of focus. A tripod helped me to carefully compose the image and fine-tune my focusing.

How long did you have to wait for this shot?

I probably spent around 30 minutes fine-tuning the image, experimenting with settings, and perfecting the composition. I had to carefully remove various bits of dead foliage and debris to ensure the fern’s background was clean and attractive. Background choice is always an important consideration.

Did you use any particular equipment or software?

My 200mm Nikkor macro lens is a great choice for this type of close-up and a tripod proved essential too. Otherwise, my set-up was relatively simple for this image.

  • Wingtips, 'Wingtips' is the winner of the 'Close to Nature' category in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards., Ross Hoddinott
    'Wingtips' is the winner of the 'Close to Nature' category in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards., Ross Hoddinott

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

I specialise in landscape and close-up photography, with a real passion for insects and wild flowers. Dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies are among my favourite close-up subjects. Highlighting the beauty and form of less obvious or appealing subjects is always a motivation for me.

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

The unpredictability of nature and the weather are the most obvious challenges. With the great popularity and accessibility of photography today it is also getting increasingly difficult to produce truly original or innovative work.

  • Banded_Demoiselle-9637, Banded Demoiselle, Ross Hoddinott
    Banded Demoiselle, Ross Hoddinott

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

I’d like to help heighten their appreciation and passion for the landscape, nature, and the great outdoors. Hopefully this – in turn – will encourage a connection with nature and conservation.

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

I’ve been a professional landscape and natural history photographer since my late teens – 20 years now. I began shooting wildlife at the age of 11 and never considered anything else as a profession. I’m fortunate to make my living from something I find so fulfilling and rewarding.

  • RHO_Common_blue_damselfly-2614, Common Blue Damselfly, Ross Hoddinott
    Common Blue Damselfly, Ross Hoddinott

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

Get to know your subject intimately – for example, its habitat, diet, and behaviour. Spend time observing and enjoying your subject – a good understanding and passion for your subject is essential if you wish to capture its character or beauty.

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

I’ve just finished writing two new books – ‘Masters of Landscape Photography’, published by Ammonite Press and on sale now, and also “Landscape Photography – From Dawn to Dusk’ which is due to be published next Spring – again by Ammonite. It’s been a hectic year – I’m hoping to have more time behind a camera in 2018.

  • Wood_Anemone-6370, Wood Anemone, Ross Hoddinott
    Wood Anemone, Ross Hoddinott

About the Art: Duncan Eames

We spoke to Duncan Eames about his amusing photograph from this year's exhibition of the British Wildlife Photography Awards in which a jackdaw provides a stag with some fashion advice.

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

I try to document the rut in Richmond Park every year since I’ve started my photography hobby– I’ve only missed one due to a broken camera (I broke it while setting up for the rut three weeks after I’d purchased it). Last year’s self-imposed rut assignment was deer with anything on their heads be it flora or fauna.

My wife and I were watching this particular stag having a good thrash while sheltering from the rain. He eventually seemed satisfied with his efforts and settled for what you see in the photo which wasn’t as impressive as most of the others around that day. Soon after a Jackdaw flew in and landed on his back. Although I did notice that it was a little special, at the time I didn’t spot the apparent eye contact between the two until much later. I like to think the Jackdaw was giving the stag some fashion advice.

  • What do You Mean "it Does't Suit Me?", 'What do You Mean "it Does't Suit Me?"' which features in the 'Behaviour' category of this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards, Duncan Eames
    'What do You Mean "it Does't Suit Me?"' which features in the 'Behaviour' category of this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards, Duncan Eames

How did you go about getting that shot?

I wish I could say I was waiting patiently for hours and there was meticulous planning beforehand but it wasn’t anything like that. I just happened to be sheltering from the worst of the rain while trying to protect the camera with a rain cover on the way to having a much-needed coffee. It just so happened that this stag was thrashing about in the grass between resting and a bit of bolving (roaring) - probably part of the reason for choosing the tree for cover. I think we were just about to move on, so I’m glad we actually stayed a little longer.

