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What’s in a colour? Blue

As part of our exhibition Colour: The Rainbow Revealed we will be learning about a colour each month.

First up, one of the primary colours: Blue.

Top choice

Blue is one of the most popular colours in the spectrum. It comes out on top as the most preferred colour for both men and women across many countries. This could be because we see it in blue skies and clear water.

This relationship to the sky and sea gives blue an association with calming and soothing environments in our homes, where it prompts feelings of dependability.

  • The blue sky with our Totem Pole, We see blue daily, whether it is a blue sky or water. Our Totem Pole against a blue sky
    We see blue daily, whether it is a blue sky or water. Our Totem Pole against a blue sky

In business and marketing the colour blue engenders a sense of security and trust. You will often see it associated with medical (Blue Cross, Oral B) or tech companies (Facebook, Twitter, IBM).

Both of these sectors depend on customer confidence in the ability of the company to look after their wellbeing or their records, so blue branding is a subtle nod to this. However, you will start to notice lots of other brands which rely on the trust of their customers use it in their logos.

More recently, Blue has come to mean something else in modern society – a link. Blue is the predominant colour for hyperlinks in documents and online.

Feeling blue

It is quite strange that, despite blue’s associated with dependability, this colour is closely associated with sadness. There are blue notes in music, often played in blues songs which evoke feelings of melancholy harking back to the origin of the blues in the US Deep South. 

This is the first commercial recording of vocal blues by an African-American singer: Mamie Smith's performance of Perry Bradford's "Crazy Blues" in 1920:

Some people think the association of blue with sadness came from ships showing blue colours when the Captain or officers were lost during the voyage.

Washington Irving is credited with first using the term “the blues” in 1807, as a synonym for sadness. He was shortening the phrase “blue devils” which was a synonym to describe a menacing presence or a hangover.

Creating blue

Blue has placed an important role in our society as a pigment.

Blue pigments were created from azurite and Lapis lazuli. It was an expensive colour to create, due to scarcity of the mineral deposits, so it is no surprise that you will frequently see it used in older artwork relating to those of high status in Europe, such religious paintings (think the Virgin Mary’s scarf) or stained glass windows, while cobalt blue has long featured in the Middle East and Chinese porcelain.

  • Azurite, A sample of the mineral Azurite, Rob Lavinsky iRocks.com
    A sample of the mineral Azurite, Rob Lavinsky iRocks.com

The first official blue synthetic pigment came from Egypt in the form of calcium copper silicate. The earliest evidence is from around 3250 BC.

Before synthetic blues were developed, plants True Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) and Woad (Isatis tinctoria) were used to make blue dye for clothing, dating back at least 4,000 years.

The Indigo plant has also been used for food colouring, although many manufacturers have now switched to using spirulina. If you are wearing jeans, you are likely to be wearing indigo now.

You can see some of the plants used to make blue dyes in our Dye Garden.

Blue in nature

While we think of ourselves as being surrounded by blue in nature, with the sea and sky, there is far less when it comes to animals.

The blue you see in animals (particularly mammals and insects) comes often from the structure of their feather or scales, rather than a pigment.

When you think of the blue in a peacock feather, or on our Blue Morpho butterflies in the Butterfly House, the structure of the scale or feather has been created so that it absorbs all other colours, leaving you with the blue light reflected, which is why there is an iridescence when they move.

  • Blue Morpho butterflies, Blue Morpho butterflies from our Natural History Collection
    Blue Morpho butterflies from our Natural History Collection

Joe Hanson explains this really well in his series Its ok to be smart.

When it comes to plants and flowers, there are more blues that you would see in animals, but less than 10 percent of the 280,000 species of flowering plants produce blue flowers, and blue foliage is very rare.

Found these facts about blue interesting? Learn more about colour in our exhibition Colour: The Rainbow Revealed.

A Horniman Rainbow Flag

February is LGBT History Month and as we have just opened our new exhibition Colour: The Rainbow Revealed, what better time to look at the Rainbow Flag, which has been a symbol of LGBTQI pride since the 1970s.

The Rainbow Flag is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The flag was originally created by artist Gilbert Baker in the 1970s. Baker had been tasked by Harvey Milk to create a symbol of pride for the gay community and the original flag flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade in June 1978.

“Flags are about power,” Baker told ABC in 2017, “Flags say something. You put a rainbow flag on your windshield, you’re saying something.”

This original flag contained eight colours but was modified to six in 1979, and we have used this six-colour flag to create our own rainbow from our collections.

Red

The red stripe in the flag symbolises life and the colour evokes blood – a symbol of life. As a colour it is at the end of the visible light spectrum which is why it is the first colour in the rainbow.

This is a wax seal from the mid-1800s. Wax seals are still commonly used to secure the padlocked doors and gates of important cabinets, offices and buildings in India and Pakistan. The inscription gives the name Narsinghadev, an official of an 'emperor' Bhagvant Singha, and dates that are equivalent to AD 1838-39 and 1859-60. 

