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Could you, first of all, give a short presentation of yourself and how you became interested in photography?
My interest in photography came through my interest in birds as a young boy – I used to love to draw and paint birds that I was interested in and taking images of the birds seemed like a natural step. When I became a teenager these interests faded into the background – it wasn’t quite so cool to be interested in wildlife and the natural world in those days. Luckily a love of nature couldn’t stay hidden for ever and eventually I got hold of a panasonic lumix compact and started taking pictures of butterflies – and it’s grown from there.
Any animal group you prefer taking photos of?
If I had to choose one animal to spend all my time photographing it would be otters – they are just captivating. Luckily I’m not so restricted so I still enjoy working with butterflies and, more and more so, with birds in flight.
I see you have a few photos of birds in your gallery. Could you please walk us through your process of taking pictures of birds and especially birds in flight? Any special technique?
As much as possible I’ll aim for an interesting shot – something that helps portray the essence of the bird or where it lives. Birds in flight are a lot of fun and can be a great challenge depending on the bird. I recently spent a few days photographing the sea birds on the Farne Islands in the UK and found that one of best tips would be to pick up the bird early – keep re-focusing using the shutter as necessary and when in range for the shot start taking images. This gives you the best chance to follow the bird as it moves and to get the sharp shots that we all seem to crave.
I also tried to experiment with different backgrounds for some of the flight shots – for example the lichen covered rocks on Inner Farne. It made accurate panning to hold focus even more important however the results were worth it.
Could you also describe how you would prepare for a day out, for instance what do you bring in your photo-bag?
I travel very light when taking photographs. I don’t want to be weighed down by tripods and monopods for example. I know that they are of great value however I want to be able to move as and when I need to, to be able to crawl along a rocky shoreline tracking otters etc. I feel closer to the environment that way, literally immersed in it. Last winter I photographed Bearded Tits on ice at a nearby reedbed and I was lying on my belly on wet mud and cut reed with my camera only an inch off the mud waiting for the birds to walk out onto the ice only 4 metres away from me – keeping equipment to a minimum helps me get into these positions.
How do you think nature/wildlife photography can contribute to conservation science?
I’m sure that some images of rare wildlife and behaviour could be of great use to science. However I think that the interest in wildlife/nature photography points to something maybe more valuable. It’s obvious that so many people have a deep love for wildlife and want to share this beauty with others. No doubt there is a competitive element in wanting to get the best shot we can, I know it’s in me, however what I really want to do is show other people what I find so beautiful. Like when we are children and we shout out “Look at this!” as it’s at the moment the most incredible thing we’ve ever seen. It’s also so good for us as human beings – we immerse ourselves in the natural world, alert to sights and sounds and our minds clear of all that is unnecessary in that moment. Another aspect of my life is teaching yoga and meditation and a couple of hours photographing roosting butterflies early on a summer morning can have just as much impact in terms of allowing the mind the chance to rest and refresh.
Do you think the link between media (like social, digital, printed etc) and science is an important one?
I think it has to be. Different media now plays such a large part in our lives, especially those younger than I am, and science will no doubt tap into and use these channels. I’ve no doubt it already does.
Lastly, every photographer has a holy grail when it comes to things they want to take pictures of. If you could choose ANY scenario from the natural world, what would you want to take photos of?
I’ve been very lucky to travel to some extraordinary places during my life – most before I rediscovered photography. If I’m honest I don’t think there is anywhere I feel I need to go or anything that I have to photograph. If the opportunity arose I would love to photograph the grizzly bears on the beaches of the Katmai peninsula, Alaska. However having said that if I could I’d really like to just spend more time photographing otters on the Isle of Mull, Scotland – as we’re talking “wish list” I’d take a year recording them and their environment throughout the seasons. That would do.
You can also visit Nick’s website here.
There you have it folks. If you are interested in doing an interview like this, please do not hesitate to contact us. In exchange we will display a link to your portfolio for an entire month!