How long did you have to wait for this shot?

Not long at all. From the moment we had sheltered to the shot probably about 10-15 minutes.

  • Defiant Roar, This is one of my best-known photos. It taken in October 2013 and used in the BBC Wildlife magazine in their 50th-anniversary edition, and their How to Photograph Wildlife special.  , Duncan Eames
    This is one of my best-known photos. It taken in October 2013 and used in the BBC Wildlife magazine in their 50th-anniversary edition, and their How to Photograph Wildlife special. , Duncan Eames

Did you use any particular equipment or software?

I used a Nikon D810 with a 500mm f4 lens on a Gitzo Tripod with a lensmaster gimbal head. I actually had the wrong white balance set as I was experimenting with a manual setting that worked before the cloud and rain came in. This was corrected in Lightroom along with cropping (the original was in portrait orientation) and sharpening.

I had the aperture set to f/5.6, in hindsight I probably would have set the aperture to f/8 or more but I am really pleased with how this came out.

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

I wouldn’t say I have any favourite species or scenes as such. Given most of my well known work are Red Deer photos; I’d have to say one of my favourites has to be the rut in Richmond Park. The sounds, smells and the sight of the deer and the park keep drawing me back.

One of my main motivations for wildlife photography is that I find it is a great way to relieve stress. I couldn’t just watch wildlife all the time, so the camera comes too.

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

One is Time. Currently, I’m lucky to get out once a month as real life takes over. So any photo opportunities other than small walks that have been tagged on the end or before shopping trips have been few and far between. I haven’t had much chance to get around some of the better wildlife sites around town for a while either. Sometimes, because I haven’t been consistent with my trips I forget about camera set up or technique (technical and field craft) so it can take me a while to get back into the swing of things. Likewise, my time for processing the photos can be limited. I usually have a couple of hours to process the images. I’m still trying to work out a way to process that works for me.

I currently don’t drive so getting to certain places is harder. I try to turn this into a positive and concentrate on the more accessible places and the wildlife around me.

  • Fieldfare, This Fieldfare photo was one of the first photos I felt that I got right with my first DSLR and long zoom lens. (Nikon D80 and Sigma 150-500mm). Taken in the first big snow of 2010, I took a snow day off from work. I still remember phoning in while up to my knees in snow while on my local patch. , Duncan Eames
    This Fieldfare photo was one of the first photos I felt that I got right with my first DSLR and long zoom lens. (Nikon D80 and Sigma 150-500mm). Taken in the first big snow of 2010, I took a snow day off from work. I still remember phoning in while up to my knees in snow while on my local patch. , Duncan Eames

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

To be honest I’ve not really thought about this, other than that I hope they enjoy what I have to show. As I have mentioned in the previous question, I currently try to document what is around me. A lot of the wildlife around us is taken for granted so I hope that people also find the native nature as interesting as I do.

With regards to the photo in the exhibition, I hope the interaction between the Red Deer and the Jackdaw raises a smile.

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

I started with wildlife photography in about 2009 when I purchased a telephoto zoom lens a few years after I got my first DSLR. I blame my wife and the Polish countryside around where she grew up as a more recent catalyst as I wanted to document what I found around there.

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

When it comes to equipment you do not need to spend lots of money. Just because you don’t have the big, heavy, shiny kit doesn’t mean you won’t take good photographs. Choose the right camera make that suits you. It’s no good if you don’t like how it’s balanced or how the controls are laid out. If you can, spend the money on the lenses over the camera body. Unless you have more cash than you know what to do with you are likely to be sticking with one make. If you are also considering stabilisation, ensure that you pick the best tripod your budget will allow. This should be as high as lenses on your list of equipment. Don’t make the same mistake I did or you’ll end up buying another tripod later.

Just get out there and take photos. Practice will mean your photos get better regardless of what you’re trying to achieve be it something creative or just a decent record shot.

