‘Craftsman’ status is, as one would imagine, aligned to the exacting standards of a true ‘Craftsman’. Therefore, to attain this level we add an increasing level of professional critique to evaluate our members work. In other words, we get increasingly ‘fussy’ and look in minutiae at all the elements of photographic understanding. Those that achieve this accolade have demonstrated the finest technical skills and an exceptional creative and artistic ‘eye’.
Best of British Wildlife
From a very young age I have always loved wildlife and I can remember always having a camera and taking lots of pictures (something that has not changed). I combined the two when i went on my dream trip to Africa back in 2004 and my nan bought me my very first film SLR camera. From then on, I started to take it more seriously.
Five years ago, I joined The Guild as I wanted an opportunity to show my images and to see whether I was any good. The very first year I won the Wildlife category to which I was blown away by. This is when I thought to myself “maybe I am good at this after all”.
My passion for wildlife has taken me around the world but for my Craftsman panel I wanted to show the beauty of the wildlife in and around the UK.
I try to do as much in camera as I can as for National & International competitions you are only allowed simple adjustments plus I’m not clever when it comes to Lightroom and Photoshop.
One of the most important tasks for a wildlife photographer is getting to know the subject, spending time watching, listening and looking, learning its behaviour, its habits and calls. Learning key field skills like knowing an active site, weather conditions, planning your approach, reading and interpreting behaviours and maintaining a minimum profile to avoid disturbance.
For example, while photographing the Osprey (image 20), I took the shot just after one dived into the lake and caught a fish. By spending time observing their behaviour, I discovered that they tend to come in quite high and checkout the area for a bit area before deciding if it’s safe to come down. As soon as they’re ready to fish they come down lower for a few seconds and then dive into the water. Once they had dived and had hooked onto a fish, I learnt that they sat in the water for a short fraction of time looking for their exit path. I soon learnt to recognise this moment and got ready to shoot.
‘Fieldcraft’ is a simple term to describe the ability to approach, get close to and photograph an animal without causing it stress. My Otter image (image 13) is a great example of this. It was a great photographic challenge and good field skills were essential. The first factor to consider was the wind direction, this determined which direction I started my approach as they have a great sense of smell. It was then a case of moving quickly over the rocky coastline but only when the otter dived so as not to be seen. As soon as I saw it return to the surface it was a case of getting low and making full use of any cover such as boulders and seaweed humps. It was then a case of trying to determine where and when they would head for the shore. If they caught a big fish or crab, the otter would swim with it to shore, so the idea was to get into a position on the shoreline back from the sea’s edge but within your camera’s range. Very hard work, a lot of patience required but very rewarding.
Wildlife’s welfare always comes first over any image. It is also important to recognize the signs of stress within the animal so you know when to stop and leave the animal well alone. The last thing i ever what to do is cause undue stress and disturbance through my actions. In turn, all of this has rewarded me with a far better chance of capturing images that show the subjects natural behaviour.
I spend hours in the field and what some people don’t understand is that some feelings you get are priceless…it is a true blessing to be able to take the time to sit and watch wildlife let alone photograph it. Sometimes it’s more important to experience the moment rather than miss it taking photos.
Over the years I have gained more skills and have tried different things to try and make my images stand out. This year I have started to make some changes and have been very lucky to of received some golds. Going forward I have plans to take my photography further and push myself as a photographer by using smaller lenses like macro or wide angle. Lenses that a wildlife photographer like myself very rarely uses. For many years now, I have always wanted to explore the wildlife under water. Something I have done with a small compact camera when on beach holidays but now I have skills with a DSLR and this year has sparked the start of this. I am very excited about it all.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my panel. I will finish my statement with one of my favourite quotes: –
“Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, Leave nothing but footprints”