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The green, green colour of the natural world

When leaves are budding and the Gardens are getting green again, what better time to have a look at the colour so closely associated with nature?

It's Only Natural

Green and nature go hand in hand. The colour conjures up growth, freshness, vitality and fertility. In fact, the word green comes from the old English grene, which has the same origins as grass and grow. If you enjoy gardening, you are considered to be ‘green-fingered’ or as having a ‘green-thumb’ due to its dominance in nature. 

For this reason, the colour is closely associated with medicine and healing, but this connection goes beyond symbolism. Studies have shown that green is the most restful colour for the human eye, reducing fatigue, with the wavelength of green overlapping with the area of greatest sensitivity in our eyes.

The biggest contributor to green in nature is chlorophyll, which is a green pigment that helps the plant or algae absorb energy from light (photosynthesis).

Green is a very dominant colour in birds, animals, and insects, as they have adapted to camouflage to their surroundings.

  • NH.27.7-IG, Green is a common colour amongst birds, especially amongst those that live in the rainforest. The green colour allows them to blend in with their surroundings.
    Green is a common colour amongst birds, especially amongst those that live in the rainforest. The green colour allows them to blend in with their surroundings.

Going Green

Green is associated with safety and trust as can be seen in traffic lights and escape signs, although the choice of this colour seems to have been related to it being clearly discernible from red. 

It has associations with vivacity and youth, through its abundance in the natural world, and this association with life, health and growth make it a natural choice for those who want to align themselves with green-focused messaging. Aside from some obvious organisations like Greenpeace and the Green Party, you will also find BP, Starbucks, and Landrover, who want to promote their associations with health and nature.

In terms of public perception, it is an equal choice, with 14% of both sexes choosing it as their favourite colour, although more women identify with green being their least favourite colour (6% to 2% of men).

Green Eyed Monsters?

Most of us know of the association of green with jealousy or envy, but why did this come about? The phrase green-eyed monster may have been coined first by Shakespeare, who uses it in Othello:

Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
Iago, Othello, Act 3, scene 3

Green has more than a passing association with the supernatural than the green-eyed monsters of jealousy. Fairies and dragons are often shown as green or wearing green clothing, and green gods are often related to rebirth and spring.

Green Men

Green men (not so much women) appear in lots of different cultures as important figures, whether they are gods, profits or integral to celebration.

The Green Man appears to have pagan origins, perhaps connected to ‘wild man of the woods’ figures, who in turn are link to satyrs or fauns. Despite this, Green Men frequently appear in church decorations and it is a common name for a pub.

Jack-in-the-Green is another green character from British folklore, who takes part in revels around May Day as a person (traditionally a chimney sweep) is dressed as a 3m tall bushy tree.

  • Jack in the Green, A chimney sweeps' Jack in the Green dances with the "Lord and Lady of the May" (probably both played by men) in 18th-century London.
    A chimney sweeps' Jack in the Green dances with the "Lord and Lady of the May" (probably both played by men) in 18th-century London.

Outside of the UK, Khidr (or al-Khidr) from the Quran is a messenger or profit dressed in Green, the Egyptian god of the underworld Osiris has green skin because of its links to good health and rebirth, and Tlaloc, and Aztec god of earthly fertility and water, who also had green skin.

Dyes and Pigments

Green pigments that first appear in artwork originate from malachite or from green earth, found around southern Europe. Green dyes are rare, although did use ferns, plantain, nettles, lichen, leeks and others as accessible alternative, but these faded or changed colour quickly. Better dyes could be created by first dying the yarn or garments blue and then yellow, but this was more expensive.

Verdigris, the pigment created through weathered copper or bronze, was first used by the Greeks and is considered the first artificial green. Other green minerals include emerald and cobalt green.

  • statue-of-liberty-267948_1920, The Statue of Liberty owes its green colouration to Verdigris
    The Statue of Liberty owes its green colouration to Verdigris

In Artwork

Green in ancient artwork was closely associated with nature and rebirth, and was seen positively by the ancient Egyptians and the Romans in this regard.

In early modern Europe Green was associated with wealth and well-to-do merchants or gentlemen outside of the nobility, which had an association with red. Paintings like the Mona Lisa and the Arnolfini Portrait are good examples of this.

  • Van_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portrait, The Arnolfini Portrait features a woman in a green dress which at the time would have been a symbol of this family's position in the merchant classes
    The Arnolfini Portrait features a woman in a green dress which at the time would have been a symbol of this family's position in the merchant classes

This aligns with the modern association with money, which comes from the colour green in US dollar bills which was originally chosen to deter counterfitters.

In the 18th and 19th century the advent on new synthetic pigments saw a greater uptake of the colour, particularly by the romantic movement.

"I sought to express with red and green the terrible human passions. The hall is blood red and pale yellow, with a green billiard table in the center, and four lamps of lemon yellow, with rays of orange and green. Everywhere it is a battle and antithesis of the most different reds and greens”

1888, Van Gogh about The Night Cafe

Learn more about green in our exhibition – Colour: The Rainbow Revealed

The many sides of yellow

What comes to mind when you think of yellow. The sun? Spongebob? Lemons?

The colour yellow is all around us, in our food, our clothes, our waste. As most kids can tell you, it is a secondary colour, created by mixing red and green.