There are plenty of places to practice be it urban, coastal, or countryside. For animals and birds, an ideal place to start is in a local park as they are likely to be used to people. I have found that ducks, other waterfowl, and garden birds are very good to start with. Don’t just rush in or get too close. If you can get level with or lower than your subject it can give a better shot. Sometimes sit back and watch the behaviour you can learn a lot and apply it to the photography.

Experiment with your technique, try and emulate others and put your own spin on it. Share your photos and get feedback, post them online or join a camera club. Learn from your mistakes and from others.

  • hedgehog, This is one of the five hedgehogs that visited my garden over the summer. I was laying in wait for it to snuffle its way through the plants at the back of the garden. It heard the camera going and paused for a while (it stayed like this for the time I took the photos). I stopped after five minutes and walked away. To be honest this was the bravest of all the five hedgehogs and after this would walk around me and eat right next to me if there was hedgehog food out for the â which there often was.  It never seemed to mind the camera and often appeared to pose for me. , Duncan Eames
    This is one of the five hedgehogs that visited my garden over the summer. I was laying in wait for it to snuffle its way through the plants at the back of the garden. It heard the camera going and paused for a while (it stayed like this for the time I took the photos). I stopped after five minutes and walked away. To be honest this was the bravest of all the five hedgehogs and after this would walk around me and eat right next to me if there was hedgehog food out for the â which there often was. It never seemed to mind the camera and often appeared to pose for me. , Duncan Eames

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

I don’t tend to plan photo projects too much as real life gets in the way. It's not that I don’t have ideas, it’s more whether I get the opportunity to carry them out. At some point, I think I may have to change my outlook on taking photos and concentrate more on getting the subject and its habitat rather than the close-up portrait.

Over the last few years, I have occasionally thought about the Wagtail roosts around my town, it might be a good opportunity to have a go with them. One site and probably the best roost around the town happens to be on private land so I’ll have to ask permission. As the area is very busy and usually with far too many people I’m not sure they will allow me.

Next year I hope that I can document the hedgehogs visiting the garden. I had five this year and they seemed to tolerate me being close. Sadly none of them have stayed despite my best efforts to make them feel at home with food, shelter and a section of my garden that is less attended to than the rest. If they do come back, I may even be allowed a trail camera or two to help me document them. If I get the right camera there could be live streaming.

I have repeatedly promised to go and photograph the Peregrines at Charing Cross Hospital in London when I’m in the area and I have always been carried away with other things and then not going. If I mention this here I have no excuse but to visit now.

About the Art: Paula Cooper

We spoke to Paula Cooper as part of our blog series looking at the work of photographers featured in our British Wildlife Photography Awards exhibition and found out why she got up close and personal with a snail for her award-winning shot.

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

'Web of Life' was taken on a very foggy autumn morning. Originally I was after tree shots in Thetford forest but the fog was so dense you couldn't see the trees. Luckily after looking a bit closer up I found this little snail.

  • Web of Life, 'Web of Life' which was chosen as the winner of the 'Black and White' category in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards., Paula Cooper
    'Web of Life' which was chosen as the winner of the 'Black and White' category in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards., Paula Cooper

How did you go about getting that shot?

I didn't have a tripod with me so had to shoot handheld and also had to wait for the fogging on the lens to clear. I had to angle it so that snail was looking up to the cobweb which was covered in water droplets.

How long did you have to wait for this shot?

I only had to wait a few minutes watching the snail move around the plant stem and managed to get the one image of it in the perfect position. I did have a few with a little woodlouse in there too but unfortunately, it wasn't so keen on posing.

  • Bluebell wood  by Paula Cooper, Bluebell Wood, Paula Cooper
    Bluebell Wood, Paula Cooper

Did you use any particular equipment or software?

I shot this using my Panasonic Lumix G7 with a 14-140mm lens at 140mm. I edited it in Lightroom and Silver Effex.

