[Skip to content] [Skip to main navigation] [Skip to user navigation] [Skip to global search] [Accessibility information] [Contact us]

Previous Next
of 123 items

How a dog sees colour

Visitors to our exhibition Colour: The Rainbow Revealed will have no doubt marvelled at the contraptions allowing them to see the world as animals do.

Our exhibition gives you the chance to view the world around you not as a human but as a dog, fish, and bee may do. But why exactly do these animals see the world differently to us?

A dog’s life

It’s often suggested that dogs are colour-blind which isn’t strictly true. Dogs can see colour just not as many as humans. This is because dogs have one less type of colour-detecting cell in their eye. These cells are known as cones and whereas humans have three, dogs only have two.

Each cone is sensitive to a certain wavelength of light which sends a signal to the brain allowing us to process colour. Human eyes can detect red, green, and blue which allows us to see any colour that is a combination of these wavelengths of light. Due to only having two cones, dogs can only detect yellow and blue thus meaning they cannot tell the difference between objects that are red and green.

So if you’re pondering whether to get Rover a green jacket or a red jacket this Christmas don’t worry about it, it will all be grey to him.

  • Dog in nature, All that splendour and it can hardly tell the difference, Pixabay CC0
    All that splendour and it can hardly tell the difference, Pixabay CC0

Eye of the bee-holder

Like humans, bees are able to detect three colours and can see any colours that are a combination of them. Unlike humans, however, bees cannot detect the colour red. Instead, their photoreceptors pick up green, blue, and ultraviolet light – the latter of which is not detectable by humans.

To attract bees to nectar, flowers often have petals a different colour to their leaves so bees can tell what to target. Some flowers including sunflowers even make use of ultraviolet to attract pollinators.

Bees are particularly attracted to purple, violet, and blue, but also to a colour known as “bee’s purple” that humans cannot see as it is a mixture of yellow and ultraviolet. If you were wondering what colour flowers to place in your pollinator garden there’s your answer.

  • Planting for pollinators: help save the bees and butterflies, We told you they like purples, Andrea Benson
    We told you they like purples, Andrea Benson

Fish-eye view

There are plenty of fish in the sea but sadly that means we can’t make definitive statements about all fish seeing all the same colours. However, we can talk about how the way life underwater affects colour vision.

Vision underwater is obviously very different to vision above. Water absorbs light, which is why as the depth of water increases vision is swiftly impaired. Light with longer wavelengths which allow the detection of colours like orange and red, are absorbed by water much faster than light with short wavelengths, such as green, blue, and ultraviolet. This can vary of course, as different bodies of water may have different properties such as increased salinity or unique chemicals in water.

A fish that lives in shallow water will find far more use out of photoreceptors that allow it to see oranges and reds than a fish that lives in the deep ocean where these wavelengths don’t reach.

Like bees, many fish have evolved to be able to detect ultraviolet light for a number of reasons. Two-stripe damselfish, for example, have a colouration that can reflect ultraviolet light. When a predator is close they will use their colouration to warn other fish capable of seeing ultraviolet light of danger.

  • Common clownfish Amphiprion percular, Many of the fish found in shallower waters are more vibrant than their oceanic counterparts
    Many of the fish found in shallower waters are more vibrant than their oceanic counterparts

Enter the dragonfly

If you thought all of that was impressive prepare to be blown away. Humans and bees may be able to detect three different types of light, but studies of dragonflies have shown that these insects can detect no fewer than 11 wavelengths and as many as 30.

As far as we’re aware this is the most of any creature alive on earth and means that dragonflies can pick out colours we couldn’t even dream of.

  • Dragonfly, With as many as 30 photoreceptors there's no way of knowing what colours dragonflies can discern, Pixabay CC0
    With as many as 30 photoreceptors there's no way of knowing what colours dragonflies can discern, Pixabay CC0

Bird watching in London

David Darrell-Lambert has been working with the Horniman for years, leading the Dawn Chorus Walks. He has just published a new book about Bird Watching in London, so we caught up with him to find out more about his spots around the capital and how he got started.

When did you start bird watching? 