It is considered a cheerful colour – conjuring up images of sunflowers, buttercups and sunny days. However it is also closely associated sickliness and cowardice. In China, it is associated with pornography, while in Russia it has associations with mental illness.

We look into the multi-faceted nature of yellow.

So what makes things yellow?

There are a few origins.

Carotenoids are pigments that create bright colours like yellow (as well as orange and red) in foods. You find them in organic material like plants, bacteria and algae, and they play a really important role in absorbing light for photosynthesis, and protecting chlorophyll in a plant. Carotenoids are behind the yellow of lemons, autumn leaves, egg yolks, daffodils and much more.

  • Yellow blog, A daffodil which contains carotenoid
    A daffodil which contains carotenoid

There are quite a few different minerals behind yellow pigments in paint, but one of the oldest found used in art is yellow ochre.

In fact, yellow was one of the first colours ever used in art, as ochre (a mix of ferric oxide, clay and sand) was very accessible and could be found in many places all over the world.

Engraved ochre was found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa that dates from around 75,000 years ago. A bit closer to home, ochre has been found in paintings of animals in French caves  from 25,000 years ago, and in Spain, from around 15-16,000 BC.

  • Yellow blog, An Ancient Egyptian coffin cover painted with yellow ochre
    An Ancient Egyptian coffin cover painted with yellow ochre

But ochre is not confined to history. If you are wondering if yellow ochre is used in any of your paints, have a look for PY-43 on the label.

Yellow dyes were about as widely available as ochre, and the colour can be taken from saffron, safflower, gorse bushes, as well as the bark of the Eastern black oak and Dyer’s mulberry. Find out more about yellow dyes in our Dye Garden.

  • Yellow blog, A Gorse bush in our Dye Garden
    A Gorse bush in our Dye Garden

What do we think of the colour?

It is a vibrant colour that is used to create an emotional or energetic response.

Yellow is thought to increase cheerfulness and optimism when used in marketing, but can apparently make babies cry.

That emotional energy makes it an ideal colour to draw in shoppers and prompt impulse activity. There is a reason why it is the colour of choice for fast food outlets like Burger King and McDonalds, stores like Ikea and toy companies like Play-doh and Nerf.

However, when it comes to picking our favourite, the colour yellow falls very low for both men and women gaining only 1% and 3% of responses respectively.

Sickness or royalty?

This lack of love for yellow may have something to do its association with illness and disease. Yellow is the colour of jaundice, pus and bile, and it has associations with cholera, which shares etymological routes (Khloros). Bruises turn yellow and no one wants to get Yellow Fever.

Yellow had negative associations in the Middle Ages, when repentant cathars were forced to wear yellow crosses on their clothes. Hundreds of years later, Jewish people persecuted by the Nazis had to wear a yellow star on clothes or display the sign on their houses. Heretics were forced to wear yellow during the Spanish Inquisition.

  • Yellow blog, Yellow badge made mandatory by the Nazis in France, kitkatcrazy thanks to Wikimedia Creative Commons
    Yellow badge made mandatory by the Nazis in France, kitkatcrazy thanks to Wikimedia Creative Commons

In the late 18th century the phrase yellow-belly was first identified as a derogatory term, as set out in Grose’s A provincial glossary (1787):

Yellow bellies. This is an appellation given to persons born in the Fens, who, it is jocularly said, have yellow bellies, like their eels.

But despite all this, we prize gold which is of a yellowish hue.

Yellow was associated with gold in Ancient Egypt. The bones of gods were believed to be made of gold, enforcing the belief that it was eternal and indestructible.

It was also associated with the Pope in the early days of the Christian church and royal yellow is the colour of the robes of the Emperors of China, because of its links to the sun. Jing Han writes,

Just as there cannot be two suns in the sky, there cannot be two emperors in a nation. Thus from then on, yellow was regarded as the costume colour used exclusively by emperors.

Ribbons, roses, a submarine and a big yellow taxi

Lots of other musicians have featured yellow in their songs.

Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree sung by Dawn featuring Tony Orlando is about signalling that a prisoner of war is still welcome by his sweetheart when he arrives back home. Songs or poems with similar themes crop up from early in the 1900s, but the first copyrighted version was in 1917 by George A. Norton, which he titled Round Her Neck She Wears a Yeller Ribbon (For Her Lover Who Is Far, Far Away).

The yellow ribbon gained popularity in the US during the Gulf War as a way of supporting troops, and are still displayed in some towns and cities on this basis today. Yellow ribbons are still identified with POWs in Italy and Kuwait. 

  • Yellow blog, A yellow ribbon
    A yellow ribbon

Two famously yellow songs, Mellow Yellow and Yellow Submarine are linked, as Paul McCartney is one of the people heard in the background of the Donovan track, and Donovan helped McCartney with the lyrics for Yellow Submarine.

Listen to these and some other famous tracks associated with the colour yellow.

Both China and Vietnam had music genres called yellow music, both with separate origins.

In China, yellow music or songs described early popular music between the 1920s to 1940s, as a reference to pronography, and this term was used up until the Cultural Revolution.

It also referred to music created in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, as opposed to red music from the North. The content of the songs were considered “decadent” and were banned in 1975.

Liked reading about yellow? Find out about the colour blue in our earlier post and stayed tuned for more colours throughout the year.

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.

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