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

I do most of my photography in Thetford Forest or the surrounding Breckland area when out walking my dogs. I also enjoy getting up to the North Norfolk coast or into Suffolk. I just love the peace and quiet of being out on my own so tend to pick the quieter areas to avoid distractions. One of my favourite things is to photograph the herds of ponies in the Wildlife Trust reserves.

  • Inquisitive  by Paula Cooper, Inquisitve, Paula Cooper
    Inquisitve, Paula Cooper

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

My main difficulty is the fact that all the wildlife disappears if I have my dogs with me. I tend to do more nature than wildlife unless it is things like snails and butterflies that are not bothered by the dogs.

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

I like to bring out the personalities of the animals I photograph to bring something more to the images. I also do a lot of creative photography using intentional camera movement and in-camera multiple exposures. These images make the viewer think more about the subject than a straightforward one.

  • Oyster catchers  by Paula Cooper, Oyster Catchers, Paula Cooper
    Oyster Catchers, Paula Cooper

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

I bought my first camera (converted to infrared) about 8 years ago but didn't really do much with it for another few years. I finally bought another camera to do colour with about four years ago and have been playing around with different types of photography since then.

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

I would advise getting a camera that you are going to find easy to carry with you, such as the mirrorless that I use. It is no good having a very expensive camera that is too heavy to carry very far. Also to stop and take in what is around you, you might not see an image straight away but keep looking.

  • Waves of light  by Paula Cooper, Waves of Light, Paula Cooper
    Waves of Light, Paula Cooper

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

Currently, I am adding to a project I started last winter, with all the images taken with the same viewpoint at Lynford Lake but using intentional camera movement to create very different looking images. I will also be doing some indoor photography in the colder weather using decomposing leaves as the subject matter.

  • Autumn leaves  by Paula Cooper, Autumn Leaves, Paula Cooper
    Autumn Leaves, Paula Cooper

About the Art: Paul Colley

In our ongoing series looking at the work of photographers featured in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards, we spoke to Paul Colley about the innovative ways he's captured life underwater.

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

Keen to document the beautiful fish that live in British chalk streams, I set up a two-year project to photograph different species, particularly trout and grayling.  I think that the grayling is a much under-appreciated subject but, like most freshwater fish, it is very shy and difficult to approach with traditional underwater cameras which are handheld by the diver/photographer.  So I developed some remote control underwater cameras that I could control from a distance without disturbing the fish.  In this image, the grayling was chasing insect larvae but the small minnows often fall prey to trout living in the same habitat so they take no chances.  When a bigger fish moves quickly towards them they assume the worst and dive for cover.  So it looks as though they are fleeing from the grayling but its chase is phony.

  • The Phoney Chase, Paul Colley's 'The Phoney Chase' which appears in the 'Behaviour' category in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards., Paul Colley
    Paul Colley's 'The Phoney Chase' which appears in the 'Behaviour' category in this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards., Paul Colley

How did you go about getting that shot?

This is a subject that needs endless patience to capture the right moment.  With underwater photography, you have to be very close to your subject to achieve useful contrast, colour, and detail.  So I used a very wide angle fisheye lens and waited until the fish made a pass only inches from the camera before taking the shot.  I was hidden from view on the river bank but could see the action through my laptop, to which I had engineered a live video feed and an ability to change camera settings without getting into the water.

  • Paul Coley1, The River Colne. A typical environment that Paul likes to work in., Paul Colley
    The River Colne. A typical environment that Paul likes to work in., Paul Colley

How long did you have to wait for this shot?

In total it took nearly two years to complete camera development work and get this quality of image.  It then took a few weeks of dedicated effort to get the shot and on the day it took about four hours waiting for the right moment.

Did you use any particular equipment or software?

The camera was housed in a special underwater housing that I had designed just for this project.  The key function was an ability to feed a live picture to a remote laptop and to fully control the camera using hard and soft keys, which I did with Nikon’s commercial camera control software.  The housing had other functions that allowed me to control remote Nikon speedlights essential to bring back the light that is so often lost at even a few inches below the water surface.