I started in the early 1980’s, my junior school teacher Ms Anderson took us on a trip to Rye House RSPB up the Lea Valley. The warden there explained to us that Coots (a type of water bird, all black bar a white bill with a white shield above it) have webbing between each section of their toes. They can then dive under the water to evade predators.

  • Coot in Hyde Park, Coot in Hyde Park, David Darrell-Lambert
    Coot in Hyde Park, David Darrell-Lambert

Moorhens (another type of water bird, black with white stripe down the side and a yellow and red bill, very smart) have long thin toes which they can use to pull themselves under the water and only leave their bill above the water, so they can breathe but the predator can’t get them. Well this just ignited my passion.

I dashed home from school and ask my dad to take me out every possible day to go birdwatching.  So by bus, tube and train we went off birdwatching across the capital and the UK.

What is your favourite spot to see birds in South London?

Oh, hard to choose there are so many. Clearly I have a massive fondness for the Gardens at Horniman. A lovely variety of trees, the big open slope and a great view north, I’ve seen so many lovely birds here and twice located Great Spotted Woodpeckers nest!

Crystal Palace Park is great too: lakes for ducks and gulls, mature trees for breeding birds, plus a massive vantage point to watch migrating birds flying over the capital. A bigger version than the Gardens at Horniman.  

What is your most unusual London bird spot?​ 

So many odd places to go!

Beddington Farmlands: it used to be a sewage farm for many years and then they started using it as rubbish tip and now unfortunately as an incinerator. Not happy about that!

It gets some amazing migrant birds there from a Citrine wagtails from Eastern Europe, to a Glaucous-winged Gull from the west coast of America. This year they had a Hoopoe which is European bird turn up in the spring.

  • Citrine wagtail, Citrine wagtail, David_Raju (Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0)
    Citrine wagtail, David_Raju (Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0)

It is used to hold the only Tree sparrow population left in the capital with fifty plus pairs but due to their habitat being destroyed they are down to a few pairs.  

What do you hope to see in the capital?

There is so much to see in the capital from Little or Tawny owls present in many parks and woods, to rare breeding birds such as Peregrines which are now doing very well in the capital.

Or even the specialised Black redstart, a small Robin like bird which the males are mostly black all over with a bright red tail which they shimmer! Most of the time I am happy to see almost anything in London, from discovering a new population of House sparrows somewhere, to listening to a Wren nesting next to bus stop or the fruity song of a Blackbird singing in the evening on a TV aerial.

  • Black redstart, A Black redstart, David Darrell-Lambert
    A Black redstart, David Darrell-Lambert

I really like finding a migrant bird, so in October I love to heard sharp thin zeep calls of Redwings migrating at night, which pile out of northern Europe and cross the capital heading south to escape to freezing northern winters.

What are ways we can help the capital’s bird population? 

Firstly, make your garden as wildlife friendly as you can or willing too.

Plant native species such as hawthorn which are great for insects and then a great good source for our birds.  Put up feeders for birds, whether many or just a few, and remember to keep them full throughout the year and vary what you put in there. In my garden the House sparrows love the mixed seed whilst the Greenfinch and Goldfinch love the sunflower hearts.

  • Birds at a bird feeder, Birds at a bird feeder, Phil Burrows via Pixabay
    Birds at a bird feeder, Phil Burrows via Pixabay

Put out some water. You don’t have to build a pond, you can just put a bowl out or hanging bird bath which will used to wash in and drink from.  I have the last two and the other day a young Magpie sat right in the middle of the bowl for a wash!

If you want to do more then offer your free time to a local wildlife charity. You can join a working party to create or manage habitat, do some fundraising, help with their admin or just become a member. This means they will get more money, and the more money they get then the more work they can do.

What should we should stop doing?

Rubbish and plastic! Recycle as much as possible so we don’t have as much rubbish that gets buried or burnt, neither of which are good for the environment. Try to use less plastic - the less we use, the less will end up in our rubbish regardless if it is recycled or not.

Oh yes, and never feed birds bread. It is no good for them and can pollute the water too if throw in to a pond or a lake.

How would you recommend someone gets started with bird watching in London? 

There are so many ways possible but I would say these two options.

Firstly, join a guided walk, whether it is via somewhere like the Horniman, where I have lead many early morning walks, listening to the explosive dawn chorus. Or your local wildlife group who will also do walks, such as the London Natural History Society. They run many across the capital throughout the year.