Orange

The orange stripe represents healing. Orange is considered to be a friendly, cheerful colour combining the energy of red and the happiness of yellow.

This is a clownfish from our Aquarium. Most anemonefish are protandrous hermaphrodites, meaning they alternate between the male and female sexes at some point in their lives.

Yellow

The yellow represents sunlight. It is a warm colour and the association with the sun evokes feelings of optimism and clarity.

This is a painted, carved wooden mask of 'El Tigre' from Mexico and is part of our Handling Collection.

Green

The green represents nature, which is natural when green are the colours we associate with spring, growing and life.

Unsurprisingly we’ve gone outside to the Gardens for this part of our flag for a picture from a sunny day under the trees.

Blue

The blue stripe represents serenity, harmony or peace. Blue is used commonly by brands to evoke trust, as it is the most popular colour for both men and women.

We’ve gone for a Blue Morpho for this part of the flag, because they are just stunning. This specimen is part of our Natural History Collection, but you can also see then in our Butterfly House.

Violet

The final stripe at the opposite end of the light spectrum is violet which represents spirit. According to surveys in Europe and the United States, violet is most often associated with extravagance, individualism and the unconventional, which aligns with spirit well.

This circular embroidered fan case came from China in the early 1900s. It is decorated with an embroidered scene of a young woman dressed in blue in a boat surrounded by lilies. Beside her is an overhanging willow and a bird, probably a crane, flying overhead.

There you have it, a Horniman version of the Rainbow Flag.

As Baker said, “I like to think of those as elements as [being] in every person; everybody shares that.”

British Wildlife Photography Awards 2017 - Your Winner

You voted for your favourite photo in our British Wildlife Photography of the Year Exhibition and now we can reveal the winner of the public vote.

Sadly our exhibition of the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2017 has now come to an end but we're delighted to say it proved incredibly popular.

Although the gongs had been handed out before our exhibition opened, visitors were given the chance to vote for their own winners and leave their comments.

Clearly, the breadth of talent and photography impressed our visitors as competition was fierce, but we are delighted to say we can now announce the three most popular photographs from our exhibition...

*drumroll*

In third place, Grumpy Mountain Hare by David Walker

  • Grumpy Mountain Hare, 'Grumpy Mountain Hare', Dan Walker
    'Grumpy Mountain Hare', Dan Walker

In second place, Balancing Act by Ian Watson

  • 02.24_PORTRAITS_P_609.6_x_406, 'Balancing Act', Ian Watson
    'Balancing Act', Ian Watson

And your Horniman public vote winner is, Peeking Red Fox Cub by Luke Wilkinson

  • Red Fox Cub, Peeking Red Fox Cub, Luke Wilkinson
    Peeking Red Fox Cub, Luke Wilkinson

Congratulations to Luke, whose shot of this young cub was clearly too cute for our visitors to ignore.

You can read more about wildlife photography in our interviews with the photographers from this exhibition on our blog

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.

International Year of the Reef

We are celebrating International Year of the Reef at the Horniman, with a programme of activities throughout 2018.

As the Horniman is home to an acclaimed Aquarium and our Project Coral research, we want to celebrate the beauty and diversity of coral reefs. The programme includes a blog series, displays, talks and special events. We want to highlight the value of these reefs to marine life and to humans, the threats to these fragile ecosystems and the vital work done to preserve them.

What is International Year of the Reef?

2018 is the third International Year of the Reef. Did you know that coral reefs are one the most biological diverse habitats on earth? They take up less than 0.1% of the oceans floor they are home to 25% of all marine life.

But 60% of the world’s coral reefs may die within the next 20 years.

The International Year of the Reef seeks to change that by:

  • Raising awareness about the value of, and threats to, coral reefs and their ecosystems;
  • Sharing information on how to sustain coral reefs;
  • Managing conservation, increase resiliency and the sustainability of these ecosystems; and
  • Promoting partnerships on the management of coral reefs.

What can you expect?

Visit the live corals in the Aquarium

Most of our visitors will know we have an Aquarium at the Horniman. You can visit several different reef tanks to explore the corals themselves and the creatures who live in and among them.

See Karen Dodd’s Fabric of the Reef display

Inspired by the Horniman's Aquarium and Natural History collection, artist Karen Dodd uses woollen fabric – dyed and sculpted, and intricately bound and stitched – to draw attention to coral and coral reefs. Her work celebrates their beauty and raises awareness of coral vulnerability in the face of increasing environmental change.

Have a Reef Encounter

Meet some of the people who live or work with coral reefs around the world. Learn who they are, and find out why these Reef Encounters are so vital to the future survival of coral reefs, in this blog series running throughout 2018.

Yi-Kai Tea - Taxonimist at the University of Sydney

Join in with our family events

Come to our Late event

  • 17 May – Museums at Night
    Immerse yourself in all things under the sea as our Aquarium takes centre stage for this special evening event. Part of Museums at Night.

Read the research

Our Aquarium Team have also published their research about inducing coral spawing. Read the research online.

Part of

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

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