  • Paul Colley 3, Grayling at camera. In underwater photography, you need to get fish this close to the camera to get sharp images, Paul Colley
    Grayling at camera. In underwater photography, you need to get fish this close to the camera to get sharp images, Paul Colley

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

Although I’m an underwater photography specialist who dives worldwide, mainly to help ocean conservation agencies, I’m increasingly interested in British wildlife and have started a number of projects to capture images of difficult subjects, which I want to be very different from traditional approaches.  I love wide angle photography in my ocean work and I’m very interested in sharks because of the huge threats that they are now under.  Conservation of our rivers, lakes, and oceans is certainly a big motivator for me and I try to make my images count by working with high-achieving organisations like the Blue Marine Foundation, Fauna and Flora International, and The Wild Trout Trust.

  • Paul colley 4, Swan split level. Paul likes to photograph anything in or around water and took the opportunity to provide a new perspective on this Mute Swan.  It was shortlisted for the British Wildlife Photography Awards, Paul Colley
    Swan split level. Paul likes to photograph anything in or around water and took the opportunity to provide a new perspective on this Mute Swan. It was shortlisted for the British Wildlife Photography Awards, Paul Colley

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

The most interesting subjects are often the most difficult to photograph so it needs a disciplined and imaginative, technical approach to achieve your artistic vision.  I can spend up to a year developing a new approach and in that time there may be no good images taken, it’s very frustrating, but sticking to your vision and toughing it out, including many long hours spent in the field, usually yields success.

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

I would like people to appreciate the extraordinary diversity and beauty of wildlife and to be motivated to help sustain the environments that are under threat but which these creatures depend upon.

  • Paul Colley 5, Shake your tail feather. Another example of eschewing the traditional approach. This female Mallard duck looks far more interesting when photographed high key from behind using a slow shutter speed. It nicely caught the preening action and was another BWPA short list image this year, Paul Colley
    Shake your tail feather. Another example of eschewing the traditional approach. This female Mallard duck looks far more interesting when photographed high key from behind using a slow shutter speed. It nicely caught the preening action and was another BWPA short list image this year, Paul Colley

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

My professional history goes back nearly thirty years when I used a wet film SLR as part of my previous career, but I’ve only been doing serious wildlife photography as a business for the last few years.

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

Before you even think about cameras and all the technical requirements, study your subject’s behaviour and study it until you understand it intimately.  You can and should take opportunity shots but the photographer who knows their subject will be in the right place at the right time ten times more often than the photographer who just looks for opportunities without real study or planning, it makes such a difference.

  • Paul Colley 6, Paul has now moved onto a new project to photograph bats - a very challenging subject. He naturally prefers those that hunt on and above water, in this case, a Daubenton Bat. He hopes to show the world some remarkable new images of bats sometime next year. , Paul Colley
    Paul has now moved onto a new project to photograph bats - a very challenging subject. He naturally prefers those that hunt on and above water, in this case, a Daubenton Bat. He hopes to show the world some remarkable new images of bats sometime next year. , Paul Colley

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

My current project is bat photography in a way that nobody else has done it. Bats are protected species, so I’ve taken advice from the Bat Conservation Trust and Natural England, from which I’ve designed and built specialist new low light camera systems including a camera and infrared light system that is invisible to the bats. So I’m currently trying to create some unique new images of British bats. The project is ten months old and although I will need some more work next year when the bats come back out of their winter torpor I’m well advanced with this work and soon hope to show the world some exciting new pictures. 

  • Paul Colley 2, Paul on the riverbank. The beauty of a remote control underwater camera: you can keep dry, do less damage to the environment, and avoid spooking skittish fish., Paul Colley
    Paul on the riverbank. The beauty of a remote control underwater camera: you can keep dry, do less damage to the environment, and avoid spooking skittish fish., Paul Colley

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