  • Birds in the Horniman Gardens, Blackbird, David Darrell-Lambert
    Blackbird, David Darrell-Lambert

Secondly, go to one of our premier reserves in the capital such as the London Wetland Centre run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Rainham Marshes run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or Walthamstow Wetlands run by the London Wildlife Trust. They will be able to tell you where you can see birds on their sites and at some you can hire binoculars for the day too. Some places even have guides position around their site so you can ask them what is about or what you can see in that area.  

Remember always to just have fun and enjoy the day.

David Darrell-Lambert is a Ornithological Consultant and author. Find out more about Birdwatching London.

The Elephant and the Rat

While looking through our collections recently we noticed that in most of the depictions of Ganesha we found he is often accompanied by a rat. Eager to get to the bottom of the mystery for World Rat Day we decided to delve deep and uncover the meaning behind this unlikely pairing.

Ganesha is one of the most easily recognisable deities of the Hindu pantheon and he will be familiar to many non-Hindus. His distinctive elephant's head marks him out as one of the most memorable figures in Hinduism, and as a patron of the arts and scientists and the remover of objects he plays an important role for many communities throughout South Asia. You may have also noticed that often wherever Ganesha goes he is accompanied by a rat. A small rat may cower beneath his feet, or a giant rat may serve at his vehicle or 'Vahana'. How has a figure as revered as Ganesha come to be associated with the common rat then?

  • 1990.23, This 19th century statue of Ganesha shows his faithful rat companion prostrate at his feet
    This 19th century statue of Ganesha shows his faithful rat companion prostrate at his feet

The rat first appears as Ganesha's mount in Hindu mythology in the Matsya Purana, a Sanskrit text that is believed to have been begun in the 1st millennium BCE. Since then it has appeared in a number of important texts and myths surrounding Ganesha including the Brahmananda Purana and Ganesha Purana

According to the Ganesha Purana the mythical origin of Ganesha's rat is this:

There was a celestial musician-god by the name Krauncha. One day, in the court of Lord Indra, Krauncha accidentally stepped on the foot of Muni Vamadeva, who (as all Munis), got enraged and cursed Krauncha to become a mouse. However, Krauncha became a huge mountain-sized mouse and ended up damaging everything in its path. Once, he ended up stepping on the ashram of Maharshi Parashar, with whom Lord Ganesha was staying, and destroying it. Lord Ganesha, inorder to teach Krauncha a lesson, unleashed his pasha (noose) on Krauncha which ended up looping around the mouse and bringing him to Lord Ganesha's feet. Ganesha then said something like, "Krauncha...you have caused a lot of trouble and you deserve a severe punishment. But since you ask for my forgiveness, I will pardon you and use you as my vehicle". However, when Ganesha mounted on Krauncha, he couldnt bear the weight of Lord Ganesha. Krauncha pleaded for Ganesha to become light-weight so that he could support him. Lord Ganesha obliged and since then, has been using the mouse as his vehicle.

However, the argument continues on quite what the rat is meant to symbolise, and many aren't even sure it's a rat - it could be a mouse. Some believe that the rat helps Ganesha in his role as the remover of obstacles. Rodents can travel in spaces that others could never reach and this allows Ganesha to do his work in the unseen places of the world. The writer, Yuvraj Krishan has argued it is the opposite that is true - that the partnership of Ganesha and the rodent is not one of harmony but rather of domination:

Lord Ganesha is known as the Conqueror of Obstacles (Vighnaharta). In ancient times, when agriculture was the primary mode of sustenance, rodents were one of the biggest obstacles to prosperity. Rodents would destroy standing crops, eat up stored grains and thereby result in severe losses for the common man. Lord Ganesha, in having a mouse/rat as his vehicle, is symbolically shown to have conquered this pest, thus staying true to his name of Vighnaharta.

Whatever the truth is it seems these two aren't going to be separated any time soon. Next time you see a depiction of Ganesha why not see if you can find his rat companion nearby?

  • 513.003, A 19th century ebony figure depicting Ganesha carried upon a throne by his vahana
    A 19th century ebony figure depicting Ganesha carried upon a throne by his vahana

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.

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

Previous Next
of 123 items